Why Pray?


Prayer is the language

I’ve thought about the subject of prayer lately and it’s striking how our view of providence plays such a role on our urgency to pray. Thinking particularly of this passage in Ezekiel:

And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.  Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. I have returned their way upon their heads, declares the Lord GOD.”

Ezekiel 22:30-31 (ESV)

We see that God was looking someone who would intercede for Israel, just as he did when he had Abraham intercede for Sodom and Gomorrah. The other example from the Bible would be Moses, who took it upon himself to intercede for Israel, and interestingly enough, the Bible says that God changed his mind about the judgment that He intended to bring upon Israel.

The traditional view of providence believes that the future is exhaustively settled from all eternity by God. If that is the case, then what difference would it make if an intercessor had not came forward? Is God being sincere here? Moreover, if the future is exhaustively settled in God’s mind, how could he honestly say he’s looking for someone who He knows for certain is not there?

In saying these things, I guess I’m letting the cat out of the bag: I think I’ve been an open theist all along and I’m just now realizing it. (I understand that in some Evangelical circles this view is anathema, but this view is at home among many Pentecostals-and I’m one of them!). For prayer to have real integrity and not be a mere showpiece, it has to have some affect on God and truly influence the outcome of certain events. But if our prayer is ultimately brought about by God; I don’t see how it can truly persuade God.

On the open view, while part of the future is settled by God, it is also partly open. God may also have certain plans and purposes that we can hinder through sloth and unresponsiveness, or we can help him bring to pass through our co-operation. In other words, God in his sovereignty allowed himself  to be dependent upon our prayers; He will allow what we allow and he will forbid what we forbid.  This point seems to be driven home by God’s words to Solomon.

“..if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land”

2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV) (Emphasis added).

Allow me to illustrate using a personal story. Once when I was in prayer, I perceived that my mom – who lived miles away at the time – may be involved in a car accident. I believe this was the Holy Spirit warning me. I prayed my mom would be delayed. Several weeks later, I asked my mom about it. I was pretty confident that I had heard from God, but I could have been mistaken. As it turned out, my mom confirmed that she did indeed get distracted and was late to work, and on her way she got stuck in traffic because there was a multi-car pile up on the freeway. She recalled that seeing the wreckage that day was unnerving and, she was quite shocked with what I shared with her! (This story doesn’t refute the open view, but rather it was a revelation of what was going to happen under the present circumstances given the most probable free choices of people, and perhaps even angels, at the time.)

Now if the future is exclusively a realm of comprehensive settled facts, then what good would it have done for God to call upon me to pray? Can God act to change what he infallibly knows will happen?  While I don’t deny there are some things God settles ahead of time, I believe there are also real future possibilities of blessing that will come to pass or fail to come to pass through our prayers, which spurs a sense of urgency.

Now the big question is this: Why would God make himself vulnerable by allowing some of his plans to be carried out or hindered by our prayers, or lack thereof? I really think that is a more interesting question than the question about providence alone. Some theologians have suggested that prayer is “on the job training” for Christ’s bride, the church. The crown is for the victor, and the Bible speaks of a kingdom to be handed over to his saints. (Rev. 2:26-28, 3:21, 5:10) At least to some degree, God will not override the will of the church. Through prayer we enact God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, the Lord’s prayer says. Prayers can also affect the amount of people who come to know God, and we see from the scripture that God is waiting for the “precious fruit of the earth” before He returns. (James 5:7, 16) This is why I believe E.M. Bounds said:

“God shapes the world by prayer. The more praying there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces against evil …. The prayers of God’s saints are the capital stock of heaven by which God carries on His great work upon earth. God conditions the very life and prosperity of His cause on prayer.”

And John Wesley said:

“God will do nothing but in answer to prayer.”

For the sake of time, I won’t go too in-depth as why this seems to be the case, but we do see that from the beginning, we’ve been made in God’s image and given responsibility to care for the world God has created. (Gen 1:26-28)  Biblically, an argument can be made that man fumbled the ball, so to speak, as the New Testament multiply attests to the fact that Satan the ruler of this world. (John 12:31, 2 Corinthians 4:4, 1 John 5:19) This is why we see in the Gospels and Acts a picture of Jesus and his trainees healing the sick, exorcising demons, etc. Jesus saw this as a sign that the Kingdom of God arriving. We even see Christ addressing natural evil, such calming storms.

