Eternal Frustration

Here are some recent thoughts that I have had about the topic of eternal generation. I was dialoguing with a Latin trinitarian. He stated that the Father possesses a property that causes him to emanate the Son.  So, naturally, I asked if the Son possesses that same property then it seems like he should emanate a son aswell.  This was his thoughts about that problem:

Every property of the divine essence is firstly a hypostatic property of the Father; but each property which is communicated is instantiated distinctly by the distinct hypostases.

Ergo, when you say “is THIS life-givingness, etc.” — it sounds as though you are presuming that each of the hypostases instantiates essential properties in exactly the same way. If you are not saying that, please clarify.

Again, it’s both. They possess generically the same essence, therefore generically the Same in Being; but the essential being of each Person is inextricable from the being of each other Person, therefore also numerically One in Being; *but not in some formless way with no Order of Subsistence*.

The problem with that answer is that it leaves the possibility that the Son can generate another person. The Trinity thus becomes contingently true. Jimmy Stephens successfully argued this in my mind:

If the Son avoids necessitating a Second Son because He instantiates the Father’s life differently than the Father, it still follows that the Second Son is made possible by the Son’s instantiation of the Father’s life.

P1. If the Son involuntarily emerges from the Father’s life, then the Father’s life entails the possibility of a Son. (actual -> possible)
P2. If the Son possesses the Father’s life, then the Father’s life possessed by the Son entails the possibility of a Second Son (quadrinity). (communication of numerically one property)
P3. If the Son involuntarily emerges from the Father’s life, then the Father’s life possessed by the Son entails the possibility of a Second Son. (From P1 & P2)
P4. If the Father’s life possessed by the Son entails the possibility of a Second Son, then God is possibly a non-Trinity.
P5. If God is possibly a non-Trinity, Christianity is false.
P6. If the Son involuntarily emerges from the Father’s life, then Christianity is false.
P7. If EG (version “nuh uh, that’s not EG”), then Christianity is false.

Another slight pass at an answer was that the Holy Spirit fulfills that for the Son. The Son and the Father are what the Holy Spirit proceed from. It is debatable whether generation is meant to be the same as spiration but it leaves the problem the dilemma still applies to the Holy Spirit. He has both the eternal life of the Father and therefore the ability to generate or spirate another person. It also seems like the doctrine of God being pure act also implies that this infinite regress does imply an infinite amount of persons for the Godhead.

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Michael Jones on Idealism

Michael Jones recently was interviewed by Braxton Hunter and Johnathan Prichett. It was an interview styled like MSNBC interviewing Obama. You have to wonder if Hunter and Prichett even have arms with the softballs they threw for Jones. 

They start off by attacking fundamentalist anti-intellectualism. While that has its merits, it is quite evident that these people are culpable of what is being charged with them. Their taking philosophical speculations and straining Christianity through that. They try to rebut that by stating that Christianity requires philosophical assumptions. That our exegetical method has philosophical assumptions. But that is superficial because we distinguish between good and bad philosophical assumptions. I use to dialogue with a man that believed he didn’t need the Bible because he had the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit that was the basis of all his theological convictions. I’m sure that they wouldn’t grant Richard Carriers philosophical assumptions just because we all have some.

Now, since this is an SB Traditionalist show, they had to mention the Calvinism issue. They asked him how determinism doesn’t follow if the word is merely the product of divine thinking? He said “Molinism”. They instantly accepted that without question because they obviously haven’t thought about it very hard. What is Molinism? It is obviously a theory about how to reconcile God’s sovereignty and human freedom. But how does it try to do so? Well, it does it by positing a third logical moment in God’s knowledge where he chooses from the feasible worlds the one world where he achieves his ends. This moment of knowledge is between God’s natural and free knowledge:

In thinking about God’s knowledge theologically it was customary for many years, until and including the Reformation, to distinguish between God’s necessary knowledge and His free knowledge. The distinction is obvious and natural. God’s necessary knowledge includes several kinds of truths. It is the knowledge of matters such as the truths of mathematics (for example, 2+2=4). It is also the knowledge of truths such as the whole is greater than the part and no circle can be a square. God’s necessary knowledge also includes His knowledge of all possibilities, such as possible people, the possible lives they could lead, and the whole range of possible worlds. These are known to God immediately and intuitively.

God’s free knowledge, on the other hand, is His knowledge of His decree (of that which, in His wisdom, God freely and unchangeably ordained to come to pass). That which God decrees is obviously a subset of all the possibilities that are known to Him. His decree also has its source solely in His mind and will. …

What is middle knowledge? At the center of this recent interest has been God’s knowledge of possibilities involving human choice (the ‘counterfactuals of freedom’ as they have been called). Why this innovation? Its proponents are concerned to preserve what they consider to be two vital beliefs. The first is God’s providence and total foreknowledge. The second is the idea that human beings are ineradicably free in an indeterministic sense. When we speak of indeterministic freedom, we mean that any human being, in a given set of circumstances, has the power to choose A or to choose not-A. The problem is obvious. How can this be consistent with God’s universal providential rule and his purposes of redemption?

