Monday, November 13, 2006

Comments Brought to Light

The other day a gentleman named Ron left a comment on my post about TF Torrance’s Divine and Contingent Order. This post was provocative, dealing with open thesis and TFT’s possible relationship to it. I wanted to bring his comment and my response out into the open, not because I think that I do a good job of dealing with the TFT question, but because I am pleased with some other points that I made in relation to providence and God’s foreknowledge. Below is Ron’s comment, followed by my response. I ask my dear philosopher friend to be kind with my discussion of causality as, of course, any generalization of the tradition, even if implicit, is going to fall short.


Well, is Torrance one of the first open theist? His cosmology and ontological relationships between Creator and creation sure look like he knew that God knows what might or might not be instead of what will or will not be. Not a trick question. I am an open theist and loved the book. What do you think? Peace Ron Sirkel


Ron,

Thank you for your thought-provoking comment! I must admit that I never stopped to think about where TFT might fall in relation to the question of open theism. I do not have Divine and Contingent Order sitting in front of me at the moment, but let me take a stab at this nonetheless.

In trying to think about where you would get this impression of God knowing what “what might or might not be instead of what will or will not be,” the only thing that I can come up with off the top of my head is TFT’s discussion of created contingency. That is, God could either have created or not created and remained God. In that sense, God definitely knew what could have been in each case. Of course, he then chose one case, and that would narrow things down a bit. If you have specific passages in TFT that you would like to interact with, by all means bring them up in comments.

With reference to God’s knowledge of the future in general, I just want to make a comment that I think would be keeping with TFT on the topic, although I don’t have any particular passages to point to at the moment. Necessity is a predicate of events, not of persons. The fact that God, as a person, is certain of what will happen does not mean at the same time that his knowledge is making it necessary that it happens. What confuses this distinction is thinking of God’s relationship with the world in terms of causation, such that God causes this or that to happen by being the first link in a causal chain. I think that we are right to reject this view. God is certainly at work in the world, but not as a mechanical cause, but as a person. Furthermore, by looking to Christ, we see how it is that God personally interacts with the world – in the mode of Word and Spirit. This is a far cry from a notion of a casual chain carried out in an almost Newtonian sense of mechanical necessity.

The sum of the immediately above is that God can know the future with certainty without that knowledge necessitating the future, even though the future is in some sense necessitated by the trajectory of spatial-temporal existence, and – some of us might say – by the will of God. But, with this move in place, the will of God is not a deterministic thing, but something that is able – because God works personally in the mode of Word and Spirit and not mechanistically as in causal chains – to take into account the contingent freedom of the human person and other aspects of creation. That is to say that, even though God knows the future with certainty, and even though God has shaped the trajectory of history in the past, present and future according to his good purposes, this does not exclude human freedom within the realm of created human possibility. Human freedom of this sort is included in God’s plan as a necessary part of it.

Now, I’m still a young theologian, although I have been studying these things full time for the equivalent of 6.5 years, and I don’t expect that what I have expressed above will be some kind of final form of my thoughts on the subject. But, I do think that they represent a way forward, and a way forward that I am interested in pursuing further.

11 comments:

Shane said...

Whether God has infallible knowledge of contingent future events was a hot topic of debate for the medievals, of course.

They inherit a christianized version of a temporal paradox from Aristotle. Recall that Aristotle thinks that all propositions are either true or false (the principle of the excluded middle). Aristotle then asks whether propositions about contingent future events are true or false. By definition a contingent event is one which is possible, but not necessary. But, if there exists a true proposition expressing a contingent future truth, (Aristotle's example: "there will be a sea battle tomorrow"), then that event must occur in order for the proposition to be true or must not occur if the proposition is false. Either way it seems that the contingency of future events is in danger. Aristotle ends up saying that propositions about future events simply don't have truth values.

