C.S. Lewis: His Theology and Philosophy - Lesson 24
Problem of Pain (Part 4)
God is his creation set forth the problem of expressing his goodness through the total drama of a world containing free agents in spite of, and even by means of, their rebellion against him. The risk is for the possibility of relationship.
Problem of Pain (Part 4)
I. Contra-causal freewill
A. Why is contra-causal free will something that God would want to emerge?
B. Open theism
The purpose of the class is to directly engage Lewis’s philosophy and theology. He brings a Christian worldview to engage intellectual movements of his day. The trinity created us to bring us into the fellowship that has been going on with God forever.
The mind is the organ of reason, imagination is the organ of understanding. To understand what real truth is, the imagination needs to be a part of that. We are created in the image of God and are immortal beings. Ordinary people are extraordinary. The Christian life is most deeply about being transformed resulting in participation in the divine life. It's more than just having one’s legal status changed. There should be transformation in the culture as well as personal. God is in the process of redeeming a wounded universe, including the whole of knowledge and truth in all subjects.
There is a sacred quality to ordinary activities as well as symbolic religious rituals. Whatever is true in any field of study is God’s truth. The world is essentially good, but it’s been damaged. God has taken a great risk in allowing people free choice for good or evil. Evil has become present in many forms in the world and it is anti-creational and anti-human. We are not broken, but we are bent. God’s nature is relational because of the nature of the Trinity, so it makes sense that he would make a universe that is relational. We dwell in God and he dwells in us. As disciples of Christ we all share the single vocation of loving God and others.
Lewis wants to parlay theological doctrines into dynamic insights and track out their implications for intellectual engagement. He does is with a background of philosophical skill and theological understanding of historic orthodoxy. Instead of arguing about preferences, we need to focus on articulating the doctrines that are universal. Lewis’s ideas are expressed so they can be understood by people not formally trained in philosophy or theology but they have merit in the marketplace of ideas.
The probability of morality as we know it in the human community, given that theism is true, is more probable than morality given any other worldview. Morality at the human (finite) level is anchored in morality at the infinite level. Morality has its most natural fitting worldview home in theism. In using the analogy of light shining through boards in a tool shed, Lewis says, “I believe in Christianity, not because I see it, but because by it, I see everything else.”
In Hinduism, Brahman, the hidden inner essence of everything, is beyond human categories of good and evil. Brahman is the only reality. Everything we see is an illusion. The fundamental human problem is ignorance, not sin. Dualism is the idea that there is good and evil at war in the universe. Explaining morality in a dualistic framework is difficult. Dualism assumes good and evil are equal, so you would need a third element to adjudicate which one to choose, and that would be a higher standard. Otherwise you wouldn’t know which one to choose. Naturalism/materialism says there is no ultimate moral nature to the universe.
Lewis begins by discussing our common moral experience as a triggering point to reason toward theism. Then he reasons for a deity that’s interested in morality that’s also a supreme power. With naturalism, we come from a source that is non-rational, non-moral and non-personal, so it’s difficult to understand how you get beings that are rational, moral and personal.
Theism is intellectually at least on par, if not superior to, other conceptions of reality like dualism, pantheism and naturalism. If there is a God that theism describes, only one deity of the living theistic religions said that this God invaded our existence. The question is that in comparison to other alternatives, what is emerging as a reasonable explanation of the reality we face?
Our rationality being reliable assumes that we can produce a large preponderance of true beliefs over false ones by using rational faculties like memory, abstract reasoning, perception and the testimony of others. The role of philosophy is to analyze and explain the common sense beliefs of the human race about morality and the external world.
The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind. Lewis thinks that we now do not have broad social consensus of Christian truth. He challenges individuals to have a more positive affirming attitude toward intellect and academics. In his view, Christians are ambivalent about the value of the life of the mind and using the gift of our intellect to serve him.
Premise one: every natural desire corresponds to one real object. Premise two: There exists in us a desire that nothing in the temporal world can satisfy. Conclusion is that there must be more than time, earth and creatures that can satisfy this desire.
