The World is a Novel in the Mind of God

Can God determine our actions? One need not think more than a second or two. Of course he can, we answer. If CIA brainwashers and television advertising can cause us to act in specific ways, then the Creator of the universe certainly can. Let’s rephrase the question: Can God determine our actions without violating our freedom and autonomy? Here the spirits divide between libertarians and compatibilists. The former believe that divine agency and human agency are mutually exclusive. Our actions are free only if we might have done otherwise. To the extent that they can be sufficiently explained by a set of nomic conditions that temporally or logically precede them, I live in a state of thralldom and do not enjoy genuine autonomy. If God causes my actions, then they are not my actions and I am reduced to the status of puppet. In the words of Jessica Rabbit: “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.” Compatibilists, on the other hand, claim that free agency is compatible with divine determination. Libertarian freedom or determinism—they seem to be the only options. Or are they?

In Creation and the Sovereignty of God, Hugh McCann asserts a version of double agency that seeks to split the difference. Contemplate the relationship between an author of a novel and the characters he or she creates:

The author does not belong to the world she creates, nor do her characters and their actions exist as an event-causal consequence of anything she does. Rather, their first existence is in her creative imagination, and they are born and sustained in and through the very thoughts in which she conceives them, and of which they are the content. The interesting thing about this relation­ship is that it is too close to permit the author’s creative activity to damage her characters’ freedom. On the contrary, it is perfectly legitimate for her to present them as free and responsible beings. Indeed, it is not even possible for the author to enter into the world and interact with her charac­ters in such a way as to undermine or pervert their integrity as agents. Only other char­acters in the novel can do that—subject, of course, to the will of the author.1

A good story draws us into its world, and once we are in that world, we do not experience the characters as playing out a script, unlike, say, the robots in Westworld. The fictional charac­ters enjoy an integrity of their own. They live out their lives in credible, consistent, and convincing fashion. Even when a character surprises us, it is the character, not the author, who surprises. Only poorly written stories shock us out of the narrative and return us to the “real” world. Some novelists, such as J. R. R. Tolkien and J. K. Rowling, go to remarkable lengths to create imaginative universes that are compelling and utterly convincing.

I draw your attention to this sentence from the above quotation: “The interesting thing about this relationship is that it is too close to permit the author’s creative activity to damage her characters’ freedom.” McCann seems to be suggesting that fictional characters, and the narrative world in which they dwell, enjoy a genuine measure of freedom because they live within the imagination of the novelist. They are not external objects that can be manipulated or meddled with. The relationship is too intimate, too immediate for interfer­ence. Dorothy Sayers might disagree with McCann here: his proposal underesti­mates the “element of pure craftsmanship” that is necessary to the creation of a good story. “Neverthe­less,” she con­cedes, “the free will of a genuinely created character has a certain reality, which the writer will defy at his peril.”2 A fictional world is not the real world, of course, but McCann still finds the analogy illuminating:

As I see it, our relation to our creator is much the same. We, of course, have more than a mental existence; we are real. But we too are brought to be and sustained in being entirely in and through our creator’s will. We are not self-creating in any way, and we can no more engage in decision and action apart from our creator’s will than can the creatures of fiction. Here, too, however, the relationship is too close to undermine our freedom. God does not, in creating us, act upon us, or produce any intervening cause, even an act of will on his part, that somehow makes us do what we do. There is indeed an exercise of his creative power, but in it he simply becomes the ground of our being, holding us in existence as the content of his creative act. God does not, that is to say, alter our nature or that of our actions merely by providing for our existence. This, I claim, permits all that legitimately belongs to responsible freedom to characterize our actions, just as it does those of fictional creatures. The author of the novel never makes her crea­tures do something; she only makes them doing it. It is the same with us and God. He does not make us act; he makes us acting, so that the free­dom that goes with genuine action can still be present. To think otherwise is to confuse providing for the existence of something and tam­per­ing with its nature. Nor should God’s action as creator lead us to worry about our integrity as agents—about whether we will turn out to have a substantive and genuine moral character, or will come across as contrived and manipu­lated, as somehow lacking a true and unified self. There is no reason to expect the latter outcome, especially when an all-wise and powerful God is produc­ing the work. Bad authors may sometimes have to manipulate their charac­ters; a perfect one never does.3

God does not cause our acts, as in deterministic models, nor does he place us on a deistic stage upon which we autonomously live out our choices, as in libertarian models. God makes us acting. He is as intimately related to his creatures, as the storyteller to his tale or the singer to her song. As James F. Ross has so beautifully worded it: “The being of the cosmos is like a song on the breath of a singer.4 The eternal Creator is an artist, not an engineer. Just as he does not create entities without their properties and powers, so he does not create human beings apart from their free agency. God’s creative “Let there be . . .” simply is our historical existing. McCann thus seeks to move philosophical reflection beyond the “causal joint” that binds divine and human agency.5 He takes us to a deeper metaphysical or transcendental level. Perhaps we should not even employ the notion of causality when speculating on divine creation—hence McCann’s suggestion that we think of the relation between God and creatures as analogous to the relation between intention and content:

The existence of creatures belongs to God’s act of creating them, rather than being a consequence of it. One good model for this is the relation between acts of will and their content. Consider, for example, the case of deciding. When I decide to do something—say, to go to Europe next summer—the intention thereby formed does not appear as a consequence of my act of decision making. It is, rather, the content of my decision, so that by the time the decision is over, I already hold the intention to go to Europe. The intention, which can be expressed as, “I shall go to Europe next summer,” is intrinsic to my act of deciding to go there. It belongs to it, in the peculiar way that con­tent always belongs to acts of thinking. What I want to suggest is that the relation between God’s activity as creator and the entities he creates is analo­gous to this. It is not, of course, the same: the content of mental acts has only mental existence, whereas the things God creates are quite real. Nevertheless, I want to say, creatures belong to God’s act of creation in much the same way. We are not products of God’s creative willing, but the very expression of it.