This answer wasn't available to the scholastics however, for the simple reason that God's omniscience implied that he has infallible knowledge of the future, which implies that he has necessary knowledge of all future events. And if God knows something infallibly, then the proposition which expresses the content of his knowledge must be true, i.e. If God knows that the sea battle will happen tomorrow, then the proposition is true. If God knows that it won't happen, then the proposition is false. That simple. Only then it seems that God's knowledge causes these events necessarily, which is also extremely problematic. The medievals react adversely to the view that God's knowledge causes things necessarily because it does away with all contingency in creation, especially the freedom of the will. If God knows that you are necessarily going to hell, then it seems like he is causing you to go to hell, which is theologically and morally repugnant. (Yes, I mean you John Calvin!)

Thomas Aquinas's solution to this problem (which was disputed immediately) has two parts. The first approach, which he gets from Augustine and Boethius is an explanation of eternity. Eternity means the simultaneous possession of life. [NB that if God is eternal in this sense, then he must also be immutable!] God being eternal sees all of time simultaneously. Thus, while a future event is future from our point of view, God sees both the future event and its causes at the same time. This makes it seem a bit more plausible how God's knowledge of future contingent events doesn't 'cause' those events.

The second component to this view, which supports the first argument, has to do with the nature of necessity. Aquinas distinguishes natural necessity from conditional necessity.

For Thomas not all causes produce their effect necessarily, but some do. Natural causes produce necessary effects. If i drop a ball, it must fall. This is because the cause (the heaviness of the ball) is sufficient to guarantee the effect.

This kind of necessity is different from what Thomas calls 'conditional necessity'. If I see Socrates sitting down, at the moment that I see him, it is necessary that he be sitting, just because he can't be sitting and standing simultaneously. This view is also called the "necessity of the present". Note that this kind of necessity is theologically benign. My knowledge that Socrates is sitting didn't 'cause' him to sit in the sense that the heaviness of the ball caused it to fall. Socrates's freedom is not impaired by conditional necessity. He could have chosen not to sit down. He is free to get up the instant after I see him sitting. But, at that instant that i see him sitting, his sitting is necessary.

This is how God's knowledge of future contingents is infallible. God sees all the events that occur in time at an instant, therefore God necessarily knows what will occur because of the conditional necessity of the present. Strictly speaking, God does not 'forsee' my damnation--he sees me acting of my own free will to choose evil at the same time he sees my condemnation happen.

This view was immediately criticized as soon as it was presented, but it provides an interesting way to start thinking about the problem. Hope you find it helpful.

shane

Anonymous said...

WTM and Shane

I don't know if this link will work but Greg Boyd has an excellent short article on the infinite intelligence we believe God has and why we need not fear a partly open future.

http://www.christusvictorministries.org/main/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=48&Itemid=99999999

Anonymous said...

This should have posted prior to the link for Greg Boyd
Shane
Impressive presentation and thanks for taking the time to share. But if God knows all future events as settled before He created. Then the future is settled and there is no free will nor contingency. Contingent meaning likely to happen but not certain. Think about it. If the future is settled then my choices, or prayers, or reward and punishment are only illusions.
The movement through history of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit does not give me a picture of an immutable God. Quite the contrary, a relational God. The elect Son has entered humanity and raised us up with himself, giving us His Spirit. When you see Jesus, God with us, you see the Father.
Open theist believe God is omniscient. It is the reality he knows that is the debate. Is there real contingency in the creation, libertarian freewill, and a partially open future? If you might or might not wear black socks tomorrow then God being omniscient would know that. He would also know all the possibilities of tomorrow and being omnipotent could deal with any contingent event that obtained. No problem.

