Re: Response to Howard on Tillich & Bultmann -- follow up

From: Howard J. Van Till (hvantill@chartermi.net)
Date: Wed May 28 2003 - 14:34:13 EDT

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    I had said,

    > My inclination to move from one way of portraying God to another is complex,
    > entailing many factors -- some of which I may not be fully aware. Theodicy
    > questions are very relevant here. [Divine self-limitation does not, in my
    > view, eliminate responsibility for divine inaction.]

    Rich Blinne asks,

    > Which questions?

    Am I on trial here? Must I answer all such questions? Remember that I am not
    asking anyone to go on my journey.

    Nonetheless.... let me try some thoughts and see where they go.

    Human suffering is prevalent. Some of it is a consequence of our own
    misbehavior, some of it is not To use the traditional example of suffering
    of the second sort, the Lisbon earthquake (not caused by human misbehavior)
    led to the tragic suffering/deaths of many Sunday worshipers. A couple of
    years ago a Sunday morning tornado provided a modern example.

    Was the omnipotent God able to prevent it? If so, then how could God not be
    responsible for the suffering of both those who died and those left behind
    to mourn?

    Divine self-limitation?

    But the omniscient God surely must have known that the consequences of that
    self-limitation would make innocent humans vulnerable to such suffering,
    right? Omniscience knows all.

    Could not the omniscient and omnipotent God then choose to make an exception
    to His free choice of self-limitation in cases in which the cost to innocent
    humans was just too great? Is there no limit to the amount of human
    suffering that God is willing to allow for the sake of consistently
    maintaining His own freely chosen self-limitation?

    > How would you compare and contrast your
    > views with Clark Pinnock's Open Theism?

    I don't know.

    > His theodicy so valued human
    > freedom that he limited not only God's sovereignty but also His
    > foreknowledge. Do you see God's character that He cannot violate human
    > freedom?

    Yes. Not only human freedom, but the freedom (from coercive divine
    overpowering) of any member of the World/Creation.

    > Do you see God's character particularly His love that he cannot
    > act directly on the Universe?

    If "direct action" falls in the category of "coercive divine action," then
    Yes.

    > As you can see from these questions, I am having a very difficult time
    > understanding your views, particularly what part of God's character makes it
    > impossible for Him to act directly on the Universe. I am not only curious
    > about what your view is, but also the logical path from point A to point B.
    > It is particularly this last part I am having trouble understanding. Why is
    > it impossible for God to act directly on the Universe, but is possible and
    > also true that he acts through so-called authentic human experience. Are
    > you saying there is no mediate human experiece that is authentic, such as
    > the disciples witnessing their risen Lord? If God can "get through"
    > directly through authentic human experience why can he not "get through"
    > directly through nature?

    If I understand your question, the key is in the distinction between
    "coercive" and "non-coercive" divine action. I believe that's a different
    distinction from the more traditional mediate/direct distinction. Mixing the
    language of the two distinctions seems awkward.

    > Thank you for your patience as I play the four year old. :-)

    You're welcome, as I play the role of the patient Old One :-)

    Howard Van Till



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