Thursday, February 10, 2005

Walls on Walls

February 7, 2005

Dear Steve:

I was recently cleaning off my desk and came across an email you sent me some time ago about my book with Joe Dongell. I had intended to write you earlier, but was caught up in other work and it slipped my mind.

First, let me say I appreciate the time you took to write a detailed critique of our book. I will not reply in the same detail, but I do want to make a few central points. I will reply only to points made about the chapters I wrote.

First, with respect to chapter 5, you ask how the Arminian position
presents a point of contrast to Talbott's critique of Calvinism. The key difference is this: a relationship of genuine love and trust cannot be compelled or determined. It is of course a sad thing for anyone to be lost, which is why God expresses sorrow over the sin and rebellion of his children, and why there is rejoicing in heaven when a sinner repents.

But it is one thing to say my daughter does NOT choose to love God, and another thing altogether to say God does not choose to love her. I believe God loves even those who do not love him in return. I agree that in heaven we will see things as God sees them which means that we will see with perfect clarity that the lost have chosen decisively not to love God and we will have peace about that. But again, it would be another matter altogether if God chose not to save my daughter, even though he could do so with her freedom intact (as Calvinists define freedom) but chose not to do so.

Second, with respect to willingness and enablement, I do not agree with you that willingness implies ability. There are lots of examples of things I could be willing, but unable to do. I am willing to bench press 300 pounds, I would gladly do so if I could but I can't. Likewise, enablement does not imply willingness. I am able to bench press 150 pounds, but I may choose not to do so if asked, let us say, by someone who wants me to prove I can. God supplies ability to respond, and encourages response, but if we are unwilling to respond, he does not determine us to do so.

If God offers salvation to people who he knows are unable to respond the offer is not genuine. Unlike the store owner, God is able to give anyone whatever is needed to enable a response. Moreover, he holds those accountable who do not respond. So if he does not enable what he requires, he is not being just, let alone perfectly good.

Third, I do indeed insist that faith in Christ is necessary for salvation. Some may not have opportunity to hear in this life and may be responding to the work of God in their lives without being fully aware of what is going on. But in eternity they will of course believe in Christ and explicitly accept what he did for them.

Fourth, I agree that the inconsistencies I point our in Piper, Packer etc can be relieved if it is simply denied that God loves the reprobate and is truly willing to save them. There is indeed a consistent version of Calvinism, maybe two, as I point out. But Calvinists are seldom if ever consistent. If Calvinists forthrightly say all are invited, but only the elect can truly come, that God has chosen to pass over and to reprobate all those who cannot come, that he died only for the elect, that he only loves the elect in any meaningful sense, then they can retain consistency.

But of course they seldom say this. I wish Calvinists would be
consistent. That would expose it for what it is and do more to discredit it than anything. But again, they will not be consistent, and the very inconsistency and misleading, if not deceptive rhetoric they typically display is what continues to make it seem morally implausible to many people who would reject it outright if they really understood what it was claiming.

The inconsistencies, by the way, are not confined to contemporary popular writers, but also appear in classical sources like the Westminster Confession, and Calvin himself, as I show.

Fifth, your depiction of God in Wesleyan theology as a distraught
girlfriend is of course, laughable, I know popular Calvinist writers like to caricature Arminian theology this way, but if you read Joe's chapters you know better.

Sixth, the example of the girl who fears her father has gone to hell
brings the practical differences into focus. Again, there is a world of difference between saying "God loves your father, Jesus died for him and God in his mercy that endures forever extends him grace if he is willing to accept it. If he will not, and we cannot know his fate, but if he will not, he is not lost because of God's lack of love for him"; and saying,"we cannot know whether God truly loved your father, and if your father is lost, it is because God chose not to save him, even though he could have, with his freedom intact, and perhaps God chose to reprobate him to make you more grateful that he did not reprobate you."

Seventh, the problem of evil is indeed tough for all of us and I certainly do not pretend otherwise. However, the problem is insuperable if God determines everything. As you note, terrible things can sear the heart no matter what view you take, but again, there is a world of difference between saying God allowed these terrible things to happen because of human freedom and saying they were determined by God. I believe God in his creative grace can penetrate even the worst scars that sin can cause and can enable people to respond in ways that even the worst pains and tragedies can be redeemed and healed. But if God determines even the unremitting pain of eternal damnation, the scars of this life, however wrenching, are mere scratches compared to that.

Well, Steve, these are a few of my thoughts in response to your
provocative email. Have we ever met?

With best wishes,



February 8, 2005

Dear Dr. Walls,

Thanks for taking the time to reply. It was a thoughtful response, and not a perfunctory brush-off.

1. In the main, the differences between your position and mine come down to profound presuppositional differences regarding the necessary and sufficient conditions of divine goodness and justice, as well as the necessary and sufficient conditions of genuine love and a genuine offer (of the gospel).

2. Your added distinctions between enablement and willingness, which can be related in opposing directions, depending on the concrete situation, are interesting. However:

i) In the context of the WCF, we are talking about a divine enablement of a mental act (willingness). And where mental acts are concerned, you don't have the same subject/object impediments as you might have in a mind/body situation where I am unable to realize my mental resolve on an extramental object, such as bench-pressing 300 pounds.

And in Calvinism, likewise, human ill-will or resistance does not pose any insuperable obstacle to divine enablement. So I think your distinctions, while having a general validity, fail to engage the specifics of the case you chose to consider.

ii) In addition, however the Westminster Divines choose to express themselves, the truth which they are endeavoring to express is that--on the one hand--no man can truly believe in Christ apart from God's grace, while--on the other hand--God's grace both supplies and satisfies both the necessary and sufficient conditions for faith in the objects of grace.

If the Westminster Divines were writing with the benefit of 20C linguistic philosophy, they might express themselves in more tightly integrated formulations, but in terms of original intent the primary question we need to ask ourselves is what were they trying to affirm given what they were trying to deny, a la the Romanists and the Remonstrants?

3. You said, "I wish Calvinists would be consistent. That would expose it for what it is and do more to discredit it than anything. But again, they will not be consistent, and the very inconsistency and misleading, if not deceptive rhetoric they typically display is what continues to make it seem morally implausible to many people who would reject it outright if they really understood what it was claiming."

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that this is a fair characterization of the opposing view, it could perhaps, be applied with equal justice to your revised version of Arminian theology, given your resort to postmortem evangelism, which is a backdoor universalism.

4. On a minor point, you say that my depiction of God in Wesleyan theology is a laughable caricature. Well, it was meant to be! I was indulging in satire!

And I think there's a place for satire as long as satire is used to illustrate an argument rather than substitute a caricature for an argument.

I'd add that my lighthearted spoof was pretty tame stuff compared to the invective which John and Charles directed against predestination--even though that figures in the Thirty-Nine Articles, which they--as ordained ministers in the Church of England--were sworn to uphold.

However, it was a highly polemical age. And, in charity, due allowance ought also be made for the sort of father they had.