WTM
Torrance has much more depth in this small book than a classical reformed template will allow or possibly can even see. I don't mean that comment to be derogatory because both Torrance and Barth make clear their understanding of the need to not allow presuppositions cloud what God has said and done.
page 109" Thus the rational bearing of the Creator upon the universe, far from imposing any prior or final necessity upon it or denying to it any freedom of its own, grounds it upon his own transcendent freedom in such a way as to endow it with a contingent freedom" Far from imposing any prior or final necessity. He says this in effect over and over in the essays. He makes it clear in the beginning (Barth too) that they don't believe in double predestination as the Calvinist's developed the doctrine. page 108 "That is to say, God does not import any necessity or arbitrariness into his relations with us, and yet he remains throughout contingently related to us in his grace so that our relation to him correspondingly takes the form of freedom and faith." Again, if we are understanding the words necessity, freedom, contingency, with grounded meaning then Torrance is saying the same thing about the cosmology of the universe as open theist say and his ontology is also in agreement with open theists. Divine foreknowledge is not at issue since open theists believe God is omniscient. It is the reality that he knows that is the debate. He knows the future as partially settled and partially open. What is open are possibilities of might and might not. God knows them all and would not be omniscient if he didn't. As God he can deal with and without any surprise whatever obtains.
You would say God knows the future with certainty but how can this help God or man? If the future is settled then God can't do anything about it (he would be immutable) neither could prayer change anything. This type of belief is not how we live our lives nor is it congruent with the biblical narratives.
Open theism is just the cosmology of some who have also been grasped by the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
Ron

Shane said...

Ron,

You write:

"Open theist believe God is omniscient. It is the reality he knows that is the debate. Is there real contingency in the creation, libertarian freewill, and a partially open future? If you might or might not wear black socks tomorrow then God being omniscient would know that."

Slow down Speed Racer! If God is omniscient, then he knows everything there is to know. If an open theist claims God is omniscient, then he is simply implying that there simply are no facts about future states of affairs for God to know.

Boyd seems wishy washy here. He wants God to know some future events but not all of them. It seems to me that even if God knows only one contingent future event, Boyd still needs to say how God's knowledge does not cause that event. I think Thomas Aquinas's solution is a step in a much better direction. [Another might be Molinism.]

If God infallibly knows that I will wear black socks, then how can I be free to choose my socks?

Open Theism just denies that God has knowledge of such facts precisely because they are future contingent events. (i.e. the open theists take Aristotle's line and say that propositions about contingent future events don't have truth values precisely because that's just what it means to be a contingent future event.)

I haven't read all of the material on Boyd's website yet, so I don't want to make any dogmatic claims just yet. But, the fundamental problem I see with what is presented there and with what you are saying Ron, is that you and Boyd both have a totally immanent, time-bound God. If God is locked within time like we are, then I suppose he couldn't know the future. But, on the other hand, if God is somehow outside of time then, isn't it possible that he does know it? In other words, we ought not to project our own experience of finitude and temporality onto God, since he is, after all, not a creature like us. There are probably other independent reasons we have for holding divine eternity, so I don't think appealing to God's being outside of time is special pleading. It may be a bit difficult to get a handle on--especially the relation of time to eternity, but, why should we expect it to be easy for the finite to reason about the infinite?

You also said,

"The movement through history of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit does not give me a picture of an immutable God. Quite the contrary, a relational God."

Again, don't project your temporality onto the divine. God does not change, but this has nothing to do with whether he is 'relational' or not. Suppose you sin in 1976 and God gets angry with you, then you repent in 1977 and he forgives you (we are speaking a bit metaphorically here). Is this a change in God? No. For God, dwelling in eternity, the events are simultaneous. God hates sin just as much in 1977 as he did in 1976. It is clear that something about your relation to God changes from 1976 to 1977, but what is it that changes? It isn't God, he is still as just and merciful as always. What changes in your relationship to God is you. (NB that I am not making a pelagian claim here, grace is still the thing which brings the change in you about, but let's not go into how.) From our finite, temporal perspective, it appears that God changes, but this is only because we always end up thinking about God in human terms because we have no experience of non-human, infinite, eternal persons like God.

