Divine Sovereignty and Determinism: Response Series Part 2

Last time, we dealt with Blake’s first concern about my blogpost arguing for the thesis that a biblical understanding of divine sovereignty does not require the extra philosophical add-on of meticulous metaphysical causal predeterminism. 

This time, we’re going to deal with Blake’ second objection.

A. Complaint. Blake says:


2. Purposeful Confusion and Appeal to Mystery

As just mentioned, it appears that Brendan claims that scripture is simply not clear enough about divine determinism. Scripture is “undeterminative” about it. However, if scripture is not clear about it, then Brendan cannot properly deny determinism because scripture might actually teach it. Brendan cannot positively assert that determinism is not true, because apparently he cannot be sure about his opposing position either. Scriptural vagueness on this point only leaves us with uncertainty and the inability to affirm any position, including Brendan’s.


B. Response. 

Blake apparently doesn’t understand what I mean by “underdeterminative.” We do not mean by this term that it is vague whether or not the text teaches the relevant philosophical view. Rather, what I and others mean by this term is that the scripture simply doesn’t say anything to the effect that would establish some technical part in an analysis of the casual nature of human action that goes to showing that human activities are either metaphysically determined or libertarianly free in some relevant sense meant by modern metaphysics. At most, we can say that our extra-biblical philosophies are consistent with the text. We cannot say they are derived from the text, as if the author really had in mind to communicate some analysis of metaphysical philosophy about human action. So you cannot say that scripture might “teach” determinism or free will.

At best, what we can do is look at the text of scripture and formulate some philosophical analysis of human action that best makes sense of the kinds of teaching that we find there — such as God’s giving persons choices to make (e.g. Deu 30), there’s being other ways things could have been in this world (e.g. Jer. 18:7-10; 1 Samuel 23:9-13), and Gods real disappointment with the way things do work out (e.g. Gen. 6:5-8). In light of such things as these, (and there are more), anything talking about a divine foreordination, decree or determination should not be looked at as necessitating the thing to come about, or removing control from the creatures over their own actions. We have to formulate a philosophical theology that is at least consistent with what we see in biblical theology. And I think some form of free will best makes sense of such biblical revelations as these.

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