The Supreme Being, behind the universe as we know it, is a personal being, eternal and the model for how we are to understand our personhood. We can’t understand our own personhood fully, the way it’s supposed to operate, unless we understand what God is, as a personal being. We are not projecting our understanding on God but learning about ourselves by finding out about God.
This is ultimately a book about a clash of worldviews. A worldview offers an explanation of the important features/phenomena of life and the world. In the West, the atheist worldview is often expressed in naturalism. Lewis argues for theism based on what is true internally of us, rather than argument from design. Discussion is not whether a particular miracle has occurred, but in principle, is it a possibility.
There is a supernatural power or being that is ontologically distinct from nature (transcendent). It is self-existent. Every world view must propose what is fundamentally real. For the naturalist, it is the physical world. For the theist, it’s a transcendent deity. Everything that is not God is dependent/contingent on God for its being. The theist says that the deity can bring about events that would not have happened by the regular operation of nature.
What’s important to Lewis is freedom of rational thinking, free from physical causes. Naturalism undercuts the power of reason because everything is determined by physical causes. If evolutionary naturalism is true, then the probability of our cognitive faculties being reliable for truth is low.
If you believe in naturalism as a worldview, miracles are impossible. Since a naturalist worldview says everything is determined and thought is only adaptive, the ability to have free rational thought to logically evaluate naturalism undercuts the naturalist position.
Rational thought and moral consciousness are points of entry of the supernatural into the realm of the natural. It involves both. It’s not a dichotomy. Naturalists believe that the nature of human persons is limited to material processes. Substance dualists believe that mind and brain are two separate substances that are mixed for now, but at death one will cease to exist and the other will continue to exist. Emergentist sees the animal form taken to another degree of complexity by the natural realm getting increasingly complex and dualist in function as opposed to substance.
Scientific law is economical summary of what experience always reports: regular cause and effect. Laws are regularity based on coincidences. Causality is the basis of law. Hume says that laws are regularities based on coincidences. Hume says that you can only know regularity because that’s all the human mind is capable of. Peterson’s view is that a miracle is not changing a law of nature, it’s changing with the “ceteris paribus” clause – preventing all things from being equal and changing the nature of the item.
There is nothing about nature that makes miracles impossible. The naturalist can’t see nature accurately as a creature, not just an independent fact but it can’t stand or explain itself. The cosmological principle is that only concrete beings, not general things, have causal power. Causal laws don’t make things happen, only the beings acting within the laws.
If God is in fact a living determinate being, and is outside the natural system, he might insert events into the natural system. The laws that we observe in the natural system may be a subset of higher laws that govern the universe. What criteria do you use to determine if a miracle has taken place? Evidence plus intrinsic probability. Whether or not an event is a miracle is also part of the discussion of the problem of evil. Why would God intervene in some circumstances but not others?
In philosophy, it’s referred to as the problem of evil. Given a certain understanding of God and a certain understanding of evil, there is a tension explaining why evil exists in the world.
If God chooses to create a nature, this signifies a physical system which indicates a relatively independent nature independent from himself, it would make a lot of sense to say he is frequently intervening. The same laws that make nature a stable environment in which rational soulish life can emerge, are also the same laws that make us vulnerable. Pain is God’s megaphone to arouse a deaf world. He might whisper to us in our pleasures, but he shouts to us in our pain. Question about whether God initiates the pain or he set up a system which results in pain because of the way it’s structured.
Lewis describes the story of the Fall as a narrative that has symbolic elements that convey significant truth. The truth in the first couple chapters of Genesis is that we were created by God, sovereign and loving creator, and that our only fulfillment as humans is to center our lives on God. Our proper role as a creature is to rely on God, so when we ignore that and rely on ourselves, our relationship with God is broken.
God is his creation set forth the problem of expressing his goodness through the total drama of a world containing free agents in spite of, and even by means of, their rebellion against him. The risk is for the possibility of relationship.