If something like this is correct, the gap between creation and creature is closed. There is no distance whatever between us and God, hence we need not invent a causative process or nexus to fill the imagined void. Yet we are not made parts of God, or descriptive modifica­tions of him—any more than the content of a thought would be a part of a predicate of a thinker. Rather, the relation is analogous to that between a story and its author or a song and its composer. The world has its existence in God, but God is in no way composed or constituted by the world. A second upshot of this view is that any remain­ing vestiges of conflict between God’s activity as creator and the operation of secondary causes is wiped away. They are not even the same sort of process. God’s creative activity is not a determining condition of the being of the world, but an endeavor in which he himself serves as the foundation of reality, the source in which we live, and move, and have our being. That, of course, is as it should be, and it is in keeping with the idea that God is completely involved with his creatures, that his providential care extends immediately and comprehensively to all that exists.6

God is closer to us than any cause. He creates the world ex nihilo, and this creating is a causing unlike any that we know, not a nomic determination of events and states of affairs but the conferral of being itself, thus making possible both creaturely freedom and divine providence. One certainly can’t fault McCann for lack of ambition and daring.

Compare McCann’s construal of artistic double agency from what he calls the model of command and causation. In Genesis 1 God speaks the world into being: “And God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” One might interpret the divine word as a com­mand, followed by the intended effect. If divine and human agency is construed along these lines, then outright determinism is the result. God thinks the mental command “Let there be Al Kimel typing these lines on his computer,” and voila! here I am typing. The divine decree is followed by the consequence. God has commanded and so I type. My typing is no more free than the billiard ball that falls into the corner pocket.

We are prone to represent creation in terms of a model of command and causation: thus, in the present case, to believe that if God is indeed creatively responsible for our decisions and volition, these must occur through a mechanistic relation. He must first engage in some activity specifically directed to creation, some sort of command or concurrence, which in turn has the event-causal consequence that we will the things we do. If such were the case, it would indeed be plausible to think that involving God as creator in our decisions must destroy creaturely freedom, for then the relation between the operation of God’s will and ours would be perfectly analogous to what would obtain if our decisions were caused by our strongest desire. The apparent active quality of deciding would be destroyed, and we would be just as passive in deciding as we are in experiencing the onset of desire.7

McCann’s proposal of double agency needs to be carefully distinguished from determinis­tic views that envision Deity as causing volitional acts in the same way that creaturely beings cause events. Let’s return to Genesis 1. Instead of reading the text as a display of cause and effect, we might instead read it as an intellectual, even imagina­tive, fait accom­pli. Its wording, McCann suggests, “implies that in the very command itself, the appear­ance of light was achieved, that in the very exercise of God’s creative will, dry ground finds its existence.”8 The world in its actuality is the content of God’s eternal decision to create, analogous to the way intention is intrinsic to human decision:

There can be no event-causal means—not even the operation of his own will—which God employs as creator. Rather, his will is, in itself, immediately efficacious in the task of creation, so that all that is, including rational creatures and all that they do, find their being in the very act through which they are created. A fortiori, there is no nexus that binds God’s will to ours, nor is there any causal distance whatever between God and us or any of our willings. Indeed, there is not even causal contiguity. Rather, we and all that we do have our being in God, and the first manifestation of God’s creative will regarding our decisions and actions is not a command that causes those acts, but nothing short of the acts themselves.9

McCann does not discuss historical elaborations of the command and causation model (though he does mention the Neo-Thomist Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange as a possible representative). Whatever their differences, they share one feature in common—they deny libertarian freedom:

Applied to human willing, command and causation models would certainly re­store God to full knowledge and gover­nance of the world, but only at the ex­pense of making his will as governor an independent determining condition of creaturely willing—the very thing any definition of libertarian freedom must rule out. If the relationship between God’s will and ours took this form, the spontaneity of free will would be gone; we would have every right to feel we were mere puppets, and God the puppe­teer. The problem is substantially similar for views that provide God a role in crea­turely action, but treat it as a concurrent or assisting one, in which his action is both independent of ours, and necessarily efficacious with respect to it. Here too it is possible to guarantee God full sovereignty and omniscience; but as long as his action is conceived as independent of ours, the situation regarding freedom ends up no better.10

These problems are avoided, McCann assures us, if we think together cosmos and divine act. The world is not an artifact of God’s making, abiding outside of God as manipulable object, but the artistic expression and content of his eternal willing: “So God does not create us or our works by means of commanding our existence, where this is conceived as a kind of causal device. Rather, His commanding our existence is our production, and we have our being in His very act of creating us.”11 McCann understands himself as a classical theist, but I wonder if his approach might be more accurately described as an idealist form of panen­theism or perhaps theistic idealism. We exist only because the divine Mind thinks us into being. In him we live and move and have our being.

puppet.png

Yet . . . surely divine determinism remains hidden somewhere in McCann’s proposal. The nagging feeling won’t go away. Watch Robert Lawrence Kuhn’s interviews with McCann. It’s clear that Kuhn thinks that his theology of creation is deterministic. The Texas A&M phi­los­opher vigorously objects:

Even though, as primary cause, God provides for the existence of my decisions and actions, the minimal requirement for libertarian freedom is preserved: there is no independent condition or state of affairs by which my exercises of will are deterministi­cally caused—none on earth, and none in heaven either.12

God neither acts upon us, as a cue stick acts upon a billiard ball, nor forces us to behave against our will. “That is precisely what does not go on in the relationship between God and his creatures,” McCann insists. “The operation of his will is not an event independent of my willing; there is nothing ‘left over’ if we subtract my act of deciding from God’s act of creating it.”13 I am created in my willing and acting, and apart from this willing and acting, there is no me for God to manipulate, coerce, or control. Hence the divine act that puts my decidings and actings in place cannot do violence to me: “God’s creative determination of my decisions does not rule out their being free, for in fact the determination and the decision are one and the same.”14 If we find ourselves straining at McCann’s logic, perhaps it’s because we still keep thinking of God as a being alongside ourselves rather than as the transcendent source of being. Creator and creatures do not exist on the same metaphysical plane and therefore cannot be coordinated in an ordinary way.

In God’s activity as creator we encounter no event or state that is onto­logi­cally independent of our will, and determinative with respect to it. He does not operate upon us, or from without; he operates in our very willing, so that his will is done through ours, but without any kind of forcing. There is no standing condition that is out of our control, no fait accompli prior to the very act that is our decision or volition.15

When God summons me into existence—and he’s willing me into existence at every moment—he simultaneously wills my decisions and actions. He creates me in my freedom; he creates me freely acting. The divine author does not make us do things; he makes us doing them. His decision that I shall go to the theater to see Dune just is my freely-enacted decision to see Dune. Nothing is forced upon me. I am not compelled and can always do otherwise.

