September 2016

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30  


« How RFRA Works | Main | Refusing to Serve Individuals vs. Refusing to Participate in Events »

April 02, 2015


I’ve been thinking about the importance of trust this week. I submit that we will not be able to enter Heaven unless we are both morally perfect and free. Heaven is a place where peace, joy, love, and every good thing will perpetuate forever, which is not possible if even a single morally imperfect individual is there to wreck it. And without free will, the peace, love and joy would simply be empty counterfeits.

I further submit that our current state is one of freedom and moral imperfection. Thus it necessarily follows that we will have to be made morally perfect before we can enter Heaven. The fact is that this is the only possible way, even for God, to create persons that are both free and morally perfect: you must start with a free but morally imperfect person, and allow them to choose whether or not they will be made morally perfect.

This life, then, becomes about two things. One is to make that choice: to choose goodness over evil. But that choice, I have learned, is not enough. Being made perfect means trusting your self to the only one who can make you perfect. And that’s a LOT of trust.

Think about it. You would not trust your broken car to a mechanic that you did not trust. How much more trust is involved when the broken thing is your whole self?

My objection was that God is in "absolute control", defined as "What I mean by absolute control is that what God wants to happen, happens." (KWM)

Contrast this with Matthew 23: Words of Jesus...

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would have none of it!"

Do these words indicate that things are going just as Jesus wanted them to?

Goat Head -

God can will two things which are in conflict in any specific situation. In this case, God wanted to protect and comfort His nation, but He also wanted His nation to be free. That freedom meant the ability to reject the protection of God. Your task is now to endeavor to understand why their freedom was deemed more important than their peace and comfort.

It turns out the temporary, limited experience of evil is necessary to accomplish the eternal good of man. And whatever else you want to say about the evil that occurs on this earth, you cannot deny that that evil is limited and temporary. In fact, that suffering is “not to be compared with” the glories of the world to come.

Therefore, although He always makes clear to us that His ultimate desire for us is peace, comfort, love, joy, and every good thing, it is according to His good will that we experience both good and evil, in order that we would be able to make the free, fully informed decision of whether or not to choose good over evil, and to trust God to make us capable of both doing and enjoying only good forevermore. Thus God remains ultimately in control, and His ultimate and eternal will is satisfied, even though it may appear for a moment that His will is not being satisfied during any
specific situation.

KWM clarified his remark by saying that God always gets the final word.

Nothing in the "Jerusalem, Jerusalem" passage suggests that God isn't getting the final word.

It does suggest that, in the end, God let Israel have its own way.

P.S. - If A lets B have his own way, it is A, not B, who has the final word. A's letting B have his own way presupposes that it is perfectly within A's power to not let B have his own way.

"God, like the father in the bicycle example, wills that necessary evils happen."

From God's perspective, are there any unnecessary evils?

I did clarify my remarks, but only because I was directing them to Goat Head 5. It’s like speaking louder to someone that can’t hear. You weren’t unclear before, you just had to alter your communication.

It’s really a shame that Goat Head 5’s hang up is on the dual nature of wills and wants. I’m not saying this to bash Goat Head 5, but my child understands the difference and he’s 5 years old. He gets a real dose of this when we take him to get shots. I want him to have the shot, but I don’t want him to have the shot. Ultimately, his skin is pierced. He gets it.

Even in the example, if the father pushes his daughter over to prevent her from being run over, to a certain extent he willed and wanted to push her over. At the same time, he hates that she fell over and doesn't want it.

Baby steps.

"From God's perspective, are there any unnecessary evils?"

I think not.

Since He suffers all the evils Himself through Christ, why would He permit unnecessary ones?


I don't think it a question of "permitting" unnecessary ones. Its seems unnecessary evils don't even exist.

Leaving aside the issue that something unpleasant that happens in a fallen world should not necessarily be equated with evil, though there is perhaps a causal relationship in federal headship, it occurs to me that sin distorts our ability to understand by generating manifold ethical dilemmas. It serves the purpose, however, of forcing us to either rely on our ability to navigate them all in order to understand God or to understand God by trusting him in the midst of the confusion. I suggest that only the latter is truly possible though the former should be pursued secondarily.

"It seems unnecessary evils don't even exist."

Well, if God does not permit them, they certainly do not.

Wow. KWM, we have been going back and forth, misunderstanding each other. Or perhaps all the misunderstanding has been mine.