Aristotle would say that as a rational, moral being you build your character based on the hierarchy of good traits. From a Christian perspective, our natural destiny should be on the same trajectory as our eternal destiny. The spiritual and theological virtues are faith, hope and love.
As long as God chooses a stable physical order, that physical order will run by its own laws. Any system with have the possibility of pain. Created nature with natural laws provide a framework/structure in which souls can meet. Some pain is produced by the natural system without regard to the desires of the beings. That humans can inflict pain on other humans is a reflection of the permission by God that he permits this. The wide range of freedom makes it possible for great good or terrible evil.
Lewis thinks that God needs to pierce the shield of our ego and we are embodied creatures so pain is what does it by getting our attention by highlighting how frail and in need we are.
For Lewis, heaven is the unending joyous life of God, the life of the Trinity. The only way I can be fulfilled is to find its proper purpose and relation with God. Heaven is the restoration of created personhood, what it was always meant to be. When we are on the trajectory, we begin experiencing it now. Hell is the lack of fulfillment for which we were made.
Discussion of the movie Shadowlands. Discussion of the nature of relationships. Pain and happiness are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
Lewis expresses anger toward God as part of his process of grief. Orthodox Christianity denies materialism which believes that your physical body is all you are, but it doesn’t require body-soul dualism where the soul is the real person that inhabits a shell. Whatever damage death completes in the reign of sin in this world will be undone and swallowed up by the resurrection. The restoration of human personhood will come after death.
Heaven and hell are dichotomous. Whether life is heaven or hell depends on your future trajectory. God is true reality, fixed and can’t be altered. In GD, true reality is God. The descriptions are not meant to be literal. Heaven is the Trinitarian life of God. It’s not a place, it’s a state of being in proper relation to the love and joy of the Trinitarian relations. Lewis describes it as a great dance.
Final comments about themes in The Great Divorce.
C. S. Lewis is an extremely good theologian who does his work for the thoughtful lay person. But his writings reflect his erudite understanding of the great classics of literature, historical theology, philosophy, and other disciplines. Lewis says in Mere Christianity that theology is like a map. We may get where we’re going without it, but it is much easier to use the map. The map of Christian theology is drawn over the early centuries of the church as the believing community interprets the Bible and its experience of God.
Of course, the ultimate goal of theology, according to Lewis, is practical: to draw us into the life of God, or St. Gregory of Nazianzus ((329-374 AD), called it, “the Great Dance.” I know no theme deeper or more pervasive in Lewis than our need to get the steps right, to join the dance once again.
In “Meditations in a Tool Shed,” Lewis says that there is a distinction between looking at a beam of light and looking along the beam of light. He is speaking of looking at reason or using reason—a passage that forms part of his great case that presence of rationality argues for the truth of theism. We will be doing a lot of looking in this course, largely, “looking at” Lewis himself. But let us also try to “look along” the same line of sight as Lewis, to see things—God, humanity, spiritual life, and a host of other things—as Lewis saw them. This means attempting to step inside Lewis’s worldview and learning to interpret fundamental realities the way he did and to deploy his distinctive strategies for engaging other worldviews. In effect, we will learn to think Christianly by learning to think along Christianly with Lewis.
In 2020, Dr. Peterson published the book, C. S. Lewis and the Christian Worldview. It is essentially his course lectures in written book form--covering Lewis on all key worldview issues--reality, knowledge, creation, trinity, christology, as well as issues of evil, religious pluralism, and the impact of science on faith. You will also see it listed in the Recommended Reading section.