The Molinists’ way of attempting to keep all this together was to suggest that there existed, besides God’s natural knowledge and his free knowledge, a third kind of knowledge. They argued that God also has “middle knowledge” (between the other two). What this means can be briefly explained. Given a whole array of possible worlds (that God knows), given worlds in which men and women were free in the relevant indeterministic sense, God knows what they would freely choose in every possible circumstance. God has knowledge of all such possible outcomes. If placed in one set of circumstances, God knows what Jones would freely choose. If placed in another set of circumstances, God knows what Jones would freely choose. This is true for all possible people and all possible circumstances. God has this middle knowledge by inspection of all the possibilities that the free will of each person might choose.

In His power and wisdom, He chooses that possible world, that total combination of individuals and circumstances, whose expressions of free will best serve His purposes.

Notice the emphasis that this is between his natural and his free knowledge. The reason that is the case is that this knowledge is of contingent counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. That is because not every world is created by God and therefore it is thought that some are contingent. In an Idealist scheme, these worlds are all necessary because all possible worlds are equally real. So, in reality, no worlds are merely possible given theistic idealism. All worlds that are possible are actual given that view. So, all events are necessary just as divine thinking is necessary. Event timelines follow necessarily and not contingently. That is determinism. God thinks his thoughts, they don’t cause him to think.

The conversation moves to the issue of what motivates this metaphysical view of the world. Pritchet appeals to the notion that one cannot escape their own perspective.

Pritchet is forthright about the origins of this philosophy. It comes from subjectivism. On this idealism, it is conceded that one cannot get beyond one’s own mind in order to escape the egocentric snare. We are stuck in our own first-person perspectives. Notice, however, this is itself an attempt to get outside an individual perspective and describe the limitations of all others. The problem with this idealism is that in order to analyze universal conditions of knowledge, one cannot be limited by a non-universal perspective. (HT. Jimmy Stephens)

Further Suggestions:

Christianity and Idealism


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Libertarian Foreknowledge

Jimmy Stephens recently stated something that I have been arguing with J. C. Thibodaux. Here is a relevant part of the conversation:


In a discussion with a fellow believer, I brought up the fact that Jesus declared to Peter that He would deny Him as an example against the PAP. I said that because Jesus knew in advance what Peter would do, Peter couldn’t have done otherwise. They said that this doesn’t suggest that Peter couldn’t have done otherwise, but would not do otherwise. Would you say that God’s knowledge of what we will do means that we could not have done otherwise? Or can we still have done otherwise?

 Jimmy Stephens:

By itself, no. That is, God’s foreknowledge by itself without any analysis is insufficient to use this way. The problem is that libertarians and Calvinists have different views of foreknowledge. This turns into a grounding objection. On Calvinism, Jesus knows because of what the Father tells him, and the Father knows because God determines the matter. On libertarianism, God knows not because of His determination, but because God knows timelessly.

On the libertarian model, God’s knowledge of future events is either mysterious (e.g., Michael Brown), based on brute facts (e.g., Plantinga, Craig), or caused by created facts.


What does it mean for something to be caused by a created fact?

Jimmy Stephens:

I mean that it is in virtue of the creature’s choice that God knows what will happen, not vice versa.

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Thomism and Nicene Orthodoxy

Most Thomist are Catholics(and some confessional protestants) that try to affirm the Nicene Creed but that leaves a tension in their doctrines. On the one hand, they are committed to a radical form of simplicity. On the other hand, they maintain distinctions in the Trinity(the persons). How do Thomist reconcile these issues? They do so by appealing to the notion that the persons are subsistent relations. Whatever that is there still lies the question about what relation do these relations play to the essence. In an exchange with a Catholic these comments were made:

Thomasinos said:

I mean that the difference in relations have to do with the same absolutely simple essence.
So the distinction of persons is due not to a distinction inside the divine essence, but instead of that divine essence’s relation with itself.

Solitary bean said:

Wouldn’t that mean that the divine, simple essence engages in real relations? If so, wouldn’t relations be characteristic of complex things? I’d think any supposed relations would only be conceptual.
So God’s relations are intra to the divine essence not extrinsic, and these relations proceed logically but are differentiated conceptually? (Readinig ST I.28.I-II.)

The relation signified by the term “the same” is a logical relation only, if in regard to absolutely the same thing; because such a relation can exist only in a certain order observed by reason as regards the order of anything to itself, according to some two aspects thereof. The case is otherwise, however, when things are called the same, not numerically, but generically or specifically. Thus Boethius likens the divine relations to a relation of identity, not in every respect, but only as regards the fact that the substance is not diversified by these relations, as neither is it by relation of identity.