If you mean God wants us to be able to make free choices that are contrary to what He would prefer, then we are in complete agreement.

If you think this means God is "in control", I would have no problem with that, although most people wouldn't define in control with me letting another decide.

Is that the distinction provided by your modification of your original definition of "in control"?

A question to those commenting:

Would you say that all evils in this world, are necessary for some greater good, on par with a child having momentary pain from a vaccination?

And if the answer is yes, would you say that god merely allows them to happen or that He planned them and makes certain that they happen in exactly as He wants them to happen?


I think I agree with you. Let me re-state your view to see whether I've got it right.

  1. Not every instance of pain and suffering is evil. For example, the discomfort we feel from being too close to a flame is definitely pain. But it is actually good, not evil.
  2. The fact that pain is needed at some times to bring about good (per #1) may be a result of our Fall in Adam.
  3. Our fallenness complicates not only the issue of distinguishing cases where pain is actually good from cases where pain is actually evil, but all moral issues.
  4. Because this is our condition, we have two choices
    • Use our reason to try to carefully work out moral issues that confront us and thereby come to understand God's goodness more fully


    • Trust in the goodness of God even though we don't see how all the moral issues sift out.
  5. Of these two choices, only the second one is really possible, but that doesn't mean we should totally abandon the first
Have I got it?

Goat Head,

I do believe that our every experience of evil will play a role in shaping some eternal good. There are a couple of connections I would have you consider, one from experience and another from scripture. First, I’m sure you have found how that being deprived of some good thing increases your appreciation of it. Well, along those lines, I view every evil as a temporary deprivation of some corresponding good. And every good thing is an expression of God’s awesome nature. Thus the temporary experience of evil shapes in us an enhanced revelation of some aspect of God, which will manifest itself in our worship and enjoyment of Him.

Secondly, I will recall to your mind the popular verse in Isaiah (53:5) that says “…with his stripes we are healed.” It has been observed that anyone who suffers in a certain way, and endures, that person is then able to assist or bring healing to those who are going through the same thing. The applications in this world are obvious, but the goodness that comes of this phenomenon in the world to come is even greater: for the bond that is created between the survivor and the sufferer will endure forever.

Does God plan and execute our suffering, or does He merely allow it to happen? This is an excellent and far reaching question, that I have not been able to fully explore. I am convinced, however, that the first step to addressing this question is to *attempt* to remove certain anthropomorphic projections that it puts on God. To say that God “planned” something is to put Him in time (since planning occurs BEFORE execution), but He is supposed to be “the beginning and the end”, outside and above time. For all intents and purposes, it would be essentially impossible for us to imagine the mind of God without special and direct revelation, and even with special and direct revelation, communicating such knowledge would require metaphors and analogies which, again, rely on anthropomorphic projections.

Thus, while it may be necessary and appropriate to speak of God “planning” this or that before doing it, it will be extremely helpful to acknowledge the mere linguistic necessity of such devices. But the truth is, God is perfect in wisdom and righteousness, infinite in power and knowledge. He can take perfect account of every variable, and to Him, there are no unintended consequences. The Bible says that Jesus was “slain from the foundation of the world.” That is to say, His suffering and death were always a part of the plan.

As I said, this is a far reaching and fascinating question, which connects to the reconciliation of free-will and pre-destiny, the purpose of hell, and even the nature of angels. Ultimately, though, it leads to the revelation of God’s amazing love for us. To bring us home is the only thing that could be hard for God, and meant that He would have to suffer with each of us, for all of us, and as one of us! To a God of infinite wealth, we are a hard fought for treasure! But I dare say that we are the lucky ones in this transaction. I am a poor prize, no doubt, but He is the greatest gift there could be!

Are you taking a straw poll to help establish truth Goat Head 5?

What difference does it make how many agree or disagree? You only need One to agree with you and He has spoken clearly enough to reason through this meaty topic. Accurately quote and cite Him, do it early and often if you can...let Him be your bulldog.

Nice thoughtful post, jmscwss. I enjoyed it.

I would agree that God's permissive will allows evil to happen and that He works His good and perfect plan out in spite of the evil. However, that presupposes a distinction between God’s permissive will and His perfect will. Your article seemed to presuppose that evil is God’s perfect will. If you say evil is His permissive will (which I would argue that it is based on scriptures which say God is not pleased with evil and suffering and is even grieved by it), your statements that evil is necessary makes little sense, as God’s perfect will was for the evil to not occur. Therefore, logically He could have done something else (and wanted to) if the evil was not caused (either by sin or natural disasters).

