Re: Fw: Pharaoh and his hardened heart

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Mon May 31 2004 - 18:50:32 EDT

The only way I can figure to make a distinction between God-in-eternity
and God-in-history to meet your requirements is to go back to a
Neo-Platonic emanationism or a similar Gnostic view. But multiple
degenerating deities (and evil matter) is hardly Christian.

As for if it ain't Greek its got to be medievals lousing things up, this
looks like the same approach I rejected in the other line. The fact is
that there is no ecumenical pronouncement on the divine omniscience.
Indeed, there are only a few peripheral persons who rejected God's total
omniscience. Why? The simplest explanation is that no one of any account
had any doubts on the topic: they all accepted it unconditionally. Note
that it was areas of major dispute that brought forth councils to produce
authoritative pronouncements.

On Sun, 30 May 2004 13:32:48 -0600 Innovatia <>
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
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

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
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?

Received on Mon May 31 20:55:59 2004

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