Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Logical Contradictions?

Divine Determinism and Human Freedom
Is God’s providence and man’s freedom incoherent? Most Christians would say no! Why, because there is a few different logically plausible models to account for Biblical teaching on the subject. Both models would affirm determinism and freedom are not incoherent ideas; however the models would disagree on the compatibility of determinism and freedom. One model, call it Arminian, argues determinism and freedom are incompatible. So the Arminian model affirms God guides human actions to accomplish His plans without violating human freedom. God knows everything including what humans will do in any situation. So God puts people in situations were He knows they will freely choose to do what is His plan. However, the Armianiam model stresses the fact that God must work with what He gets. There are many different ways God could have arranged the world but there was no logical possibility to save the most free creatures possible without the possibility of some freely choosing to sin. So there was risk on the part of God from the Arminian model.

The second model, call it the Calvinist model, argues determinism and freedom are compatible. The compatibility lies in the nature of freedom. The Calvinist model defines freedom as a creature’s ability to choose to will an act, without constraint, by his/hers desires, with a will he/she desires. Such a view of freedom is perfectly consistent with determinism so long as one can know any creature’s desires. Imagine there were two people Bill and Shawn. Suppose that Bill put a device in Shawn’s brain that enabled Bill to control Shawn’s actions with a remote.  Lets say that Bill has determined Shawn will kill the President Barack Obama by pressing a button on the remote. But suppose further that Shawn already wants to kill the President without Bill having to use the remote, and Shawn kills the President. We would say Shawn didn’t have the ability to do otherwise than kill the President and yet we would say Shawn was morally responsible for his actions. This is due to the fact that Shawn did what he desired to do with the will he wanted. Now the question arises, how can one know in advance a free creature’s desires? Well, different factors can influence one’s desires, like genetics, parents, cultures, and friends; but the one thing the person has control over is his identity with those desires. For example, a person wanting to loose weight can either identify himself with food or identify himself with loosing weight. By difficult training one can train to have a stronger desire to loose weight than eat fat producing foods. God being omniscient knows what factors would influence an agent to cause him/her to choose one thing over another. Notice, I said "cause" an agent. Thus there are necessary and sufficient conditions for any agent's actions. To summarize then, God determines all things that come to pass in such a way that man freely determines what he most wants to do.   


The Incarnation
JP Moreland and William Lane Craig give an interesting model of how Christians can defend the coherence of the incarnation. They argue if God intrinsically possesses all attributes that are required to be a human person then all that is needed for a genuine incarnation is a body. If the Divine Logos takes upon flesh that is sufficient for a legitimate incarnation. This view would sail smoothly away from Nestorianism. Since it does not make a "human soul" a necessary condition for being human. Or even if it does, the condition is all ready met in God's nature.

On such a model the mind of Christ being the divine Logos makes it difficult to explain the human character and experiences of Christ. The problem is solved, according to Moreland and Craig, by distinguishing Christ's consciousness and subconsciousness. If the divine thoughts are in the subconsciousness of Christ, then it can makes sense to say Jesus went through human experiences; he learned, cried, and suffered.

The Trinity
The Trinity is not contradictory since we are saying God is one in one sense and three in another sense. God is one in essence and three in personhood. God is one what and three who’s. In a more precise way, God is one incorporeal Spirit with three sets of cognitive faculties comprised of intellect, will and emotions. Another way to put it is God has three centers of self-consciousness.      

Are there any other evidences that testify to God being Triune apart from Scripture? Well one way to see the plausibility of the Trinity is to think of the attribute love. What is love? It is an action, right? It is the act of giving one’s self to another. It is “otherness” instead of self-centeredness. A thought experiment would help here. Imagine if God did not choose to create the world. Would we still say God is all-loving before creation? How so? God had no one to love prior to creation. God was always loving. Since as Scripture says God is love (1 John 4:8). This requires God to love another prior to creation. To say one can love without someone to love is meaningless. The very concept of love requires another person to love. And it is unbiblical to think God created love. Thus we are left with the plausible conclusion that God as one being exists in three persons: the Father Son and Holy Spirit; and that they love each before the creation of anything. 

God can only do what is consistent with His character and nature. So can God do anything? Obviously not! He cannot stop willing His own existence. Nor can God stop being omnipotent and still be God. God cannot lie, or sin. Does this make God no longer omnipotent? No! The contradiction lies with the objector not defining omnipotence from faithful Biblical teaching.


1 comment:

Puritan Lad said...

Something is not a contradiction just because we cannot fully explain how it works (ie. God's sovereignty vs. human freedom) or because it violates normal human experience (ie. three persons in one being). In order for someone to show a logical contradiction in Scripture or in Christian theology, they would have to express it in the form of P = not P. Whether it be God's sovereign and human responsibility, the Trinity, the two natures of Christ, until the alleged contradiction is expressed in this form, they have shown no contradiction, or even an apparent contradiction.