Thursday, August 08, 2013

Getting out of Dodge

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him” (Mt 2:13). 

i) The warning passages in Hebrews are a major prooftext for Arminians–especially Wesleyan Arminians. Not all Arminians share that view. Many Baptist Arminians espouse eternal security. 

That, itself, is tricky. If you can't prooftext libertarian freewill from the warning passages in Hebrews, it's hard to see how other Biblical passages would be more promising. But I'll pass on that for now.

ii) Arminians who prooftext their theology from the warning passages in Hebrews insist that unless a born-again Christian is free to either heed the warning or disregard the warning, the warning is "meaningless."

Since I've dealt with that objection directly, I'll skip that. What I'd like to do now is draw a comparison. In Mt 2, Joseph receives some revelatory dreams. These are premonitions of danger. The dreams implicitly raise the specter of alternate futures. If Joseph stays, his young son will be murdered by Herod's henchmen. But he can avert that hypothetical outcome if he gets out of Dodge in time. If things continue as is, along their current trajectory, Jesus will die a premature death. 

iii) This raises a question for Christian libertarians. Was failure to heed the angelic warning a live option for Joseph? Pause to consider what that would entail. We're not just talking about the fate of a lone individual. The fate of the whole human race would hang in the balance. The Incarnation would be in vain. Centuries of providential preparation would go up in smoke. God would have to start from scratch. 

Is this one of those cliff-hanger endings between season 1 and season 2? Were the heavenly angels biting their nails, breathlessly waiting to see which way this turning point in world history would go? Was the outcome truly open-ended? Could it go either way until the very last moment? 

Open theists might bite the bullet. Their position might commit them to that scenario. God is shortsighted, so his plans can be thwarted. Not just incidental plans, but the central plan of redemption. That's the price you way for freedom.

But what about Arminians and Molinists? Do they think failure to heed the warning was ever in the cards? Was the fate redemption contingent on Joseph's solitary and indeterminate choice? Did it go right down to the wire? 

iv) From a Calvinist perspective, God predestined the dreams to motivate Joseph to take the predestined course of action. 

1 comment:

  1. I suppose Open Theists might say that God could work around Joseph's inaction like God did in the case of Jonah's disobedience. God was able to get Jonah to Nineveh eventually. Same thing with Balaam's disobedience. God could also protect Joseph's family using angelic protection.

    But I agree that historic Arminians and Molinists would be hard pressed to answer Steve's dilemma. Also, I don't know if believers in libertarian free will could consistently believe in the doctrine of Christ's Impeccability (that Christ was not only able not to sin, but was not able to sin).