In answer to your question, no, we haven't met, although I did watch you debate with a universalist on Strobel's show a while back. It isn't easy to say anything intelligent in the time allotment. They used to have public theological debates back in the Middle Ages, but somehow I can't see Aquinas as a master of the soundbite, so I doubt he'd fare as well on TV :-)


P.S. I had posted a slightly revised version of book review on my blog some months ago. In the interests of "fair and balanced" coverage, would you like me to post your reply as well?


February 9, 2005

Dear Steve:

1. You are quite correct that our deepest differences pertain to the
conditions for perfect goodness and justice. That is why I framed the
issue in the book in terms of the character of God. The issue is
decidedly not one of power. As I said, I have not doubt that God COULD create a world in which he determined everything down to the last detail.
But if God determined everything in this way, then if he is perfectly
good, he WOULD not determine things in such a way that people oppress,
cheat, blaspheme, and are ultimately damned for doing so.

If you believe God COULD determine things so that all persons would freely love him, worship him, give him the praise he is due, and so on, but chose instead to determine things so that many people hate him, hate each other, and persist in doing the very things he tells us he hates, then I think the claim that God is good, let alone PERFECTLY good and loving, simply has no meaning. And again, if Calvinists starkly faced this implication of their view instead of misleadingly talking about God having compassion for the damned, giving them bona fide offers of salvation and the like, then I think most people would see through it. But as I point out, the confusing rhetoric is precisely what lends Calvinism the moral plausibility it enjoys with many people.

2. As for divine enablement, I would put the point by saying it is
obviously a necessary but not a sufficient conditon for salvation. Saving faith is not only a mental thing, but a holistic response that includes heart, soul, mind and strength. To come to Christ we must be willing not only to believe, but also to trust, to repent, to love. These are acts of will, acts of response on our part.

3. My view of postmortem evangelism is not backdoor universalism. I have written a book about hell as well as several essays criticizing
universalism. (See for instance my contribution to the recent book
Universal Salvation: the Current Debate, Eerdmans). I believe that some people will reject grace to the end, even though it is offered in its optimal form to all persons. That is the mystery and irrationality of evil. There is, however, an affinity between Calvinism and universalism, as I show in my book about hell and other essays. Both accept this crucial premise: All, and only, those whom God is willing to save will necessarily be saved. The difference between Calvinists and Universalists, of course, pertains to whether God is willing to save all persons. Universalists say yes, so all will be saved.

4. I'm glad to hear you intended your description of God in Wesleyan
theology as a laughable carticature. Unfortunately, I have heard it
deployed in a way to suggest it is an accurate picture of the poor old
feeble, wimpy Arminian deity.

5. As for the article on Predestination and Election in the 39 articles, I think it is ambiguous between Calvinism and Arminians. For centuries now the Anglican communion has included Calvinists as well as Arminians, both of whom professed to be faithful to that article.

Thanks for offering to post my replies to your critique of our book. Feel free to post my earlier reply as well this one.
I appreciate your honest dialog.

Best wishes,


In a way, there's not much left to say, because it's all been said before. It seems to me that Dr. Walls recycles all the stock objections to Calvinism. He doesn't so much argue for Arminianism as use Arminianism as a platform from which to argue against Calvinism, assuming all along that Arminian intuitions are indubitably true, and ignoring the counterarguments that have been offered time and again.

For the moment I will content myself with one simple observation: even if we grant, for the sake of argument, that election is contingent on foreseen faith, then there is nothing in Arminian theology to prevent God from only creating those whom he foreknows would freely respond to the gospel. But since he has not seen fit to do so, where does that leave the love of God as defined by the Arminian and set in invidious contrast to Calvinism?

I also stand by my statement that postmortem evangelism is backdoor universalism. The appeal of postmortem evangelism is that through the drip, drip, drip of divine love, God will wear down the resistance of the damned.

There are, of course, harsher and softer forms postmortem evangelism, ranging from a second chance through annihilationism to universalism. Since the Bible doesn't even teach "that" there is such a thing as postmortem evangelism (indeed, teaches against it), much less in "what" it consists, Walls and others enjoy a creative writer's freedom pencil in the details however they please.

When all is said and done, this is the basic difference between Calvinism and its rivals. The rivals all dictate to reality and revelation. The rivals all stipulate for God what is possible and actual. The rivals all wallow in a warm, sudsy bath of wishful thinking. But, at the end of the day, God will pull the pug on their hot-tub.

Incidentally, I do happen to believe that the Arminian God is a "poor old feeble and wimpy deity." Althought I was waxing satirical, satire has a basis in fact.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

On knowing what we know

What do we know? For the moment I’ll bracket my Christian faith and consider the state of the problem apart from any divine guidance.

1. Where should we start? Well, at a practical level, we all start with common sense. That is to say, dualism is the doctrine of common sense. Experience presents us with an apparent dichotomy between mind and matter. Mental properties seem to occupy a different domain than sensible properties.

There seems to be a subject/object distinction between mind, body, and the sensible world. It looks like our mind can act on our body, and via our body, act on the world. Likewise, it looks as though the world can act on the body and reach the mind with information from the outside.

Perhaps this is an illusion in one way or another, but that's where we must all take the first step. It may not be where we end up, but that's square one.

2. This, of itself, creates a prima facie presumption in favor of common sense. For any alternative will take common sense as its point of reference and represent a modification of common sense.

Such a presumption does not, of course, mean that common sense is indefeasible. But when, for example, you have so many writers who operate with a presumptive materialism, I, for one, rebel.

3. There are also degrees of modification. One can modify common sense in some respects without overthrowing it altogether.

4. The more radical alternatives modify common sense in the direction of simplicity, by treating dualism as illusory, and reducing it to either materialism or idealism.

5. In terms of method, how we end up depends in no small part on where we begin. If we begin with the mind, then we will likely end up with idealism or some highly refined version of dualism.

If we begin with the body and the senses, then we are more likely to end up with materialism. At the same time, it is ironic that radical empiricism is only a thin door away from idealism.

6. Speaking for myself, I think the mind should enjoy epistemic priority, simply because our knowledge of the mind is immediate, whereas, on either dualism or materialism, our knowledge of the world is mediate. Even if you think the mind is reducible to matter, your evidence for this proposition will still be filtered through the mind. When the mental subject takes the mind as its own object, the mind is the prism through which any reductive explanation must pass.

I therefore think that materialism suffers from a built-in handicap, and frankly, I don’t see how it can ever overcome the burden of proof. It's not just that the onus is on materialism. Rather, materialism can never objectify the mind, to get around it or behind the mind.

7. Simplicity is a fairly tautologous criterion. A theory of the world is only true if it is true to the world. If you knew how simple or complex the world was, then you'd know if a given theory was too simple or too complex to account for the world. But if you already knew that, then you wouldn't need the theory--and if you need the theory, then you don’t know what the world is like. And, of course, it's not just any kind of simplicity which will do, but a simplicity specific to the world--an exact match between the world and its theoretical description.

This is not to say that the law of parsimony is absolutely valueless. Some theories are needlessly complicated because the theorist has a certain ontological commitment, and he sacrifices everything else to harmonize the phenomenon with his ontological commitment.

