Monday, 3 December 2007

Open View Theology

I have been wanting to make some comments since Vox started debating jamsco. To me it seems that the debate is covering several issues which are not always well defined. The question over whether God knows the future is discussed alongside free will and God's micromanagement of our lives.

These 2 issues actually create a trilemma. God either knows the future specifically or he does not. God either controls every aspect of our lives including all our thoughts and actions, or he does not. But the 2 issues can be held separately.

To avert confusion, by "God ordains" I mean everything that happens in the world, good and evil, thoughts and actions of all men, has its origin in God's will; ie. men do not really have their own will that can be at odds with God. By "knows the future" I mean the specific future, not all possible futures and not a general knowledge based on what he causes to eventuate.

The 4 options are
  1. God ordains everything and knows the future
  2. God ordains everything and does not know the future
  3. God does not ordain everything and knows the future
  4. God does not ordain everything and does not know the future
The above 4 options are really only 3. It seems to me that if God ordains every event then he knows the future pragmatically (brings about one specific future) even if theoretically he did not know it intrinsically.

I am not certain the micromanagement (predestination)/ freewill debate, which essentially the Calvinist/ Arminian debate, will be resolved easily. Though it is important for both sides to know the other side and understand it reasonably well. (I also think that the word predestination carries too much baggage to be used without clarification.)

Bible verses may support one's underlying philosophy, but one also uses his philosophy when reading Scripture in general, and therefore interprets passages as being consistent with that philosophy—even when that interpretation is more strained than other readings. Vox phrases the error well,
  1. Take a Bible verse
  2. Assign a possible meaning to it.
  3. Insist this is the ONLY possible meaning, even when the meaning doesn't make sense. (In this case, the problem is apparent a priori, but usually it is only evident when considered in context with other, contradictory verses.)
  4. Ignore all other plausible interpretations, especially more logical and Biblically supported ones.
In general terms one has to show that the Bible as a whole supports his theology.

At minimum show that a passage can only be interpreted in a specific way or that the other view contradicts Scripture*.

My position for the above options is 3. God does not micromanage everything but he does know the future specifically, nothing takes him by surprise. I will discuss both these options in future posts (God willing, I am not omniscient).


*A passage can only be interpreted in a specific way
  • P→Q
Example: Verse x means Calvinism.

The other view contradicts Scripture
  • R→S,
  • ~S→~R
Example: Open view implies y. Scripture says that y is not true (or the opposite of y is true) therefore open view is false.

What is unhelpful is using consistency which is non discriminatory
  • T→V
  • V→T
Which is logically unsound because U may also imply V. Example: Calvinism suggests z and Scripture says z. But Arminianism also suggests z!

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