At the end of His life on earth, Christ tells his disciples that they’ll do “the works that He does”, and He instructs them on the use of his name. (Jn 14:12-14) In His resurrection, he conquers Satan (Col. 2:15) and removes Satan’s claim over man as his slave, and gives his followers “power of attorney” so to speak to act in his stead. Intercessory prayer is one way we  can wage warfare against these evil powers that corrupt nature and influence men to steal, kill and destroy. (Jn. 10:10) The oft quoted C.S. Lewis famously said:

“Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.”

The traditional view of God seems to have to attribute everything – good, bad, and indifferent – to God’s sovereignty. This seems to paint God as some sort of schizophrenic autocrat. How can we be assured of any answer to prayer if this is the way God is? The biblical picture as demonstrated by Jesus was not a puppet master, but “Our Father”. He said that if we’ve seen Him, we’ve seen the Father, and in Him we saw someone triumphing over evil and death, and as the one who “gave us the keys of the kingdom”, able to bind Satan’s plans and loose God’s ultimate ends on the earth.

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11 thoughts on “Why Pray?

  1. Erik,

    As always your post is thought-provoking and insightful!

    An open theist, eh? Well I guess I won’t delete you from my blogroll for it… ;).

    In all seriousness though, I wanted to get to the meat of things.

    You wrote, “The traditional view of providence believes that the future is exhaustively settled from all eternity by God.”

    Well, not exactly. This is a common misunderstanding of the traditional view. The traditional view holds that God is timeless, so it is false to hold that God “foreknows” something in the sense of “knowing the future.” For God, all things are the eternal present. He experiences the whole of time as one eternal “now.” So he doesn’t determine the future by His (fore)knowledge of it–because from the perspective of eternity, there is no future. There is only the “now.”

    Open theism seems, to me at least, really problematic from Scripture. Certainly, there are passages the open theist can cite in order to support his/her claims. But as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, one can cherry pick verses from Scripture to prove almost anything.

    The key is cohesion with the whole of Scripture. Mere conditional statements don’t demonstrate open theism. For example, you discussed 2 Chronicles 7:14. The verse is full of conditional “if… then” statements, but that doesn’t imply that God doesn’t know what will happen, it only explains the choices and consequences His people have.

    More importantly, it is always important to remember genre when discussing Scripture, and those verses are part of what is known as a vassal-lord contract from the ANE. As such, the verses are seen as a contract between God and His people. To exegete them as pointing to a doctrine of open theism is to stretch the verse beyond it’s historical grammatical context, therefore, because the conditional statements are part of God’s contract with His people. They aren’t implying that God doesn’t know what will happen–they are simply outlining the terms.

    Further, Isaiah 46:10 seems to me to really undermine the open theistic perspective. YHWH Himself asserts:

    “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.’ ”

    Note the context of the passage (Isaiah 46): God is mocking the making of idols. He is comparing himself to these gods who cannot tell the future. God uses foreknowledge as a test of deity in verse 10. A key difference between Himself and false God’s is foreknowledge.

    This verse alone, I think, serves as the knockdown argument against open theism. God says “I make known the _end_… from ancient times, what is still to come.” He doesn’t say “I guess the end” or “I plan for what is still to come”; He says “I make known.” He already knows all of these things. Because of this, I don’t see anyway to get around the fact that God asserts He knows already the end, and that He knows what is still to come. It’s not an open option for God: it’s simply knowledge. Is that a problem for free will? Not if God is timeless (see above).

    Verses of this nature could be multiplied almost indefinitely, and those which are purported to support open theism generally fall victim to missing the genre or intent of the message.

    Again, thanks for your post. Got me thinking!

    -J.W.

    • Hah! Thanks JW, for keeping me on your roll! It’s not like it’s going to be the major thrust of this blog or anything…heck, I’m not even sure what the major thrust of this blog will be yet.