Dr. Michael Peterson
C.S. Lewis: His Theology and Philosophy
Problem of Pain (Part 4)
You can sort of see here that. Are translating Lewis's point into this idea of contra causal free will. I think that's fair to Lewis. He might have been intending more by that, but I think he is intending at least something like this. Now, some people believe for me, I think Lewis is ambiguous on this point. Some people think he's clearer than I think he is. But if this is the physical realm, then you need something. Nonphysical to be able to turn back upon that realm. So it leads it leaves in a lot of people's thinking to a substance dualism. I don't think it's clear that he must be committed to that groups. There's got to be something nonphysical here and that's able then to turn back with counter causal freedom on the physical causes that underlie this achievement that we call rationality. I'm happy with alternative theory of saying when these causes get produced such complex results as the human brain that a new power and ability emerges out of that which then has contra causal free will. I don't think you have to say it's a distinct substance such that maybe if if the physical dies, that substance retains its full identity. That seems unnecessary. Some people are very committed to that. But I'm more on the human unity, the holism with respect to the totality of our humanity. You know, so for me, I became an emergent person, an emergent emergent mind emerging from increasing complexity and having powers not exhibited at lower levels of physical process. But somehow in us, we've achieved this. I'm good with that. So either way, we get the same net result. RF rejoice. Its now exhibited anywhere else in nature. Yes. I'm confused. Are you saying that's your view or his view? I think Lewis is ambiguous too, to make sense of his idea that spirit has or had pre fall had ease and freedom over its own physical makeup and process, all that kind of stuff.
Would you have too? What kind of metaphysic would be required? So I believe that it's true. What was let's say we believe that that's true, that pre-fall we had this perfect freedom. I'm not saying I believe it. I'm not exactly sure what he means, Roy, But suppose. Suppose we think it's true. The question is, Will, then how is it that it's true? What metaphysical situation do we have to envision to make sense of what he said? And I think there are alternative metaphysical mechanisms such as dualism. Would people think that Lewis was committed to that for a lot of other reasons? In other writings, he's made a real soul and a real body. The body could drop away, and the soul retains its identity, its memory, its function. But I think that's quite debatable. And it's certainly not a universal opinion among Christians, Orthodox Christians. Because partly if you want to go that way, it's hard to make sense of human unity and the holism, you know, and how intimately we're connected to the body. And why then would eschatology include resurrection ideas and restoration ideas that the physical is not going to be trashed? We're intimately related to that. If somehow there's going to be a whole new rust ray, as opposed to, Hey, when you die, who needed it anyway? We're a closet platonist where the physical is less than valuable. Well, so, I mean, you know, you can take the contra causal freewill affirmation, affirm that, and say we still could get at that with different metaphysical underpinnings. You could have an emergent dualism, which I tend to favor myself, gives you the same net result, or you have a real strong substance dualism, soul, body, mind, body and that. But either one could be used as the mechanism that underlies this.
But so we I confirm that this is true, let's say. But the discussion how is it that it's true could remain a kind of an open, open discussion between metaphysical visions? I think that's fair enough. What do you think of that? I question that as if we're talking about an emergent kind of reclining up to this point. Yeah, the causality or almost like a transcendent. Yeah. Yeah. The the fall is a breaking down of that. What's a breaking down? Something is. But it is a breaking down of that. Well I guess it is two substances is you can see kind of a division that is more like the relation between us and God. Yeah. And the two seem to fit together very easily. Whereas if we're talking about this emergent transcendence that something breaks down, but not necessarily that or something breaks down that affects. Well, it seems to me that if the contra causal freewill is a fact libertarian incompatible as incompatible of being determined, contra causal, how we want to talk about this, this understanding of freewill, that that is really deeply involved in the explanation of whatever damage the fall did. And the fall was at the very least relational. Like you were saying a minute ago, and whether or not it's I don't I don't quite as readily perceive the correlations between a spiritual breaking of relationship and what is it then, exactly, sort of tangibly that has broken within me. The correlates with that. And one reason I even Lewis, I think, has trouble seeing all the correlations because he's admitting to one side of his mouth. He's admitting. Pain, death, carnage, predation. All existed long before the appearance of of even the hominids, let alone Homo sapiens us on the one hand.
