Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Greg Koukl on if God is Culpable for the Sin He Knows Will Happen

Steve Hays of Triablogue (click here) and I have been discussing whether God, in Arminianism, is culpable for the sin He foreknows His creatures will perform. Early on I used the parallel of parents having children they know will sin not being culpable for that child's sin. Likewise, I contend that God is also not culpable for his children's sin, even if He foreknows they will sin.

Turns out, Greg Koukl of the apologetics ministry Stand To Reason (click here) agrees with me. In an article on his website he writes:
I would say that the parallel between you and God is precise. You do know that your child is going to do some things wrong. The only difference between you and God in this case is that God knows the particular things that every one of His children is going to do wrong. You don't know the particulars, but you know it's inevitable. If it is true that God is morally responsible for what His children do because He knows in advance, then it is also true that you're morally responsible. But if it's true that you're not morally responsible because you know in advance, then it's also true that God is not responsible. That's why I argue that neither is morally responsible because the wild card, in a sense, in this discussion is free moral agency.

Human beings are not mechanistic. If you take a long stick and poke somebody in the eye with that long stick, that stick is not at fault. It is merely responding in a mechanistic way to your will. That's why the person that initiates the action with the stick is the one that is culpable, the person to blame. But if what's standing in your way is not a mechanism, but another human being that has free moral agency, that removes your culpable role in the process because you are not causing somebody to do something else. You merely give birth to somebody else who then makes choices for themselves. Because men can make choices, good choices and bad choices, they are moral agents in themselves and it's not appropriate to look back on you as the parent or God as the creator as the one who is morally responsible. That's true because men are not mechanistic, they are moral agents.
The rest of the article is here (click here). Koukl actually takes what seems to be a Calvinistic stance on soteriology, which I disagree with, but the part I have posted is very helpful. I know Hays won't agree with Koukl on everything and will probably write a ten page essay on why he's right and everyone else is wrong, but hopefully it's insightful for the rest of us.

21 comments:

Onesimus said...

The argument that God is culpable for the sin that He foreknew that mankind would commit is based on the assumption that God could have done something to prevent that sin from being committed. Such an assumption is outright foolishness.

It presents a scenario almost identical to the old science fiction paradox of what would happen if someone travelled back in time and murdered their father before the murderer had been conceived. The obvious result would be that the murderer would never be born and therefore would be unable to travel back in time to murder his father – and therefore the prevention of the murderer’s conception would not take place, so the murderer WOULD be born and therefore would be able to travel back in time to murder his father… and on and on and on….

Change the scenario a little and instead of time travel we have God’s foreknowledge.
God foreknows that a person is going to commit a murder, so God intervenes and prevents the murderer from meeting his victim… therefore there is no murder to foreknow so God has no foreknowledge to act upon and therefore the murderer meets his victim and kills them…

God’s foreknowledge extends to ACTUAL events that DO occur and are there able to be foreknown. God’s foreknowledge is not based on hypothetical or possible events and acts.

See the following for links to articles by David Servant that address this issue:
http://onefiles.blogspot.com/2009/04/gods-foreknowledge-and-mans-free-will.html

Steven said...

I haven't read the entire article, and I can't of can't now because I've got to leave the house, but it seems like there is a bad analogy being drawn.

If God knows specifically what evils a person will do, and has the capability of stopping it, and yet doesn't, then it seems he could be held morally culpable for not doing so.

You don't know the specific evils your children are going to commit, neither do you have the ability to stop them, so you can't be held morally culpable for not doing so.

So it is not the same. Sorry if this is addressed in the article but I can't take the time to read it now.

bossmanham said...

Steven,

The issue in that case is if something isn't going to happen, then God knows it isn't going to happen. If He isn't going to allow something, then He knows it won't happen. His foreknowledge is based on actual events that He knows about because they will happen. He doesn't cause the events, He simply knows of the events.

Bob Brewer said...

gBrennon,

The anaology illustrates what it intends to very well. Thanks for taking the time to flesh it out.

Welcome back! You were missed.