So you seem to be saying that evil and death are the perfect will of God. If this is so, I believe you are faced with a problem when you say that evil is "necessary" and that God only allows "necessary" evil. This of course is the logical conclusion of your beliefs, for if God is absolutely sovereign as you understand it, anything that happened was His perfect will anyway. We just need to trust Him that He knows best. But this question arises: how is God's sovereignty compatible with free will at all if all the evil that happens is necessary. This understanding of God’s sovereignty implies that there literally is no other way for Him to work events to their ultimate conclusion without allowing all the suffering and evil that happens in the world. That may seem a strange conclusion, but it follows logically.

Let me explain: Omnipotence is that power to do all that logically can exist and happen. God cannot create a mountain to heavy for Him to lift as that is a logical impossibility, like a square circle. If God works against His perfect will, by definition He is not sovereign nor omnipotent, for an all powerful being literally cannot do that. At first glance, it seems a no brainer that human evil did not have to happen and that God could have guided people away from the evil if they chose to yield to him. But if God is absolutely sovereign as you have described sovereignty, then all evil was and is necessary. This means that if an evil occurred, God had to allow it (such as murder, rape, and genocide,) and literally could not do anything to stop them (such as guiding His children to avoid evil and premature death). If He did, that would violate His sovereign nature (unless it was His will for them to avoid the danger/destruction, in which case they would have avoided it).

With such a absolute deterministic understanding of God’s sovereignty, how can humans have free will at all, and why should evil humans be held responsible for their actions?

To say that God only allows necessary evil, is to say that all evil was necessary, such as all genocides throughout history. God literally could do nothing to stop Hitler from doing what he did as the holocaust was a part of God’s perfect will, which even God cannot violate. If all evil is necessary and if God's sovereignty requires it to happen, then this implies that for God to not allow necessary evil would be a violation of God's sovereign nature. Since a violation of God's nature is impossible, therefore all evil had to happen or God's nature would be violated. So free will seems an illusion.

It gets worse than that. If God not only permits but causes all evil to happen (which is what absolute determinism ultimately implies), then how can I even trust my mental faculties to give me justified true belief about God or anything else for that matter? Certainly people rejecting God and believing lies about Him qualifies as evil. If God causes people to reject Him, that can only mean He caused them to believe what they based their rejection of God on. And if God is causing people to believe lies about Him, how can I trust what I believe is true? Perhaps God has filled my head with a mixture of truth’s and lies because that was His perfect will? Perhaps I was created only a moment ago, along with the rest of the world, with false memory implants. Why not ask that question, if God causes people to believe other lies?


Most theologies include a discussion of two wills of God.

This is not surprising, since it is a completely natural way to think about the motivations of any thinking being.

Just as human beings, we distinguish things that we would choose if we could, all things equal from things we would choose if we could, all things considered. God's motivational framework may be more complex than that, but I don't think there is any reason to think that it is less complex than that.

Now, whether you use the phrase "perfect will" or "manifest will" or just "will, all things equal" seems unimportant to me. Likewise, if you use the phrase "permissive will" or "secret will" or just "will, all things considered" also seems unimportant.

What's important is that there is one way to use the term "will" to refer to what God would choose before taking everything into account. Jesus would have chosen not to die for example. He said so. But in the end, that's not what happened. But it's not because things didn't go by plan. It's because in the end, God did take everything into account. And when He did, He recognized (for reasons He understands, but I do not) that Jesus had to die. And so that's what He chose, all things considered.

Now, since I equate the what you call the perfect will with the will, all things equal, I don't think you are right when you say this:

So you seem to be saying that evil and death are the perfect will of God.
I think evil and death are what God chooses to happen, all things considered. That is, I think those things are part of what you would call His permissive will.

When I say that all evils are necessary evils, I don't mean that they are logically necessary. I doubt very much that there are any such evils. God is the only thing that exists necessarily. And God need not have created any contingent world at all. That was His free choice. So one logical possibility is that God is the only thing that exists. Since God has no evil in Him, that would be a world with no evil.

When I say that evils are necessary, I mean that there are some goods that cannot exist without evil. My favorite example: the good of redemption cannot exist without the evil of a fall.

My view is that all evils are necessary in that sense. In order for some higher good to be achieved, it is necessary that a lesser evil be tolerated.