And yet, in other passages he says things like, You know, we lost we lost some kind of connection, some kind of things have happened to us physically, tangibly, and I don't know. Like I said, I don't have to cash all that out, but I am deeply committed to the rupture that is relational. But he also seems to have to say that part of his role is on that power, if you will. Interesting. Yeah, go ahead. I mean, I mean, he talks about this in some sense about this formation of free will. He says this is a dangerous spirit. So this right wing over danger is not now a weak take over. It's major bad actor. Oh, that's interesting. I mean, it's not like he doesn't make really interesting distinctions, not only stuff that we've been weakened because they see in some visions, even some place in his own writings, We lost our mastery and we've now become abolition before. The human spirit and spirit went from being the master of human nature to a mere lodger in his own house or even in prison or prison. Yeah. The next page, it says, will not become a weak, but that. Yeah, and those are probably mixed metaphors. You think maybe a little tension between those two. But again, I'm not. I don't usually jump on Lewis with both feet and say, well, he's just doesn't make any sense. He's getting better. But once again, he's exhibiting the difficulty of trying to blur. Blur should say anything in much detail about. I think I think that's instructive. I don't know anybody does. The more they talk, the more they're going to get in trouble, I think. But anyway, good stuff. Good stuff. Find my eyes. The whole idea, though, I think that Lewis is getting it too, is why is contra causal free will something that God would want to emerge? And I think he says it like this.
And these are my I just jotted this down. I'm not opening up my book. If I open my book, it falls apart. I've got rubber band of that God in creation set for himself. The challenge, Lewis says. The problem he set for himself, the problem of expressing his goodness through the total drama of a world containing free agents. In spite of and even by means of their rebellion against him. That's really interesting. If I were to cash that out a little bit, God set himself the challenge of expressing his goodness through the unfolding drama of the world when the world creates free agents who are not just puppets. And have to play the play as he wants. So he's willing to create things that are not himself and have a power He donates to them to the come toward him or go away from him. And just in the language, we've been using this contra causal free will. It's the trip was a challenge because it's risky. There's no guarantee. Is God like that? I think he's saying and strangely, I don't think he uses the word risky mind. God is willing to take a risk. Why would you be willing to take a risk? And I think you have to say the risk is for the possibility of relationship. So if the goal is high enough, the risk could be worth it. Well, you know, I think the stock market was up when I was coming to work. I think it was I really don't know what it is right now. But I think, you know, it's been October is always bad. As Mark Twain said, October is a very bad month for investing in stocks, as is November, December, January, February, March, April.
Mark Twain is a really smart guy, but it is partly what you do when you invest is you assess risk and reward your balance and risk reward. I think that's what we're getting at here. Supposing this is zero and we're going to measure, we're going to measure upside downside risk. The risk is both ways. I like I like a gain on my investment. If I say I'd like a huge gain. I'm really wanting to get a huge gain. Okay, then my risk is absolutely linked on the downside to how much upside I'm playing for and I'm open to. But I have to be open to both. Anybody who wants to sell you an investment and says you can have only upside potential, but no downside loss is lying, you know, and so or I could say like my low of, well, somebody who's close to retirement and people can only pray that I am. Trust me, I'm not. Okay. So that's a subtle issue. Okay. I would say, well, I can't take much risk with what money I've saved. I need to grow it a little, but make sure I preserve, you know, a fair amount. Okay. That's a different different risk assessments. So you're saying I wouldn't mind having a little bit of gain and I definitely couldn't take any any major losses because I might not have time in my life span. I'm getting closer to to recover from any any losses. And so I'm willing only to have this much risk on the downside. Will that mean I can only have as much risk on the upside? Now, if we said to God, why don't you create a world where evil of such awful kinds that we see in this world are just ruled out? That man's inhumanity to man.