Bob B

Bob Brewer said...

BTW I wish you and MRS Bossmanham a very long and fruiltful marriage.

bossmanham said...

Bob, thank you very much! :)

Steven, I want to clarify this statement I made:

He doesn't cause the events, He simply knows of the events

In saying this I mean the sinful events. There are events God obviously has and does cause in an active manner. God also uses the wills of man to accomplish His will. Has there ever been a time where He's altered a will? Perhaps. Is this a normal event? I would say no, especially in light of the new covenant.

Nothing is impossible for God.

Onesimus said...

Steven said;
"If God knows specifically what evils a person will do, and has the capability of stopping it, and yet doesn't, then it seems he could be held morally culpable for not doing so."

---

Steven,
This life and this creation is not a meaningless toy for God to play with to keep Him amused until the time He tires of it and decides to create a new heaven and earth.

It all has a purpose

God has made all of mankind responsible for their own actions, for which they will eventually be judged.
For man to demonstrate that responsibilty mankind is allowed to act with a degree of freedom. That freedom includes the right to be disobedient (sinful, evil).

If God stepped in to continually avert that disobedience and its consequences then man would have no responsibility for his actions, he would only be able to do (enforced) good.

God allows people the freedom to remain in sin, just as He allows people the freedom to repent of their sin and turn to Him for help.

God wants a people who follow Him WILLINGLY.

To put it simply, this life and this creation is a test (or series of tests) to give mankind the opportunity to put their trust in God and God's ways.

Those who respond to the test by turning to God will become part of His new creation and will live with Him in the new heavens and new earth.

Those who respond to the test by remaining in their rebellion against God will be condemend to the same fate as the devil and his angels - an eternity in the lake of fire.

God does not control every little thing and He does not intervene in every situation because He has a goal in sight; that is to obtain a WILLING people who WILLINGLY love and trust Him; a RIGHTEOUS people (clothed in Christ's righteousness) to be admitted to a new, perfect and incorruptible creation in which only righteousness will dwell.

bethyada said...

If God knows specifically what evils a person will do, and has the capability of stopping it, and yet doesn't, then it seems he could be held morally culpable for not doing so.

Steven, I think you raise an important contention in the analogy; however I think that the ability to prevent an event but not preventing it does not necessarily make one culpable.

bossmanham said...

bethyada makes a good point. It is quite clear that the circumstances were much different when God created humanity that if someone knew of a murder.

Also, I think the greatest good defense may be applicable. God knew the only way to have a genuine relationship with creatures would be to grant them volitional wills, but He also knew that sin would happen if He did that. Likewise, He also knew He would come and die for us to redeem us from that sin.

Onesimus said...

bossmanham said...
"Likewise, He also knew He would come and die for us to redeem us from that sin."

--------

And THAT is the most important thing. God not only allows man to sin, He Himself took the punishment for that sin so that ALL of mankind could be free from it through faith in HIM and His provision.

God would only be culpable if He brought mankind into the world, ordained that everyone would sin and then punish the majority for the sin He had ordained, without giving them a way to be free from it.

Steven said...

To bethyada:

Steven, I think you raise an important contention in the analogy; however I think that the ability to prevent an event but not preventing it does not necessarily make one culpable.

If I know that my brother is going to assassinate the president, and I don't do anything to stop it even though I could have done so, I am not culpable?

If a police officer sees and knows that a drunken homeless man is about to rape a young woman and steal her purse and make off with her money, and has the power to stop it, but doesn't, he's not culpable?

bossmanham said...

Steven,

You can keep tossing out analogies, but there are problems that make them fall apart.

1) The situation is completely different. In creation, God was creating everything out of nothing. In reporting a future murder, creation is already here.

2) In reporting a murder, a crime is already being committed by the one who will murder, namely conspiracy to commit murder. Pre-creation and pre-conception, there have been no crimes actually committed. Pre-creation there was no one to conceive of the crime. Pre-conception, the child doesn't exist so it can't formulate a crime.

