Re: choking on RFEP -- prearrangement

From: Howard J. Van Till <>
Date: Fri Apr 02 2004 - 09:27:12 EST


Thanks for the conversation. Iıd like to follow up on selected portions (on
the issue of divine prearrangement) of your last 2 postings.

> DW: It may be useful to consider why I'm wrong for RFEP. In a nutshell,
> with respect to the totality of my experience, I see God as the great
> choreographer.
> HVT: Here is one place in which I would process experiences, ideas, and
> options differently. In the totality of my experience I do not see God as
> “the great Choreographer” -- as if God prearranged any of the details in my
> life experience, but I experience God as the Sacred One who makes possible
> all life-enriching experiences (whether those are pleasant or not).
> DW: My life has been meaningful in fine detail, and all this meaningfulness
> had little to do with my own planning.
> HVT: Agreed. But why should we think that meaningfulness requires any detail
> planning at all? Cannot meaningfulness be a God-enriched response to whatever
> happens?
> DW: It is as if God prearranged in meticulous detail well before I was born
> to have the components of the world come together in just the right way to
> make my life as meaningful as possible. (NB: "meaningful" is not
> "pain-free.")
> HVT: Here’s a point of disagreement. I see no reason for thinking that
> meaningfulness is in any way dependent on prearrangement. Tying
> meaningfulness to divine prearrangement strikes me as a non sequitur of major
> proportions.
> DW: I might agree in some cases, especially for isolated instances. But what
> I was thinking of here instead was long sequences of events where the meaning
> of one event depends on preceding events. The meaning of an individual event
> is enhanced by its relation to the whole. It is the achievement of the whole,
> consisting of many events but greater than the sum of them, that I'm
> constrained to believe required a certain amount of prearrangement. Perhaps I
> can't make clear what I mean without going into detail. Maybe someday.

HVT: Whether in full detail or only for selected details, the idea of divine
prearrangement (a form of coercive divine action, as I see it) strikes me as
extremely problematic. In essence, it is the problem of divine culpability
for failure to prevent senseless & horrific pain and suffering. If God is
both able and willing to prearrange certain events in a personıs life, then
is God not responsible for failing to prevent the host of human tragedies
that occur daily? Why, for instance, did God not prearrange that the four
members of the civilian security company be spared from being slaughtered
and their bodies dragged through the streets of Falujah? Talk of divine
prearrangement of event strings that turn out good for us is easy, too easy.
We like to give God credit for good things, donıt we? But the unavoidable
flip side of the coin is that we must then hold God equally responsible for
things that are irredeemably evil.

Howard Van Till
Received on Fri Apr 2 09:30:16 2004

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