God is responsible for the being of all that is, but He does not produce it by operating to change something else, and He does not produce our decisions by operating on us. . . . In the end, I would suggest, what truly constitutes God’s activity as creator of the world is simply His being eternally given over to serving as the ground of being for the world and all that belongs to it. And the true manifestation of that is not some descriptive condition determining the nature of things, but rather their very existence. So far as my decision is con­cerned, God’s creative activity does not, even on the eternal level, stand as a determining condition which settles what I shall decide. It is fully manifested simply in my deciding as I do.16

The above is a key paragraph for comprehending McCann’s metaphysical vision. Note the unity of divine and creaturely agency. This unity is only possible if we grasp the noncom­petitive relationship between the transcendent God and the finite beings he has made from out of nothing. Here’s another long paragraph that I hope will further clarify:

A useful analogy that may be drawn here is to the relationship between the author of a story, and the characters within it. The author does not enter into the story herself, nor does she act upon the characters in such a way as to force them to do the things they do. Rather, she creates them in their doings, so that they are able to behave freely in the world of the novel. On the traditional account, God’s relation to his creatures is similar. As creator, he is the “first cause” of us and of our actions, but his causality works in such a way that we are not acted upon, and so are able to exercise our wills freely in deciding and acting. If this is correct, then as Aquinas at least seems to suggest, God’s creative activity does not violate libertarian freedom, for it does not count as an independent determining condition of creaturely decision and action. On the contrary: assuming God’s own will is free, there is no event in heaven or earth that is independent of my deciding to attend the concert tonight, and which causes my decision. God’s creative activity does not act upon me or render me passive in any way, for it consists solely in God’s freely giving himself over to being the ground of being for me and all that I do. Accordingly, I can still display libertarian freedom. My decision is a spontaneous display of creaturely agency, free in the libertarian sense because it does not occur through event causality, and because in it I am fully and intentionally committed both to deciding and to deciding exactly as I do. There are no further legitimate requirements for libertarian freedom. There is, of course, something that cannot happen on this view: it is not possible for God’s activity as creator to be devoted to my deciding to attend the concert, and yet that I should forebear to decide at all, or decide to do something else. But that is not because if I were to try it, I would find myself in a losing battle with God’s efficacious will. It is because there is no manifestation of that will regarding my decision short of the decision itself. The impossibility that God’s will as creator and mine as creature should diverge suggests trouble because we can view what goes on either from God’s perspective or from mine. That suggests two events, and a potential conflict between them. Properly interpreted, however, the traditional view appears to call for only one event, and as far as it is concerned, all the impossibility comes to is that I cannot at once both make a decision and not make it. To be incapable of the logically impossible is not a failure of freedom, libertarian or otherwise.17

It sounds all quite schizophrenic, yet if we stay with McCann’s reasoning long enough, it does begin to make sense, the way things sometimes do when we turn them upside down. At least I think it makes sense. How can God and I both be the subject of my willing? Think about it along these lines:

I alone am the subject of my decision. It is predicated of me, and its defects are mine. What God does is create the event of my deciding as I do. He is, as it were, the subject of my being the subject of my decision—which is really just an expression of the point that we have our being in him.18

Nondualistic double agency—think back to the analogy of the novelist and her characters.

But could I have done otherwise? the libertarian asks. Yes, of course. But if you had done otherwise, God would have willed otherwise. But can I do otherwise? Again yes. Just go ahead and do otherwise. What’s stopping you? Certainly God isn’t. You are free to pursue whatever goods you wish to pursue, free to prioritize your motives as you choose, free to follow your desires or not follow them—everything an incompatibilist could ask. “God’s activity as creator,” notes McCann, “operates in such a way that my integrity as an agent is exactly what it would have been if the subject of creation had never come up, and we had concluded that, as many libertarians believe, my decisions and actions have no determin­ing cause of any kind, primary or secondary.”19 God is too close to us to damage our interior freedom. But given that God creates the volitionary event, this necessarily means that I cannot decide other than what God eternally decides (sin excepted). I cannot simultaneously decide and not decide to go to the theatre to see Dune. “But since the only manifestation of His will in this regard is my deciding,” explains McCann, “all that this limitation comes to is that I cannot decide anything else while at the same time deciding as I do. That, of course, is not a limitation at all.”20 “Paradoxical though it may appear at first, therefore, even though our decisions are set in place by the creative power of God, we could, even on the eternal stage, have done otherwise.”21

But if I am free to do otherwise, how does that not mean that I am determining God‽ It sure sounds like I have a hook in the divine nose. On a mere whim, I can make God do whatever I want, will whatever I will, like the young John Connor commanding the T-800 Terminator to stand on one foot. What a conundrum, yet it really isn’t. It only looks that way because we keep separating the divine and creaturely side of things; but there is only one event of decision and action, analyzed from two perspectives: God freely wills as Creator and we freely will as creaturely agents.

If this seems obscure, consider again the relationship between the author and her characters. Their first existence is, of course, in her thoughts. But there is no independent mental act of the author that gives rise to her characters; they are born with the very thoughts themselves in which she first conceives them. The same holds of us in our dependence on God for our existence, and it holds of our decisions also. Thus, the first manifestation of God’s will in creating me the person who decides to vacation in Colorado is not an event independent of my decision, but simply my deciding to go there. . . .

True, I cannot decide in opposition to God’s will—and since he is the foun­da­tion of my being, not I of his, his will is in that sense determining. But if, in all of my decisions, the first manifestation of God’s will is simply my deciding as I do, then as far as the actual events go all the determina­tion comes to is that neither God nor I can will as we do and yet be willing something else. My freedom is in no way curtailed.22

God does not have a hook in our noses, nor do we have a hook in his. There aren’t any hooks, just as there aren’t any causal joints or nexuses.

But this makes divine grace irresistible, we object. What is this but an expression of Augustinian determinism? The objection, though, reveals that we are still thinking of Creator and creature in dualistic opposition.