I think we’d need an explanation of how you can have a quasi-identity relation that doesn’t multiply the substance but does multiply the persons.

Necessitarian said:

There is confusion about what “essence” tells us in Thomasinos formulation. If the essence is just God’s nature qua God (viz. His perfections, His Godhead), then we might end up in vacuity. It depends on how we spell this out. Thomas could be saying that there are no real distinctions in the essence. If so, whence comes relations of this essence to itself? If the relations of the essence (to itself) just constitute (something of) the essence, then you have distinctions in the essence (the Father vs the Son). If the relations of the essence (to itself) are external, then you have complicit unitarianism, where the Trinity emanates or otherwise ontologically derives from an abstract divine-substance. Now, Thomas could simply mean that the Trinity is just part of God’s nature, like omnipotence and infinity, so that to talk about God’s perfections and leave out the Trinity is as incoherent as eschewing God’s aseity, omnipotence, or infinity. Fair enough – I think that’s true. But it’s completely beside the point of EG and Trinitarian relations.

Because that is just to say God is essentially Triune. Big deal.
Solitary beaner could be spelling out the same problem with different language but I’m having difficulty deciding whether that’s the case.


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First Principles

Recently, Jimmy Stephens wrote this in response to a video:

There are some good principles here, but many of the mistakes Rand made pop up in this video. There is too much here to cover for a mere youtube comment, but let’s consider logic and first principles. Take for example the recurring claim in this video that logic is “objective.” This is ambiguous. Although it is unpopular in the West to deny the objectivity of logical laws, the nature and content of those laws remains as controversial now as it was during the Classical Era. So then, what does it really mean to say logic is objective?

Is logic a sociological construct? Is it a conceptual framework or category of human psychology? Is it a natural law? Is it grounded in a Platonic form or timeless propositionality? Is it the wisdom of God? Is logic intuitionist or dialetheistic instead of classical? Is it fuzzy instead of binary? Is it normative or just descriptive? Without covering these more basic questions, it is unclear what “logic” really is, and so ambiguous to call it “objective.”

Consider also the naive foundationalism proffered to support the argument. Are there really first principles that do not need to be defended? If it is meant that people will just naturally agree with Shane’s view, then he is mistaken. Coherentists and foundherentists might accept some or all of his first principles without adopting foundationalism. Infinitists will reject his notion of first principles entirely. Foundationalists disagree not only on what makes a belief a “first principle,” including whether they should be defended, but on what our “first principles” include. Shane’s argument therefore is a lot less simple than he makes it out to be.

Consider his consistency principle (3). It is not obvious how Shane avoids special pleading when for some beliefs he deems them true without defense and then proceeds to defend other beliefs. If in principle one can just name some belief’s “first principles,” then one can simply call the negation of Shane’s position a “first principle” and call it a day. If Shane rejects these alternative “first principles,” he will have to provide us a reason for taking up his instead and will thereby undermine their nature as not needing a defense. So it appears Shane’s epistemology is not consistent with itself both in general and in the sense that Shane doesn’t follow (3), his own principle of consistency.**

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Is Agnosticism Possible?

Jimmy Stephens shares his thoughts on the issue of whether someone can be an agnostic:

The agnostic is committed to the position that he does not know whether God exists. With respect to worldviews, the agnostic is pluralistic, believing that no worldview sufficiently answers whether God exists or not, at least none that he knows of, at least not yet. All the while, agnosticism presupposes the autonomy of humankind. The agnostic holds that he does not know whether God exists, that he does not have access to any worldview capable of answering the question, and that in the meantime, he is quite capable of reasoning, of analyzing worldviews, and adjudicating about facts whether they support God’s existence.

Quintessentially, the agnostic defense of autonomy is that there might be a worldview out there that explains the independence of reason from God. Somewhere across the buffet of worldviews sits that special sauce that proves man’s ability to reason without relying on God’s revelation, and the agnostic has caught a whiff of it. The problem is that this defense is self-defeating.

In principle, the argument is that because it is possible there is an explanation yet to be found or offered why autonomy is the case, agnosticism is warranted. It is then alleged that the Christian has the duty of disproving this possibility. Instead, the Christian replies in kind. It is possible there is an explanation yet to be found or offered why agnosticism is incoherent or otherwise impossible. Therefore, it is up to the agnostic to show otherwise and thus directly or indirectly defend autonomy.

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God’s Knowledge

Here Jimmy Stephens explains God’s knowledge, answers whether God has beliefs, and explains the role of God’s thoughts.

(Posted on behalf of Jimmy Stephens.)

