Monday, October 31, 2011

Divine commission, divine permission

Classical Arminians and Arminian open theists often draw a facile distinction between divine commission and divine permission, as if the latter is automatically exculpatory. By contrast, they think a God who decrees evil is in no position to condemn evil. Here are some comments from an old Prosblogion thread that take issue with that assumption:

Tim Pawl

And, the way you describe protest, I wonder if a jury really would agree that an Open God does protest. I'm reminded of the Christian in the book of James who sends the hungry an naked man away with a blessing. James says faith without works is dead. He asks, "What good is it?" I wonder the same about protest without works.
If I were on the jury and God said, "I am adamantly against that dastardly deed" I'd wonder how serious he is, given he had the power to do something about it and didn't. He isn't backing up his protest with action, and protest without action (where action is possible and doesn't require extraordinary effort) is no protest at all. if it is still true that God knew the probability that the person in the closet would die painfully was very high, knew that no one was even looking for her, knew what the murderer intended, could stop it easily, AND STILL said he was in protest of the dastardly deed occurring, I don't think I'd believe him (ok, well, its GOD, so I guess I'd believe him; anyone else, though, I'd disbelieve and at least bring about a hung jury). So, I see no real advantage here for the open God, at least not on grounds of genuine protest.

I'd rather frame it in terms of divine protest. The fact that the open God doesn't consent to moral evils beforehand allows him to stand opposed to these evils in a way that is more morally satisfying--and indeed objectively morally better--than other models of God
Ted, I'm not sure why this should be morally more satisfying. There is something God knows that is quite troubling: He knows that for all he knows something horrendous will happen (even will very probably happen, for all he knows) if he actualizes a world with free agents. And he does it anyway!
Now compare that to the way we evaluate human agents. If I have no idea how dense the gas fumes are in the garage--and really have no idea how probable it is that they are dense enough to cause an explosion--and in such ignorance I light a match anyway(!), I take it you would find my action terribly wrong. But the open God is acting largely under ignorance. Why should we not say that it is outrageously irresponsible that he would actualize a world with free agents, given his ignorance of what will happen?

Jeremy Pierce

I want to tag something else on to Mike's comment. If God is ignorant about what would happen, then it's not just that God could have foreseen the actual world as a possibility and yet created free creatures anyway. It's that God would have to have seen how bad things really could have been and still actualized free creatures anyway. Presumably how bad things could have been is much, much worse than how bad things are, perhaps without limit.

Tim Pawl

The open God sees the murder about to happen, knows that no one is on a trajectory to help the victim (no one is looking for her, no one is in the building or within earshot of it...), and knows what the murderer has in mind. Sometime before the actual murder, he knows that were he to refrain from helping the victim, the victim would die a really awful death. He consents to refraining from helping the victim, thus (you say) he consents to her dying a really awful death. And, furthermore, since he consents to her dying a really awful death, he can't protest that death.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent points made by all. The open-god is hardly worthy of worship.