Fw: Pharaoh and his hardened heart

From: Innovatia <dennis@innovatia.com>
Date: Sun May 30 2004 - 15:32:48 EDT

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr.
  I see a slip here. You assume that the God who interacts with the future has to be _in_ time, for this alone makes the eternal (non-temporal) deity not know the future. An eternal decision for the unfolding space-time creation is surely as active as one that is made on the spur of the moment. This gets tied in with the claim that, if God knows it, he causes it. But it should be obvious to all that knowing is not the same as causing. I also keep running across the silly notion that what is past is necessary. But, if an event was contingent when predicted, it remains contingent after the fact. It is true on happening, not necessary.

  MacKay's argument is based on what a predictor knows, but a similar argument can be run based on full historical determinism. If God-in-eternity predestines history to be a certain way, then that does not negate the indeterminacy (actually, semi-decidability) of a free choice for someone within that history. Even God-in-history would be similarly subject to it, as was the incarnate Son.

  DS. There is a slip here. My point involves a deity not knowing the future. What you say has a God determining the future "before" the creation.
In that case, MacKay's argument may not be relevant to your concern. He was intending to show that determinism is not logically inconsistent with free will, in a certain precise sense.
  As for the past being necessary, only in this particular (deterministic) world for which it is true, but not in all possible worlds. For God-in-eternity it is certainly not necessary for he could have created history differently. (Walter Thorson's ASA Annual Meeting keynote addresses some years ago emphasized the contingency of creation.)

  DS. As a logician, I can tell you that the standard definition of "necessity" is "true in all possible worlds." A basic point that has usually been accepted about the deity is that he is free. Some have made what I view as a serious mistake in making this totally uncontrolled, therefore arbitrary. A proper notion of freedom involves self-determination, a special subspecies of determinism, not indeterminism, a total lack of causation. I hold that all God's acts are controlled by his love and knowledge, and the other characteristics that we find manifested in our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is a common, perhaps preferred, way the logical impossibilities that arise from attribution to God of omnipotence, omniscience, etc. are handled - that God is self-limiting. Consequently, to ask if he can make a rock too heavy for him to lift does not pose any real problem in understanding the nature of God.
  As it applies to MacKay's argument, the predictor is outside history and contingency is not assumed because the claim being challenged is that free will in history is negated by determinism. Even God's contingent (conditional) warnings to Israel (or Ninevah, etc.) are given within history and are subject to the logical indeterminacies of predictions-in-history. Indeed, the scriptures even say, in one instance, that God changed his mind. This is clearly describing the action of God-in-history.

  DS. There may be some confusion here. From MacKay's viewpoint, there are no "logical indeterminacies" in history as God knows it. However, predictions are likely to be conditional. "Repent or perish!" is clearly conditional. As for God changing his mind, am I to understand that as a true description (insisted on by open theology) or as what it looked like to the human observer? I have just finished reading Millard J. Erickson, _What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?_ (Zondervan, 2003). Nice piece of work that pretty well demolishes open theology's pretenses.
In MacKay's argument, the logical indeterminacies occur only within history, for that is where one find's one's self to be free and in interaction with God. Using MacKay's distinction of God-in-eternity and God-in-history, only God-in-history changes his mind or offers conditional claims about the future. I am not read up on "open theology", but if it makes no distinction between God as immanent and God as transcendent, then I would think it falls short of a full biblical portrayal of God.
    As for the deity in time, incarnate, note that it involved _kenosis_ and becoming a slave. I note that the slave is not party to the master's knowledge of plans--except as told to do something.
  Good point. The Greek notion of omniscience as applied to our biblical God tends to create the same reductionistic problems in theology as the Greeks themselves had with their gods in that they were never truly transcendent; Mount Olympus flowed along in time with the mortals.

  Dennis Feucht

  DS. Can't buy the "Greek notion of omniscience." That is an attempt to damn by association. I've read a fair amount of Greek philosophy, and I found that the usual Greek notion of the deity (or deities) is that they are enmeshed in time, eternally interacting. The furthest they go is that knowledge depends on recognizing eternal verities--forms or ideas. But this is not omniscience. There is no way to associate what you suggest with atomism with "You can't step into the same river twice." You've swallowed a canard, which will do serious damage to your intellectual digestion.
Okay, I stand to be enlightened on this. If not from any of the traditions within the Hellenistic world, it must have subsequently developed within medieval papal theology, perhaps?

Dennis
Received on Mon May 31 17:13:16 2004

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