God’s knowledge is twofold. God knows Himself. This knowledge consists of thoughts about Himself. Such self-attending thoughts have unique characteristics not shared by any other person. God’s thoughts about Himself are as immutable as the Person to whom they refer. God’s thoughts bear a unity; they cannot be divided into atomic propositions. God’s self-oriented thoughts are innate, entailed by what it means to be God. More examples can be given, but it should be apparent that God’s self-knowledge is characterized by his divine perfections in general. Importantly, God’s self-knowledge is Trinitarian. God’s thoughts, their content, object, and context are personal. In thinking of Himself, God represents Himself. The Representer, the Represented, and the Representational are all present in this knowledge transaction. More simply, in His mental self-reference, God is both object and subject without destroying their unity and He is one Knower without destroying the distinctness of the Person knowing (subject) and the Person known (object) and the Person transacting this knowledge (context). While all this needs a great deal of editing and unpacking, the two greatest principles of talk about God’s knowledge are consideration of His divine perfections broadly and consideration of the Trinitarian system of God’s knowledge. Then we must consider God’s free knowledge. “Free” here refers to God’s creational choice, His voluntary decision to have other thoughts, to think about something other than Himself. In the nature of the case, these other-centric thoughts will have to comport to Himself and so have a broadly self-centered track. They will be circular throughout. The idea is that God cannot fail to think of Himself alongside of and to think of Himself through things-not-Himself even as He accurate thinks of things-not-Himself. God’s free knowledge consists in His thoughts on creation which are objects “x-of-God” and so are no more construable apart from God’s self-knowledge than they are possible apart from God’s hand. 

But then there is also a third kind of knowledge of God, the wisdom God created. The lady of Proverbs 8 is the store of Christ’s knowledge, and Christ’s knowledge is humankind’s archetypal thought. What Jesus knows He knows as the Second Adam and as the Son of God, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, and inseparably. This is the wisdom of God brought into human flesh and blood. What is this knowledge? It is the accommodation of God. It is the mediating knowledge designed, adopted by, and learned from God so that finite creatures can apprehend the infinite.
So then, we seem to have a ladder set from God from creation to the blessed Trinitarian communion. First, God’s knowledge is split between natural and free. Above the ladder God resides, perfect in His self-reflection, knowing Himself in a way that exemplifies each of His perfections. The ladder is the free knowledge of God.

Second, the ladder is split. All of it consists of God’s thoughts about creation generally, but out of God’s plan comes God’s accommodated version, sort of the human copy, as it were, of God’s blueprint, no less written by the divine hand. Regenerate man climbs the ladder to worship the God beyond it. Fallen man tries to build his own ladder and reside beyond it, never able to hold it up, always climbing off its foundation, and all the while hopping back to God’s ladder whenever needs must.

What is belief? It has been defined in many ways. Some philosophical definitions of belief are mutually exclusive while others allow for overlap. Some definitions are useful, some ridiculous. From the outset, definitions of belief will fall into two categories: passive and active definitions. All definitions of belief will conceptualize belief as the mental act of an agent or not (usually as more than just a mental act). We can dismiss all later definitions of belief. God is pure act. In Him there is nothing in God waiting to be brought about, acquired, or experienced. God does not become God, does not change, but is “already” all that He is. Put another way, our God is a living God and God’s life is full, neither approaching something as if God ever lacked the conclusion, nor waning as if God needed anything. Whatever God’s “beliefs” could be, they could not be passive at all. Inevitably, we will end up at thoughts. The definition of divine beliefs to be considered is of thoughts that something is true. This can be put a thousand different ways, and it doesn’t matter much. We could say God’s beliefs are ascriptions. We could say they are eternal speech acts. We could say they are commitments to a conceived state of affairs. We could say they are confidences in divine ideas. These are all different ways of construing God’s belief-thoughts.

Let us consider a few objections to this theological notion.

1.) Contingency. Human beliefs are distinct from human thought as genus-species. That is, what distinguishes thought from belief is that “thought” is a broader category. The riches of human cognition offer a panoply of thought content we would not consider beliefs: reminiscing, dreaming, arguing, perception, and so forth. Thought and belief are conceptually distinct. No doubt, all of these imply the presence of beliefs, but dreaming about apples is not itself a belief about apples. To have a dream means more than just having a belief. Moreover, while dreams presuppose beliefs, they do not necessarily grant any. According to modern psychology, humans experience thousands of dreams over the course of our lives that we immediately forget. Likewise, when we attend an experience of nostalgia as part of our consciousness, we are not “practicing” belief, as if that were intelligible to say. In fact, for the great majority of human beliefs, they are a passive affair. They are unconscious attitudes which can be realized as propositional affirmations given the appropriate introspection and properly functioning cognitive faculties.

Already, then, it is a bit strange to consider God’s thought’s “beliefs” when they would be for Him altogether active while they are for us passive in the vast majority. That by itself would not constitute a critique, so much as a reason for analytic wariness. As it turns out, this wariness pays off. For beliefs have a further quality, that of contingency. Beliefs are externally informed; they are dependent on an extramental state of affairs.

