Sunday, July 06, 2008

Trying out Godismyjudge's Clarification

Godismyjudge (Dan) has provided some clarification (link) to an earlier question to which I had responded here (link). Earlier posts in the series (first)(second).

Dan had asked: "Given whatever existed before the first act, was it absolutely impossible for God to create a world which didn’t include rain on May 31, 2008[,] in the afternoon?"

I had asked for clarification regarding what Dan meant by "absolutely impossible." He apparently took this as a broad request for clarification about each of the terms of the question.

His bullet-point explanations follow:

* Where the “first act” is either creation or whatever else you might consider God’s first act.
* Where “first” probably means temporal order but if you believe in atemporal, but logically sequenced, actions, then logical order.
* Where “act” means you would no longer just say “God is XYZ”, but “God does (or did) XYZ”.
* Where “act” includes not only physical motion but also spiritual action or anything else you consider action.
* Where “whatever existed” includes God’s nature and council and whatever else you think existed inactively before God’s first act.
* Where “absolutely impossible” means that not only did God create the world as He did, but He had to. And not only did God not create anything different than He did, but He could not have created the world any differently.
* Where “absolutely impossible” is not a sense which excludes some things from consideration, but rather on that includes all things which existed before the first act.
* And “rain on May 31, 2008 in the afternoon” means drops of water coming from the clouds yesterday after 12PM or rap artists with so much cash that they tossed it in the air and watched it fall all around themselves and their crew.

Those are his clarifications. Actually, several of them muddy the water, particularly those related to God's "first act." Given that we are Trinitarians, there is no reason to hold to a view that God has ever been inactive, such that there was a "first act" of God.

That would seem to torpedo all of Dan's question. Rather than stop there, though let's treat Creation as though it were God's first act.

Another clarification that would seem to sink the question is Dan's comment that he wants to speak of possibility (or more properly "absolutely impossible") with respect to all preceding things to the act in question. But if we include the cause of the act, we are out of the realm of possibility into the realm of actuality. Thus, it does not make any sense to speak of a possibility of the act occurring, since the cause of the act is a given.

With particular respect to Creation, the idea of possibility is also nonsensical. Acts 15:18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. Even if that verse were not there, our belief in the omniscience and immutability of the divine mind would prohibit the idea of possibility in a sense that includes the knowledge of the future. That is to say, since Dan has insisted that we consider all preceding things, and one of those preceding things is that God knows the future, there is no possibility assignable to a world in which God's action does not match his knowledge of the future, or in which God's knowledge of the future changes in order to accommodate a different action.

The explanation, "Where “absolutely impossible” means that not only did God create the world as He did, but He had to. And not only did God not create anything different than He did, but He could not have created the world any differently," is a bit confusing too. The "had to" vs. "did" is falsely dichotomous at least in connotation. We would not say that God "had to," because that would seem to suggest something external to God forcing God to do the thing. Likewise "could have" vs. "did" is similarly a false dichotomy. We would not deny that God "could have" created the world with - say - one additional grain of sand on the beaches. But that "could have" is inherently a sense of speaking that does not take into account the full purposes and decrees of God. It would be a trivial exercise of God's creative powers to create a single additional atom, just as it would be a trivial exercise of a weaver's skill to substitute black thread for white for a few passes of the shuttlecock. On the other hand such a substitution would be contrary to the sensibilities of a weaver, and perhaps a single additional atom would be contrary to God's wisdom.

So, perhaps we are still at an impasse in terms of Dan's sense meaning what he wants it to mean. I'm not sure how to interpret it in a way that provides an answer that would be helpful to him. Again, though, if he can provide further clarification about what he means by "absolutely impossible," I'd be happy to try to answer.

Dan continued to a second question: "Let allow me to ask a second question, which I think is similar to the first (although you might disagree with me that it’s similar). You speak of God having determined things. Was God’s determination an action or an inactive part of His nature preceding His first act?"