Likewise, a theory may start out reasonably enough, but as more evidence rolls in, it may require ever more tweaking and retrofitting to keep the theory consistent with the phenomena.

According to common sense, bigger things are made of smaller things. But that raises a regressive question, how small is small? Common sense quickly conducts us, in the words of Leibniz, into the" labyrinth of the continuum." What began so simply ends in the endless labyrinth of infinite divisibility.

8. Another problem with Occam's Razor is that something may be simple or complex in more than one respect. A materialist will say that materialism is simpler than dualism because it has no need to posit abstracta or intelligibles. But an idealist will say that idealism is simpler because it has no need to posit concreta or sensibilia.

Conversely, idealism and materialism are deceptively simple inasmuch as both must account for the illusion of dualism. In addition, materialism must come up with surrogates which do the work of abstracta and intelligibles. And this substitutionary process can be quite cumbersome and indirect.

At one level, idealism collapses the hiatus between appearance and reality by collapsing the subject/object dichotomy. If the whole of what there is is mental, then the whole world is mentally transparent.

But, at another level, idealism must then explain the illusion of an external world. So it repositions the original problem. The world is not so transparent after all.

Again, materialism, at one level, simplifies the subject/object duality. Monism is simpler than dualism, and both the subject and the object of knowledge are now consubstantial.

But that reduction, even if valid, goes no distance towards resolving the underlying epistemic barrier, for the brain still has no direct access to the sensible object. If materialism is true, then whatever we know or think we know of the external world is fed into the brain by means of encrypted information. And sensory enhancements (e.g., microscopes, telescopes, &c.) must still be patched into our primary sensory processing system. So the veil of perception remains firmly in place and opaque. Our mental representation of the world is not a copy, but a sign.

9. There is, I think, an asymmetry between materialism, on the one hand, and idealism or dualism, on the other. Materialism can, I think, be proven false. Indeed, I think it has been proven false. On the other hand, I don’t think that either idealism or dualism can proven true or false--not directly, at least.

For example, Gilbert Ryle, in his classic attack on Cartesian dualism, The Concept of Mind, denied the existence of a mental process on the grounds that it had no analogy to a physical process, which has, or can have, a clear beginning an end; can be continuous or discontinuous; can accelerate or decelerate, and so on.

This does, indeed, point to a deep-seated disanalogy. However, such a disanalogy would serve to confirm the fact that mind and matter occupy different domains. Hence, his counterargument is really a supporting argument for Cartesian dualism.

Of course, materialism has labored long and hard to falsify dualism. At most, though, it only fosters a presumption against dualism. And I'm also of the opinion that dualists like John Foster and H. L. Lewis have more than held their own in this debate.

10. But there's yet another asymmetry between materialism and idealism. Given a choice, materialism is more credible, but idealism is more cogent.

That is to say, I think that, in the debate between materialism and idealism, the latter has always had the better of the argument. But almost no one takes it seriously. We have an irrepressible belief in the existence of the external world.

11. This brings up to the next point: how seriously should be take philosophy? For example, to my knowledge, no one has ever disproved some of Zeno’s paradoxes, despite centuries of sustained effort. Some writers mistakenly believe that Cantorian set theory disposes of the paradoxes, but that is misguided, for the appeal to an actual infinite, which is an abstract object, is no solution to the paradoxes of locomotion.

So what should we do when we're confronted with a logically compelling argument that nonetheless overtaxes the willing suspension of belief? Should we pretend to doubt what we do not and cannot doubt?

Perhaps there is no general answer to this question. Part of what makes an answer credible or incredible goes to our background beliefs. If locomotion is illusory, then you have a fairly radical gap between appearance and reality, and you would need some heavy-duty metaphysical machinery to generate the illusion.

If you're a materialist, the you have less space in your ontology to hide the projection room. But if you're an idealist or dualist, then the illusion is easier to credit because your ontology is already affords a more elastic (idealism) or complex (dualism) space in which to tuck away the equipment.

There's something to be said for Swinburne’s principle of credulity--to have a healthy scepticism of unhealthy scepticism. To suspect that there must be something wrong with Zeno’s paradoxes, even if we can't put our finger on the problem.

Yet secularism is an open invitation to scepticism. From a secular standpoint, the human observeris really, in Berkeley's arresting image, like a scientific oyster, trying to extrapolate to the world at large from the contents of his hard-shelled existence.

In addition, it is scientific realism which particularly posits a veil of perception between the real world of invisible, intangible, infinitesimal fields and particles (or strings) and the common sense view of the sensible world.

12. Another common problem in this debate is the misuse of consequentialist arguments. Indirect realism is criticized on the grounds that if we don’t enjoy direct knowledge of the sensible, but only a direct knowledge of our mental representation, then we may know next to nothing about the sensible inasmuch as our mental representation might bear no resemblance to the sensible, and we can't compare the two. Indirect realism is also criticized on the grounds that it entails some form of dualism.

Likewise, phenomenalism is attacked on the grounds that it conduces to solipsism, while rationalism (a la Plato, Descartes) is criticized on the grounds that introspection affords too slight a database to elaborate a worldview.

Now, the problem with all these criticisms is not that they are inaccurate, but that they confuse a description with a disproof. To show that certain limitations flow from certain positions is not to show that such limitations do not, in fact, exist in the real world. Maybe the truth of the matter is that we do not know nearly as much about the world as we would like.

In fairness, the same argument works in reverse. Locke distinguished between primary and sensory properties. Berkeley took this a step further. Given that our only point of entry to primary properties is via secondary properties, then why not collapse the primary properties into the secondary?

And, indeed, this is logical and economical. But it is hardly a disproof of primary properties. The fact that such a move is possible and elegant doesn't make it true. Perhaps there is more to metaphysics than aesthetics!

Indeed, it's just as logical, just as simple, in its own way, to say that we are subject to sensory impressions because there are sensible objects which project themselves onto our sensory organs. True, color may be subjective. Perhaps the sensible object is colorless. Yet it’s also reasonable to infer that there are some chemical properties in the sensible object which, in turn, stimulate and simulate color in the percipient. In fact, I think that's a more plausible explanation than shearing off the external world entirely, a la Berkeley.

But however persuasive, this is hardly a knockdown argument. As W. T. Stace, in his article, "Science and the Physical World: A Defense of Phenomenalism," has said, we have not got, and never could have, one jot of evidence for believing that the law of causation can be applied outside the realm of perception the law of causation has never been observed to operate outside the series of perceptions, and he can have, therefore, no evidence that it does so. One can only postulate that physical objects cause our perceptions, because one can only perceive the causal laws in our minds and experiences, never in any independent reality unless those same causal laws are presupposed. So our conviction is broader than our foundation--especially on a secular outlook.

Consequentialist objections only disprove the operating premise when the consequences either expose a particular point of incoherence or else undermine the truth-conditions for knowing anything at all.

But to the extent that many theories are both compatible with the evidence and underdetermined by the evidence, to draw attention to the sceptical consequences of a theory does not disprove it or even render it improbable unless the sceptical implications are of a global rather than local variety. Is this a deficiency of a given theory, or deficiency in what we really know--or don’t know?