Unlike mere thoughts, beliefs, even were they entirely infallible, would still remain contingent. For in believing that something is true, I am seeking to affirm what is already the case. In other words, beliefs are distinct from thoughts in that the object of a belief is, in some regard, independent of the belief. The content of beliefs, construed as active thoughts, contain a statement that presupposes something “out there” about which to state something in the first place.

Objection (1) can be better summarized as a dilemma. Perhaps this works:
P1. Either divine beliefs are indistinguishable from divine thoughts or divine beliefs are distinguished by contingency.
P2. God’s thoughts are non-contingent.
C: Either divine beliefs are indistinguishable from divine thoughts or God does not have beliefs.

This somewhat explains why human beliefs are passive. Namely, our entire life, but especially the theater of the human mind, presupposes the world of God’s creation as the infinite resource of beliefs. We do not create beliefs. We acquire them. We do not decide to have beliefs; we can try to force them, but inevitably we will have to rely on the world and beliefs about it to try and force new ones. Even beliefs about ourselves, even those thought to be incorrigible, Beliefs are unique to creatures because beliefs, even construed as active propositional affirmations, are conceptually tied to and dependent upon externality to help cause and inform them.

Now consider God’s knowledge, God’s thoughts about Himself and the world. God’s natural knowledge does not have a “direction” of contingency. The subject does not precede the object and the object does not precede the subject. God thinks what He is and He is what He thinks; the rational is the real and the real is the rational. There is no way to distinguish thought and belief here (so the word is meaningless at best, confusing at worst). God is His thoughts and His thoughts are God just as they are of God. What about God’s free knowledge? Unlike beliefs, God’s thoughts create the world. God does not believe it is raining when it is as if there were rain about which to have beliefs. Rather, His thought is precisely what causes there to be rain in the first place. The precedence here is exactly the opposite of what we know of human beliefs. Our beliefs constitute mental states about something independent to said mental states, at least to some extent. But God’s “beliefs” have nothing independent of them – all things depend upon them. How bizarre it is to call these creative thoughts “belief.” Now, there is one caveat. God does have beliefs in His condescension. In His immanence, as Emmanuel, God takes on creaturehood without giving up His Godhead. As the economic Trinity, God has beliefs – yes, even the Father and the Spirit, for we see that much in the baptism of Jesus. But what is vital is the presupposition of the ontological Trinity by the economic Trinity. The latter can only have creaturely beliefs because the former lacks them.

2.) Divisibility. Beliefs appear to be inherently propositional, and so, divisible in nature. They are compartmental, atomic – they are particles of thought. I do not mean that beliefs cannot be broken down, that they cannot be simplified, or anything like that. I mean that beliefs differ from concepts in this way, that they are inherently not holistic. Consider the concept of a computer. You might envision one, mentally representing an example. You might have memories coming to mind, ones that involve past sensations, past interactions with computers. Maybe you call to mind facts about computers: that they are the basis of modern technology. You might classify them in your head: computing machine, device, composite object, physicality, etc. However, whatever recalling your concept of a computer entails, your concept of a computer does not constitute mere belief. No doubt, concepts entail beliefs, at least for human cognition. Our concept of a computer entails the belief that there exists material that can be constructed into electronic devices of the name. However, believing that this is the case does not constitute one’s concept of a computer. In other words, beliefs about something do not constitute the concept of that thing. On the contrary, our beliefs presuppose concepts to compose their content. Concepts are mental images. They are classifying representations. Or, to call upon Adam’s first job in the garden, they are namings. Not in the usual sense of the word – I mean that concepts are a “that” relation adopted, conjured, or received by the mind to which the mind gives a name for means of reference and argument. And namings are different than claims. The mental image of a computer is different than mental claims about computers. Concepts are not beliefs.
However, we face a difficulty. In God’s case, there is a synonymity between His free knowledge, His creative thought, and His concept of the universe. God’s knowledge of the universe is conceptual; it is a concept, one God chooses to possess. But concepts are not beliefs. How then can God’s knowledge of the universe constitute a belief?
Again, it appears that the nature of creaturely concepts explains the nature of belief. God has an exhaustive concept of the universe. He knows every universe, every particular, and exhausts their system together in one indivisible mental act. Creatures, however, neither possess this concept nor the means to possess it. We are finite, building a concept of the universe that variously approximates God’s (depending for accuracy on many factors) over our entire lives through, among other things, beliefs. Beliefs, as particles of thought, have this role of helping me build my own derivative concept of God’s original concept. It seems rather intuitive that if I had an exhaustive concept of the universe, I would have no need for particular beliefs. For in my concept would already be contained all possible thought about the universe.
This argument might be formalized as follows:
P1. God’s knowledge consists of concepts. 
P2. Beliefs are not concepts.
P3. All God’s thoughts count as knowledge.
C: God does not have beliefs.