      I guess I would characterize myself more as leaning towards the openness view verses the other views of divine providence, etc, but I’m open (no pun intended) to changing my view. I really think we all sort of intuitively live like open theists, whether we’d like to admit it or not! I think we all seem to act like the future is partly open, that our choices many times bring about events that might just as easily not have come about.

      I’m not really sure I can accept the view of timelessness. I’m sure you’ve heard the objections before, but to me it seems difficult to reconcile how God remains untouched by the world’s temporariness. Also in the light of his omniscience, how does God know the truth of propositions expressed by tensed statements?

      Furthermore, it seems that if God timelessly knows what will actually occur, then God can’t bring it about that these events fail to happen since that would render his timeless knowledge untrue. If what God foresees is what actually happens—say that I marry the wrong person and my life is miserable—then God is powerless to stop me from marrying that person. Am I making sense? I guess I’d say that I haven’t seen it well explained the metaphysics of a timeless God being affected by His creation.

      As far as the knock-down passage in Isaiah, I agree that verse was my main objection to open theism. Does God proclaim the end from the beginning? He certainly did with Israel and Egypt, or the prophecies about Christ, and I’m confident the predictions of Christ’s return will prove as equally faithful. But God is infinitely wise, and as such, God declares specific ends that he plans to bring about, though the means to that end are at least somewhat open.

      But does this verse really mean that we really have to believe that everything throughout world history (including evil) reflects God’s purposes? If the answer is no, then I don’t see how this verse can’t be used to defend the notion that everything in history was/is foreknown.

      As for the ANE context and anthropomorphic language – If God doesn’t really change his mind, then what do the passages that explicitly say that he does change his mind really mean? Saying they’re anthropomorphic doesn’t really help, for even if they are anthropomorphic expressions, if they’re true, must still communicate something real about God.

      Finally, it seems to me that a common conception that the open view is some sort of wide-open free for all, with God wringing his hands, uncertain how things are going to turn out and merely hoping for the best. But in this view, the future is partly open, and some of it is partly settled, and God knows it as such. That which is open to the free choices of creatures, God in his infinite wisdom has plan to deal with that choice as if it’s the only choice we had. I don’t think it is something that makes God any less glorious, it just seems to make more sense of God’s relationalness. (I just made that word up)

      Let me know what you think, as I said, I’m not settled on one view. I think if we’re sincere, we want all as Christians want to know God better.

  2. Erik,

    Sorry it took me so long to respond.

    You wrote,
    “If what God foresees is what actually happens—say that I marry the wrong person and my life is miserable—then God is powerless to stop me from marrying that person. Am I making sense?”

    As an advocate of timelessness, I say, “No, you’re not making sense.” It seems to me as though the concept of foreknowledge you’re utilizing here is a temporal one (i.e. God knows something before it happens, therefore it has to happen) as opposed to the language I would use which would be logical priority (God knows something prior to its occurrence only in the sense of logical priority).

    As far as your question about anthropomorphism, I would hesitate to take the ideas too far. William Lane Craig points out in his discussion of inerrancy that what is inerrant is what is taught, not necessarily the presuppositions. For example, the Bible often reflects a geocentric presupposition, but it doesn’t teach it. Similarly, it may reflect a concept of God changing his mind, but it doesn’t teach it. That’s a bit of avoiding the issue, so let me state plainly: were I asked to directly interpret these passages, I would say that what is meant is not that God literally changes his mind (Malachi 3:6 “I, YHWH, do not change”) but that a counterfactual obtained.

    Let me illustrate. God says “my anger burns against x, such that y (punishment of some sort) will occur.” when this message is delivered, x turns from their ways and so God “changes his mind” and does not bring about y. What is hidden therein is a counterfactual: if x changes their ways, God will not bring about y. When God “changes his mind” it is the obtaining of some coutnerfactual of that sort. Another fruitful way to consider this would be to consider that God (I would argue) uses his statements such as ” I am going to punish you” in order to turn people’s hearts so that He knows He will not have to do so.

