Free Will 2: The open view and uncertainty

In an attempt to become more prolific on this blog, I’ve decided to pick a theme for each week and run with it. I’m going to start with a three day post sort of thing, so this shouldn’t be seen as an all-encompassing view on each theme. Enjoy!

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I thought, for day two, that it would be good to present an argument for free will that is supportive of it in the spirit of dialogue. Unfortunately, this was harder to do than I initially thought. It appears that the majority of scientists/philosophers/theologians are against the notion of free will. That the notion of free will is so readily critiqued says quite a bit, I think. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t solid arguments for free will either.

I’m going to come about the pro arguments a little differently and highlight two different takes on this to try and get to free will. The first view is one of Dr. Greg Boyd, a pastor and theologian who is most well known for two things; his critique of Christian nationalism (of which his book The Myth of a Christian Nation is the bed rock) and the view I am going to present today called Open Theism (or as he calls it, “the open view of God”). Free will is an essential piece of his theology of openess and the following video sets the foundation pretty clearly, I think.

The second view is one of Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist and populaizer of science. In this video, he critiques (very briefly and perhaps unsatisfactorily) the idea of determinism. I think there are still some nuggets in here, despite it’s short length. The videos and my responses are after the jump.

I think what I really appreciate about Boyd’s approach is that there is a real emphasis on human action and responsibility. One thing that I feel a more deterministic view can lead towards is a type of apathy. “I can’t really change anything, so why try?” I think Boyd’s approach provides some great room to navigate this sphere of responsibility and action, while still holding a healthy respect for certain forces (re: God) that have some capabilities to determine aspects of one’s life. It’s not a perfect theology/ideology, but I think his logic and reasoning is solid and consistent.

As for Kaku’s argument, I think what I’m most drawn to is his argument for uncertainty. Our knowledge is finite and there are numerous factors going into play that can effect what happens a mere second later. I think this leads towards the notion of cause and effect, which has a lot of room for free will and action. If someone performs A action, then B action is a probable result. However, human action is tricky to predict and I think there is a great deal of uncertainty in the universe and our lives. I don’t know if I really get his mirror example, but it sounds cool.

What do you think? Do these arguments help support a notion of free will?

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3 thoughts on “Free Will 2: The open view and uncertainty

  1. The problem with open theism is that it de-gods God. The God of the Bible is all powerful. He is a Cause without effect.

    When the Bible says that God “repents”, there is no indication in context that God is surprised by new events or information. Rather, this an anthropomorphism, using understandable and relatable language to convey an action or attribute.

    Throughout the Bible, God is described as hating sin, as well as rich in mercy and eager to save. We also see that God is responsive to our actions. God’s responsiveness doesn’t require God’s ignorance. So when we see God changing His mind, repenting, or relenting, we see God responding predictively based on what has immediately occured in time. God creates man and God is pleased with his pre-fallen state. Man rebels and God is displeased with his fallen, depraved state. God commands Jonah to tell Nineveh they will be destroyed because of their wickedness. God sees the repentance of the people of Nineveh and relinquishes the original judgement.

    An open theist god is a god who created the entire universe, numbers the hairs on each individual’s head, and yet is unable to know with certainty what will happen next. The God of the Bible is the One who begins a work and is faithful to complete it.

    “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.
    “Listen to me, you stubborn of heart, you who are far from righteousness: I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off, and my salvation will not delay; I will put salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory.”
    -Isaiah 46:8-13

    1. This was a tricky post to write, largely because there are fewer people advocating free will (or at least, they aren’t the type of people I know of). I was hesitant to use the Open Theism video because I think it’s different than free will, even though Boyd’s view of Open theism is dependent on free will (in fact, much of his theology is. This is a problem. However, I still love his thinking on nationalism and will always appreciate that and it’s not totally dependent on free will). But, in a pinch I used it to try and give the “other side” a voice and as a coherent theology I think he’s done his homework on being consistent. Does that mean I agree with him… well… probably not. I like the idea, but it just feels too untenable to me and far too modern (in the sense that free will is a pretty new phenomenon).

      As to it de-goding God… well, I can see your point. I’m not sure if I’d go that far, because I think there is a space for God to know “all things that MAY happen” and God to still be omniscient. But, I haven’t pursued it too much because, ultimately, I’m more concerned with the present state rather than the future state. And like I said, I think there are problems with his theology and I’m just not sure if I want to go down the road of deconstructing everything he’s written.

      1. The position de-gods God because it assumes that God doesn’t know what possibilities will be taken. In Arminian theology, the assumption is that God knows every detail of what has, is, will be, but allows free will to play an important role in events, both great and small. This is predicated on the assumption that free will is a necessity for God to be fair, as well as a requirement for God’s love towards us and our love towards God to be genuine.

        In Calvinism (to which I’m sure you know I ascribe), the assumption is that God is sovereign over everything, including the will of man (both collectively and individually), because of Him being God, innately, and that everything is a result of His sovereign will alone. God causes or allows everything, and every choice we make is mitigated through the filter of God’s sovereignty. Even horrific things in this world, while not in keeping with God’s perfect world (e.g. God doesn’t take joy in seeing children suffer from a disease), is allowed because of God’s over arching, greater will.

        The open theist position states that God is unaware entirely and precisely of every possibility that will actually occur. That God isn’t just aware of all possibilities, but is unaware of which possibilities will be taken in all instances. God can be surprised. God can change His mind without predetermining that He would change His mind. In this very real sense, this would mean that God doesn’t know all things. It is not enough to simply know all possibilities to be all knowing. In order to be truly all knowing, this necessitates that God knows which possibilities will occur.

        I would also say that there is a grave danger with new theological understandings (and this is a general statement). The Bible from the inception of Christianity and even more, since the inception of Judaism, has been the foundation of truth. New understandings of will, and new understandings of origins, and new understandings of whatever the issue may be, risk contradicting what the Bible says (as I believe open theism does). Even more, it postulates that everyone else prior, in view of history past, had it wrong, and only myself or this individual to whom I ascribe has finally figured it out. It is that claim that truth is inside us that is most dangerous. It strikes me as nothing short of total arrogance to assume so.

        Historical justification has to be a factor in what is true.

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