Friday, June 6, 2008

Free will and theodicy

The beginning of chapter 6 is titled, "Why is life so hard." As I mentioned in my last post, this is where Hasker seeks to insert what he considers is the value of free will as it relates to a convincing theodicy. Personally I felt this chapter was based on mere speculation, particularly as it relates to a sound biblical understanding. I'll explain why as I continue to evaluate.

The first part of the chapter deals with the difference between opposing views with respect to free will; these are compatibilism and libertarianism. Regarding the former he notes, "the view is called compatibilism because it is logically compatible with the claim that everything we do is causally determined, either by the "strongest motive" (psychological determinism) or by physical causes." This view is can be similarly compared to that which Jonathan Edwards espoused. For the libertarian view, which Hasker notes is the most plausible, he observes that it "insists that for an action to be free in the most important sense it is not enough that a person be able to do what he most desires to do...In order for the person to be really free, it must be really possible for him either to perform the act in question or to refrain from it; it must be entirely within the person's power to do one or the other."

Hasker goes on to explain, I believe rightly, that the compatibilist view is maintained by some philosophers, but mostly theologians; primarily those who maintain divine sovereignty (i.e. Calvinism). Though he takes issue with it by saying this view offers no real help in answering the problem of evil. His rationale is: if God can grant man to have free will and then so control this will to act so as not to ever perform or incline to evil, then the fact that there is evil would lead us to believe that God is ultimately responsible for evil. I grant that this logic is sound and does appear to present a problem. Thing is, it not only creates a problem for the Calvinist, but also for the Arminian; for that matter, anyone who holds to any view of sovereignty. Then again, this is apparently why the book was written, to offer an answer to the question: how could there be a God who is all loving, all powerful, and all knowing, yet still be evil. As stated before, Dr. Hasker feels the answer lies on the unknowability of the future (God included), as well as libertarian free will viewpoint. I'll digress for now, but continue shortly.

Essentially, the free will argument that Hasker utilizes is basically the same as the Arminian [Semi-Pelagian] position. How does this relates to his theodicy? Well, logically it fits quite well (I said logically, not biblically). According to this view, we must be completely free to make choices, whether good or evil. That way, God cannot be held responsible for this, as the responsibility lies totally on us. But what if God knew they were going to happen, as in the traditional Arminian view? Did God turn a blind eye to the future except in the soteriological sense of choosing those for salvation those who [in a sense] already chose Him (cf. Romans 8:29)? This is a problem for the Arminian theodicy. Which is why the final component, already discussed in previous posts, is that God does not, indeed cannot know the future completely or exhaustively, only all true propositions. Which is why I say, while I don't believe the libertarian free will is biblical, the open theist is clearly more logically consistent than your everyday Arminian.

Now, I said in the beginning that I felt that much of the chapter was based on speculation; here's why. While I grant that the libertarian free will schema shows a logical constancy overall (Hasker shows this effectively), the continued argumentation for the view seemed rather emotive than biblical. Hasker spends a few pages speaking to the value of free will by use of human analogy. He relates situations of father/child relationships as if they can be fully applicable to God in his relation to us. Sure, we as humans would rather have a son or daughter that would be a free thinking person with an "undetermined" future as opposed to a robot. But our thoughts are not God's thoughts. Just because we cannot fully conceive God's omniscience as it applies to his relation to us and the notion of evil, doesn't mean that we somehow have to redefine (or limit) it.

To continue, Hasker cites only one Scripture in the entire chapter which doesn't really provide an explanation for his free will thesis. He does offer what appears to be an explanation for the structure of the world, in which the elements of our world (human and corporate development and progression: through rational free will) are good and therefore must be rendered the most rational and sensible. Again, he states why he feels other possible world scenarios must not be considered. He quotes John Hick who, by way of summary, says that a paradise where there is no pain, evil or immorality would not serve the purpose of allowing its inhabitants to develop from self-regarding animality to self-giving love. But what first pops in my mind as I think this through is Eden and Heaven. Surely we were to be fruitful and multiply and till the land, and this was achieved even without pain, evil or immorality. And heaven we're told will no longer contain the evils we are accustom to. Then again, with Hasker's evolutionary tendencies, I'd be interested in hearing how Eden fits into his overall system.

In conclusion, while I feel that Hasker did and continues to do a good job of developing his position in a logically consistent manner throughout, I must affirm that he is not doing so from a biblical standpoint. He has yet to offer biblical examples to back his position, nor respond to the biblical instances that clearly speak of God as "determining" all actions. It appears that he may be attempting to create a god after the image of man, not the other way around.

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