    ” That which is open to the free choices of creatures, God in his infinite wisdom has plan to deal with that choice as if it’s the only choice we had. I don’t think it is something that makes God any less glorious, it just seems to make more sense of God’s relationalness”

    Fantastic summary of the position. I would introduce many problems I have with it, but I’ll settle for two. 1) If open theism is true, then there would have to be a chance for God’s plan to fail. For if this were not the case, there would not really be openness at all. I haven’t read many open theists, but I’ve read some Hasker and Pinnock, both of whom outline views which would construe God’s knowledge of His plan in probabilities. If that’s the case, then, God’s plan could fail.

    2) I don’t think the God of open theism meets the criterion of the Anselmian “greatest possible being”. For I can easily conceive of a greater being: one which knows the future with certainty.

    • No worries, you made it up to me by giving me a lot to respond to. I’ll try and answer what I think are the easy objections first, and then work my way to the more difficult ones.

      “If open theism is true, then there would have to be a chance for God’s plan to fail.”

      The open theist wouldn’t deny that at times God’s plans can and do fail, but through the fault of free creatures and not his own. For instance, I believe God planned for all men to come to know Him, but in spite of God’s efforts, men can resist the Holy Spirit. (1 Tim. 2:4, Acts 7:51) God wanted an intercessor, as demonstrated in the passage in Ezek. 22, but he wasn’t able to find one and so therefore poured out his judgment. The Open View affirms that God takes genuine risks. If love is to be freely chosen, then it would seem to involve such an element, but God is infinitely resourceful, competent and loving so it’s not as if his plans are always thwarted. As infinitely wise, God’s ultimate plans for history cannot be thwarted. When Saul fails, he raises up David. Whatever comes to pass was possible and God knows it as such, and he in his infinite wisdom can pull off his ultimate plan for humanity in spite of some suffered loss involved.

      Most open theist do not deny that God knows the determined future. There are things that God can unilaterally decide to do, and there are physically determined events. Free creatures decisions God knows as probabilities, but when the improbable happens, God calls it as such. (Is. 5:1-4)

      I don’t think that the Anselmian notion of God being the greatest conceivable being is hindered in the least bit. I’ll outline a couple of reasons for that. God choosing to enter time in order to have real rationality with his creatures is one of features that makes him maximally good. For I fail to see how God being timeless could truly experience joy (Zeph. 3:17), or be grieved (Eph. 4:30) or long for our obedience (Deut. 5:29) or repentance. (Rom. 10:21)

      As a timeless being (correct me if I’m misunderstanding) God experiences all these emotions at once, or he doesn’t experience them at all (Aquinas). If these passages and the dozens of other passages in the Bible that suggest that God does indeed change his mind are mere anthropomorphisms meant for the benefit of the understanding A.N. Easterner’s mind, then what is the truth value that they convey? If they are just mere empty threats, as you seem to imply, well that to me appears – at least on the face of it – to be a strike against God being a maximally great being who has to resort to threats that he knows he won’t really carry out.

      So God as the greatest good would experience real relation with his creatures. Since God is a perfect personal being, and since humans are always changing, we should think of God as the most perfectly changing being. His character of course never changes, as the verse in Malachi 3:6 states, He’s always perfect. But exactly because His character is unchanging (Love, goodness), his experience of the world is always changing. God also remains the wisest conceivable being because while risk involves the possibility of at least some loss, God’s ultimate purposes of redemption will not ultimately be thwarted, and he doesn’t have to resort to some sort of blueprint knowledge in order win.

      I also would add that I guess I fail to see how can God respond to us if there is no “before” and “after” with His experience.

      OK, so in that I think I touched on most of your objections without meaning to do it all in one ramble. Oh, Pruss’s argument. Before I even hit the comment section – before I even got through the argument – I denied premise one. God would know something is extremely probable, but that doesn’t necessitate he believes it. If there is a remote possibility that a free creatures may change the course of history other than he knows as most probable, he knows it as such and he has a response to every possible outcome as if it were the only outcome that could have happened.

      If you got 50 minutes to kill on the computer, and you have the interest, there’s this presentation by Greg Boyd on Youtube that lays out a basic case for the open view.

      • Erik, sorry it took me so long to respond. Fiancee moving back home for the summer, her graduation, my cousin’s graduation from med school, etc,etc.

