Re: [asa] Contemplations on Chance & Free Will - Comments?

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Sat Jan 10 2009 - 22:39:56 EST

I detect a very common error in splitting things between determinism and
free will/chance. Human freedom is self-determination, a subdivision of
causal relationships. It is human choice between alternatives in an
orderly world that is the freedom we have. This cannot be proved, because
no one can go back and choose an alternative. We cannot go back to an
earlier situation once we have passed through it. The repeat experiments
to test a scientific hypothesis are not the same, just retain what are
considered the relevant dimensions.

Open theology puts God in time, so there is a before and after for him.
Classical theology claims that the divine eternity is different from ours
in being timeless. If God has already glorified those whom he knew before
the foundation of the world (Romans 8:29, 30; Ephesians 1:4), he has to
know the end "before" the beginning. This seems to me to negate the
claims of open theology. Time is so much a part of us that it is very
difficult to express timeless existence, as noted in the first verses of
John. And it also is ascribed to all things, because some of us can't
think of any other way to be.

I contend that an omniscient and omnipotent God can create a world in
which we choose between alternatives with free will, not indeterminate.
This is also reflected in that what is called a chance mutation, for
example, has to fit into some rather strict controls. There are a limited
set of changes possible, with some possibility for repairs, and only some
changes can continue as genetic drift and others as beneficial
alterations (or anticipation of beneficial alterations).
Dave (ASA)

On Sat, 10 Jan 2009 17:32:05 -0800 (PST) Christine Smith
<> writes:
> Hi all,
> Our local ASA chapter met today and discussed Dembski's article
> about chance in the latest issue of PSCF. From that discussion, I
> gained a few, very rough insights that I wanted to put into words
> and get some feedback on...
> When it comes to determinism vs. chance (and by extension,
> predestination vs. free will), the question basically boils down to
> this: Does God's sovereignty REQUIRE God to be fully knowledgeable
> about the future? As represented by Dembski (I haven't read the book
> he's critiquing, so I give him the benefit of the doubt that he's
> representing the author's viewpoint faithfully), Bartholomew is
> arguing an open theism position in which chance--true chance, in
> which God Himself does not know the outcome of a random
> event--exists and is used by God to achieve His purposes--in effect,
> Bartholomew says "no", full knowledge of the future is NOT required
> for God to remain sovereign. Dembski, representing the more
> traditional viewpoint, argues that yes, for God to be sovereign, He
> must have full knowledge of the future, and therefore true chance
> doesn't exist; he articulates the rebuttal to open theism by writing
> "In particular, strict uncertainty about the future
> means that God cannot guarantee his promises because the autonomy
> of the world can then always overrrule God. Of course, to say that
> God can always step in when things get too out of hand defeats the
> whole point of openness theology."
> In contemplating this, and the whole question of determinism vs.
> chance (and predestination vs. free will), neither one has totally
> made sense to me. Surely God must be sovereign. Dembski's first
> critique is a valid one--for God to be God, He must be able to bring
> about His will and fulfill His promises. Yet at the same time, it
> has always seemed to me that determinism and predestination were
> inadequate solutions, because implicitly it draws the questions
> "well why bother if everything's already foreordained?" and "how can
> evil exist in a world in which God has predestined everything and
> everyone, except to say that God ordained the occurrence of evil
> itself?
> But then, going back to Dembski's critique, two things struck me.
> First, why would he assume that strict uncertainty means that God
> can be overruled? Second, why does He assume that God's intervention
> defeats the purpose of open theology? Keeping these two questions in
> mind, a brief digression is in order, which will tie in later...
> ...going back to Genesis 1, we are told that in the beginning was
> chaos, with everything being formless and void, and that God imposed
> order on this chaos. What if, just like the world being created
> "good" but not "perfect", creation was made "ordered" but not
> "perfectly ordered" other words, the order in the world that
> we see (which I'm defining to include true randomness as well as
> natural laws) is not totally reflective of His will, but
> unconsciously defies it in ways that we call "natural evil".
> Similarly, at the beginning, no "will" existed, yet we believe that
> God wanted a people who would *freely* love and serve Him. So what
> if he created a world in which true, free will exists, but it is not
> yet "perfect free will" -- it is not yet a free will that completely
> corresponds to God's Will. In short, what if both natural order
> (including chance) and free will exist in this creation, but both
> are imperfect, waiting to be perfected in the new
> creation. In the meantime, the corruption of each -- natural evil
> and sin-- exist simultaneously alongside the good, in defiance of
> God.
> How does this relate to the two questions I posed earlier? If God's
> purpose is to take a will-less, chaotic beginning and transform it
> into a perfectly ordered, perfectly willed creation, I tentatively
> propose this undermines Dembski's critique.
> Specifically (taking question 2 first), if God intervenes in the
> world, it would be for the purpose of correcting the problems that
> arise as a result of imperfect order and imperfect free will, in
> order to redirect creation towards the proper goal. Through this
> process, God is essentially "teaching" creation how to properly use
> the gifts endowed to it, from which God will bring forth the new,
> perfected creation. In intervening then, God does not eliminate
> order and free will, anymore than a professor who intervenes to
> correct a student is eliminating that student's innate intelligence.
> Rather, God is ultimately improving it. As the preservation of true
> free will and true randomness is, as I understand it, the
> philosophical impetus for open theism, this would seem to undermine
> Dembski's second assumption.
> Likewise, going back to question 1, the lack of knowledge about the
> future does NOT equate to a lack of power to bring about His will,
> if one asserts that His will is the perfection of creation in a
> manner that retains true freedom. This is for two reasons: first,
> there is no set timetable regarding the perfection of creation --
> the goal is a qualitative state that is independent of time,
> therefore the lack of knowledge of the future has no bearing on
> whether this goal is achieved. It simply happens whenever this
> condition is met, whether tomorrow or 50 billion years from now.
> Second, because God is the only one who has the power to perfect
> creation by bringing forth the new creation, creation itself can not
> withhold this power from Him; it may resist this power through
> rebellion, but creation cannot escape the fact that within it lies
> the seeds of the new creation that God is constantly nurturing and
> pruning it to ensure it's eventual growth and
> success.
> To summarize and conclude my thoughts...I would tentatively suggest
> that true randomness in nature and true free will in humanity do
> exist. God self-limits His knowledge of the future to make room for
> each of these to exist, intending to take what is now imperfect, and
> to make them perfect in the new creation, so that ultimately, a
> perfectly ordered, perfectly willed creation comes into being. In
> the meantime, God retains His sovereignty and guaranteers His
> promises in spite of His lack of knowledge of the future, by
> interacting with creation along its journey, responding to errors
> and countering resistance with measures that keep creation on course
> and help us to better understand how our gifts are to be used.
> Though the old creation can never perfect itself, we see in Christ
> the inauguration of the new creation which emphatically asserts that
> God's will will be done, and that the final destination will be
> reached.
> Anyway, this is sketched out pretty roughly, and I'm sure it has
> pitfalls in it that I haven't thought of yet, so have at it :)
> Thanks ahead of time for your comments, questions, and critiques.
> In Christ,
> Christine
> "For we walk by faith, not by sight" ~II Corinthians 5:7
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Received on Sat Jan 10 22:48:31 2009

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