Thursday, August 16, 2007

Review of 'The Openness of God' (part 5 - chapter 4)

[continued on from here, here, here and here]

Chapter 4

As Hasker's essay is purely philosophical in argumentation, I would touch on the points stated here rather briefly, as with regards to the errors of logical reasoning committed by Hasker, and any issues which conflict with biblical reasoning.

Early on, we can start to see something very pertinent in Hasker's thinking. Hasker was remarking that if God were to be imperfect in some significant way, then we might still worship Him but our worship would be thus tinged with disappointment, 'with regret for what "might have been" had God not suffered from this particular imperfection' (p. 132). He then mentions that we should reject such possibilities and to see in God the sum of all perfections. However, the entire reasoning exercise he undertook reveals something, that Hasker seems to think there is such a thing as perfection apart from God. However, apart from God, how can anyone define what 'perfect' means? If it is done according to philosophical arguments, then that shows the anthropocentricity of Hasker's thought.

The first error made by Hasker is with regards to perfect being theology, or rather the argument advanced by Plato to argue for God being a perfect being. Plato regards change as either for the better or for the worse, so therefore a perfect being, being perfect cannot change, for if he change, it can only be for the worse, and thus he cease to be perfect. Therefore, according to Plato, the perfect being must not be subject to change and is changeless. Hasker objects to Plato's argumentation and provides a counter-example of an extremely accurate watch, which definitely have different readings over time and whose perfection rely on it changing in reflection to the change in time. However, what Hasker has provided is not a good analogy, as a watch is build to reflect a change in a changing quality, i.e. time. However, God is not meant to reflect anything, much less qualities which vary over time, thus Hasker's analogy is erroneous.

On the topic of divine omniscience, Hasker uses a philosophical argument to prove that God's knowledge is somehow limited. He comes up with the following proposition: "Susan was married last Saturday" and states categorically that God knows the proposition for exactly one week: before that, He does not know it because it is not yet true, and afterward He does not know it because it is no longer true (p. 136). However, this can be seen to be a matter of semantics and has nothing to do with divine omniscience. In Hasker's case, divine omniscience means that God knows that on week (i.e. X) , the statement "Susan was married last Saturday" is true, and he know this fact [that the statement would be true on week X] before, during and after the week. To use temporally true statements to disprove that God knows the truth of a particular statement is wrong, as such statements by their very nature have a limited time span.

Hasker continues the rest of his chapter in looking at the various systems of theology concerned with God's knowledge and Man's free will. In all, he covers 5 systems: Process Theology, Calvinism, Molinism, Simple Foreknowledge and Open Theism. I would comment only on the Calvinism and Open Theism sections, since I agree with Hasker on the main criticism he has of Process Theology, Molinism and Simple Foreknowledge. In particular, Hasker makes a masterful job of destroying Simple Foreknowledge as being absurd and leading either to determinism or a denial of foreknowledge, thus showing the inconsistency of Arminianism. Thus, it is true that 'If there are actions that are free in the libertarian sense, it is logically impossible for God to know in advance how such actions will turn out' (p. 148).


The first major objection that Hasker puts forward against Calvinism is that Calvinism undermines the notion of believers enjoying a relationship with God (p. 142). As with several people, Hasker puts the strawman objection that Calvinism makes humans into puppets who are controlled by a puppet-master, or a ventriloquist having a "conversation" with his dummy (p. 142). Hasker acknowledges that the analogies are inadequate and thus came up with the analogy of a robot whose program is designed by a computer wizard who thus can anticipate the robot's responses to an indefinitely large variety of situations (p. 143). As an analogy, this analogy sounds much better. However, it would do for us to look into Scripture rather than think whether we like the analogy being presented. Hasker however does not interact with the Calvinist view except to say that it is unappealing as an account of our personal relationship with God, and he does not go further into why this is so. Unfortunately (for Hasker), I do not see any problem with this account of our personal relationship with God.

The main objection that Hasker puts forward to Calvinism is the 'phenomena of sin and moral evil' He rightly says that it is inconsistent to say that God desires for all to be saved, when he has eternally decreed that some would be lost (p. 143), and I agree with him. That's why I have always denied that God desires that all should be saved; God only desires the salvation of the elect, but God has commanded and 'wants' the repentance of all Man. With regards to moral evil, Rom. 8:28 could be used to show that God is using all these moral evil, in fact all types of evil, for the good of His elect. All evil will in the end function to bring maximum glory to God, and that is our response to Hasker.

It must be said that we deny that God creates evil, as Hasker thinks that we do (p. 143). Evil is not something that has to be created. Evil is the absence of good, and thus it is not created as much as darkness is created. Just as darkness is created by removing light, so evil is 'created' by removing goodness. Therefore, God does not need to create evil, by not giving goodness, evil will result.

Furthermore, we would like to take note that Hasker's objection to Calvinism is purely philosophical at this point, without interaction with the texts of e.g. Rom.9, which is a pity, since Calvinism's strength is seen through the exegesis of Scripture.

Openness of God

As we look at Hasker's defense of his chosen system, we would first note Hasker's first shot at Calvinism, as questioning whether we Calvinists are unable to conceive of an open theist world, and why do we think that God would prefer a world whereby he controls everything (p. 151). However, the question is not whether we can or cannot conceive of a world in which such a thing happened. The question has always been whether that is what the Scriptures say of how God relates to the world, not whether that is 'restrictive' of God.

Hasker, in his attack of Calvinism, states that God deliberately chosen to cause all the horrible evils that afflict our world. This is not exactly true, as it equivocates on the word 'deliberately' to smear Calvinism as saying that God is the 'author of evil', whereas God, though sovereignly allowing evil, does not Himself create evil, as God being good cannot do evil. However, if we embrace the god of Open theism instead, what do we have but a god who is perpetually distressed due to all the evil on the earth, and who will do little to stop it, because otherwise it would 'violate' someone's freedom. Would you call someone who has the power to stop Hitler's Holocaust but didn't do so good? But that is what Open Theism would lead to, all done in the name of 'not violating someone's free will'. The Open theists can try to say that we Calvinists believe that God allowed Hitler to come and create the Holocaust, and that was His will. However, for the Open Theists, their god would see Hitler come into power, got surprised by the atrocities he committed, and yet did not stop him but wait for other people to do so. Therefore, the open theists have not themselves escape the problem they have posed to us. I would submit, of course, that only when we realize that God is using all these evils, no matter how bad they are, for a much greater good and His greater glory can we then resolve this problem.

I would close off with Hasker's interesting and heretical take on conversion. Hasker seems to think that believing in Christ is analogous to a quantum event. Thus, he says that 'even if it is possible, on the open view of God, for all human beings without exception to reject salvation, still this might be overwhelming improbable — so impossible that the risk of such an outcome is negligible' (p. 153). He likens such a scenario to that of all the oxygen in a room concentrating in a small volume, leaving the rest of the room devoid of oxygen and unable to sustain life, which is impossible. In this, Hasker errs as in denying Total Depravity as taught in Rom. 3:12-18 .

In conclusion of this section, Hasker has been shown not to able to prove the superiority of the Open Theism position from a philosophical perspective, only to show that is is possible within a certain paradigm. Also, Hasker's attempted attack on Calvinism has been shown to be not well-founded.

[to be continued]


Spiritual Israel said...

Wow. Who is that good-looking guy in the picture? I really like your graduation picture. Great.

Pastor Paul

ddd said...

Eh... ya, that's me. Thanks for the compliment.