        Anyway, you wrote,

        “As infinitely wise, God’s ultimate plans for history cannot be thwarted… Whatever comes to pass was possible and God knows it as such, and he in his infinite wisdom can pull off his ultimate plan for humanity in spite of some suffered loss involved.”

        But it remains the case that, on Open Theism, God does not in fact know the future (or at least he only knows some future events). Therefore, it follows that it is at least logically possible that His ultimate plan could fail.

        But that’s not even the most harmful argument to Open Theism. I really don’t want to paint to broad a picture, but I present the following arguments against Open Theism:
        1) God is by definition the greatest possible being and would therefore possess omniscience as an essential attribute. Omniscience has traditionally included knowledge of all future events, therefore the God of open theism is not God. But that segways into:
        2) Open theists must redefine omniscience, but there seems to be no clear way to define omniscience to satisfy the requirements of open theism.
        3) Open theism picks and chooses which things God knows of the future. What criteria establish that God knows future event, x, but not future event, y? Or if God knows no future event, then we get back to the fact that it is logically possible for God’s ultimate plans to fail.

        Finally consider Pruss again. Pruss’ argument works, in my opinion, because denial of the first premise seems to lead to absurdities in God’s knowledge. You wrote that you denied premise 1 because “God would know something is extremely probable, but that doesn’t necessitate he believes it.” Very well, but God must believe something about the future. In other words, if God knows there are possibilities 1-5, then either He has no belief about which will be the case (in which case He won’t plan for any possibility because He doesn’t believe any will be the case), or He believes one of these will be the case (in which case it is possible He is mistaken), or He equally believes (or believes in proportion to the likelihood) each of 1-5 (in which case He is mistaken in 4/5 cases in the former and mistaken in probabilistic terms in the latter).

      • Hey JW,

        Thanks for taking the time to reply to me during such a busy time in your life. I know when my life is busy, it can actually be a bit therapeutic to discuss these types of things. Heh.

        Obviously the traditional view doesn’t always equal the correct view, but as I understand it, omniscience is simply knowing every and all true propositions. OT have never denied this, so I don’t see how that would be a redefining of God’s omniscience. OT do not say God does not have exhaustive, infallible knowledge of the future, rather there are no true future contingents – nothing more. Possibilities are ontologically real. The future in a measure is up for us to decide. If the future is “out there” as an exhaustively settled reality then of course something would be lacking in God’s knowledge if he didn’t know it, but if we assume that, that’s just begging the question. OT deny that view of the future. All that follows from this is that the God of open theism is not the “traditional God,” not that he is not the God of Scripture. But if I see the future as partly composed of possibilities, then God knows the future perfectly precisely because he knows it as partly composed of possibilities.

        What I believe is that what God perfectly knows is what God has unilaterally decided to do and physically determined events, and the possible outcomes of free choices of free creatures. God can win in the end because not only can he unilaterally decide certain events to come to pass, but he also from all eternity knows the various history trajectories if agents choose x path, y path, z path and he set up the parameters in creation to be risky enough to allow for such creaturely freedom, but not so boundless that he cannot “win” in the end. He already knows all possible outcomes and has a plan in place to respond. One can have fixed destinations with open routes. But God doesn’t know all the future choices of free creatures, because they’re not “there” to be known, as I said. He might have a very good idea what those choices could be, but they’re still possibilities, not exhaustively foreknown facts settled in God’s mind.

        As far as the alleged “picking and choosing”, I’d say there is no such thing in OT. The criteria is simple: if a definite fact about the future exists, then God knows it. Can we predict whether or not a proposition about the future has a knowable fact as its ground? No, but that is due to our human limitations and is precisely what we would expect when up against an infinitely intelligent being. Our ignorance, apart from God’s revelation, of what He knows definitively about the future isn’t an argument against OT. The truth is that we know next to nothing about the details of God’s knowledge of the future, i.e., what is ‘closed’ about the future and what is ‘open’ about it. But we don’t ‘pick’ what God knows.

        As for Pruss’ argument, I just don’t think it works. What God knows it as probable, but not as a truth proposition. The “proof” attempts to equate what God believe is probable with God’s “belief” that it is true. These two, however, may not be equated.

