Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Can we understand creation?

I spent the first two posts essentially summarizing Hasker's first couple chapters to set the groundwork not only for his discussion, but also for mine. I said in the beginning that Hasker affirmed open theism as the best of all possible solutions to deal with the problem of evil. Well in chapter 4 Hasker begins to offer his defense for this. Most of this chapter directly deals with the question offered in the above title to this post. He evaluates the arguments that surround God's act (motive) in creation. Granted, this seems like a place some scholars might not dare touch due to the ambiguity of the issue. At first it seemed to me that it might be a daunting task to even consider. But after reading intently I do see how this will impact his overall schema to develop a cogent theodicy.

Hasker faces off against two main arguments regarding creation. The first is by Gottfried Leibniz who suggests that the world which we live in is the best possible world for God to create. And as a result all the various evils in the world are justified because they are necessary to this best world scenario. Hasker takes this argument by Leibniz and formulates three questions [sub-chapters] which I feel he addresses quite soberly. He first deals with the idea of a (the) best possible world. Second he deals with God's ability to [even] create [such] a world. Lastly he asks the question: If God is perfectly good, does this mean that he must, of necessity, create the best possible world? It is on this last point where I believe Hasker makes his strongest argument. He then evaluates Robert Adams position (the 2nd) which states that based on the goodness and overall power and knowledge of God, that he did not create the best of all possible worlds. To summarize his conclusion, Hasker shows that it is in fact perfectly within the moral standards of God to create a world by which might not live up to the standards of a better possible world. So that even if God could have [or were to] create a better world in terms of the multiplication of morality over and above the world he currently created, it cannot be determined that God would be morally tainted as a result.

Now I want to say that I find this as a solid argument. Surely there is nothing morally wrong if God were to create one person who did ten good things than if he created one hundred persons who did ten thousand good things. God cannot be held captive to the constraints of our limited view of what is good, or that more good is somehow "better."

Hasker then goes on to deal with the question that even my five year old daughter has asked me about: why did God even create in the first place? My daughters answer is not unlike some of the most reputable philosophy scholars, that God was indeed bored, lonely, or perhaps even lacked something. Though Hasker does a solid job of tossing out the ideas utilizing quotes from Karl Barth and Emil Brunner's who speak to the inter-trinitarian love that has existed between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit from eternity past. As such, he concludes that God's decision to create must be seen as a manifestation of divine grace and generosity.

As much as I respect the arguments and accuracy of Dr. Hasker, what I do find a little difficult to swallow is how he gets to these conclusion. I don't plan on offering a full critique of the implications which open theism has on his overall thesis here (though I plan to address more throughly when I finish the book), I do want to ask a few things. Hasker's driving thrust behind his conclusion in this chapter is based on the fact that he believes that God has self-imposed a limitation upon himself and the outcome of future events. Which he feels is a testimony to the greatness of God that he both wishes and is able to create beings who along with him determine the outcome of his creation. I would ask, can God actually do this? Does God possess the ability to limit himself upon creating the world? I would then ask, how is it that God could "surrender" as it were his own omnipotence and, for that matter, omniscience? Another question might be, did God possess full knowledge of all things prior to this self-imposed limitation?

While I don't expect a full treatment the above questions, I do think they do need to be answered in some capacity, and I hope Hasker does address this; or perhaps he has elsewhere. But like I said at the outset, I did not [and still do not] hold to or endorse the open theistic position, but I do want to allow Dr. Hasker enough respect and credence to substantiate his argument before I get into deeper waters. I'm expecting some continued interaction as we move on to chapters 5-8.

3 comments:

William Hasker said...

You ask two questions. First, can God "create beings who along with him determine the outcome of his creation"? Wouldn't God in doing this surrender his own omnipotence? Not at all -- rather, God is *exercising* his omnipotence in making such creatures. If anyone denies God's power to do this, *that* is a limitation on omnipotence, and a pretty severe one at that.
But is God not surrendering his omniscience by doing this? I don't think so, but here the reasoning is a bit trickier. One widely held view is that, with respect to the as yet undetermined future, there *is no truth* for God or anyone else to know. It certainly is no limitation on God's knowledge if he doesn't know truths that don't exist to be known. Another view is that there are truths about the as-yet undetermined future, but it is logically impossible for anyone (including God) to know them. In that case it does not deny omniscience that God does not know something it is logically impossible to know, andy more than it denies omnipotence that God cannot do something it is logically impossible to do, such as create a square circle. Either way, God continues to be both omnipotent and omniscient.

Damian M. Romano said...

Dr. Hasker,

I suppose that God could create a world where the outcome is co-determined by both himself and man. Omnipotence would surely allow for this. I suppose the crux of this issue is related to God's omniscience.

Without prematurely delving into an area which I'm hoping you'll cover in the book, how exactly is omniscience defined by those who embrace open theism?

William Hasker said...

Here is a definition: "At any time, God knows all propositions which are true at that time and are such that God's knowing them at that time is logically possible, and God never believes anything that is false." This is found in Peterson et al., *Reason and Religious Belief,* 3rd edition (Oxford, 2003), where you will also find further discussion of the issues concerning omniscience.