Therefore, when the Bible speaks of God 'changing his mind' it uses a metaphor, seen from the perspective of the human side of the divine/human relationship, not unlike other metaphorical anthropomorphisms in the Bible, such as God possessing a bodily finger, etc. God does not change, but this does not imply that he is static, inert, disinterested, etc. Rather, it means that he is most continuously interested, active, involved with his creation, since he is always attending to each instant of it. God does not have 'emotions', which are changes of state of mind, but this does not preclude God's really being love and justice and mercy.

To steal an idea from Thomas Nagel: There is something that it is like to be God, it's just that we are unable to say what it is like in any detail.

shane

GoobyNelly said...

Just some quick thoughts:

Not to throw out prooftexts, but Genesis 22 needs to be thrown out as a situation where God's knowledge is somehow contingent upon a human action, such as when Abraham proves faithful to God in the attempted sacrifice of Isaac ("Now I know..."). I say this 'cause I just got out of an Old Testament 101 midterm.

Finally, I'm curious if there's a way we can hold infallible omniscience in tension with open contingent knowledge, constituting a double-knowing, where there are different forms of knowledge for God depending on whether we're speaking of God immanently (i.e. in God's self, or "transcendentally" if you will) or economically (God with us). These two things can't be completely separated, of course - only described.

Anonymous said...

shane
"Slow down Speed Racer! If God is omniscient, then he knows everything there is to know. If an open theist claims God is omniscient, then he is simply implying that there simply are no facts about future states of affairs for God to know."

Ron
No Shane, we've morphed. All possible contingent states are known by God. What might or might not be are known and God, of course, knows how to respond in any future possible situation.

"Boyd seems wishy washy here. He wants God to know some future events but not all of them."

What Boyd means is that what God purposes to do is certain. Example the election of Jesus. But libertarian freewill, given by the Creator, means some agents will exercise against His will.

"If God infallibly knows that I will wear black socks, then how can I be free to choose my socks?"

Then everything is predetermined in your view? That is fatalistic in my view.

"But, the fundamental problem I see with what is presented there and with what you are saying Ron, is that you and Boyd both have a totally immanent, time-bound God. If God is locked within time like we are, then I suppose he couldn't know the future. But, on the other hand, if God is somehow outside of time then, isn't it possible that he does know it? "

Ever since God created he has been in a time relationship with his creation. Torrance and Barth would say we only know God by his revelation in Jesus Christ. Our theology and philosophy should begin with "and the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us" not from an abstract deistic framework. The incarnation is where I begin to understand God.

The past is gone and the future does not exist yet. I would think God is relative to now. For the time being, no pun intended, God is with us in time. That is not to say His plans for the future do not include us with him in an eternal state as he is.

"it appears that God changes, but this is only because we always end up thinking about God in human terms because we have no experience of non-human, infinite, eternal persons like God."

I differ with you in that Jesus was man and God. The Holy Spirit takes the things of God and shows them to us. We know God in Jesus Christ.
Gotta go back to work Shane. Good discussing the things with you.
Peace
Ron

Shane said...

@goodbynelly

"I'm curious if there's a way we can hold infallible omniscience in tension with open contingent knowledge,"

No there isn't. If God knows X will happen infallibly, that means the he cannot be wrong, it cannot happen otherwise, hence no freedom. (at least, that's the way it appears prima facie--i've tried to account for why God's necessary knowledge of future contingent events doesn't imply that those events are determined by recourse to a modified understanding of necessity and appeal to divine eternity.)

@Ron

I'm afraid i haven't made myself clear enough. I'm not saying that God's knowledge entails determinism, in fact i'm trying to avoid precisely that conclusion. My objection to you and Boyd is that I don't think you have realized the depth of the problem. Open theism either (1) underestimates God's knowledge by claiming that there are no true facts about future contingent states of affairs for him to know or (2) doesn't adequately explain how God's knowledge of future contingent events does not cause them.