  3. Erik,

    I didn’t mean to suggest that the traditional view is correct by definition. I meant to suggest that to overcome the traditional view, there must be substantial evidence.

    Don’t mean to bombard you, this got out of hand as I was writing:

    1) This is not a salvation issue–but it does touch on every area of theology. What God knows or does not know affects the doctrines of providence, omniscience, sovereignty, and many more.
    2) There are facts about future contingents. For any proposition x, it is the case that either x or ~x. So if I were to say statement a: “On May 25, 2020, J.W. Wartick will be alive” I have either uttered a true statement [hopefully] or a false statement. Denial of this seems to entail a denial of the law of the excluded middle. Simply saying future contingents don’t exist isn’t enough to overcome this argument, because it relies upon the law of the excluded middle. Statement (a) is either true or false.

    Based upon this reasoning, for God to be omniscient, he would have to know the truth values of all statements such as (a). But then he would know all future contingent events (and, trivially because we agree on this, all necessary future events).

    3) OT undermines the doctrine of providence. While I know OTs will most likely roll their eyes at this argument, I don’t see why it is not a valid objection: if Open Theism is true, then in some cases God is just making a very good guess about what to do. But if that’s the case, then God could choose a course of events that would lead to more evil than good. This, then, would undermine providence.
    4) OT heightens the problem of evil. The classical problem of evil is that if God can prevent evil and doesn’t, he’s evil, if he wants to but can’t, he is incompetent. OT seems to fall victim to the latter prong of the dilemma much more readily than classical theism. For, on OT, God may not even know all the evils which are to transpire, and therefore cannot actively seek to prevent them. While OT may be able to use most of the defenses classical theism brings to the table, it falls victim to this objection no matter what.

    I can amend the language of #4 to avoid assuming contingent facts of the future. Instead I can word it as:
    (b) On OT, God does not know all the evil which will transpire.

    But if (b) is true, then God can’t work to actively try to prevent something he doesn’t know. Therefore, he is incompetent.

    5) Prophecy points to God knowing future contingents. If God did not know the future, He would not know what to have his prophets foretell.

    This segways into:
    6) If God doesn’t know the future, some prophecies in Scripture may either be false or occur at the wrong time. God doesn’t know future contingents (or, to reword it, there are no future contingents) on OT, therefore, prophecies which are yet to come may be false. To deny this, OT must pick and choose which future contingents are real, and then deny all the rest in order to sustain itself. Ad hoc modification of the view undermines its reliability.

    7) Scripture speaks of God’s knowledge of future contingents. I still don’t think you’ve provided a satisfactory answer to the Isaiah passage. Why would God use knowledge of the future as a test for deity if he can’t foretell all the things which are to come? Or must it be qualified to mean that the test for deity is only knowledge of some future contingents? In that case, it is demonstrated that OT picks and chooses which future contingents it wants God to know.

    I had more typed but it stopped letting me or something.

    • You’ve been WordPress’d! Sorry about that, that can be frustrating. Don’t worry about the barrage, this is a great learning experience.

      1 & 2. I think there is another way of dealing with the dilemma you posed. Some event may be determined to occur (determined given all present factors) in which case it your ultimate demise will come May 25, 2020. (God forbid. :))Or it may be determined not to occur (given present factors) which which case it “will not” happen. Or it may be “open” or “indeterminate” (given all present factors, ie your current health, your eating and exercise habits, your safety-cautiousness, you following the Holy Spirit’s promptings, etc.), in which case it “might and might not” occur.

      This paper by Greg Boyd might help in regards to this problem, I think.

      http://www.gregboyd.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/two-motivations.pdf

      (Sorry I keep dumping papers on you.)

      3 & 4. When you say providence, do you mean providence in a meticulous, ordain everything type of way? Yes, that would be undermined. Open theists do not believe God exercises that sort of control. God is free to determine some aspects of the future according to his will and to anticipate and deal with people’s choices within the parameters he made. A smaller god would feel threatened if he didn’t meticulously control everything, which is far from a most perfect being.

      OT affirm that there occur events that God has neither strongly/weakly actualized. God did not cause them to occur, nor did he know with certainty in advance that they were going to occur.