It is true that God’s will cannot be resisted, but that is not because in the operations of our own will he has us cornered, or in any way overpowered. It is because God’s will is not the kind of thing that can be resisted, in that it does not operate by force. Indeed, where God’s action as creator is con­cerned, we do not even “follow” his will, in the true sense of the term. There is no point in our lives as decision makers where we are presented with a decision God has ordained for us and then are driven to accept it. Rather, we are presented with specific moral choices to make and to act upon. In making and carrying out those choices we decide and act for reasons—that is, for the sake of certain ends—and in so doing we select our own destiny every bit as much as God does. That we and our doings are known and ordained to be from eternity changes none of that, for the knowing and ordaining is nothing apart from God’s act of creating us as the beings we are.23

The only difference between his construal of human freedom and the typical libertarian construal, McCann tells us, is that his account presents our decisions and actions as grounded in God as primary cause, “whereas on the standard libertarian view their existence is grounded in nothing whatever.”24 The divine Creator not only respects our freedom; he is its ground and source. “It is true that our destinies are written,” he remarks; “but the handwriting is ours.”25

Yet we remain uneasy and unpersuaded. Another objection comes to mind: if God creates me willing and acting, then that would seem to imply that my agential purposes are subordinated to God’s purposes, thus destroying my autonomy. We may think we are acting in accordance with our own reasons and motives, but in reality we are being constrained by God to advance his own covert agenda. Our belief in free agency is illusory. We are mere dupes and puppets, no more free than the androids in Westworld who have no idea that an outside world exists or that they were made for the sole purpose of fulfilling the desires of the guests. McCann concedes the possibility of subordination but denies the negative consequences:

Subordination occurs only when yours or my ends are selected only because they are congruent with the other, so that if they did not suit, one or the other would have to give way. And we may grant that since God wills our decisions for the good he sees accomplished in and through them, it is possible that our ends are subordinate to his in this way. But it does not follow that they are. That conclusion would be in order only if we could be sure that God’s purposes finally conflict with our good as morally responsible agents—so that they can be achieved only at the expense of our exercising our wills in just those ways that yield for us a robust and consistent moral character, uniquely appropriate to each individual. And there is no reason whatever to think such a thing is the case. On the contrary: it may well be that as creator God has no more paramount objective than that we should exercise full autonomy in forming and executing our intentions, and come to display precisely the moral character to which they give rise. Or, if he does have higher objectives it may be that they cannot be achieved except through this expedient. Indeed, it is not implausible to think that nothing less than this is in keeping with the complete and loving involvement with each creature’s destiny that is so often claimed by believers to characterize divine providence.26

I keep pondering upon this objection. It seems to me that McCann might have given a stronger response. If God’s willing  to my action not as nomic cause to effect, but as will to content” (p. 155), then my reasons for my action are part of that content. Is not the possi­bil­ity of inappropriate subordination thereby excluded, given that God wills the reasons that lead to my decisions? Or am I thinking about this in the wrong way? In any case, I believe that McCann’s position should be corrected by the assertion of humanity’s teleological orientation to the Good: our Creator wills for us the very good that we ultimately will for ourselves. It is precisely this truth we do not believe, and because we do not believe, we fear his sovereignty and construct our fortresses of personal autonomy. Here is our sin and the root of sin. If we had faith, we would not fear God’s control of history nor resent our onto­log­ical dependence as creatures and so would not worry ourselves about the impossible possi­bil­ity of God sacrificing us on the altar of providence. One way or another, the divine Novelist who is absolute Love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, will bring the cosmic narrative to glorious consummation in his Kingdom.27

(28 December 2016, 2 January 2017; rev.)

Footnotes

[1] Hugh J. McCann, Creation and the Sovereignty of God (2012), p. 107; emphasis mine. McKann cites Katherin Rogers as an inspiration for his reflections on God as novelist:  “How a Perfect Being Creates: Anselm’s Theistic Idealism,” The Anselmian Approach to God and Creation (1997), pp. 223-261.

[2] Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker (1941), p. 54.

[3] McCann, p. 108; emphasis mine.

[4] James F. Ross, “Creation II,” in The Existence and Nature of God (1984), p. 128.

[5] Austin Farrer coined, or at least popularized, the term “causal joint” in his metaphysical writings. See Jeffrey A. Vogel, “A Self-effacing Gardener.”

[6] McCann, pp. 44-45.

[7] Ibid., p. 103.

[8] Ibid., p. 43.

[9] Ibid., p. 103.

[10] Ibid., p. 106.

[11] Hugh J. McCann, “Divine Sovereignty and the Freedom of the Will,” Faith and Philosophy, 12 (October 1994): 592.

[12] McCann, Creation, p. 104.

[13] Ibid., p. 105.

[14] Hugh J. McCann, “Divine Sovereignty,” p. 594.

[15] McCann, Creation, p. 106.

[16] McCann, “Divine Sovereignty,” p. 595; emphasis mine.

[17] Hugh J. McCann, “Divine Providence,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy; emphasis mine.

[18] McCann, “Divine Sovereignty,” p. 595; emphasis mine.

[19] McCann, Creation, p. 105.

[20] McCann, “Divine Sovereignty,” pp. 595-596.

[21] Ibid., p. 596.

[22] Hugh J. McCann, “Sovereignty and Freedom,” Faith and Philosophy, 18 (January 2001): 114-115.

[23] McCann, Creation, p. 109.

[24] Ibid., p. 109.

[25] Ibid., p. 111.

[26] Ibid., p. 110.

[27] See David Bentley Hart, That All Shall Be Saved (2019), meditation #4:

For those who worry that this all amounts to a kind of metaphysical determinism of the will, I may not be able to provide perfect comfort. Of course it is a kind of determinism, but only at the transcendental level, and only because rational volition must be determinate to be anything at all. Rational will is by nature the capacity for intentional action, and so must exist as a clear relation between (in Aristotelian terms) the “origin of motion” within it and the “end” that prompts that motion—between, that is, its efficient and final causes. Freedom is a relation to reality, which means liberty from delusion. This divine determinism toward the transcendent Good, then, is precisely what freedom is for a rational nature. Even God could not create a rational being not oriented toward the Good, any more than he could create a reality in which 2 + 2 = 5. (pp. 178-179)

Also see my article “The Necessary Choosing of the Good.”

(Go to “Breaking the Cords of Fate”)

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28 Responses to The World is a Novel in the Mind of God

  1. Herb Garfield says:

    Within such hellenisation, if I may, pertaining to free will vs. determinism, I might suggest innovation or creativity although the idea of this may prove difficult to carry out or sustain, I’m sure it has been tried.