"Ever since God created he has been in a time relationship with his creation. Torrance and Barth would say we only know God by his revelation in Jesus Christ. Our theology and philosophy should begin with "and the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us" not from an abstract deistic framework. The incarnation is where I begin to understand God."

At their heart metaphysical problems are really quite ordinary, commonsense ones. How can God know the future if I am free to choose which actions I will take? No technical metaphysical language there at all, just an ordinary question that might occur to anybody who believes that they are free do do as they please and that God knows everything.

I've offered one solution: God is eternal and the kind of knowledge of the future he has is of a benign sort of necessity which doesn't compromise the freedom of your choices (conditional necessity).

You don't seem persuaded by this line of argumentation, even though it isn't clear which part of it you reject. You and I both accept the idea that God knows everything and you even seem depart from some open theists by saying that God knows all events, whether future or present. But you suggest that perhaps I've got the whole thing backwards, that i've started with this abstract metaphysical God and not paid attention to the real God, the one incarnated in the man Jesus.

Au contraire, mon frère, I am thinking very carefully about the incarnation. But now I'm going to do something insidious. I'm going to make a groundless accusation that I cannot prove, but which I hope will still strike your heart with unease. Perhaps Barth too derived his doctrine of the incarnation from hidden metaphysical assumptions and not from pure theological exegesis.

Barth attempts to put forward a doctrine of the incarnation which precludes some classical conceptions of God as eternal in a certain sense, impassible, unchangeable, etc. But, Barth's own position has certain metaphysical ramifications--look at the stuff Bruce McCormack is writing about theological ontology and the priority of act over being, etc.

Is it the case that there is a coherent way to understand the incarnation which does justice to the biblical texts and yet which does uphold the classical attributes of God such as impassibility, omniscience, and so forth? In my opinion yes. It is precisely this account that the church fathers spent so much time constructing.

To prove the superiority of Barth's account over that of the fathers you will have to do at least one of two things (and preferably both):

1.) Show how Barth's exegesis of the texts about the incarnation is clearly superior to theirs.

2.) Show how the theological ontology which can be derived from his account is superior to their theologically and/or philosophically.

I don't think (1) is very promising since the biblical texts don't seem too clear about divine ontology. After all, if they were clear there wouldn't have been all those hundreds of years of debates and schisms in the early church, right? (2) doesn't seem much better because Barth's account (or at least what has been put forward to me as Barth's account--I make no judgments about that) seems to entail some theological problems (If God is temporal in some sense, then isn't he determined by his creation? If God can suffer, isn't this to say that his creation is greater than he is is some respect?) Finally, I suspect that Barth's account of ontology is going to end up being nonsense, which is no less false for being theological.

hope this helps,

shane

Anonymous said...

shane
"I've offered one solution: God is eternal and the kind of knowledge of the future he has is of a benign sort of necessity which doesn't compromise the freedom of your choices (conditional necessity).

You don't seem persuaded by this line of argumentation, even though it isn't clear which part of it you reject."

Ron
The part I reject is if the future is exhaustively know as certain (not possible but certain) by God then our next minute, hour, day, and so on is known by God. This means we are not free. Freedom of choice is non existent. What you or I will do each minute of the future is already known and therefore settled and free choice is an illusion. Nothing can change this settled path from the past on into the future. God can't change it, prayer can't change it, it is settled. It wouldn't matter if God was immutable and saw all past present and future from some timeless existence.If what he knows of the future is settled. Then if it changed it would not be a foreknown event.