So I don't think my position is subject to the objection you are trying to raise in your third paragraph. Because that objection seems to turn on the idea that the phrase "necessary evil" refers to evils the existence of which are logically necessary. But it does not.

So for example God could have done all sorts of things to stop Hitler from doing what he did. But there are other goods He would have had to give up in order to do so. And those goods were more important than stopping Hitler. The father who pushes his bicycling daugher over resulting in an accident that requires that her leg be amputated maybe didn't have to do that. But if He had not done that, she would have gotten run over by a car. The one result is more important to the father than the other. The amputation is a necessary evil that the father accepts to prevent the child being run over.

I don't, BTW, think that any philosophically interesting understanding of freedom is incompatible with any philosophically interesting form of theological determinism. This is because God's existence is independent of time, and hence, one of the key premises in any incompatibilist inference (based on the principle of the fixity of the past) is false.

The problem I have with the position that God allows evil to happen and works good in spite of (and in reaction to) it, is that, while it seems to satisfy an apparent problem with a violation of the omnipotence of God, it does so by sacrificing the omniscience of God. I qualify the omnipotence issue as an "apparent" problem, because I believe this problem disappears when you apply a temporal will/ultimate will distinction, in contrast with your permissive will/perfect will framework. Furthermore, I'd like to address the "apparent" conflict that exists in the temporal/ultimate will framework with respect to the illusion of freedom which you objected to.
First, I believe your framework implies that God cannot or does not anticipate the actions and choices of His creatures. In other words, He does not know what choices we will make until we make them, and must react accordingly to correct the course. Thus, it seems at first that our freedom and God's omniscience are mutually exclusive. However, it turns out that the essential character of our freedom is not its absoluteness, but its authenticity. Let me expand on that.
God alone is absolutely free: nothing and no one can prevent God from accomplishing His ends. In comparison, an earthly king is less free than God, being subject to Him. We, in turn, are less free still, being subject to God, our rulers, our bosses, and our budgets. However, even though the boundaries of our freedom are more restricted, even though there are fewer choices available to us, that does not affect the authenticity of our freedom when we make those choices. As this applies to our eternal destiny, the minimum required bounds of our freedom is such that we can make an authentic decision to abandon sin forever, and to trust God, who alone can rectify and complete us so that we are able to carry out that decision. Such trust in God is manifested in us by our acceptance of salvation on the terms on which He has offered it.
The uncomfortable conclusion here is that we are less free than we would like to think. However, I'm sure that you have suspected this much all along. Every decision that you have made in your life has been influenced by your upbringing, your digestion, your quality of sleep, your financial condition, and many other factors that are largely out of your control. Thus it is not our freedom that is the illusion, but merely our control.
You have already mentioned the objection that this would seem to imply that humans should not be held responsible. But the fact of the matter is, we are not held responsible! God, Himself took the penalty for all sin on Calvary. We are accused of sin, but not by God - it is the devil that is called the accuser. Those that reject salvation will stand without defense, and be subject to the judgment of the devil, sharing in his damnation. Hell was prepared for angels after all, and not for man.
Several of the other objections that you raised against the position that our suffering is in a sense according to the will of God are perfectly accurate. I believe and will explain how there can be no other or better way to work events to their ultimate conclusion except by subjecting us to a limited and temporary experience of evil.
Here is why: the ultimate conclusion that all events are working towards is the best possible good of creation, that is, the Eternally Perfect Kingdom. The essential characteristic of the Eternally Perfect Kingdom, aside from the Eternly Perfect King, is the Eternally Perfect Citizenry. The children of the kingdom must possess two traits in order for the good of that kingdom to perpetuate forever: moral perfection and freedom. Creating this particular kind of person is like creating g your square circle: it is inherently impossible to do directly. Creating a morally perfect person is to pre-determine their moral choices, which precludes the possibility of authentic freedom. Thus, the only possible way to achieve the free, morally perfect person is to create a free, morally imperfect person, and allow them to make the authentic, free decision to be made morally perfect. And the authenticity of that free decision hinges on the experience of both good and evil.
In conclusion, God's temporal will for us RIGHT NOW might involve limited and temporary suffering. Because this directly accomplishes His ultimate will in the best possible way, God's omnipotence remains unviolated.