Left to our own devices, I would affirm "that" there is an external world, but be extremely sceptical about "what" it is like. Moreover, I don’t know that I could put up much of an argument for the existence of an external world. It would be more of case of: I just do believe it, that all! Rather than, this is why you and I ought to believe it.

But, by removing the brackets around my faith, I also believe that revelation can go places where neither reason nor the senses can reach. And in that respect, I do think we have indirect proof for other minds and the sensible world, as well as certain propositions in particular about the same.

This also accounts for our irrepressible belief in other minds and a sensible world. That is owing to natural revelation, which is, in turn, flagged by special revelation.


Howdy there, Laurence.

Thanks for the provocative comments.

You said: "1) I disagree with your opening statement, that you can "bracket" your Christian faith."

I bracket my Christian faith for the sake of argument, in order to expose the consequences of a godless worldview. This is a standard thought-experiment in Christian apologetics.

This doesn't mean that Christian faith is some sort of optional accessory, like mag wheels or whatever. To the contrary, the point of the exercise is to illustrate the necessity of Christian fail by perusing the consequences of its denial to their logical conclusion.

Continuing: " By unbracketing your Christian worldview, you are left with nihilism, and hence no worldview to support your evaluations. The very categories you used to evaluate the various epistemologies have to be based on something. By the very existence of your article, you assumed that words have meaning, and words arranged in logical order produce meaning, and that meaning can be transmitted between individuals. You can never totally unbracket your axioms to evaluate your own axioms, nor anyone else's axioms."

Tsk! Tsk! Now you're allowing for yourself what you deny to me. The very point of my essay was an argument ad impossibile. And the way you try to rebut my opening statement is to mount your own argument ad impossibile!

Yes, there is a paradoxical character to per impossibile counterfactuals, but it's a standard move in logic. See the discussion by Nicky Rescher at: <>

Continuing: "(2) It seems you are stuck in a battle of empirical epistemologies. I think your "serious trinitarian theology" blog would appreciate a "serious trinitarian epistemology" -- neo-synthetic foundationalism -- a triune epistemological approach of rationalism, empiricism, and historicism/experience. It seems to me that your article ignores the other two essential foundations for truth: reason and experience. (For example, you'll never be able to evaluate your own mind in a test tube, but through reason and your own experience you are more than warranted in believing that you exist and that other people exist.)"

i) It's true that my essay is one-sided inasmuch as it fails to present much of a positive alternative. However, the deconstructive task is preliminary to the reconstructive task.
ii) Actually, I've written an essay in which I offer a constructive alternative. Due, however, to copyright restrictions, I can't post it before Spring--at the earliest (so my editor informs me).
iii) When you say we're warranted in believing in other minds, is this with or without God in the equation?
iv) Appeal to reason and experience are circular criteria. How does experience warrant belief in other minds unless you can first warrant experience itself? And how do you propose to do that? How does foundationalism justify what beliefs are foundational? Yes, there's a vast literature on this subject, but it resembles a cat chasing its own tail.
v) Dorothy may still be in Kansas, but from inside the dream, isn't she well-warranted in believing that the land of Oz is the real world? Speaking of which, you might wish to read my "Alice in Slumberland."

Hope that clarifies my intentions. You have the next move.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Be wary of Ware-2

iv) If you take divine omnipresence literally, then what, literally does it mean? If God is extended in space, then what is the geometry of God? Is God Euclidean, non-Euclidean, or n-dimensional--a la string theory? Is God fine-grained or coarse-grained? Is his immanent aspect composed of subtle matter--like an ether?

These are not facetious questions. Either you can say what you mean or you can't. If you can't say what you mean-- especially when you purport to be asserting a literal claim--then what you say is meaningless. The words make sense, but the proposition is nonsense.

v) This is not just an abstruse point of philosophy. To define divine immanence in terms of literal extension in space and time is indistinguishable from pantheism.

vi) There are classical models of the Incarnation. At a mundane level, the Incarnation is a datable event--for the world itself supplies a timeframe. But at an extramundane level, there was never a time when the Son of God was not Incarnate. We find both viewpoints in Scripture itself. The Person who "became" flesh (Jn 1:14) is the same Person who was slain "before the foundation of the world" (Rev 13:8).

As Aquinas puts it:
"The statement [that] the Word was made flesh does not indicate any change in the Word, but only in the nature newly assumed into the oneness of the divine person. And the Word was made flesh through a union to flesh. Now a union is a relation. And relations newly said of God with respect to creatures do not imply a change on the side of God, but on the side of the creature relating in a new way to God," Commentary on St. John (Magi Books 1980), 1:86-87.

Now, you may disagree with Aquinas, but one of the problems is that you either choose to ignore or remain ignorant of the position you oppose.

9. In order to establish God's temporal eternality, you cite Ps 90:1-2, saying that "attempts to read this text as teaching 'timeless eternity' fail because of the clear and unmistakable temporal language," 138. By way of reply:

i) Is that it? One solitary prooftext to overthrow the traditional position?

ii) The Psalm itself is full of figurative language: God is compared to a dwelling-place, the origin of the world to a process of birth, the human life-span to a flood, a dream, spring grass, and a watch in the night. So is there some compelling reason to take the temporal language at face value?

iii) The figurative use of a spatial preposition ("before," v2) as a time-marker is a key metaphor. "Before" is literally a spatial preposition, not a temporal preposition.

iv) You yourself, when discussing the eternal degree, resort to temporal language, which you justify by saying that "temporal language is used for the sake of our finite and temporally bound understanding" (120, n.12).

But if you yourself, with the benefit of philosophical tradition which has coined some abstract jargon to express timeless relations, nevertheless find yourself falling back on temporal language to express atemporal relations, then why do you press the wording of Moses on this particular score?

True, Ps 90 is not a prooftext for God's timeless eternality, but by the same token, neither is it a prooftext for his temporal eternality. To expect that degree of technical precision overspecifies the text.

v) If we were trying to prove the timeless eternality of God from Scripture, we wouldn't necessary begin with Ps 90. Rather, we could begin with Gen 1, which opens with an absolute commencement, followed by a timeline that has a first term (day 1). Of necessity, an extramundane Creator falls outside the mundane timeframe he put into effect. And this inference is corroborated by what the NT has to say about the time/eternity divide (1 Cor 2:7; 2 Tim 1:9; Tit 1:2; Jas 1:17; Jude 25).

The onus would then be upon the temporalist to prove that an economic relation has to have a retrocausal effect on the prime cause of the economic effect. This is, to say the least, a highly counterintuitive claim. I'm eager to look under the hood in order to see all the turbocharged metaphysical machinery by which you propose to power up that claim.

10. You say that:
"The impact of this conception for understanding the God-human relationship is very significant. We can really embrace the reality that God is with us in every place we are, and in every moment of our lives. The real presence and immanent nearness of God is a precious reality that we can hold dear" (139).