So. Robert Browning. Yeah. Man's inhumanity to man, as Robert Browning says, has made countless thousands weep or all the hideous things that happen. Those are those are really awful. All the downs. Those are negatives in this world. Well, you think implicitly that suggests that the upside must be pretty amazing that we could have relation to God, beatitude and fulfillment by living into his life and letting his life live in 2 hours per credit. It's its relational universe so that if God's goals are really high for the noble kind of creature, we are in His image. There's no other way about it. The downside has to be commensurate. There can't be all upside potential and no downside loss potential. So if God wants to keep us from having much power to do much damage, kind of limit the downside, then you have to limit the upside. I think that's really an interesting insight. And Lewis has it playing out here in what he's saying that the scope, the range of human possibility made possible by a contra cause or free will put it in our terms, contra cause of free will is for the sake of amazing relational goods of beatitude and joy with God, harmony and love toward our fellows to great commandments. But if you don't go live into that, the downside could be very, very bad. Now, are you with me so far? Does this seem right? I mean, we're trying to tease apart the themes in Lewis. So while he's talking about free will, he said so himself, a challenge that means he's willing to take a risk. He voluntarily for a very high purpose, accepted the risk. So the for the possibility of relationship, you couldn't say because he's going to determine that we definitely are going to have relationship.
We're going to be happy if we want it or not. Well, then we will have contra causal free will. Sort of a libertarian. Freewill, or sometimes we call it incompatible. Free will, contra cause or free whatever terminology we want to use by allowing that created reality to exist, he's voluntarily assuming the risk and with his purpose is being so high for us. He's got to be open to the you know, so he's going to set himself the challenge of expressing his goodness. When the stock market is goal of human free will, outcomes is going up and down. Lewis is saying God has set himself the challenge of expressing his goodness through the total drama of that world containing agents who have free will. And some are turning toward him, some are turning, you know, that kind of thing. But he he is working in that whole drama. Yes. Yeah, I know. Lewis says that you would say like God is outside of time with you. No. Yes. So you would really be at risk if God knows that it's going to work out? That's an interesting point that goes back, you know, to the whole. Open theism versus closed theism debate, which is out there. And how much can I bring that in? Let's see here. I mean, on the face of it, on the face of it, this looks to me like God is open to human outcomes in the world and open to things not happening how he wants. But he is, like I say here, but still expressing his goodness to be redemptive and to keep things turning toward his purposes through the unfolding drama of the world. That strikes me as a God who's open. He's open himself to create truly outcomes, but he can work with them.
LEWIS Of course, in various places, as you like he did in the last few chapters of Mere Christianity, talks about the dance through a dance as two partners. And we've gotten out of step, he says in the dance. Like you're were saying. What we did, Christiane, we've gotten out of step and he's he's not discarding us. He's working with us. He's trying to still express his goodness and his redemptive purposes, although we're out of step. And I think if we say, no, he's not open, he knows the future is timeless. So here's God. And the way I usually picture this is here's here's time and past, present and future are all, as he says himself. They're rolled out before God as a scroll. He also says in that chapter on this point in Christianity, this is debatable. And if you don't want to read this chapter, skip it and go on. So he's making a specific commitment about God's relation to time, and he's not holding it up as those part of mere Christianity. But the book, he says, is trying to express orthodoxy. And, you know, he postures that book versus here's a chapter, not strictly necessary. So there are alternative ways of looking at this. One way of saying it's not a risk is because God knows that he'll be successful. And I'd like to know what their success looks like. Even statistically great divorce gives us a little hint about things. We'll get to that later. But a lot of people think that a timeless God is not an open God. So he if either his knowledge or his power, if either one is construed a certain way, there are there are people who think this clause is off guard from risk, either based on his knowledge in a timelessness model might be one such way or based on his power, a kind of predestined Aryan scenario or some of his.
