Re: Strange Bedfellows, Atheism and Naturaistic Theism

From: Howard J. Van Till (
Date: Mon Sep 15 2003 - 14:43:00 EDT

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    In response to Steve, I had said:

    >> I use the term ["authentic contingency"] to distinguish genuine contingency
    (things that really
    >>could have gone differently; individual events that could not be predicted
    >>with certainty, not even by God) from "apparent contingency" (a concept
    >>often introduced by persons who posit either that God actually controls
    >>events that look contingent from our point of view or that God at least has
    >>omniscient foreknowledge of the outcome of these events).

    Terry replied:

    > These are theological/philosophical distinctions here, right? I
    > can't think of any way of empirically knowing the difference.


    > I'm not willing to give away the word "authentic" or "genuine", nor
    > am I willing to take on the word "apparent" but your parenthetical
    > definition/description makes your point clear. You must know that
    > your use and attribution of those particular words emotionally
    > charges the discussion. It appears that Phil Johnson isn't the only
    > rhetorician in town.

    Terry, Terry. Surely you jest!

    > It needs to be emphasized that we're doing theology here. And once
    > again, theological method becomes the critical issue. Are we rooted
    > in scripture which at the same time affirms God's control over all
    > things and his omniscient foreknowledge AND genuine creaturely action
    > and the responsibility of free agents?

    You and I have some unfinished correspondence on this topic. As you know,
    whether the Bible affirms it or not, I find it doublespeak to say both, 1)
    that God controls (forcefully determines) the outcome of all events, and 2)
    that events have authentic contingency and creatures act freely (free of
    external control). My theological method discourages this kind of both/and

    > Or are we dismissing the
    > message that comes from scripture because we can't see how to relate
    > the two ideas and thus we deny one or the other as something other
    > than scripture becomes the controlling element in our theology
    > (elimination of antimony, creaturely autonomy/free will, etc.)?

    Another rhetorician in town? Is it not the case that speaking of being
    either "rooted in scripture" or "dismissing the message that comes from
    scripture" is loaded with both assumptions and claims for holding the higher
    moral ground?

    I had a strong hunch you would find a place for the word "antinomy" in this
    discussion. But calling a "contradiction" by the name "antinomy" (the more
    common word in theological contexts) doesn't at all change its character. I
    believe Abe Lincoln is credited with asking someone, "If you call a dog's
    tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?" When the person took the bait
    and replied, "Five," Lincoln is reported to have said, "Nope, still only
    four. Just calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one." So also, renaming a
    contradiction doesn't make it a consistency.



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