      I feel like this has the opposite effect in regards to the problem of evil that you suggest. I think Molinists and theological determinists face a very difficult time with the probabilistic problem of evil. Their theology exacerbates the matter, in my opinion. Theological determinists say that God is somehow running everything, even the tornadoes, cancers, and pedophiles to work according to his plan. That is objectionable, but I really feel Molinists fare little better.

      On Molinism, we’d expect for God to actualize the best possible or feasible world, or one of the best, or at least a really nifty world – one in which the good heavily outweighs the bad in the world. At first-blush, that doesn’t seem to be the case. One line of reasoning I’ve seen from Molinists is that God merely weakly actualizes evil to further his kingdom. But if God has middle knowledge then he knows how every person will respond to all possible evils, it seems to follow that God often lets people suffer trials fully knowing they’ll respond in ways that are counterproductive to the kingdom. Molinists may then blame the counterfactuals of free agents, but that doesn’t seem very plausible either, for it requires a ton of “tough luck” on God’s part. Surely with so many possible or feasible worlds for God to actualize, it’s a tough pill to swallow that God wouldn’t have available at least one feasible world populated by beings that never commit such horrible acts.

      Calvinism has God as the sufficient cause of sin and yet holding people responsible, which is of course terrible, but Molinism does have God actualizing worlds in which God is fully aware of the horrible sins they will commit. God actualizes a world were the kid gets raped and murdered. It is ordained by God so that greater goods can come out of it. We’re simply told that were not in an epistemic place to “get it” and so God is therefore off the hook. So on Molinism God’s not directly responsible, but in a sense he is an accessory to atrocity. We’re to have faith that God has morally sufficient reasons.

      In contrast, Open Theists believe God is in providential control of the world, just not in a meticulous, micromanaging way. God sets the limits in the world he’s made, but he lets us and the other free creatures he’s created (angels) fill in the details. So in contrast to Molinism, God doesn’t actualize a particular possible world, but rather a certain type of world in which many details are decided by self-determining people/angels.

      Molinists face the objection that God could have and would have actualized a better possible or feasible world, the open theist on the other hand says that God has chosen the best means to the best kind of possible world, or something close to it, at least. OT can say can say that only the possibility of moral evil is necessary for the best sorts of world, not its actuality. Molinists can only use the soul-making theodicy for evils that actually have positive soul-making results, open theists can use it whenever the expected value of soul-making results is positive, even if the actual results are not.

      Moreover, they can say that for many evils there was no (knowable) fact as to whether God’s preventing them would have made the world overall better.

      (Check out this tread at prosblogion, particularly Alan Rhoda’s comments. http://prosblogion.ektopos.com/archives/2010/05/an-advantage-of.html)

      5 & 6. Prophecy – God does not determine everything about the future, but he does determine whatever he chooses to since he is the Sovereign God. In many cases prophecies are contingent, if you do this, then God will do that. (Jer. 18:1-7) Some are things that God has settled in advance.

      Regarding the alleged picking in choosing, we don’t know what’s open or what is closed. God as the omnipotent sovereign Lord has determined what he wants to. What determines that God knows x as that which “will” occur and y as that which “might and might not” occur is the nature of the present moment relative to x and y. If it’s now true that “x will occur” then it’s true because x’s occurring is entailed in causes that presently obtain. But if y is ‘open’, then it “might and might not” occur, and what makes this presently true is that the totality of causes presently obtaining neither preclude nor entail Y’s occurrence. Y “might” and “might not” occur, i.e., at the present moment the future is “open” with respect to y but closed with respect to x. Open theists aren’t the one’s who decide what God knows and doesn’t know. For the most part we know next to nothing about the contents of God’s knowledge of the future–how it will, will not, or might/might not turn out.

      7.On the Isaiah passage, I think it’s important to keep distinct our idea of foreknowledge which is supported by this passage. It’s not God declare the end because he knows it like it happened already, but he knows what the end will be because he declares it: he has determined to do it. God’s foreknowledge derives from his determinism, not the other way around.

      Hopefully this clarifies, I admit I could definitely be wrong, but I’ve found that OT makes sense on a number of different levels to me. Heard about your book project, sounds really cool.

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