    I can endeavor to make further comments upon rereading when I have more time and concentration accessible

    On Tue, Oct 19, 2021 at 12:12 PM Eclectic Orthodoxy wrote:

    > Fr Aidan Kimel posted: ” Can God determine our actions? One need not think > more than a second or two. Of course he can, we answer. If CIA brainwashers > and television advertising can cause us to act in specific ways, then the > Creator of the universe certainly can. Let’s rephra” >

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  2. Stuart Kenny says:

    Here are two points:

    We are ideas in the Mind of God. That is our fundamental being. We can’t be “sinful and separated from God” because ideas can’t be separated from the Mind that made them. God’s ideas can’t be destroyed.

    The one who writes the novel creates the underlying mythology which states the rules of what characters can do. In the mythology of God’s novel, there is no Hell. He simply didn’t create a realm of eternal conscious torment. He gives us free will within the boundaries of His mythology–an infinite set of choices with consequences and possibly punishments. But there is nothing in God’s mythology, the Kingdom He has created, which allows characters to suffer eternally.

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    • David says:

      So infernalism is just bad fan fiction? 🙂

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      • brian says:

        Pardon for stepping on a nice witticism, but it’s likely true and can further be extended to the entire fallen universe. Moderns tend to separate fact and fiction. They also reduce truth to fact, often circumscribing nature to the limits of experimental science. Reality is obviously larger than that, though we think our existential particularity merely transient and death doomed. We think our fictions are subjective fantasies, some of which become culturally appropriated for surface meaning built over a nihilist abyss. Maybe, however, the imaginal realm is rooted in a mysterious plenitude obscured by misappropriation and distortion. Spiritual battle then becomes the struggle between a divine poetics and demonic shadow fictions that spawn historical sins.

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  3. Counter-Rebel says:

    “More and more I have this intuition that the world is like a literary construction of some sort. [“Haven’t you heard it’s a battle of words.” -Pink Floyd, “Us and Them”, featured in The Dark Side of Oz] This is much more like a novel than it is like the world of physics and entropy and equilibrium that we’re cheerfully assured we should believe it is. Because what we feel in our own lives, I think, is the invisible hand of an author moving us to this affair, this decision to move, this career choice, this drug trip, so forth and so on. It is a very authored feeling to reality.” -Terence McKenna

    Obviously as a Christian universalist I don’t agree with all he said, but the above is terrific.

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  4. Zach Manis says:

    Great post. Hugh’s view of creation and his application to the problem of divine providence and human freedom is both subtle and astonishingly brilliant, and I think you’ve done an excellent job summarizing and explaining it in this post.

    In my opinion, this is the view of providence that every universalist should hold. It’s the perfect way to shore up the simplest and best argument for universalism: (1) God is both perfectly sovereign and perfectly loving; (2) If God is perfectly sovereign, He can achieve whatever He wills; (3) If God is perfectly loving, He wills that all would be saved; (4) Therefore all will be saved. The weak link is premise (2), and the principal concern is that it leaves no room for human freedom. McCann demonstrates the best way — perhaps the *only* way — to reconcile a truly *maximal* form of divine providence with a *libertarian* version of creaturely free will.

    The only reason I don’t accept Hugh’s view of providence is that I’m not a universalist. And for that matter, neither was Hugh. But the combination of his view of providence with a rejection of universalism is deeply problematic, as I’ve argued elsewhere (_Sinners in the Presence of a Loving God_, pp. 134-142).

    Hugh’s view is a gift that only universalists should accept. But if you’re a universalist, there is no better way to answer the free will objection than the one that Hugh is offering.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      As it stands, I’m unsure whether McCann’s view of diviine creation and providence is a gift that universalists should embrace. That is why I tendered the suggestion that it needs to be corrected to include a strong affirmation of humanity’s orientation to the Good, i.e., a natural desire for God. Without this affirmation all we end up with is what we have–a history filled with evil and horrific suffering for which God is quite directly responsible.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Zach, do you understand McCann’s view of divine creation and providence as being deterministic and therefore as disallowing human freedom (as suggested by your criticism of premise #2)? It seems to me that McCann has gone out of his way to creatively reconcile creatio ex nihilo with human freedom, avoiding both libertarian deism and compatibilist determinism.

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      • Zach Manis says:

        No, McCann’s view is not deterministic — certainly not in the usual sense of that term. And I wasn’t offering a criticism of premise #2 in my post. Rather, I was pointing out that McCann offers an elegant way to defend premise #2. His argument aims to demonstrate that maximal sovereignty and human freedom are compatible. If the argument is successful, it removes the major barrier to accepting premise #2. When I called premise #2 “the weak link,” I just meant that it’s the part of the basic argument for universalism most likely to be disputed by libertarians (like myself).

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        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          Okay, good. Now let me ask you this, Zach: While I think I see how McCann reconciles theism and human freedom, I do not yet see how it provides for God’s providential guidance and redemption of history. Is this a mere faith assertion on McCann’s part?

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          • Zach Manis says:

            There’s no question of how to account for divine providence on McCann’s account: God is in control of absolutely everything that happens in the world, just as much as an author is in control of everything that happens in their novel. (And even more so: sometimes authors might not fully understand what they’ve done in writing something in a certain way, but God understands perfectly His act of creation and the content of what He creates.) The question is whether divine providence is *benevolent*, and whether it includes human redemption. McCann’s view is that it is, and it does, and these are convictions grounded in his Catholic faith, not mere logical entailments of his theory of divine action. But what you’re getting at, I take is, is that it’s not at all clear HOW divine providence can be perfectly benevolent given the magnitude and variety of evils in the world.

            The short version of McCann’s answer, I take it, is that evil is often a logically necessary component in the realization of great goods, and God desires to include these goods in creation. But as I read him, McCann goes further: he suggests that the worse the evil, the greater the good of its defeat. (Aside to those listening in: Here I’m using “defeat” in its technical philosophical sense. Readers who are not familiar with this concept are encouraged to read Roderick Chisholm’s seminal article on the subject, “The Defeat of Good and Evil.”)

            If the aforementioned principle (“The worse the evil, the greater the good of its defeat”) is true, then it certainly helps to explain why God includes some terrible evils in creation, including those involving human free will, even though it was fully within His power to leave these out. The most difficult question for McCann’s view, I think, is whether this principle, or any other such principle that’s consistent with his view of divine sovereignty, can accommodate a traditional doctrine of hell without finally compromising divine goodness and love. I’ve argued that it cannot, and I referenced the passage in which I make this argument (SPLG 134-142) in my first post.

            Hope this helps.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. Zach Manis says:

    My previous endorsements notwithstanding, I do have a few very small quibbles with the post. First is this line:

    “McCann understands himself as a classical theist, but I wonder if his approach might be more accurately described as an idealist form of panentheism or perhaps theistic idealism.”