The analogy falls apart there. In murder and rape situations, there are crimes already being committed in the minds of the criminals. In the pre-creation situation, nothing had committed a crime yet. It's not a crime until it has been committed. Simply knowing of the crime beforehand doesn't make anyone who knew culpable because there hadn't been a crime to report or stop. That's is a big reason God will judge us on what we actually do or think, not on what we may do or think.

I may blog about this :)

bethyada said...

bethyada: I think you raise an important contention in the analogy; however I think that the ability to prevent an event but not preventing it does not necessarily make one culpable.

Steven: If I know that my brother is going to assassinate the president, and I don't do anything to stop it even though I could have done so, I am not culpable?

If a police officer sees and knows that a drunken homeless man is about to rape a young woman and steal her purse and make off with her money, and has the power to stop it, but doesn't, he's not culpable?


I included the word "necessarily" deliberately.

Do you really think the ability to prevent but refusal to, always makes one culpable?

Steven said...

Hey bethyada:

Do you really think the ability to prevent but refusal to, always makes one culpable?

I can't think of an example in which a person with knowledge of a forthcoming evil event with the possibility of preventing it is not culpable for doing so. Maybe you can--I invite you describe for me such a scenario.

bossmanham said...

Steven,

How about interacting with what I posited?

Robert said...

Hello Brennon,

Are you aware that this argument about why doesn't God prevent all evils? was stated by both Epicurus and Hume nonbelievers challenging the Christian faith?

Hume = "Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil? "

Now why is it that an argument made by unbelievers against the Christian faith is also used by calvinists against Arminianism? Hmm.

I was talking to a friend about this question today. He made an interesting point. He asked rhetorically, first ask the person who asks this question if they have a job. Then ask them what the worst kind of boss would be. What worst boss is there that everybody just cannot stand? Why the boss who tells you what to do, stands there watching you try to do it, corrects you as you try to do it, doesn't even let you do it, but completely micromanages your actions. People can't stand this, why? Because when you are being completely micromanaged in this way your freedom is eliminated, you are not even treated like a person who can think for himself or do his own actions. Now how does that apply to this complaint about God must intervene to stop all evils? Well if God did in fact always intervene what would the world be like? God would be micromanaging the world like one of those bosses that micromanages everything that we all cannot stand. Think about this analogy and think through its implications especially with respect to free will (or the lack of it), being genuine persons, about being able to think for yourself without having your every thought directly controlled and manipulated by another person, etc. I will have some more things to say when I have a bit more time, but for now think through this analogy and what it would entail in these areas.

Robert

bethyada said...

Steven I can't think of an example in which a person with knowledge of a forthcoming evil event with the possibility of preventing it is not culpable for doing so.

If we agree that any sin is evil, then there are a multitude.

Someone I know says they plan to smoke marijuana in the weekend and I think this is likely. I wouldn't ring the police, or threaten them that I would do the same.

My child is trying to steal lollies out of the pantry. I don't stop him though I am able, but ask him later to test if he is truthful.

A friend tells me she is to abort her child. I could kidnap her and prevent this, justifying my behaviour on the fact I am preventing a greater evil. I don't.

There are many examples where actions on my behalf, both right actions and questionable ones, could prevent an evil, or at least a greater evil. Not doing so does not make me culpable.

Robert said...

Hello Brennon, [part 1]

It is interesting that atheists will often ask things like: well if God is good and loving then why doesn’t he prevent ( ; put in whatever evil they want to bring up)?

It is also interesting that atheists enjoy the human capacity to “think for themselves” believing this to be an important capacity. Of course they use the capacity to think thoughts against God, but they enjoy (and they should) this ability that we have to think about things and consider things and then either choose or reject things. In other words they enjoy having their own mind and having free will.

