Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I love grad school

Every time I start thinking that I'm getting smarter, I find myself humbled again. I'm only in the first week of my 2 classes for this semester (Powell for Christian Ethics and J.M. Hicks for Providence and Suffering), and I'm already feeling way in over my head. Hicks is such a prolific writer and powerful thinker. Hopefully he wouldn't mind me sharing a portion of the lecture for this class. We're talking about understandings of how God operates within the world. After a numerous-page whopper of an explanation, he summarizes the major epistemic theologies in this way:

So, what is your perspective on divine providence? Are you…?
1. A modern semi-Deist who thinks God is a cosmic spectator rooting for shalom in the world?
2. A postmodern process thinker who sees humanity and God interdependently becoming” as they both move toward shalom, but God is only involved in the directing and persuasive aspects of the human being as a Coach rather than a player. 3. A postmodern Open Theist whose relational understanding of God means that he does not intervene in the world except to persuade human agents toward his goals and ends.
4. A premodern Open Theist whose relational God is not only persuasive, but active in response to the prayers of his people and occasionally intervening in the world for his purposes. God, then, is a Player-Coach who occasionally joins the team on the field.
5. A premodern occasionalist (Dominionist) whose God depends on the prayers of his people and is only active as those prayers call upon him. His intervention can be rare or common, depending on the prayers of his people; but it is occasional and relative to the prayers of his people.
6. A premodern occasionalist (Redemptivist) whose God only acts in the major work of redemption in Israel and the foundation of the church; his acts are basically miracles and acts of special providence in the history of Israel and the foundational history of the church.
7. A premodern concurrentist who believes in libertarian freedom and divine middle knowledge (Molinist) so that God is able to orchestrate history to achieve his purposes through human acts. As a player, God is always on the field, acting in every play and achieving his goal through the free acts of human agents.
8. A premodern concurrentist who believes in libertarian freedom but not in divine risk (Thomist) because God is always act work to achieve his purposes in every moment of human history according to his plan which does not change.
9. A premodern concurrentist who believes that volitional freedom and divine determination of every event is compatible, both with philosophical and biblical theology; thus, Calvinist (whether Bartian, Molinist or Classical).
10. A premodern determinist (Fatalism) who believes that everything is determined in such a way that human freedom has no significant role in the outworking of history.

Perhaps another question is….are these the only options?

It's going to take me a while to comprehend all of this. God is indeed much bigger than my brain. Do you know where you stand? Are you prepared to argue one while being able to discredit the other views? I'm a bit dizzy, myself.


  1. Seems exhaustive enough of a list to me. Hey, I'm not the Ph.D.

    I think I'm #7, with my back-up being #4. Basically, I believe God to be fully sovereign (I'm unsure exactly the level of his involvement, which makes me shaky on choice #7 vs. choice #4) & man to have a full sense of free-will ability to choose. And that these two truths exist in perfect tension, because God incorporates all in all (e.g. the other poles of perceived spectrums, such as "full of grace AND truth" [John 1:14]).

    Since you have all the notes on the arguments, could you give a quick summary of the problematic issues, or holes, in those views?

    It does get rather convoluted there at the end of his list. Let us know when you pick one.

  2. Haha...if only I knew! I think his idea is that he will start us off with a large overview, then we will break it down and talk about strengths and weaknesses of each of these. Over time, I'm sure I will make progress in defining my own point of view on this one.

    I think I identify with you largely on your suggestions.