In my earlier post, I asserted this without arguing for it

I don't, BTW, think that any philosophically interesting understanding of freedom is incompatible with any philosophically interesting form of theological determinism. This is because God's existence is independent of time, and hence, one of the key premises in any incompatibilist inference (based on the principle of the fixity of the past) is false.
To see why I think this is so, Let's begin by actually trying to argue for the incompatibility of freedom and theological determinism. Here is an example:

Consider the proposition, "Jones mows his lawn on Easter Sunday, 2015". Let's call that proposition M. What it would mean for Jones to be free to refrain from mowing his lawn on Easter 2015 is that on Easter 2015 he could still act so that M is false. Let's also suppose that M happens to be true. So we seem to have these two alternatives

  • A. Jones wasn't free to refrain from mowing on Easter 2015...He couldn't, on Easter 2015, act so that M is false, and no one else did either, so M wound up true.
  • B. Jones freely mowed on Easter 2015...He could have, on Easter 2015, acted so that M is false, he just didn't.
It seems that we can argue this way to rule out alternative B:
  1. In the year 1900, it was true that God believed M. (By Divine Omniscience).

  2. In order for Jones to be able, on Easter 2015, to act so that M is false, either Jones would have to be able, on Easter 2015, to act so that it was not true in 1900 that God believed M, or Jones would have to be able, on Easter 2015, to act so that it was still true in 1900 that God believed M, but God was mistaken.

  3. It is logically impossible for God's belief ever to be mistaken. (Also by Divine Omniscience).


  4. Jones is not able, on Easter 2015, to act so that it was still true in 1900 that God believed M, but God was mistaken.(By 1, 3)


  5. In order for Jones to be able, on Easter 2015, to act so that M is false, Jones would have to be able, on Easter 2015, to act so that it was not true in 1900 that God believed M. (By 2, 4)

  6. On Easter 2015, it is too late for Jones to act so that it was not true in 1900 that God believed M. (By the fixity of the past.)


  7. Jones is not able, on Easter 2015, to act so that M is false. (By 5, 6)
All of which leads us to the conclusion that, although Jones did mow his lawn on Easter 2015, He did not do so freely.


In the argument above, there is nothing special about Jones. We could make the same argument about Smith, or Brown, or anybody who mowed their lawn on Easter 2015. God still would have known in 1900 that they mowed. So:

Because of Divine Omniscience, no one who mowed their lawn on Easter 2015 did so freely.
There was also nothing special about the act of mowing one's lawn. It could have been washing one's laundry, reading one's Bible, any act. It could also have been the refraining from any act. God still would have known in 1900 that one did that act on Easter 2015. So:
Because of Divine Omniscience, no one who did anything on Easter 2015 did so freely.
And, there is nothing special about Easter 2015, except that there is an earlier time, 1900. But there is is always an earlier time, unless there is a first moment in time. And no created agent was around at the first moment in time anyway. If there is such a moment, only God was around then. So:
Because of Divine Omniscience, no one, except possibly God, has ever, or will ever, do anything freely.
Finally, there are a number of other attributes of God that would work in the argument above just as well as God's Omniscience and the Divine beliefs that it implies. We could, for example, just as easily have argued in terms of God's Providence and the Divine plans that it implies. We could also have argued in terms of God's Sovereignty and the Divine decrees that it implies. We could also have argued in terms of God's status as Universal Creator and the Divine creations that it implies, and on and on.

In each case, because of what God did in the past, it becomes too late for anyone to do anything about anything now...the die is cast.

Thus far the argument for incompatibilism. Things look pretty bad for freedom.

Notice that most pat responses that people give to this argument are pretty hollow.

Here's one that's often raised against the argument from Divine Omniscience:

Just because God knew in advance what I would do doesn't mean He caused me to do it.
OK. So what? The argument from God's Omniscience never once mentions God's causing anything. Just God's having infallible prior belief is what creates the logical bind.

Here's another

God is Omniscient. He doesn't believe, He knows.
OK. But He does believe. To know that a proposition is true involves three things: first, the proposition is true, second you have a belief that the proposition is true, and third, you have some form of justification for that belief. The fact that nothing in the argument turns on the justification of the belief is not relevant.

Here's a more generic response

Freedom means that if you wanted to do X, you would have done X, not 'libertarian' freedom.
Nothing in the argument turns on the analysis of freedom. Let's suppose that freedom is doing as you want. If you want to make God hold a false belief, you will surely fail. If you want to make something in the past different that it was, you will fail. Even if all you want to do is refrain from mowing your lawn, if so refraining requires that the past be different or that God make a mistake, good luck...if God has infallible belief, and the past is fixed, it ain't happening.