I do not believe the future exists. This is what hope is all about. An expectation of God's help. Hope that is seen is not hope. We have the grace of God, his promises, prayer, and his Spirit to guide us. Why would we need God if the future is settled?
If God knew before he created everything that would happen then it is inescapable to conclude, I am not responsible for my actions.
Your view, though classical, does not agree with the biblical narrative and God's revelation of himself to man.
My view is that God knows all the possible contingencies as they might or might not unfold and can deal with any. Nothing surprises him. With a possible future God can help change circumstances, answer my prayers, and experience true reciprocal love.
Compatbilists and determinists are both determinists. Though not all determinists are compatbilists. (thanks Tom for that) I don't think you see that your view does indeed entail determinism

Why try and build a theology that upholds traditional classical attributes of God if those attributes were borrowed from Greek philosophical concepts.

So here we are a compatbilist and an open theist who both trust in Jesus Christ. I will stop now and wait on WTM to tell me why Torrance was not a pioneer open theist :) Thanks for sharing in such an adept way.
Peace
Ron

WTM said...

I would like to thank you all for the many thoughtful posts. I would like to thank Ron in particular for being such a gracious conversation partner. It is a pleasure that one as good natured as yourself should stumble upon this corner of the internet and take the time to converse with me, and these others.

That said, I would like to draw this comment section to a close. I will not be allowing any more comments on this post. However, I will be offering a constructive post dealing with these questions that you can expect to be posted either late this evening or sometime tomorrow morning. All of you are welcome to continue posting comments there.

Because I am chosing to respond with a constructive piece, as opposed to answering all of your critical questions directly, I will not be able to give as much attention to certain aspects as I would like to (for instance, to whether or not TFT is a proto Open Theist). You will be able to reach conclusions based on my post, but I will not address all questions directly.

Again, thank you all, and I look forward to continuing the conversation!

David said...

A worthwhile theological discussion, though -- and here I will be perhaps too blunt -- it has been carried on by people who are either not all that theologically articulate or who have very strong biases that are not as informed as they should be. That being said, let me weigh in with a few comments.

Ron, I am afraid I have yet to see any coherent understanding of what you believe open theism actually believes. I am rather confused when you state that, as an open theist, you believe God has knowledge of all possible future events. Is that right? All possible events, and not just the actual ones? I am not persuaded by open theism in the least, and yet even I could never accept such an idea.

And here is why: God's omniscience (just like the other omnis) cannot be abstract infinite knowledge, just like God's power is not power in all directions (omnipotence). No, God's knowledge, power, presence, etc., are knowledge, power, and presence in a particular direction -- that is, toward a particular end which we call the covenant of grace. God is the absolutization of these abstract attributes; God (at least as we know God) is rather the particular perfection of these attributes. God is as knowledgeable and powerful as God needs to be in order to bring about the covenant of grace. If God is also powerful enough to reverse the law of gravity on Jupiter, we cannot know it; what we know of God is revealed to us in the ultimate expression of God's perfections, namely, Jesus Christ.

In so far as you emphasize the christological center of our knowledge of God, you are right, Ron. However, you have not articulated what it means to understand God in light of the incarnation. In fact, you implied a conclusion that is a fatal error in your theology and greatly misled Shane into maligning Barth's theology. The error is viewing the incarnation as the incarnation of God full stop. This is simply modalism. The incarnation is that of the second person of the Trinity, the Logos. Jesus Christ is not God full stop, but rather the second mode of God's being.

What is the ramification of this insight? Quite simply -- contra Shane -- God does not become time-bound or world-bound in the incarnation. That could only happen if God were exhausted in the being of Jesus. However, God most definitely enters time and space fully and actually in Christ. What happens to Jesus happens to God, but God is not bound or confined to God's second mode of being.

(Here, in passing, is why the insistence upon God's impassibility is a lost cause. Such an insistence assumes that in order for God to remain the sovereign and free Lord, God must not be affected passively by anything created. And so, in order to protect this, such theologians reject the possibility of suffering affecting the divine nature of Jesus, which fails to realize that the whole point of the incarnation is that the triune being of God is not exhausted in the person of Christ. God experiences human suffering without ever being bound to the mode of human suffering, precisely because God is not bound to creaturely existence. God is the triune Lord who can and did enter time and space without becoming a temporal and spatial God.)