    Perhaps it could be described as an unusual form of theistic idealism, but not panentheism. Recall one of the lines that you quoted from McCann in your post: “The world has its existence in God, but God is in no way composed or constituted by the world.” If God is *in no way* composed or constituted by the world (even partially), then panentheism is false.

    Second quibble is with this statement:

    “McCann does not discuss historical elaborations of the command and causation model (though he does mention the Neo-Thomist Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange as a possible representative). Whatever their differences, they share one feature in common—they deny libertarian freedom.”

    I don’t think it’s right to say that Hugh denies libertarian freedom. His view is best understood as *libertarian freedom without agent causation.* Note that in the quote from Hugh that follows the above passage, he’s critiquing “command and causation models.” That’s just agent causation applied to divine action. Hugh rejects causal determinism and he endorses the Principle of Alternate Possibilities. That’s enough to make him a libertarian by most standards. And Hugh certainly considered himself to be a libertarian, as the long quote towards the end of your post makes clear. (See also “Divine Sovereignty and the Freedom of the Will” in _Faith and Philosophy_ 12:4, 1995.)

    Third quibble is with this:

    “God is too close to us to damage our interior freedom. But given that God creates the volitionary event, this necessarily means that I cannot decide other than what God eternally decides (sin excepted).”

    You go on to explain the senses in which we can and cannot do otherwise. But the attempt to bracket off sinful actions as an exception to the principle is mistaken, I think. God “writes a story” (so to speak) whose plot includes characters performing lots of sinful actions. And there are some villains in the story. God is fully responsible for all this, and McCann doesn’t want to claim otherwise. What he argues is that while God is ultimately *responsible* for the existence of sin in the world, He’s not *blameworthy* for the existence of sin in the world.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Welcome back, Zach, and many thanks for the quibbles. If I may, I’d like to quibble with your quibbles

      First, regarding my suggestion that McCann’s view might be understood as a form of panentheism, it all depends on how one defines the term. Nowadays in theology “panentheism” is often used to describe any theology that wants to emphasize creation in God. Even Kallistos Ware goes so far as to describe Orthodox theology as panentheistic. So I agree with your quibble, if one restricts the meaning of “panentheism” to denote process-type theologies. But here I am using the more expansive definition. Perhaps I should have avoided the term though.

      Second, you write “I don’t think it’s right to say that Hugh denies libertarian freedom.” I never stated that he denies libertarian freedom. I think I’m clear on that. The sentence you cite is referring to command and causation models of determinism. which McCann explicitly rejects. Reread that paragraph.

      Third, regarding sin and evil in God’s novel, I agree (I think) with your reading of McCann and will be discussing it in a future article. I added the parenthetical “sin excepted” mainly to keep readers focused on the positive features of his presentation. But now that you have raised this point, I will say that I find his treatment of evil and God unsatisfactory. If I recall rightly, he seems to collapse God’s permission of evil into God’s ordination of evil. What is unclear to me is whether this is an essential and necessary feature or implication of his understanding of divine providence. I’m hoping that it is not a necessary implication, as it directly denies the catholic assertion of the divine goodness.

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  6. Tom says:

    It’ll come as no surprise that I’m uncomfortable with core aspects of McCann’s ‘novel’ idea. I think it evacuates the claim that we’re free to do otherwise of meaning. Since God’s choice to create is eternal and I’m not, the essential problem arises. I appreciate no one wants to posit a ‘competition’ between what God eternally authors (sticking with the novel idea) and what I contingently/historically author, but I don’t see that McCann resolves the inherent problem. He says God authors the story “in such a way” that my authoring retains its own (libertarian) integrity. But does his ‘novel’ idea really demonstrate that ‘way’?

    Let’s try a different kind of novel. How about this…

    Back in the 80s and 90s Edward Packard created the ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ story books for children. They were written in the 2nd person so that the reader assumed the role of the protagonist. A child could adopt various roles (driver, doctor, hiker, traveler, etc), and each few pages she had options to resolve that determined the main character’s (the child) actions and shaped where she ‘ended’ up.

    This is an analogy that better explains how the kind of creaturely agency McCann wants to defend could be also embraced within God’s creative agency. It can recognize what is, let’s say, the providential oversight of the writer/publisher, since the options and consequences are all ‘given’, and it’s within the scope of what is ‘given’ that reader exercises her relevant agency.

    Pardon the crudity of how I say it, but t’s not that God ‘knows’ the future as much as God ‘over-knows’ it. He creates the ‘whole’, yes, but that whole is the ‘whole scope’ of given possibilities. But I’d want to say God ‘gives’ creatures a kind of agency ‘the operation of which’ is not always equally ‘given’ in the same sense God gives the capacity itself. You need this latter sense of say-so if we’re to be co-authors with God, as it were, even though (granted) we only author WITHIN the scope of options God himself authors.

    There is ‘competition’ in the near-term/historical sense, for I may make choices God does not wish me to make, choices that unfold chapters to the story God does not wish me to author. But even these choices are possibilities God authors by creating at all. But no possibility includes an ‘ending’ which is other than my final loving union with God. So transcendental orientation and final causation are there, and they’re always operative, giving the start and the scope of options none of which finally escapes God as ‘end’. But this orientation itself is a branching tree of possibilities, not a single line that stretches from beginning to end, even if it finally narrows and converges in God.

    So that’s where I am. If this means God’s ‘knowledge’ of the world’s ‘actualities’ is as co-authored as the actual story is, that what God knows about the ‘actual’ world is shaped/determined by the actual choices I make, I’m fine with that. So long as God alone decides that these are the terms, my having that creaturely share which God himself gives me to decide what it is about the actual world he knows, that is his own self-knowledge, in the sense that he knows (as author) the world’s vast possibilities.

    When a child reads (chooses her way through) a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book, you really do have two authors (publisher and child reader), and in an important sense the publisher is author of the child’s story – but NOT in the same sense the child authors her own pathway through the possibilities. The publisher’s mode of authorship and the child’s authorship are not the same kind of authoring, since the publisher authors only ‘that’ the child must choose and ‘what’ possibilities are, and not (i.e., not in the same sense) ‘which choice’ the child makes. So I’ll disagree with that view which says when the child makes a choice, ‘that’ specific choice, and only that choice, was eternally known to God as ‘the’ single pathway creation takes.