But let’s take them up on their claim that God ought to prevent all evils from ever occurring. Notice I said all because though they bring up single instances, what they really want (or demand?) is that God prevent all evils from occurring. What would this entail, what would the world be like if this were actually happening? First of all evil actions come from evil thoughts (we have the evil thought and then we choose to act upon it, sometimes we have an evil thought but then we choose not to act upon it). So to prevent evil God would have to directly control the mind and make sure people never have evil thoughts. In addition they would not be allowed to ever get angry or frustrated (how much evil proceeds from a person who is angry?). In addition you would have to take away the capacity to make choices (we sometimes have an evil thought but choose not to act on it, but in the atheist’s utopia we would have to take away even the possibility that you could choose to act on an evil desire, so you have to take away the capacity to make choices to ensure no evil occurs).

So where are we so far? Evil thoughts would have to be prevented. The capacity to make choices would have to be eliminated (because if you can make an evil choice you might do so and we can’t have that now). And God would have to be directly and always regulating our every thought immediately eliminating one that might go the wrong way or lead to another evil thought or intention. Oh and we usually do our evil actions by means of our bodies. Better take away those too. I mean you can’t punch someone if you don’t have an arm to punch with, right? How could someone rape someone else without a body?

So now we’ve got “human” persons prevented from doing evil actions of any kind. But at what price? What do we have left?

Will the atheist be able to engage in his free thinking anymore? No, because atheism would be an evil thought, prevented by God from occurring. In fact, God would not allow people to be atheists, they would all be people forced to be Christians. And doesn’t the atheist believe that we should not be forced to believe what we believe, that we should be allowed the freedom to choose what we will accept and reject? That would go out the window. God is the ultimate good and would allow no thoughts that would lead to a person rejecting him: hence the atheists’ desired utopia ends up being a world where atheism and free thinking and independent thinking would be impossible and prevented. It would be a world where people do not have bodies, do not have independent thought, it would be more like a zombie world (but zombies without bodies) than the real world we are in. Now I doubt that the atheist really wants that world. He stills wants a body that can enjoy earthly pleasures, that does what he wants it to do, when he wants it to move, when he chooses for it to move. He still wants his own mind that is not directly controlled by another person (especially not God!). He still wants the capacity to have and make his own choices with his choices being up to him not determined by another person (again especially not God!).

Robert

Robert said...

Hello Brennon, [part 2]

A major problem that I have with the atheists’ utopia is that he wants the goods that God has created for this actual world (including our bodies, our own minds, our capacity to have and make choices, our capacity for independent thought) but then he wants a world where even the possibility of evil is prevented from ever happening. I am not sure that that is possible.

Another problem that I have is that if God creates us in His image, it would seem that the very things that make us like him (our intellect, our minds, our capacity for having and making our own choices, our mind which is independent from other minds including God’s, our capacity and ability to choose to do good) are also the very things that can be used to commit evil actions. The same mind that can design a hospital for the sick can design a gas chamber. The same capacity to choose to bless with the tongue can also choose to curse with the tongue (the apostle James made this very point). It seems to me that if God actually creates us with a mind capable of independent thought, a body that we can to some extent control, the capacity to have and make choices, then those things which are all good can also be used for evil as well. According to Genesis everything in the world when originally created was created by God AND GOOD. Did Adam and Even have a body? Did they have a mind? Did they have a mind that could to some extent control their bodies? Did they have the capacity to have and make choices? Yes, Yes, Yes, and it was all good. Sin came into this good world when the good things were used to do evil. Evil is not a thing per se, rather, it is using a God given or designed good thing, for an evil purpose. And when it comes to moral evils, sins, are they not in each instance cases of using the good capacity or good created reality for an evil purpose?

Robert

Steven said...

Hey Brennon! Sorry if it seems like I ignored you; I've been a little busy on other things.

1) The situation is completely different. In creation, God was creating everything out of nothing. In reporting a future murder, creation is already here.

I am not sure how that is relevant.

2) In reporting a murder, a crime is already being committed by the one who will murder, namely conspiracy to commit murder. Pre-creation and pre-conception, there have been no crimes actually committed. Pre-creation there was no one to conceive of the crime. Pre-conception, the child doesn't exist so it can't formulate a crime.

I'm not sure how this is relevant either.

Post about it! Then we can discuss it at length when you explain your views better.

bossmanham said...

Watch Minority Report and think about it.