Monday, December 28, 2009

Which God is More Sovereign?

OK, so I've been doing a bit of thinking about sovereignty in open theism, Calvinism, and Arminianism. Basically, I have realized these things, which are worth posting.

Calvinists and open theists both agree that God cannot foreknow that which He does not predestine. Calvinists choose to say that God predestines everything and thus foreknows everything, but open theists say that the future is open, so God does not foreknow everything that is going to happen with certainty (because it's not settled; it's not there to foreknow).

Basically, this means that the Calvinist and open theist view of God does not differ in ability. Both the Calvinist view of God described and the open theist view of God view God's abilities the same way, though they view what God actually does differently.

So, I think it is a lost cause for Calvinists to claim that their view of God ascribes to Him more ability. Maybe He is more sovereign, in the sense of being ultra-manipulative, but I don't see this as necessarily a thing that makes Him more impressive or anything.

Only Arminians disagree about God's abilities. They think that God can contingently foreknow things without actually causing them. However, to affirm this they generally have to affirm that God is completely outside of time and without sequence, or else get caught in a hopeless paradox (i.e. if God foreknows something, can He change it? If so, wouldn't that falsify His foreknowledge?). So; they essentially end up with a sequence-less God, which is quite strange - He is something like frozen in an eternal "now" and cannot have real relationships.

How about God's knowledge? Both Arminianism and Calvinism hold that God knows everything that has ever happened, is happening now, and will ever happen. Open theism holds to the same view, except it says that what will happen is not set in stone. As Greg Boyd says, we can hardly say we're slandering God's knowledge if we say He does not know that there is a monkey next to me, when in fact, there is no monkey next to me. Open theists essentially hold that there is no future out there except for what is certain and what God has preordained - much of it is contingencies, possibilities. God knows everything perfectly, just like He knows me perfectly. He does not, however, know perfectly that there is a monkey next to me. This is not ignorance; it's just that there is no monkey next to me. Similarly, God may not know what will happen in the future, because it's not out there yet.

In the end, I don't think any of these views end up presenting a more sovereign God with greater abilities or more knowledge. Essentially, these are views that differ in what God does, and how the universe works. It's not a fight over accepting a more or less sovereign, more knowledgeable God. It's about the workings of the universe, what is true and what is false.

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