This is yet another orphaned assertion in search of a foster argument. But in what sense is it true?

i) How is the belief that God is in my shampoo and toothpaste, BigMac and soda pop, constitute a "very significant" and "precious reality" that I can "hold dear?"

ii) How is a physical presence which is not a felt presence, but the presence of an invisible and intangible being, a "very significant" and "precious reality" that I can "hold dear?"

iii) I'd submit that what makes the idea of God's "presence" truly significant, dear, and precious to the believer, is not the otiose idea of a physical presence which is indistinguishable from physical absence, but rather, the belief that nothing can ever come between us and God's providential care for his children.

The yearning for a palpable sense of God's presence isn't impious, but premature. There are severe limits to what we can expect to experience here-below. We must patiently await the world to come.

11. You round out this section by asking, "Shall we begrudge God this desire and plan" (139)?

What a tendentious question! It assumes that God has such a desire--which is the very point at issue--further insinuates that the reader tacitly shares this assumption, and can only deny it on pain of begrudging God. If you feel the need to take refuge in such heavy-handed sophistries in order to make your case, then do you really have a case to make?

12. You say that "a number of passages indicate the changelessness of God's essential nature (Ps 102:25-27; Mal 3:6; Jas 1:17)" (140).

In truth, they do no such thing. You've unconsciously smuggled into your prooftexting a disjunction which the verses do not bear out. For none of them affirm an "essential" nature in contradistinction to an "inessential" nature. What they indicate, rather, is the immutability of God's nature, plain and simple.

13. In attacking the doctrine of divine impassibility, you run through a number of traditional arguments (140). But you miss what may be the most important argument of all. And that is because your primary argument against God's impassibility is a powerful argument for his impassibility.

For you repeatedly and emphatically say that God is "affected" by the world he made. But having opened the floodgates, you then rush in to perform preemptive damage-control: "We must avoid thinking that we can affect God either for the better or the worse" (147).

And how can we avoid that? This is a makeshift disclaimer. Once you ascribe emotions to God, and add the further claim that we can make God happy or sad, angry or jealous by the way we act--as, indeed, you do say--then we have enormous power over God. We enjoy emotional leverage with God. God is no longer in control of his emotional life.

If you are going to contend, as you do, that a "real" relationship demands emotional reciprocity, then it's truly a two-way street from start to finish. In making the world, God assumes a risk by putting himself at risk of emotional and mental instability. He ceases to be sovereign over his own character--not to mention the character of the world he made. Instead, he is subject to our emotional exhortion. God is dethroned and imprisoned at one fell stroke.

You offer no supporting argument for your disclaimer. The disclaimer doesn't flow from the inner logic of your position. To the contrary, the leading principle seems to be inherently open-ended.

You say, for example, that the Bible attributes jealousy to God (146). And you think that this attribution describes a "real" emotion in God.

Very well, then. Jealousy is a very erratic and extreme emotion. It can lead to murderous rage, suicidal depression, or both. It can turn the object of love into an object of hate.

So if we are going to take this seriously, as you insist me must, then we cannot count on God to be faithful to us even when we're unfaithful to him. A jealous husband of a faithless wife may divorce his wife or even murder her.

What is your response? To draw an arbitrary line in the sand? To say that we should take these attributions in earnest, but then halt halfway? But this is a line in the sand drawn at low tide.

Now, the traditional answer is quite straightforward. It would treat the ascription as figurative, but raise it to a literal level of abstraction. God uses marital imagery to illustration relationship between the divine and human parties in a covenant covenant because covenant, like a marriage, is an exclusive contract. God's love, like marital love, takes the form of exclusive love, involving exclusive commitment betweenboth parties. This demarcates the nature of covenant fidelity and infidelity.

14. You assume, with little or no argument, that the anthropopathetic ascriptions of the Bible are to be taken at face value. But there are problems with that assumption:

i) Scripture does more than ascribe affective states to God. It goes on to assign these emotions to corresponding body parts (e.g., Isa 30:27-28; Lam 3:33; Hos 11:8).

So it sets up a cause-effect relation between the emotion and its point of origin. In terms of literary analysis, it would be highly artificial to take the effect literally while treating the cause figuratively. Either they are figurative or literal alike.

ii) The Bible doesn't distinguish between theomorphic and anthropomorphic emotions. In Isa 54:6-8, for instance, God depicts his relation to Israel in the classic terms of a jilted lover. Should we therefore ascribe sexual passion to God?

Again, this is not a facetious question. You opened the door to this line of inquiry. Yet you only want to open it a crack. But jealously is an effect having its cause in erotic love. How do you propose to drive a wedge between the two?

15. By putting God on a learning curve, you deny divine omniscience. Among many such statements, you say that,
"Some emotional experiences of God would arise out of his nature only in response to the conditions he meets in this created and fallen world" (148).
"Invoking again the model of the incarnation, we cannot imagine that when God creates the spatiotemporal world and chooses to inhabit all that he made, this has no effect whatsoever on him. Rather, in order for God fully to inhabit the realm of our experience, to live with us as he tells his people over and again through Scripture surely this 'adds' to God what he did not experience apart from the creation of the world" (150).
"Certainly some emotions of God found their first experiential expression only in respect to the created world" (150).
"For God, it requires entering into a new realm of his life and experience" (155).

By way of reply:
i) It will be difficult for you to carry your program to completion without divine body parts, for much of what is distinctive to human experience and our emotional life cannot be captured by a generic category of omnipresence, but is tied to the senses.

There is a way around this. That is to distinguish between a direct knowledge of abstract universals and an indirect knowledge mediated by concrete particulars. God can know the former without taking the latter route--which is a particular mode of knowledge, and not the object of knowledge.

However, this strategy would be compatible with a God who subsists outside of time and space, and therefore undercuts the rationale for your program at the outset.

ii) On the classical model, which you largely ignore, human knowledge is a property-instance of divine knowledge. Hence, there is nothing that man can know that God does not already know, for God was the one who implanted that knowledge in man in the first place.

iii) If you temporize God, then it may well follow that God would be affected by the sensible world which he "enters." So your denial of divine impassibility presupposes your denial of God's timeless eternality. Even if the inference were valid, it is no better than the operating premise.

iv) And even if you temporize God, it doesn't follow that God must await the unfolding of the historical order to feel a certain way about the events. By dint of his foreknowledge alone, God would know in advance everything that happens before it happens.

So why do you insist on this delayed effect? And why do you insist on real-time divine mood swings if, for God, the future is effectively in the past by virtue of his prevision?

v) You fail to distinguish between essential, intrinsic attributes and contingent, extrinsic relations. To revert to my earlier example, "becoming" a grandfather doesn't change anything at all in the subject.

vi) An eternalist need not deny that there may be something analogous to certain human emotions in the Godhead, or that the world furnishes a stage for the manifestation of his moral attributes.

Yet if hardly follows from this that creation entails an act of self-discovery, as though God didn't know of what he was capable until he made the world. Indeed, unless his moral attributes were essential attributes, there would be nothing to contingently exemplify in the world.

You are now guilty of reducing God to the status of a confused adolescent, for whom the creation of the world is a coming-of-age experience through which he must pass in order to achieve a state of emotional maturity.