Now, there is one response to this argument that I think is very effective. As far as I know, the first person who presented a problem of theological determinism argued from Divine Omniscience, and he ultimately hit upon the right response to the problem. The man was Boethius.

Boethius' answer was that God is independent of time. God is equally present to all times. Because of this, the idea that it is ever too late to make God have a different belief than the one He has (premise 6 in the argument above) is false. Similar remarks go for God's plans, decrees and so forth.

Hi WisdomLover, I am contemplating your recent post and am wondering does Boethius' argument consider that there is a logical order of events?

IOW, does Divine Omniscience, the knowing in logical order should still require b-event following a-event such that if a-event happens[say in 1900], b-event becomes necessary [say in 2015]...even though time/temporal order may make no such necessity?

I'm not even sure I'm asking this rightly, maybe you can discern what I am trying to make distinction on?

Seems to me that logical order would maintain the same force to the problem Boethius was trying to answer relating to events in time.

"....would you say that god merely allows them to happen or that He planned them and makes certain that they happen in exactly as He wants them to happen?"

IMO there are no truly bad replies to that question so far.

Because they are all answered based on our own current World, our own current Post-Fall Set of necessities and contingencies (at which scripture is (not all, but mostly) aimed).

The replies thus far have not specifically dived into this though outside of our own particular (possible) World. And the Root of God's, of love's, topography is, IMO, found there and not here. Post-Fall semantics abound. As they should. Pre-Fall semantics don't, and that is in part for good reasons, and in part for bad reasons - namely our commitment to our Post-Fall Set of necessities and contingencies (at which the semantics of scripture is (not all, but mostly) aimed).

Which need not be so, not necessarily, as it were.

Any Truth Predicate which is necessarily True inside of our own Post-Fall Set of necessities and contingencies is not ipso facto so outside of that Set (where Man and God are concerned). That is why all the answers thus far are for the most part very satisfying and yet need not make null and void the necessarily geography of Eden, even as they fail to address Eden - they are the semantics of our own current and particular Set and so we can agree in full, but not of all Possible Sets and so we need not extend such semantics without margin.

Mutable Innocence in Eden finds peculiar geography, and the question at hand is this:

1) The Image of God, the Knowledge of God, in whole, are availed to Man only should God make certain Man's Fall.

2) The Image of God, the Knowledge of God, in whole, are availed to Man irrespective of Man's choice, such choices being unable to thwart God's Plan.

The World we are now in, that is, our current sightline - just is that of the Post-Fall necessities and contingencies - which (most of) our theology is for good reason committed to. That there can be a choice by Man to thwart God or that there cannot be a choice by Man to thwart God there inside of Mutable Innocence, and, also, that there can be a World, a dive into God, or, that there cannot be a World, a dive into God, that is distinct from the current Post-Fall World we awake to find ourselves within is IMO the only real question of import, as all our theology now, Post-Fall, are all reasonable enough and need not generate so much heat given the geography we are inside of (Post-Fall).

Now, it is clear to some of us that the Fall was an actual option among a plurality - as nothing Man does is going to out-step God, though God fashions Man with freedom of motion amid Self/Other. Man cannot evade Reality, Actuality, Christ, God, and what have you. Man will see Christ - as all vectors of sufficiency, of insufficiency, of privation, of Self, of Other, of His Love, and more which we cannot imagine - all these and more converge there in Him. Inside of a subtle motion we in part, not in full, but in part, almost verge on crafting a god out of the "Privation of the Self" (P.O.T.S.), and therein find a sort of post-fall set of necessities and contingencies taking the place of the Triune God in Whom such (P.O.T.S.) ceaselessly exists, though there is that And-More there inside of the A - Z Himself. It is whole/full to have God (P.O.T.S And The Rest), rather than God minus some-thing (P.O.T.S.). To know the former just is to know the later - necessarily. Self/Other, Love, and so on, is a peculiar topography there within Trinity, there in Man's image.

It seems we as Christians don't disagree so much on all of our Post-Fall topographies, as the overlaps outweigh the margins by far. The topography of Eden and of Man and of God prior to and/or outside of our own Post-Fall Set, as it were, of necessities and contingencies (at which the semantics of Scripture is (not all, but mostly) aimed), however, are obviously more disagreeable among various stances. And that is perfectly understandable. And even healthy. And even beneficial to the likes of someone posting this comment who finds much light in the many and varied contexts and word-pictures of everyone here.

