According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Does God Always Do the Wisest Thing?

As I re-read Roger's article I began to think in terms of classic theism as versus process theism... the first asserts God's freedom of dependency from Creation, the latter asserts the necessity of God's dependency upon Creation. In the one view God is Creation's governor, in the second it's necessary partner. A third view, one that I have been calling "Relational Theology" reaffirms the classic position but then goes on to say that God has further declared Himself in partnership with His Creation, thereby admitting the various truisms of process theology. But rather from a volitional, and not a non-volitional argument, and thus avoiding the panentheistic corollary of involuntary bond(age) between God and His Creation which says each is necessary for the other's existence. The Classic view says this is not so, and the relational view goes on to further assert that God has voluntarily bound Himself to His creation not out of coercion, necessity or actuality, but from a free will or libertarian choice. In this way I find Dr. Olson's article on this subject a little more intriguing when thinking through the infinities of God's ontological estate (to place it dryly in its systematic vernacular), or better, the majesty of our infinite God who created by choice and by grace something apart from Himself in which He inhabits, partners with, and devotes Himself to, by choice and by grace.

R.E. Slater
March 1, 2012

Does God Always Do the Wisest Thing?

by Roger Olson
posted May 17, 2011

Many (not all) Calvinists argue that libertarian free will or, the power of contrary choice, is an incoherent concept. (E.g., Jonathan Edwards, Lorraine Boettner, R. C. Sproul, John Frame, John Piper, et al.) The reason is, they argue, that it amounts to belief in uncaused effects. They argue that people act according to their strongest motive.

What I’ve often wondered is whether Calvinists who argue this believe God has power of contrary choice. If God has power of contrary choice, then it cannot be a strictly incoherent concept. But to say God does NOT have power of contrary choice seems to make God a prisoner of creation; without power of contrary choice God’s decision to create would be necessary and that would make creation less than gracious and, in fact, a part of God’s own life – not a free act as if God could have done otherwise.

Wikipedia - J. Edwards
The way Jonathan Edwards attempted to get around this in The Freedom of the Will was to say that "God always does the wisest thing." Contemporary Calvinists who follow him closely agree. In other words, according to Edwards, God could have done otherwise than create the world, but he created the world because it was “most fitting” to do so.

My question is how this gets around the problem. To me it seems like a dodge; that is, it seems to attempt to answer the challenge without answering it. It seems like saying both at the same time – that God could have not created and that God could not have not created.

The question is simply this: Is it logically conceivable that God might not have created the world? Is it conceivable that God might have decided against this creation or any creation?

Edwards’ answer seems to say yes and no at the same time. That’s against the laws of logic UNLESS he can explain how the “yes” and the “no” are referring to different things. But in his explanation, they aren’t.

The question is: Is God the prisoner of his own wisdom (or of anything)? I’ve earlier discussed here the issue of nominalism/voluntarism versus realism – i.e., whether God has a nature. But even the strictest realists do not believe God is a prisoner of his eternal character. Rather, his eternal character guides his decision; it does not necessary govern them.

IF one says that God “always does the wisest thing” WITH THE ASSUMPTION that there is always only ONE “wisest thing,” then how is one not making creation necessary and therefore not gracious? (A basic principle of theology is that what is by nature cannot be by grace. If I HAVE to rescue you, it’s not an act of mercy or grace.)

Why assume that there is always only ONE “wise thing” to do – even for God? Why couldn’t it have been wise to create but also wise not to create? Of course, as any rationalist will ask, then why did God create? Was it simply an arbitrary choice – like throwing the dice?

Here I’m tempted to throw back at the Calvinist his or her own argument that God’s choice of "some to save" and "others to damn" is not arbitrary without any hint at what might explain it. In other words, if it’s fair for the Calvinist to argue that divine selection is not based on anything God “sees” in the elect or the damned (that differentiates them) and yet is not arbitrary, then why couldn’t the person who believes in God’s power of contrary choice argue that God’s choice to create is not arbitrary even though no specific reason for it can be given?

However, I prefer to argue that for God, as for us, there are moments when two alternative options are equally wise and no controlling, determining factor interior (such as motive) or otherwise determines which option one must choose to be right.

For example, some married couples confront the choice whether or not to have a child. I know couples like that. They wrestled with the decision, they thought about it long and hard, and they never really came up with a determinative reason to have or not to have a child. Some such couples decide to have a child, which is wise, and some decide not to, which can also be wise.

It seems to me that to say “God always does the wisest thing,” implying by that that God must do such-and-such (e.g., create the world), is the same as to say that God is a machine and that the creation and redemption of the world is not by grace but by nature. Only if God really could have done otherwise than create can creation be by grace only. Grace cannot be compelled and still be grace.

The upshot is, of course, that IF the creation and redemption of the world by God is truly gracious and not automatic, then God must possess libertarian free will, power of contrary choice. And if God possesses such, it cannot be an incoherent concept.

Now, it’s another thing entirely to argue that God possesses power of contrary choice but humans don’t. That’s a different argument. The natural answer is “Why?” If God possesses it, why couldn’t he give it to humans? There doesn’t seem to be anything about power of contrary choice that requires deity. It’s not like omnipotence, for example.

[By definition, Creation is not the same thing as God but is something set apart from God and yet bears God's divine Image or divine essence to itself. This realtionship is ontologically distinct from one another, though each bears the imprint of the other, and in a fashion each inhabits the other in some metaphysical sense, which is what is meant by divine Image or Essence. - re slater]

I think Edwards skirted the issue and so do his followers who repeat his argument in one form or another. To say “God always does the wisest thing” is either to imply that God is an automaton, in which case creation and redemption are automatic and not gracious, or to imply that God COULD do that which is something other than “the wisest thing.”

I reject the notion that “God always does the wisest thing,” not because I think God is anything less than absolutely wise but because I don’t believe there is always only one “wisest thing” in every situation of choice between options. To avoid making creation and redemption other than gracious, we have to suppose that God really could have chosen not to create. To say “God always does the wisest thing” is to imply that God really could not have done otherwise.

So, the Calvinist argument that libertarian free will - the power of contrary choice - is an incoherent concept falls on its own sword UNLESS the Calvinist is willing to make God the prisoner of his wisdom, that is of his nature, in such a way that creation and redemption are not gracious.

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*For a related article see "The Origin of Sin, Hell and Universalism" -

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