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Fisher on Divine Simplicity

Chris Fisher quotes Dr. John Frame’s systematic theology in order to prove that Divine Simplicity(DDS) is Neo-Platonism. Chris Fisher then quotes Dr. Frame out of context and ignores other statements Frame has made. Chris Fisher is obviously being deceptive to feed his Open Theist narrative. The idea that God isn’t a humanoid creature wearing tights upsets him. Let’s quote the article:

On this view, it is not enough to say that God’s attributes, for example, are necessary to his being; rather, the multiplicity of attributes is only apparent. In reality, God is a being without any multiplicity at all, a simple being for whom any language suggesting complexity, distinctions, or multiplicity is entirely unsuited.

That is essentially the Plotinian neo-Platonic view, in which the best name of God is One. In the preceding section, I criticized Moltmann for equating this notion with monotheism. For Plotinus, even the name One is inadequate, since God is utterly beyond the descriptive power of human language. But One is the best we can do, since unity is prior to multiplicity and more noble than multiplicity.

Frame, John M.. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (p. 430). P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The interpretation that Dr. Frame is stating DDS is Neoplatonism qua DDS either shows that Chris Fisher lack reading comprehension or that he is deceptive and his preferred model of citing people is quote mining. I will admit that it simply could be both and that doesn’t surprise me from his prior review of my own articles. Dr. Frame is simply commenting on something known as Thomistic Divine Simplicity. Dr. Frame himself holds to a form of DDS. Frame thinks that the result of Thomistic Simplicity is that you end up having something similar to Neoplatonism. To quote the section that Fisher left out:

But Aquinas sometimes seems to deny any complexity at all in God. He argues, for example, that unity must always be prior to multiplicity, so that God, who is prior to everything, must have no multiplicity. Elsewhere in SCG, he argues that the different names we use for God are not synonymous, though they refer to God’s simple being. He denies that such names compromise God’s simplicity, not by arguing that there are genuine complexities and pluralities in God, to which the different names refer, but by arguing that the plurality is in our minds: we must conceive of the simple being of God by “diverse conceptions.”

Frame, John M.. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Kindle Locations 11959-11965). P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Frame has always affirmed a form of DSS. He states it in this Systematic and his other works:

To say that God is simple, in the scholastic philosophy, is to say that there is no composition in his being. Specifically, there is no composition of physical parts, form and matter, actual and potential, genus and differentia, substance and accident, God and his essence, essence and attributes, attributes and one another, essence and esse. God is not, then, in any sense made up of parts. Granted that God is not a physical being, it is obvious that he is not made up of physical parts. Nor can he be divided into form and matter, or actuality and potentiality, since he has no matter or (passive) potentiality. Nor is he made up of genus and differentia, since he is not in a genus, nor is he a genus (godhood) differentiated by species (various gods). Nor is he made up of substance and accidents, because there are no accidents in him. Since God has no accidents, everything in him is essential to his being; so he is, in a sense, his essence.

Frame, John M.. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Kindle Locations 11926-11934). P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Thomism isn’t the only philosophical option on the market. Take my friend Jimmy Stephens’ Van Tilian model:

Thomas thought God had one Godness property. The differences in God appear as a result of our finite interpretation, not God’s complexity. Grudem is a good counterexample. God is infinitely complex, but in His perfections, not in parts or participations. God has many different properties, but all of them are personal effects or modes of the Trinity. A property of God is real, but not as an abstractable concept. God’s properties do not tell us what God is so much as how God is.

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Why I’m not an Open Theist

Open theism usually can be divided into two. Some are open theists for philosophical reasons and others for exegetical reasons. That is just serious proponents for the movement. Some think that using anthropomorphism is an arbitrary exegetical move and therefore should be rejected. Let’s separate them up:

Philosophical Open Theism:

This movement arises from the idea that propositions directed toward the future have no truth values because the propositions have no grounding since the future is pure contingency(open). That leaves humans with the ultimate choice over the future. This is because it is the Human action at the moment of a choice that determines the truth value of the proposition and God finds that Human Freedom is worth giving man such abilities. They also tend to think Calvinism, Arminianism, and Molinism leaves God with being the sole culpable agent for the evils the world contains. This is because God was able and fully aware that evil would occur and yet didn’t stop or intervene to prevent evil. He was able and yet unwilling to stop evil.

Exegetical Open Theism:

These positions are not mutually exclusive but rather just seem to be the tendency of where open theist can fall into. That being because many people are of different interest and different abilities. The exegetical open theist thinks the Bible clearly and in an unqualified way states that God does not know the future. Take for example this prooftext:

“And they built the high places of Baal that are in the valley of Ben-Hinnom to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin,” (Jer. 32:35, 19:5, 7:31).

The issue is that the “to enter one’s mind” or “עָלָה עַל־לֵב” is more about inclination and disposition. It is language to convey this is not what the individual thinks is morally acceptable. Secondly, they operate this method very inconsistently. Open Theist tends to think that God is immaterial and that the statements that attribute physical parts to God are anthropomorphic. Why the inconsistency? Third, there are texts that fit better in a theology where God possesses exhaustive foreknowledge.

“Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (Isaiah 46:9-10).

“Who can fathom the Spirit of the LORD, or instruct the LORD as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:13-14).

“Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD” (Psalm 139:4).

“O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways” (Psalm 139:1-3).

“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you” (Psalm 139:15-16).

“Can anyone teach knowledge to God, since he judges even the highest?” (Job 21:22).

“He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit” (Psalm 147:4-5).

“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

“Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge?” (Job 37:16).

“From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth—he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do” (Psalm 33:13-15).

“Whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:20).

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33).

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).

Furthermore, the philosophical Open theist view only has weight if you accept agents have libertarian freedom. Calvinist wisely reject that notion and hold to a form of determinism. It is a problem for Libertarian Calvinist, Arminians, Pelagians, and Molinists. The Calvinist can ground the truth value of future tensed propositions in the Will of God. Which leads to a verse that teaches divine determinism. Eph. 1:11.

11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,

This verse teaches that God has from eternity purposed and worked all things according to his will. History unfolds by the providential will of God. The verse seems to refer to everything to have ever existed. This also has a polemical background against their pagan culture where you could resist the god’s wills. Take that contextual point of reference:

To answer the question, we should ask what constitutes the implied point of contrast. What would it mean for God not to do all things according to his will? What’s the opposing thesis? The alternative to God acting according to his will is for God to act contrary to his will. And in context, that’s a significant distinction. Paul is addressing Gentile Christians living in a pagan city. Christian converts from Greco-Roman heathenism. In Greek mythology, even a god did not do all things according to his will. Sometimes a god was forced to act under duress, against his will. Even Zeus had to bow before the supremacy of the Fates. Likewise, in pagan witchcraft, the gods can be manipulated and coerced through magic rituals. … So at least one contextual point of contrast is the resounding affirmation that the Christian God isn’t subject to any higher power. He has no effective opposition. That stands in contrast to pagan fatalism and sorcery. This has modern counterparts in freewill theism. According to freewill theism, God is often forced to act against his will, because demonic and human agents have the ability to veto God’s will. They can and do thwart his best intentions. So God must try to work around his obstreperous creatures. Like the Greek gods, his plans are often frustrated by rival power centers. … This also explains the link between God’s will and “all things”. The reason all events take place according to God’s will is because there’s no other agent equal to or superior to God to counteract his will–unlike pagan fatalism or freewill theism. Since God has no competition, then by default, every event unfolds according to his will, rather than only some events happening according to his will because his power is checked by other agents, who have their own way some of the time, despite God’s ineffectual wishes.

We also may consider whether Open theism alleviates us of philosophical difficulties. Some think the best answer to the problem of evil can be given by the open theist. They maintain God simply didn’t know what Adam and Eve would’ve done and thus aren’t to blame for any of the evils that occur.

According to open theism, God is in a situation of diminish responsibility for evil inasmuch as God is ignorant of the long-term consequences of his creative actions. But there are problems with that theodicy:
If you don’t know whether you’re inserting innocent people into a dangerous situation, shouldn’t you play it safe? When it doubt, is it not morally incumbent on you to avoid exposing people to an unforeseeable, but potentially catastrophic risk? Moreover, even if God can’t foresee the outcome a year in advance or a month in advance, surely he can foresee the outcome a day in advance or an hour in advance. As events come to a head, the future becomes increasingly predictable, even if the outcome is not a dead certainty. In addition, we don’t generally think the bare possibility that something might not be harmful is an excuse to insert innocent people into what is, in all likelihood, a hazardous situation.

If God doesn’t know everything then he can’t be the source of objective moral norms and obligations. He could simply be mistaken about what He thinks is wrong and later change his mind. Furthermore, he is changing and the grounds of ethics must be an unchanging omniscient final authority. Since God isn’t the grounds of goodness he could be evil and thus be a divine deceiver tricking all of us. Thus given Open theism skepticism follows.

Jimmy Stephens explains these points:

One downfall of open theism – and there are many – is that it leads to skepticism about God’s moral authority. To wit, if God doesn’t know everything then He cannot be the source of moral reality. God’s predetermination of the future is a precondition of His absolute moral authority and of His ability to ground moral values and obligations. Let me explain.

            Suppose that God has not predetermined every event in history. Instead indeterminism is the case, the future undecided and yet to be discovered by God just as much as man. In that case there are historical events, and so facts in general, that find their ontological source outside God. These facts will inform God as much as man, adding information to God’s bank of knowledge just as much as it teaches His creatures. Because the future is not determined by God with His moral wisdom and in fact adds to His wisdom in general, it is fair to ask how we as humans know God will not come to discover that His moral opinions are heretofore mistaken or, at the very least, that He has learned a new and better moral code for humanity incompatible with Christianity in practice. Since God changes and learns alongside human beings in time, why would His moral judgments not be as amendable as the open theist will no doubt admit ours are?