God's determination is described as though it were an action anthropomorphically. They are nothing an action, nor an inactive part of His nature. They are his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby He has foreordained for his own glory whatsoever comes to pass.

We can view God's decrees as coming to be within a logical analysis, but not within a temporal analysis. It's one of many differences between God and man.

Dan continued to a third question: "Kindly permit me to ask a third question which again I think has an equivalent foundation to the first and second. John the Baptist claimed God could raise up children of Abraham out of stones. Was John right?"

Yes.

Dan continued: "With great presumption on my part I will press my luck and ask a fourth and impertinent question. If I ask does God have LFW, is your response “LFW doesn’t exist” or “don’t know, don’t care”?"

Hopefully my response is a bit more nuanced, with an inclination toward the former option. The response is that LFW is a philosophical construct founded on a denial of God's sovereignty in the decree of Providence. That is to say, it is a philosophical invention, designed to deny divine predetermination. There's no positive reason for it to be accepted as true. There is no reason at all to think it exists. Furthermore, there are good reasons to deny its existence. Thus, while we'd want to provide more detail, the former choice would be preferred to the latter one ... though ultimately, the "don't know, don't care" answer would be sufficient to stop the use of an argument that springs from claiming that God has LFW.

-TurretinFan

7 comments:

Magnus said...

It seems that the bone of contention is *choice* and if God has *choices* and we have *choices* than that proves LFW. I of course fail to see how having a *choice* proves LFW, I have no problem saying we have *choices* the question for me has always been WHY do we make choices. It seems that God makes choices according and in line with his nature, it would make sense that we would do the same.

I wonder how LFW got defined as just having choices?

Turretinfan said...

Magnus,

Right on.

The existence of choices is just a demonstration of simple, compatible free will, and not a demonstration of the further construct of the alleged incompatibility between human free will and divine foreordination.

-TurretinFan

natamllc said...

TF,

good stuff magnus!

To your remarks TF here:::>

[[That is to say, since Dan has insisted that we consider all preceding things, and one of those preceding things is that God knows the future, there is no possibility assignable to a world in which God's action does not match his knowledge of the future, or in which God's knowledge of the future changes in order to accommodate a different action.]]

I remember an aged brother make this comment about something approximately similar. Here is what he said paraphrased appromximately: [Every Word of God after the "first" Word of God, Genesis 1:1, 'that's the starter point of Words of God, this creation', will always fit into Eternity. Nothing God does in Eternity will conflict with God or Eternity. Therefore when God is speaking to me, a creation of His, in this temporal realm, or afterwards in the Eternal Realm, nothing, absolutely nothing will be in conflict with Him and with Eternity.]

To which I went and do now do, hmmmmmm? :)

It is tantamount to the clay bowl saying to the potter, make me a cup and not a bowl seeing you give me a choice after making me a bowl. I now find myself wanting to be something different than the Will of God made me to be, a bowl.

"But I don't want to be a bowl, God" grrrrr!!!!

Next, TF:
[[We can view God's decrees as coming to be within a logical analysis, but not within a temporal analysis. It's one of many differences between God and man.]]

Michael: TF, "powerful stuff", hope that helps smooth out the wrinkles??? Does it Dan?

I would only freely offer these verses of Scripture addressing eternal purpose, keeping in mind the "historical" timeline in history:

Eph 3:11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,
Eph 3:12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

oh, gotta go, be back later for more comment.

Magnus said...

This whole idea that we make choices independent of our nature is foreign to Scripture.

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. Luke 6:45

Yet if one holds to LFW you must deny this truth, even though it is revealed throughout the pages of Scripture. So if I have to choose between a philosophical construct [LFW] or what the Bible clearly teaches, I will stick with the Bible

Turretinfan said...

Magnus,

I think your comments are worth a resposne from me in a new post. I'll try to provide that post shortly.

-TurretinFan

Godismyjudge said...

Hi TF,

I muddied the waters once again.

God be with you,
Dan

Turretinfan said...

I'll have a look-see.

-TurretinFan