Speaking for myself, if I really thought for a moment that this is what God was like--why, I might as well be an atheist. Such a "God," which is interchangeable with the Greek pantheon, is a "God" I'd look down on rather than up to. You're welcome to your pimply-faced "God," if you like, but a junior divinity is not my idea of God.

vii) In Scripture, the denial of divine omniscience is a sure mark of infidelity (Ps 10:11-12; 94:7-9; Isa 29:15; Jer 23:23; Ezk 8:12; 9:9).

16. On pp142-43, you could spare yourself and the average reader a good deal of unnecessary confusion by applying the elementary distinction between willing a change and changing one's will.

17. After citing Eph 2:3, you exclaim, "How can we fail to recognize here that a change has taken place in God's disposition toward us" (142).

Well, a good place to start would be by cleaning up your sloppy exegesis. Paul is not stating a temporal transition from wrath to grace. Rather, he is stating a federal transfer from Adam to Christ.

The infinite God is able to keep two ideas in his mind at once. He is able to consider the elect in Adam: to consider what they deserve, due to original sin. "Children of wrath" is an allusion to the Fall. Check the standard commentaries. And he is able to consider the elect in Christ.

Perhaps, though, you would deny this. When you say that God is "disappointed" with us (142), you evidently deny the foreknowledge of God, for God can only be "disappointed" with us if he is taken by surprise.

Indeed, such a "God" is not only near-sighted, but fallible. God can only be "disappointed" with our performance if he had entertained a false expectation that was dashed by sorry experience.

From his side of eternity, a convert to the faith can, of course, point to a "before" and "after" in his existential experience, as he went from unbeliever or nominal believer to true believer.

But it hardly follows that there must be a symmetrical readjustment on God's side of the relation. You often speak as if a "real" relationship must have this retroactive effect. But the force of your the logic is lost on me. Surely I can have a "real" relationship with a pet cat without my sprouting whiskers or retractable claws. I certainly hope so!

18. You say that "his relationality also assures us that he treats us with integrity as persons" (147)? What, exactly, is that politicized phrase supposed to mean? It sounds like the kind of touchy-feely lingo that a liberal activist would use, viz., "to deny the ordination of homosexuals does violence to the integrity of their personhood."

19. You say to the reader, "Imagine, by way of analogy, the perfect human father. Would the perfect human father, because he is perfect, be absolutely unaffected by anything his children said, or felt, or did?" (147).

Of course, the key qualifier here is "human." What makes for a perfect human father does not necessarily make for a perfect divine Father.

As in any theological exemplar/exemplum relation, we must make due allowance for disanalogy as well as analogy. Otherwise, our unbridled extrapolations from a human illustration can quickly degenerate into utter rubbish.

In Scripture, for instance, God also assumes the role of husband. Does that mean that God's spousal role should resemble every woman's sexual fantasy of an ideal mate?

20. Your book on God's Lesser Glory had some really fine material in, although a few of the arguments contained the seeds of error which comes to full flower here. Sad to say, what you present in your sequel is a double-barred heresy, with finite theism on top, and pantheism at bottom.

And in so doing you line up behind open theism and process theology. Yes, I know. You make a strenuous effort to distance yourself from either of those. But it is now apparent that you disclaimers constitute a preemptive throwaway argument to deflect attention away from your evident kinship with open theism and process theology. And it is a great pity that men who ought to know better, such as John Piper, Wayne Grudem, Albert Mohler, and Ligon Duncan, have fallen for the decoy. Friendship has clouded their judgment.

I don't doubt that you're a good man--a better man than I. Unfortunately, there's a kind of harm that only a good man can do--a a Finney, a Wesley, or a Ware.


1. It is quite possible that my analysis of Ware is flawed. I hope that you and others will read the book and judge it for yourself.

2. Ware is quite a fine critic of open theism. The problem is when he turns from criticism to a constructive alternative.

3. I think that Ware wants to affirm divine omniscience, but it seems to me that this is in logical tension with some of his other positions. At least, that's how it looks from my end.

4. He seems to agree with some of the methods and assumptions of open theism. He thinks he can salvage divine omniscience despite that. But this exercise is too much like trying to drill holes in a ship and plug them up at the same time. He's taking on water.

5. I think one of Ware's basic problems is that he's simply in over his head. He's a theologian, not a philosopher.

Of course, I can do him one better, for I'm equally unqualified in both fields! :-)

6. But that's not the only source of the problem. It's clear to me, in reading him, that he has a deep emotional investment in the literal immanence of God.

Now, there's a kernal of truth in this error--if you will. It reflects a pious longing which goes all the way back to Moses asking God to show him his glory. This is the perennial appeal of mysticism.

But aside from the incipient pantheism (of literal immanence), it also repristinates the old heresy of an overrealized eschatology, such as Paul had to combat from time to time.

Moving on to your comments:

<< Now, it seems to me that what is common in all of these quotes from Ware, is the repeated stress on divine *experience*. Indeed, it is the single term that ties all of the quotes together. He's probably using that term intentionally. It might be that what Ware is saying is that, although God's *propositional* knowledge is immutable and complete from eternity, his experiences change, but these experiences are not to be construed as knowledge. Knowing that water at 40 degrees is cold, and feeling a cold glass of water, are two different things, and only the former is to be construed as knowledge. If so, then as long as divine omniscience is defined propositionally, all is well. (Anthony Kenny argues something along these lines in _The God of the Philosophers_, I think.) >>

I agree that raw sensation is not an object of knowledge. A feeling has no truth-value. It's an incidental mode of knowledge, not an object of knowledge.

However, you're improving on Ware. That's not Ware's argument.

What's the point of putting God in time and space unless he gains something from the experience which would be unobtainable apart from the experience? If the knowledge of God is sealed off from this experience, then nothing is lost, but nothing is gained.

Yet Ware is opposing the classical view becomes he thinks that something, and something important, is lost in the classical view.

I also don't think that you can put God in time without turning omniscience into a potential infinite, on the A-theory of time, or an actual finite, on the B-theory of time.

<< I think there's something to be said for this inferential argument from disappointment to ignorance. Disappointment has an essentially cognitive background and input that other kinds of experience may not have. So divine omniscience could be at stake here. >>

It could be that this is just a careless choice of words on Ware's part. But in light of everything else he says, I think he must mean what he appears to mean.

Be wary of Ware-1

Dear. Dr. Ware,

I've read the introduction and Part I of your new book with interest. I'll confine my comments to chaps 4-5. Just so that you'll know where I'm coming from, I'm a Calvinist.

1. You say that "God cannot will directly and immediately to cause evil, since all that God wills to do himself (immediately) is good (e.g., Gen 1:31; Jas 1:13,17)...But if God does not directly cause evil, and yet evil happens under his watch...must it not be the case that he permits the evil to occur that he could, in any and every instance, prevent?" (106).

"Could God be the direct-causative agent actually giving the brothers their vengeful motives and jealous disposition, directly willing and causing them to hate Joseph...? The answer is no, for two reasons. First, this is contrary to the very nature of God. God does not do evil and hence he cannot cause (immediately or directly) evil attitudes, motives, or actions (Ps 5:4; Jas 1:13)" (127).

i) What does it mean to deny that God "directly wills" certain things? Willing is a mental act. When an agent wills something to be, there is no intermediary in the act of willing itself. Mental acts are immediate.