The christological questions aside, we need to take a further look at the nature of open theism. The problem with open theism -- pace Shane -- is not that we end up with "a totally immanent, time-bound God." Rather, the problem is just the opposite. Open theism posits the radical separation between God and the world, such that the creation of the world is like a mother giving birth to a child. The mother cannot know what that child will freely will to do, and so she has no knowledge of contingent future events. This is at least the usual view propounded by people like Clark Pinnock and Keith Ward who speak of God's "risky providence," meaning that in creation God takes a risk. God brings forth a world which can act freely so that God cannot know what will be done by human creatures next. This kind of open theism is simply a poor Protestant metaphysic which is not in the least thought through according to God's self-revelation in Jesus.

If we were really thinking through the being of God according to Jesus Christ, we would have to posit some kind of omniscience: God must know what divine acts are necessary to bring about the reconciliation of the world and the eventual eschatological consummation of the covenant of grace. This is of course a qualified kind of omniscience, but it is the only kind of omniscience we know: the kind revealed to us in the concrete manifestation of God's being in Jesus. The incarnation presupposes a being whose knowledge and power are capable of actualizing such an event.

However, Shane is right to the extent that open theism turns God into a being like any other created being, in the sense that there is a real past and a real future for God. But this "creaturely" God/god is separate from creation in the sense that the cosmos is given its own integrity and "libertarian freedom"; God does not interfere until creation forces God to do something. In a way, open theism is the ultimate and most extreme expression of infralapsarian logic.

The pivotal statement by Ron is the following: "The past is gone and the future does not exist yet." This can be a true statement only of creation and never of God. (And some would argue that it is not even true of creation either, in the sense that memory preserves the past in a unique way.) Ron's question is this: if God knows the "future," then the future has already happened or is at least predetermined to happen in a particular way. This question is misconceived from the start in that it presupposes that God is like any other creature. If, as Shane rightly points out, God is eternal, then there is no past and no future for God. For God, all things and all times are simply present. This eliminates the problem of a predetermined future, because God does not "see into the future"; God only sees the present which happens to be a future for us. What happens in that future time is a free human action (though I would reject libertarian freedom on other grounds), and yet because God knows that action in the present, God also knows that action in all times. The key is that God is not seeing ahead to what must happen necessarily; rather God knows what happens simply because God knows it as it actually happens.

Thus, Shane, I think you are basically right in your formulation of God's eternality that allows for a proper kind of necessary knowledge. However, you go far astray in your attempt at a theological critique of Barth's theology. Here I simply dismiss your statements on the grounds that you were misled into thinking Ron represented Barth in any substantial sense. I hope my statements above clarify why your comments are mistaken.

In short, Barth never advanced a doctrine of anything along abstract, metaphysical grounds; all knowledge of God comes through the event of God's self-revelation, which is a revelation only through the faith made possible by the Spirit as God works in the present to enable us to understand who God is based on the past reality of the incarnate Son of God. Barth never rejects God's eternality or immutability, for the record, and he does not make any blanket statements simply for the negative purpose of rejecting old formulations. His doctrine is positively formed through and through.

Shane, the rest of your comments on theological ontology are a distraction from the matters at hand and seem polemical rather than helpful in any real way. I suggest you refrain from speaking about Barth's theological ontology until you have at least read the relevant sections of CD II.1, II.2, and IV.1.

Finally, I will concede to you that Barth's ontology is "nonsense," since all talk of God is nonsense to anyone who has not been grasped by the love and grace of God and thus empowered by the Spirit to see and hear the Word of God. But for those who have been so grasped, then talk of God can only occur in the light of God's self-revelation in Christ, who is the sole criterion for what is and is not true of God.

WTM said...

Oops. I thought that last comment was on the newer post. Mia culpa. Please feel free to continue this conversation in the comments section of the post on Human Freedom and the God-Time Relation.

Thanks!