    I’m a heretic. Light me up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • brian says:

      Well, I don’t know that too many are espousing that degree of constraint, Tom. And I am not personally signing off on McCann’s views per se. Seems to me a Thomist view of secondary causality remains open to the kind of indeterminacy you want to affirm. But whether Aquinas likes it or not, I would certainly affirm such. It’s well-known that human authors of fiction are often surprised by their creations and characters routinely throw monkey wrenches in the plot assigned to them. Granting the immense distinctions between human authorship and divine creation, there might still be some analogical cogency. I’d take this further into speculative audacity: while classical theism must and should defend the aseity of divine plenitude and the fullness of God’s knowledge, I think, along with Balthasar, that one needs to allow within that knowledge for what can only appear aporetic if not outright contradiction. Balthasar speaks of event within the perichoretic dance of Triune life. The Holy Spirit plumbs the depths, the Persons of the Trinity are delighted with joyful discovery. It isn’t terribly convincing to think of God as aloof from his own reality, gifting an experience of novelty and adventure to limited creatures all the while divinity must stand “at the end” in a manner where “everything is accomplished fact” and there are no surprises. Perhaps the answer is Chesterton’s. The ancient of days is the eternal child, endlessly infatuated with a daisy. “Do it again,” he cries.

      Yet the full scope of the person appears to encompass more than that. The gospel, I say, transcends our ordinary genre categories. It comprehends, but is not limited to the mode of epic, lyric, comic, or tragic, though give the laurel to comic ultimacy. What kind of human agency operates in Theo-Drama? Only Christology can properly elucidate the scope and breadth of human action — and I think when that is thought out expansively, it includes the entirety of the cosmos and that the being of creatures is such that they are infinitely gifted with eschatological novelty because caught up into the fruition of theosis. This actually requires rather than subverts the emergence of further, infinite novelty. The unique eidos of the unique creature is never the determination of a dead, mechanical clockwork. I don’t think that’s even true of minerals, though it appears that way to us in the fallen world. In short, the novel that God founds is precisely the one that opens up the kind of dynamic freedom you prize.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. mercifullayman says:

    It is fascinating to me that we battle back and forth for such agency and yet then in the moments of conviction and consequence seemingly want out of the very agency that allowed us to make those decisions in the first place. There is a sense of trying to maintain the Garden just the “right way” in all of the argumentations, no matter how you slice it. We, as men and women, still look at the Tree of Life and say “My will be done” instead of “Thy will be done” and then we say “now I’m going to explain to you why it’s important for me to have that choice.” The whole point is that His will is for us to be free. We don’t have to fight back and explain why we have any say in an ontological fact about humanity.

    I’m currently reading through Origen’s Commentary on Romans Books 6-10, and it’s an interesting excursus on the will. So often we try and squeeze even the great Doctor into a box about how the good is the only way to be free, but he even stresses the freedom we have to be “free of sin” or “free of righteousness.” He further states exactly why this is the case….so that no person can blame anything else on the choices of their lives. In either case, we are free to be, regardless of the rationality or irrationality of our actions. He’s even directly arguing against what will become the very Augustinian notions of determinism and predestination before they arise, centuries later. Freedom is rooted into the fabric of being itself. People always think I’m crazy for bringing up Berdyaev in these same conversations but freedom is an ontic fact and he may be one of the best at introducing that into the conversation. Freedom, like the other Transcendentals that point us towards the divine life, is a necessary piece of the whole. In the act of becoming, which is humanity’s reach toward the divine, it has to be freely willed. It is this spirit that allows us to come to be, and in the end, it is the same motivating factor that allow us to honestly face ourselves in the end…to see what remains when all is tested. The bare existence of choice. As some in the past have argued, a thing must be free to be before it can even be. That notion sits uneasily for some. Yet, it seems to be an apparent truth that we skip over or avoid.

    There can be no “necessity” in freedom. It is that very notion that the divine wars against around us and through us, but that doesn’t mean that every x or y has the right to be free of consequence in just the same way or is even always freely chosen. Any choice that would be free of righteousness, results in enslaving to sin. And, for that matter, that enslavement can sure feel like necessity when it is all you choose to know. Nature, chained because of the fall, works similarly. Yet, the divine life urges us onward…it calls out against the necessity of a thousand situations and says we can change, we can move. Grace allows for that door to be opened, yet, we too must meet it. The contradiction of freedom/necessity are really just another facet of being that in the end will be fully overcome, and is overcome bit by bit by our actions in the here and now. Hence, why even for Origen, we must come to know the knowledge of our actions. We live, and we learn, and by growing and coming to the truth of what calls to us, deep in the fabric of our existence and cautions us to avoid the ills of ourselves and society, it is us that determine those paths, and with His grace, found only in the one who has overcome all the paradoxes and contradictions of existence, can we do the same.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. John H says:

    Zach,

    Would you elaborate on your comment that McCann claims that God is responsible for sinful actions but not blameworthy for such ? If God co-creates all free human choices, including sinful ones, and God could have done otherwise, than how can He not be blamed for generating the monstrous wrongs that have occurred throughout human history?

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    • Zach Manis says:

      John: The short answer is that, on McCann’s view (as I understand it), God includes those monstrous wrongs within creation because doing so is necessary to achieve some great good. The motivations that creatures have for sinning are thus fundamentally different from the motives God has for including them within creation.

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  9. Myshkin says:

    We will with every act inexorably choose the good as we actually perceive it, even when our perception of the good is corrupted by sin. We may be free, but we were created for the Good and we will do that which we were created to do.

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  10. Rob says:

    If an author was to write a novel with the understanding that the characters in it were more than figments of his imagination – that is, that they were real people who think, breathe, feel – then he would have to be quite monstrous to create any villains. Or, indeed, any characters with flaws at all. It would seem morally obligatory that he only permit his imagination to create perfect creatures.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s not a perfect analogy, nothing ever is. As a novelist myself, I feel this better than anyone. So remember that for the rest of my reply!

      It’s not as if I feel as if, as the author, I really choose or decide who my characters are. I often have them surprise me with facets of their thinking or existence that I didn’t even guess were possible!

      I think the analogy has a point even here – and also that it fails even here. But as a novelist, the more real my characters are, the more apt they are to do things I never expected, never wanted, never dreamed. God is all-knowing and never surprised (though who really knows what this means? I don’t), yet I’d think given how independent-minded my own characters, who don’t have any real existence however much it sometimes seems they do, can get, think of what it would be like if they really were real persons?