Now, perhaps what you mean is that God wills the end via the means. He wills the accomplishment of a given outcome through some secondary agent or agency. If so, that would at least make sense.

ii) I don't see how an "indirect-permissive" model of divine agency absolves God of complicity. Yes, you can define permission as the absence of prevention, but where does that get you? If God doesn't prevent an event, then the event will occur. And why will the event occur? Because God decreed the event. So all that permission means is that God doesn't prevent the execution of his own decree. How does that absolve God of complicity?

It is not as though bad things simply happen, of their own accord, unless God chooses to step in. Rather, they happen because he decreed their eventuation in the first place.

My point is not to say that God is complicit, in some morally compromising sense. My point, rather, is that your permissive model doesn't have what it takes to get the job done.

iii) It begs the question to cite passages like Gen 1:31; Ps 5:4, and Jas 1:13,17. Yes, they say that certain things are incompatible with God's character. Yet they do not define good and evil--either abstractly or ostensively. They don't say, specifically, what is good and what is evil--what it is that God is too good to do.

So what you have unconsciously done is to operate with a preconception of good and evil, which just so happens to dovetail with your main thesis, then invoke these verses under the unspoken assumption that they are talking about the very same thing you are talking about. You have, however, laid absolutely no foundation for that inference.

iv) On the face of it, there are passages of Scripture which attribute to God the very thing you deny. Ps 105:25 is a case in point. So are the cases in which God is said to blind and harden men, whether individually or en masse.

Now, perhaps you would counter this by saying that Scriptural depictions of providence often ignore second-causes. These are taken for granted, but left out of account in order to trace of given phenomenon back to its ultimate source.

And I wouldn't necessarily object to that explanation. But it raises two additional issues. When you deny divine impassibility and timeless eternality, you do so on one or two grounds: (a) the "clear teachings" (145) or "clear and unmistakable language" (138) of Scripture, as well as the further fact that, unlike corporeal representations of God, which are figurative in light of other passages, there are no other verses which deny divine affections.

Now, even if we agreed with your criteria, how does it apply to your passive model? Is the wording of Ps 105:25 or descriptions of divine hardening any more or less clear than descriptions and ascriptions of divine emotion?

And are there any other statements of Scripture which specifically deny that God hardens a man by directly implanting ill-motives, evil attitudes, or a depraved disposition?

To talk about the "clear teaching" of Scripture is ambiguous. Perhaps we need to distinguish between the clear wording or meaning of a given verse, and the clear teaching or meaning of Scripture as a whole.

But if you do that, then you no longer have a knockdown argument against the classical theistic model of God as impassible and aspatiotemporal. Perhaps you can still make your case, but it will take more than simple prooftexting to do so.

2. You speak of a "mechanism by which God controls good as his 'direct-causative' divine agency; so here we can refer to God's control of evil as his ‘indirect-permissive’ divine agency" (106).

But one problem with this causal bifurcation is that evil can be person-variable. That is to say, the same thing can be good for one person, but bad for another. We may classify a flood as a natural evil, especially if it results in the loss of human life. Yet a flood can also be a natural good. The economy of ancient Egypt was dependent on the annual flooding of the Nile.

What about moral evils? As you know, the genealogy of Christ (Mt 1:1-17) numbers some ancestors who were guilty of immorality. Yet it culminates with the Christ-event.

Likewise, should we classify the Crucifixion as good or evil? And should we assign a different mode of divine agency depending on how we answer the question? But, of course, the Crucifixion is both good and evil--in different respects.

3. You cite a number of verses to prove a permissive will. But your appeal suffers from a fallacy of equivocation. You are using "permission" as a sort of synonym for divine nonintervention, according to which things happen on their own unless God takes some special action to prevent their occurrence.

Now, in Mk 5:12-13, what we have is the idea of divine authorization. The demons don't have the right to take such an action unless their superior (the Son of God) gives them the right to do so. Moreover, the purpose of the story is not to illustrate the passive or permissive role of Christ, but, quite the contrary, his sovereign authority as a divine exorcist.

In Acts 14:16 (cf. 17:30), what we have is the idea that God did not bring immediate retribution upon the heathen. Instead, he withheld his judgment in the furtherance of his long-range redemptive plan. Acts itself is structured around this concentric design (1:8).

In addition, by not revealing himself to the heathen as he did to the Jews, God thereby condemned the pagan multitudes to hell. It isn't a historical accident that they were born to live and die outside the pale of saving revelation.

In 1 Cor 16:7, and Heb 6:3, we have a pious disclaimer, based on the writer's ignorance of the divine will. The passive language is epistemic, not ontological. And in Acts 16:7, God's manifest will trumps the provisional plans of Paul.

In Gen 31:7, Laban would do Jacob harm, but God hedges Jacob round about.

In Exod 21:12-13, passive language is used to indicate an active idea, viz., that God arranged the circumstances so that the guilty victim would fall into the hands of the avenger of blood. In premeditated murder, the killer takes the initiative and thereby exerts some control over the outcome by orchestrating the circumstances. But to the unbelieving eye, for the victim to "fall into his hands" would be a luck of the draw. Moses, however, far from treating this as a random event, attributes it to the hidden hand of God. It is a divine happenstance. Even a "chance" encounter falls under God's providence.

Now, none of these verses either says or implies that events ordinarily unfold in some automatic fashion unless God meddles or interferes with the causal continuum. This is the old clockwork model of the universe, where the world ticks along without divine interruption except to rewind the watch or reset the time.

That's is certainly not the Biblical picture of divine providence. The presupposition, rather, is that God is behind everything that happens, but much of the time we don't know his will in advance of the outcome. This is a pillar of a Bible-based philosophy of history (e.g. Gen 50:20; Exod 12:36; Deut 2:30; Josh 11:20; 1 Sam 2:25; 2 Sam 16:20-23; 17:1-14; 1 Kgs 12:15; 2 Chron 10:12-15; 21:16; 25:17-20; Prov 16:9,14,33; 21:1, 30-31; Eccl 3:1-14; 7:13-14; Isa 10:5-7; 14:24-27; 31:2; 37:26; 43:13; Lam 3:37-38; Amos 3:5-6).

The idea is not that, as a rule, things happen apart from divine agency except when otherwise stated. The idea, rather, is that if something happens, God meant it to happen; and if something doesn't happen, God meant it not to happen. God is operating behind the scenes in either case. But sometimes he makes his activity more conspicuous.

If God didn't restrain Laban, that doesn't mean that Laban would be running on his own, self-contained battery-pack, apart from divine agency. Rather, it would only mean that God didn't restrain Laban because God intended for Laban to do something else pursuant to the divine plan.

There is nothing in these verses to imply a disjunctive mode of causality, whereby natural law and human agency represent the default setting, unless God happens to override the process. God is not a parking brake.