            It is of no consequence whether the open theist affirms a superior moral wisdom in God. As long as God’s moral wisdom plays no determinative role on future events, appealing to God’s wisdom is no better than betting on a mastermind chess player. By analogy, the chess player may possess such an intelligence that He can beat every opponent, that betting against him is ludicrous. Sure, God’s moral wisdom may be so profound and insightful that He will provide the best ethical advice in all probability. However, being the best chess player does not guarantee you will never lose. Neither does it guarantee that you will not change your mind about strategies to play on the board, thus becoming an even better chess player than before. Likewise, no matter how profound God’s moral wisdom might be, so long as a degree of new information extraneous to His present wisdom remains to be seen, that is a degree of chance God will change His mind how we ought to live our lives. So the open theist is going to need a stonger answer than appeals to nominal wisdom and omniscience.

            Keep in mind that this is just one skeptical scenario. We can imagine a worse case, one far more disturbing. Suppose that the future does end up apprising God’s thoughts about morality, showing that His plan of redemption is in need of serious revision. Only this time, God does not update His opinions. Instead, out of pride or weakness or – God forbid (pun intended) – ignorance, God fails to accept what moral implications the future has wrought. In such a scenario, God would play blundering tyrant or devious despot, hardly worthy of worship by Biblical standards. Yet, what ontological principle can open theists adduce to escape this dilemma?

            I repeat, it is a dilemma. On one horn, God is the absolute moral authority, but only because the past, present, and future – all reality, in fact, is determined by Him to comport with His perfect character. In other words, one horn is not open theism, and is in fact the sort of Christian determinism gladly promulgated by Calvinists such as myself. On the other horn, indeterminism holds and the future is open, but only as long as God is as open to correction as man about His moral opinions. The second horn deprives God of his absoluteness. At best, He is the best chess player; at worst, it’s just that nobody has noticed Him cheating yet. To escape through these horns, open theists will have two routes.

            One method is to argue that although God could technically turn out wrong or in need of moral modernization, our best epistemic tools nevertheless support belief in God’s ethical view. The other method, more ambitious, is to show how God cannot possibly fail to have the right ethical view in light of this or that attribute. Let me answer the latter first, since its failure is more straightforward.

Furthermore, Open Theism undermines the notion that God is morally perfect or is a moral agent at all. An Open theist wishes to maintain it is logically impossible for God to sin. On the other hand, it wishes to teach that without the ability to choose otherwise(even contrary to desires or characters) an agent is a robot. If a man only does good actions because it is his nature to do good, then he is merely a mechanism. But they wish to maintain that God does only good deeds because of his holy character. This means God doesn’t have the choice to choose not to do evil because it is not a logically possible state of affairs. This means the open theist thinks that God is a mechanism and not an agent or he can possibly do evil. But if it is possible for God to do evil then at any moment he could become the greatest force of evil at any moment. Thus, he isn’t a morally perfect being. 

Since God is ignorant of certain things then truth is above and higher than God. A personal God thus isn’t the ultimate explanation of reality. The open theist won’t appeal to another God or to some impersonal force like fate. The sole guide of the reality for an Open Theist is impersonal chance. At any moment reality could become irrational and incomprehensible. God is just another fact that needs to be explained by chance. This is the result of denying God’s aseity.

The most radical attack on divine aseity in our day comes from the so-called open theists, Clark Pinnock, John Sanders, Gregory Boyd, William Hasker, and others. For these, God was once a se but he somehow renounced his aseity so that now he cannot accomplish his goals without the free choices of creatures. So in the present world, nothing is a se. In one sense, open theism wants to attribute aseity to the human free will. On the open theists’ libertarian concept of freedom, human free decisions have no cause: not God, not the natural order, not even their own desires. But if my decision is not caused by my desire, then it is something I don’t want to do. So even I do not cause my free decisions. They are random, arbitrary, irrational events, like the realm of Prime Matter among the Greeks. Not only does this view fail to give a rational account of free choice, it makes any such account impossible. The rationalism of the open theists (seeking a definitive explanation of divine sovereignty and human responsibility) has them to posit a principle of sheer irrationality.

Dr. John Frame- Divine Aseity and Apologetics

If Libertarian freedom is the case, then at any moment a creature could’ve corrupted the words of the Old and New Testament. This leaves inerrancy up to chance and not to God’s overarching providence. This argument has been deloped further in the links below. I also will add an article on “limited Inerrancy” for the Open Theist that maintain that instead of traditional inerrancy.

Further Suggestions:


Problem of Evil

Bruce Ware on Freewill

Inerrancy, Is It a Matter of Luck?

Dr. Vern Poythress:

Problems for Limited Inerrancy

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