Douglas Wilson’s mind is a blender. In it, he pours whit and brilliance, and when it is done bouncing around, he pours it out onto a computer for all the world to enjoy. His writings are a place where one can turn to be both entertained as well as informed.
He recently wrote a couple blogs responding to some comments from a book written by an open-theist pastor, Greg Boyd.
Greg Boyd takes the route well traveled when trying to attack the God of Scripture, and although a theist by definition, he carpools with the atheists.
Open theists reject the sovereignty, and specific to this blog as well, they also reject His omniscience. And they reject this out of an overreaction to reformed theology, which is typically natural man’s knee jerk instinct: to run as far away from the doctrines of grace as he can get.
The blog is nothing short of brilliant, and I would suggest all my readers who have not read it, stop reading the Junior Varsity version and click on this link.
Since Doug’s occasional brashness and humor are unfortunately lost on some folks, I want to put into my own words his point in the hopes of bringing it a different crowd.
Boyd takes the usual route to criticize the idea that God has freely and unalterably ordained whatsoever comes to pass (Ephesians 1:11; Psalm 115:3; Job 42:1-2); the Problem of Evil and Suffering. This has commonly been referred to as the “Achille’s heel” for Christian apologetics. It is thought to be the greatest problem for Christians to harmonize.
I am fine to call the problem of evil and suffering Christian’s Achille’s heel provided we first agree it is a universal heel. Everyone has difficulty with this issue. What Wilson points out better than I currently am, is that this is a problem for everyone. Every brand of Christian, no matter their ingredients and packing tape, has to deal with this. However, every non-Christian theistic religion (where I place Open-theism) must deal with this as well. Even the Atheist, those who pretend there is no God at all still must deal with this. It is not only a problem for those who believe in a divine decree (as I do).
Certainly, it is a difficulty for the Calvinist to wrap his mind, as well as everyone else’s, around the idea of God foreordaining evil. It is difficult to make sense of it emotionally. But, rather than give all my attempted answers while in this hot seat, I want to explain how everyone occupies the chair; I am in much company.
While the Calvinist must explain why God foreordained evil and suffering, the Arminian must explain why God, who had the power at any moment to stop it, chose not to intervene.
Thus, anyone who believes God is, and that He knows the future, must essentially answer the same question. For the Arminian, God looked down the corridors of time, saw all this mess, and created it anyway. Then, once the mess was in front of Him, He refused to demonstrate His power by stopping it.
This is essentially why open-theism exists at all. They think they have solved the problem by denying that God knows the future. “See, God didn’t see the mess, and He was repentant and surprised once it unfolded in front of Him” he says with a smug smile.
As Wilson points out when Greg Boyd brings up Hitler, this is still a major issue for the open-theist position:
“The Calvinist says that God foreordained all that comes to pass, including Hitler. This is why Boyd thinks he gets to ask us this Tough Question. But if the problem is Hitler, then every Christian has to answer the question. The Arminian has to explain why God foreknew the Hitler business and created the world anyway. The open theist, men like Boyd, have to be asked something like ‘What did God know, and when did He know it?’ America came into the war against Hitler after Pearl Harbor. When did God come into the war? And after God came into the war, whenever that was, why didn’t He fight harder than He did? Why did it take years?”
Acts 17: 25; 28 teaches God Himself,
“[G]ives to all mankind life and breath and everything…‘In him we live and move and have our being.’”
So here is the problem: at what point did God know Hitler’s intentions, and then at that point, why did God not take away the life He freely gave? God gave Hitler breath, why did the open-theist god not, once realizing Hitler’s plans, take it out of his lungs?
This is why even my Arminian brothers (who are actually saved Christians) still must answer the question of evil like a Calvinist. The typical “free-will” response, where God is a gentleman who would never impose on free-will (unless your Abimelek) will not fly. God has to overturn no “free-will” decision to give someone a heart attack. No one is compelled to do anything when God takes breath out of their lungs and numbers their days. God did not seem to have a problem using the weather to destroy places like Egypt and Sodom. Where was the fire, brimstone, or plagues in Germany during WWII?
I am writing this blog on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Where were the lightning bolts twenty minutes before Japanese aircraft reached Hawaii? The same Jesus who calmed the storms ought to be able to make them, too.
The point is this: Open theists still must give an account for why their God does not stop evil, even though he can.
Not only does Open-theism not make this question any easier to answer, it actually exacerbates it. As Wilson points out:
“[Is] this is a theodicy? Boyd moves, in other words, from a worldview that promises that every wrong will be put right, every bone will be set, every tear will be dried, to a worldview where countless millions will have gotten caught in the machinery. For no reason. And why? Because God wanted to have a war with lots of pointless casualties. This is not facing up to the horrors—it is complicity in them.”
This is a hard problem…for everyone. One does not make their heel invincible by denying Divine foreknowledge or the divine decree. And one certainly does not make their heel invincible by denying God altogether, because once that is done, the problem of evil vanishes, and not in a good way.
The Universe did not care whether Hitler killed the Jews or fed the Jews; why should we? The fact that the obvious problem can no longer be a problem is a major problem for the Atheist.
To put it simply, here is how the the universal Achille’s heel manifests itself on paper for each category listed so far:
Calvinist: Why does God foreordain evil?
Arminian: Why does God not stop the evil He knew was going to happen?
Open-theist: Why does God not stop the evil he eventually knew was going to happen?
Atheist: What is the problem?
To provide a brief answer to the question debated for thousands of years, let me change the scenario. Imagine, instead of asking, “Why Hitler?” we asked, “Why Pilate?” Instead of asking why God never intervened when Hitler was killing all those innocent, image-bearing Jewish people, ask why God chose not to intervene when all those Romans and Jews were killing Jesus.
I ask sincerely to you, oh Christian: Are you thankful God did not stop the crucifixion of Jesus? The most horrific sin the world has ever seen, the most evil event in all of human history, are you glad God did not stop it?
Given your salvation is on the line, I am going to assume you said “yes.” Thus, let me ask a follow up: Why are you thankful God did not stop the worst evil that has ever been known? Why not challenge His goodness then?
Is it because there was a divine purpose in it? Is it because it accomplished something? Is it because there was meaning to that act? Is it because that act of evil served to glorify God in the display of His wrath and mercy? Is it because God used it to bring about good? Is it because you can see how it was all part of a glorious plan to bring God glory and honor?
Well, in regards to all other circumstances you have questions about, the above are my same answers to those as well.