4. When, by your own admission, "some of these texts indicate a permission by God for good things to occur" (107), then your causal dichotomy breaks down. In that event we don't have two different engines powering the world--one supplied by God's occasional and immediate agency, but the other by natural law and human agency; with the former effecting good events, and the latter--evil events. If the permissive mode can apply to good events as well as evil events, then it doesn't amount to an alternative causal mechanism, does it?

5. You then mount a case for a Reformed version of middle knowledge. But your analysis suffers from several flaws.

i) You confound middle knowledge with counterfactual knowledge, as though these were interchangeable concepts. They are not.

Middle knowledge literally means mediate knowledge--knowledge mediated by some intermediate source of knowledge. That's why the original designation is scientia media.

But it does not follow that counterfactual knowledge must be mediate knowledge. The question is what serves to ground counterfactual knowledge?

God's counterfactual knowledge is a form of self-knowledge. He knows what is possible, which is a way of saying that he knows what all is possible for him to do. And he knows what would happen if he decreed otherwise. And such self-knowledge presumably figures in his choice of one possible world over another.

But it hardly follows from this that God's counterfactual knowledge has its origin in what the free agents would do, or that his choice is responsive to what they would do.

One might as well say that a little boy arranges his toy soldiers on the basis of what they would do. To the contrary, whatever the toy soldiers do or don't do is dependent on whatever he does with them. They are "responsive" to him, not vice versa.

It is convenient, for ease of analysis, for us to objectify what is possible as a possible world. To visualize the possible as though God were flipping through a mail-order catalog. But we need to keep in mind that this is picture-language.

Counterfactual knowledge is not derivative of the counterfactuals themselves. Rather, the counterfactuals are contingent on the self-application of God's omniscience to his omnipotence. God knows what he could do with any possibility in combination with any other possibility, for "possibility" is only a synonym for divine omnipotence. God knows all possibilities and compossibilities, as well as all impossibilities and incompossibilities. But that is all indexed to the divine nature and will, not the mundane nature and will.

Counterfactuals are not something in-between possibilities and eventualities. Rather, counterfactuals are a subset of possibilities. Specifically, counterfactuals are unexemplified possibilities.

As far as the problem of evil is concerned, I think that a Reformed theodicy is to be found in the fusion of two elements: (i) a supralapsarian teleology and (ii) a compatibilist theory of the will. A number of writers, such as John Fischer and Jonathan Edwards have laid out a detailed case for combatibilism. And a number of Reformed theologians have outlined the makings of a supralapsarian teleology in connection with the problem of evil, but this strategy has yet to receive a systematic exposition and defense.

6. In chapter 5, you note the asymmetry in many textbook discussions of God's relation to time and space. You then contend that we should take a more consistent position--according to which God is present in all the divisions of time just as he is present in every dimension of space.

i) Frankly, this argument is rather obtuse. For one thing, it overlooks the obvious fact that the reasoning is reversible. One could just as well resolve the asymmetry in the opposite direction, viz., if God subsists outside of time, and time is parallel to space, then God subsists outside of space as well.

You offer no explanation for this oversight. Did it never occur to you? To say the least, you're argument is scarcely cogent when the very same form of reasoning can be used to prove the contrary. As Edwards has put it, "it is equally improper to talk of months and years of the divine existence, as of square miles of deity," The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Banner of Truth 1984), 1:72b.

ii) And having ignored or disregarded the convertible character of the proposition, you naturally fail to present any subsidiary argument as to why we should favor your presumption, rather than the reverse.

Why not treat the language of omnipresence (e.g., Ps 139:7-10) as picture-language? As a metaphor for God's omniscience and omnipotence (cf. Prov 15:3; Jer 23:23-24; Amos 9:2)? On that view, what God's "ubiquity" literally means is that God can act at any place and any time. Or, to be even more precise, a timeless God is related to the world, not by acting on the world or in the world, but by enacting a given world--with everything therein.

Likewise, God's knowledge is not limited by the divisions of time because his knowledge is not dependent on the divisions of time. By definition, time and space are limits--boundary conditions--in contrast to a God whose existence comprises an actual infinite.

iii) Since Scripture depicts God, not only as everywhere (Deut 4:39; 1 Kgs 8:27), but as "coming" and "going" (Gen 11:5; Exod 19:20; Hab 3:3), no consistently literal interpretation is even feasible, for to come and goes implies that one is "here" rather than "there," or vice versa.

iv) When Scripture says that the Lord appeared to Abimelech in a dream (Gen 20:3), is the reader expected to conclude from this spatial language that the transaction took place in a little compartment somewhere inside the noggin of Abimelech?

v) You choose to take the spatial imagery in Ps 139:7-10 literally. In consistency, you should also take the visual imagery in vv11-12 the same way. Does God, then, have literal night vision? Can he see in the dark with a pair of physical eyes--like a nocturnal beast?

It won't do at this point to invoke your abstract definition of an anthropomorphism (146, n.19), for even if that were otherwise valid, it would do violence to the literary unity of Ps 139 to treat 7-10 as literal, but 11-12 as figurative.

7. You maintain that God subsisted outside of time and space before he made the world, but in making the world he acquired a spatiotemporal relation.

But how does that follow? How does a creative fiat generate a communication of attributes? Did God sprout fins and feathers when he makes fish and fowl? The creation account (Gen 1) tells us about a change in the creative object (creation), not the creative subject (the Creator).

Even a new relation doesn't necessarily entail a communication of attributes. When a man fathers a son, his father becomes a grandfather, even though his father may be deceased.

If God is truly timeless, then there was never a time when he had not the Creator of the world--although the world would have a first moment in time. Effects can be datable events even if their causes are not. If God made the world, then his fiat was effective at it certain point in time (day 1), but it doesn't follow that God began to act on day 1.

8. You go on to to claim that "in becoming omnipresent and omnitemporal, God did not change in any respect who he eternally is apart from creation. He only adds, as it were, the qualities of is being also immanently related to his creation, in all of its points of space and all of its moments of time" (136).

i) Unfortunately, this is a very big assertion bereft of any supporting argument. You give the reader no reason to believe that a finite mode of subsistence can be annexed to an infinite mode of subsistence without scaling the infinite down to the finite.

This isn't just my personal opinion. You refer the reader to Feinberg's defense of temporal eternality (133, n.4). Yet Feinberg says that knowledge of indexicals "also poses a challenge to temporal eternity and omniscience, for if God is in time, there seem to be things he does not know, since at every moment he learns the truth of a new indexical proposition," No One Like Him (Crossway 2001), 269.

Yours is not a self-evident claim. To the contrary, it is a counterintuitive claim. So where's the supporting argument?

Your comparison with the Incarnation begs the question in several respects:

ii) To say that, at the moment of creation, God assumes a spatiotemporal mode of subsistence is arguably parallel to a kenotic theory of the Incarnation. So the only parallel would be between heretical theology and heretical Christology.

iii) There is more than one model of the hypostatic union. Your claim might be at home in Lutheran Christology, but not Reformed theology--which insists on a categorical Creator/creature distinction, captured by the slogan: finitum non est capax infiniti.