Brad B.-

The issue I think you are getting at, Brad, is this: Even though God is not dependent on time, time still seems to impose a necessity on events. To wit, past events are fixed in a way that future events are not.

And certainly, this is a premise in most incompatibilist arguments...since the general form of such arguments is like this:

  1. The past entails the future

  2. I cannot affect the past.


  3. I cannot affect the future.
That second premise is expressing the necessity of the past.

Now I actually don't think this necessity exists. But even if we grant it in the case of humans, it obviously has no force on a time-independent God.

I don't think Boethius got into that many details about the idea of the fixity of the past. He just sort of assumed it was least for human beings. He was more concerned about arguing for the timelessness of God, and showing how it sidesteps the whole question of the fixity of the past.

His Consolations of Philosophy is a standard text on the Foreknowledge Problem.

I'm back online after a great weekend celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord - Happy Resurrection Day!

You spelled out what I said very well. You got it!


It occurs to me that you may have been wondering whether the mere fact of logical relations between events may impose a kind of necessity.

You mention the idea of logical order.

Do you mean something like this? That is A entails B, and B entails C, then A is logically prior to B and C, while B is logically prior to C, but logically posterior to A, and C is logically posterior to both?

Or maybe it goes the other way? C is logically prior to A and B and so forth?

It seems to me that you're going to have difficulty working out such an ordering.

For one thing, every necessary truth is entailed by everything including every other necessary truth, for example. Which is logically first? The Pythagorean Theorem, or Cavalieri's Principle? I suppose you might go by what is needed to derive what. But that's going to depend on what starts out as axiomatic. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases you can prove the axioms as theorems if you start with the theorems as axioms.

And even when you are dealing with strictly contingent propositions (as we are when we talk about human choices and God's free beliefs, decrees and plans about them), the mere fact that A entails B imposes no necessity on A or B. So any logical ordering based on entailment would not, by itself impose any necessity on either the entailing or the entailed terms. To use old-school lingo, we must not confuse the necessity of the consequence with the necessity of the consequent...the fact that B is a necessary consequence of A, doesn't make B itself necessary.

(This is a huge mistake/willful error Luther made in his Bondage of the Will...equating necessity of the consequence with necessity of the consequent...I think Luther may have been engaging in a polemical rant against Erasmus when he did calmer moments he probably would have acknowledged the significance of the distinction.)

Anyway, I think the temporal ordering is critical to the incompatibilist argument. But even that ultimately fails to uphold the argument in the case of theological forms of determinism, because the timelessness of God undercuts any necessity you might otherwise be able to derive from the fixity of the past.

(Note that straight causal determinism may be another story.)

Thanks for spending time on this WL, I appreciate it. Ever since you answered my initial question I am wanting to read up on the recommendation by Bothius you gave. I haven't been able to yet, I've been trying to keep up with a UD post Failure of the Compensation Argument and the Imlausibility of Evolution...550 posts, it grows faster than I have time to read along.

Anyway, this recent post is helpful to further elaborate on my question regarding temporal order and relation to logical order. I will see if I can make this clarifying question simple:

God knows tomorrow as fixed as[actually more than] we know yesterday....iow, the fixity of the future with Him is no less sure than the fixity of the past.

That He orders everything with a goal in mind would seem to allow for or even demand acknowledging logical order...not for our sake, for we'd never sit as judge on that, but in keeping with His perfection.

If in April of 2015 events take place that become crucial as contributing factors to the rational free choices of men in April of 2016, where with God no temporal restraint compels Him to maintain reason in ordering events, but His perfection, it seems, would require an ordered progression toward ends in 2016 that have logical ordering...if they are going to be working toward an end goal.

In other words, if in 2016 event b will occur, it is logically necessary that certain events preceed event b, as those preceeding events provide rationale for the free choices of the creatures to participate in the event b according to the foreknowledge of God.

Here's WCF V paragraph II:

"II. Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, He orders them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently."

Prior to any event in time, it would seem to me that God must have logically ordered all of the conditions preceeding and leading up to it so that the creation has order temporally.

I hope this makes sense...I am running out of time to fine tune it any more. Maybe this is like the Luther's resoning?

The comments to this entry are closed.