Thursday, November 26, 2009

Not Yet Reconciled

“But why would a proponent of middle knowledge...want to maintain that this world contains no ‘pure loss’ if this is possible? The answer is related to the problem of evil. There are two basic theodicies. Proponents of the greater-good defense maintain that there is no unnecessary evil, no ‘pure loss.’ All events stand as necessary components in the unfolding of God’s perfect plan. Proponents of the free will defense, on the other hand, maintain that some evil is ‘pure loss,’ the result of human decision-making over which God voluntarily gave up control by granting humans significant freedom.

Now let us suppose—as happens to be the case—that some proponents of middle knowledge want to utilize the free-will defense. Then of course they need to maintain that God was not able to bring about the exact world he wanted, for otherwise there could be no ‘pure loss.’ Or, to state the general point differently, to the extent that the proponent of middle knowledge wants to utilize the free-will defense, she or he must opt for a weaker reading of T2—of God’s control—than that affirmed by the theological compatibilist or paradox indeterminist. The proponent of middle knowledge cannot have it both ways”
[David Basinger, “Divine Control and Human Freedom: Is Middle Knowledge The Answer?” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 36, no. 1 (March 1993): 64].

In one of my recent posts, I discussed the issue of gratuitous evil and quoted some of Luis Molina’s words regarding the “greater good” theodicy. Molina stated in the quote that God only allows that which He can bring a greater good from. I stated in the post that 1 Peter shows us what gratuitous evil is and argues for its existence. If all evil is intended to exist by God with the purpose being “His glory,” then why does Peter tell us that there is “no credit” in suffering when we suffer for our own faults, but glory in suffering for Christ? Evidently, Peter was not a fan of the “greater good” theodicy. And I think Peter’s words are echoed throughout the rest of Scripture.

In addition, what about the observations noted in our world? What about the tragedies that happen everyday? What about issues like divorce, which Jesus said was not so “from the beginning” (Mark 10:5-9)? What was Jesus saying when He refused to comment on the explanations regarding recent deaths of those in Luke 13?

“And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘DO YOU SUPPOSE THAT THESE GALILEANS WERE WORSE SINNERS than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, NO; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell, and killed them, DO YOU THINK THAT THEY WERE WORSE SINNERS THAN ALL OTHER MEN who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, NO; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:2-5, NKJV).

In John 9, we have a case where the man born blind from birth was healed by Jesus and vindicated as not suffering blindness as a result of sin. Jesus said that the man was born blind “so that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:3, NKJV). In Luke 13 however, Jesus doesn’t say this. The Galileans whose blood is mingled with the sacrifices didn’t die so that God’s work could be manifested; those on whom the tower fell did not die so that God’s work could be manifested. Instead, we find Jesus silent on these matters. Perhaps these tragedies took place because of “pure loss” in our world...

What we find scripturally is that some events are allowed to happen because God desires to use them (He “permits” them to happen). However, there are other events like those of Luke 13 on which Jesus is silent. These events, then, do not serve a divine purpose. They are allowed because of the fallenness of our world.

Basinger’s quote above shows us that middle knowledge serves a purpose as related to Deity. Because God knows all things (including things that would have been certain in another world), He has a much stronger grip on world events than does the God of simple foreknowledge; however, in the grand scheme of things, He too, cannot violate the power of choice that He has given His creatures. If a person believes in true libertarian freedom, then that advocate of middle knowledge does not have a God who is the strong tyrant of the Calvinist system. But another point Basinger makes is that this God is also unlike that of the “paradox determinist,” one who advocates a God who determines the choices of humans. To them, the ideas of divine power and human responsibility are a “paradox,” a contradiction. My response would be the following, though: if these two biblical doctrines are “contradictory,” then what are we saying about God? To make these two contradictory is the same as saying that the Lord murders nations but then turns around and tells us to not commit murder (Exodus 20)—without realizing that the Lord’s execution of the other nations is because of righteous judgment. The problem is though, that the ideas have not been qualified. There is a solution, since these two concepts cannot exist in the same manner at the same time (according to the Law of Non-Contradiction). To accept “biblical paradoxes” is a dangerous thing. If the Bible shows us the nature and character of God, and the Bible contains “contradictions,” then what does this say about God? That God is contradictory?

If life consists of such “gratuitous” evil, then is God still sovereign? Yes, He is. Does the presence of such evil weaken the power of God? Absolutely not! But what it does show us is that there is a Lord who made man “lord” over the earth (Gen. 1:26-28, Psalm 8) and gave him true, genuine choices.

I think there is some truth to the idea of God’s middle knowledge. But I think that it has been employed (in some sense) as a way to give God “greater control” over our choices—and I’m rather suspicious of it. The writer of Hebrews was more right than he realized when he wrote, “but now we do not yet see all things put under him” (Hebrews 2:8b). If believers are going to take God as sovereign, then something has to account for the fact that the world had to be reconciled to God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:19) and that this reconciliation is yet to be fully actualized in our world. That can’t be done if theologians continue to ascribe tighter control of humanity’s choices to God. With an increased tighter control, God comes to bear more responsibility for the world situation—and man even less...

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