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  11. As a novelist, I applaud this. Also, as a novelist who is rather inclined towards fantasy, poetry, and myth, I caution against it being accepted in the same way that one accepts a logical argument as valid or invalid or a preposition as true or false.

    I remember one time when I was with a Bible Study group for a night, and I made a similar comment about how one way to think of God’s interactions with His creation and destiny would be how as an author I don’t ever force my characters to be other than they are, yet I often know the end that’s being reached towards, and I bring things together toward that – simply by writing them as they are. Their choices are theirs, in a way quite independent of me, sometimes quite independent of what I would like from them (though usually I’m just thinking about them, what THEY are, what THEY do), yet also not independent from me at all. I can’t remember what I said exactly – it was years and years ago – but this article strongly reminds me of it.

    I suppose I could violate my characters, but if I did that, I would very soon not have any story to write at all. It would fall apart under my hands, and I’d have to go back to the last place I wrote my characters as themselves, and start over there, because that, from the perspective of the fictional world, is the reality. It’s very interesting being a novelist! It gives one a lot of insights which, alas, I find it usually very hard to share outside of my novels, so pardon the rambling!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. myshkin says:

    thinking about it for another 24 hours.
    in saying yes to our existence He has said yes to our eternal destiny for our end is manifested by the fact that we are. What God sows He reaps. the line that connects these two can be conceived of as the narrow path we traverse with Our Lord and His Cross daily.
    Pharaoh was created by God for union; he had no choice in the matter, he had to pursue the good just as a dog must be a dog and cannot be cat. a human must be a human. a human is a creature made to be loved and love the One Who Is, the One for Whom we were all made.
    The Scripture says God hardened Pharaoh’s heart; this is true, but not because God took out His special heart hardening tool; no no no, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart when He said yes to his existence. at that instant Pharaoh’s heart was hardened in love. Through the lens of Augustine: our hearts are restless and every single act is the pursuit of what we perceive to be the best peace on offer at the instant of decision. through the lens of DBH: to know the good is to desire it insatiably, not to desire merely reveals the degree to which we do not know the Good.
    Pharaoh was always going to choose what he did because, in communion with the One Who is, as evidenced by the fact that he exists instant to instant, he would always and forever choose the good, but here the weight of our exile becomes apparent. Creatures whose vision is blinded by sin, creatures who in many respects are composites of all the history that has ever been up to that instant, creatures who can only intuit through a glass darkly, what we actually know to be the good and what is the Good are obviously often at odds, and here we can see the outlines of what we will be held accountable for; have we like St Peter gotten out of the damn boat and sunk like saints in love pursuing the Good, or do we sanctimoniously hang out in the boat comfortable squirreling away the talents below deck where they won’t be risked.
    Judas was choosing the good, right up until his deadly leap, right up to the point that hell was harrowed and he looked into the face of His Beloved and finally KNEW the Good and entered into the Kingdom. He hungered forever no more in the instant that he beheld and knew himself to be beheld by the Beloved. We can pretend Judas had a choice; we can pretend that when Jesus held out His hand to this son of perdition this one who wished he’d never been born we can pretend that Judas had a choice, but He didn’t, for in the palm of the Crucified One, Judas saw for the first time that Our Lord was the fulfillment to the only desire he’d ever had. He never had a choice.

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  13. voteforgreg says:

    It would seem self evident then, that along with humanity and her material world, salvation in Christ comes also for the hobbits in their Shire and the spiders in Mirkwood. For all the rational beings in middle earth who’s creation is nested in the mind of the great demiurge Tolkien- who in turn is nested in the mind of the triune god. Stories and mind and being all the way down.

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  14. John H says:

    Zach,

    Following up on your comment of 22 October, McCann does not support a traditional account of Hell as eternal conscious torment. In Creation and the Sovereignty of God, he endorses the view that the damned cease to exist, which makes him an annihilationist like Paul Griffiths. But that does not really solve the problem that you referenced in the post, since God’s eternal annihilation of fallible free creatures like ourselves is surely almost as morally odious as consignment to an eternal torture chamber.

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    • Zach Manis says:

      Hi John,
      You’re right; McCann ends up endorsing an annihilationist view of hell rather than an eternal torment view in Creation and the Sovereignty of God. In my first post, I said the combination of his view with a rejection of universalism is problematic. In my follow up post, I said the most difficult question for McCann’s view is whether the principle that drives his solution to the problem of evil can *accommodate* a traditional doctrine of hell without finally compromising divine goodness and love. That was probably confusing. (It’s really more a statement about why someone like myself who accepts a traditional view of hell shouldn’t accept McCann’s view of providence.) I should have stuck with the language of my first post to avoid confusion. Regardless, I agree with you that it doesn’t solve the main problems for McCann’s view to retreat from traditionalism to annihilationism. In some ways, it actually makes things worse, as I argue in the closing pages of the passage that I referenced from Sinners in the Presence of a Loving God.
      Zach

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      • John H says:

        Thanks Zach,

        But wouldn’t the view that is espoused in Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God also compromise Divine Goodness? I am indebted to David Bentley Hart’s That All Shall be Saved for the following points which I believe do illustrate the problems with your position.

        Firstly, since God has perfect omniscience, He knows that if he creates beings with libertarian freedom, some of them will surely rebel against Him and end up experiencing His love as torment. Yet, despite this knowledge, God creates and thereby freely assumes the consequences of the significant-almost certain, really-risk that many will be lost. How can such a God be described as Loving or Good? Certainly he is not the Good as such. Perhaps it would have been more accurate to have titled your monograph, Sinners in the Hands of a Reckless God?

        Secondly, as Hart points out in That All Shall be Saved, the modern notion of libertarian freedom was unknown to the Fathers of Classical Christianity. Freedom is not simply the ability to do otherwise, as libertarians proclaim, but rather the will’s ability to choose the good as apprehended rationally by one’s intellect. Indeed, Augustine’s view was that the saints in heaven, who no longer had the ability to sin, were the freest beings of all. So I must respectfully decline your(and McCann’s) invitation to hold libertarian freedom in such high esteem so to speak. There is also the consideration that under a standard of pure libertarian freedom, the emotionally disturbed may very well be the most free, since they frequently choose things that no rational person would even consider. So I will stick with the classical notion of freedom.

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