Somehow he's exercising his power. Well, probably you won't get contra causal free will. You get more of a compatible free will? But we can use the term free will. But those compatible big term and. So either of these routes would give you a route to what some would say is a closed guard, a guy who takes no risks. What is this, 2014? I guess it was in maybe maybe 12 years ago, I was doing a book for Blackwill called Contemporary Debates in Philosophy Religion. So just as a textbook, I think a debate style or two to different positions on a certain question. Key question are debated. A lot of students like that kind of thing. You can learn a lot. I did 12 topics and I went out and got authors who would definitely be opposed to each other's positions, you know, and and so on this kind of topic, we have to craft the questions and they have to clearly know the question and they have to one has to answer yes and argue and the other has to answer no and argue why. And so on this one we ask this question Does God take risks in governing the world? I think it's a pretty good question. And I guess we were doing this like 22, 23, and then I think it was published in oh four. But anyway, so I went to Bill Hasker, who is clearly the best thinker, technical, analytical, philosophical thinker in the open atheist movement. And so it was you write an essay answering that he's sure I'll argue yes, God takes risks. You can create libertarian free will and not take risks. Now the open theist people also have another view. They have a different view of time in God's relation to time.
So he's not a timeless God, He's everlasting, and he doesn't have this relation to time. If that's true, that's. So you really get two basic points that the openness movement is arguing for. His power has to stand back. It has to be a standing back to give contra cause or free will a sphere of operation this not overwhelmed right and and he's not timeless. They criticize timelessness as being hooked into the classical Greek ideas of impossibility and so on, rather than Christian ideas and biblical ideas. And so timelessness gets gets rejected in favor of what they call everlasting. So God still has no beginning and no end. He's still creator. We're still creatures. But in speaking of his relation to time, his experience of time, he's ever lasting. And so the openness movement really turns largely on those two points, a really strong sense of what it means, what the implications are. To have counter calls to free will donated by God. It means there's a standing back on God's part. And and that has to do with the power and then the knowledge part. Maybe he maybe he doesn't know the outcomes of free actions, of creatures. He might know lots of both. But how can you know the outcome of a free choice creature? Free choice that's not been made yet? And that's that's a summary of their argument. So they rate a rate that's I don't know where I am. This people say, why don't you why don't you come down hard on I don't know what. Because I don't work in the area of time very much. And I think the whole philosophy of time is extremely complex. And then how you begin to talk about God's relation to time. I work in the problem of evil.
I work in science, religion. I work. I just don't work in this area. So I don't come down hard because I have all these analytical guilt complexes that if I if I don't do all the analytical work and I know how technical that field is, I ain't going to come down on it, you know? So what I always say is this I actually think Luis could be brought to say this fairly readily what the openness people think is at stake, I also think is what's at stake. What is that? God is in the business of a relationship with creatures. And so whatever I say about what takes two to make that possible, what kind of free will, what kind of divine purposes, what what kind of metaphysical structuring of reality, anything. See the point of the openness people against the closed what I call the closed people to closed theism is that closed theism just doesn't have room for real relationship. If God knows everything or he causes everything, you can't in order to say as much as we can say, glorify God as much as we may have accidentally or unwittingly said things that destroy relationship built in a metaphysic metaphysical vision of the way reality structured were really all the we mean by relationship has been kind of preempted. I think that's really interesting point. Yeah, I just listen to this and that's pretty well with you. Okay, we risk taking the title of standpoint, but he makes it talks about the Abraham Isaac story, next chapter. That's true. Does And so he really tries to get to answer this question a little bit about what it means for God to do something. And I think he says to say that God did not have tried to experiment.
That is asking Isaac sacrifice to say, yeah, say that because God knows the outcome of the thing known to God did not exist. Yeah, that's a good point. And whether it stands up under scrutiny and counterargument, I don't know, because I don't work in that area, but you can know something that doesn't yet exist. All right. He's no dummy, but he is he is still still working on the timelessness thing. Here's the timelessness argument, if I can boil it down. The argument against timelessness with respect to free will, that if God knows, I'll put it here. If God knows at time 1t1 God knows. VAT. P okay. MP Is John whips freely repents. Let's just, let's just make that up and say okay at t to so at some subsequent time t20p is actualized. P b becomes. So if it would seem it would seem logical that if God knows something unlike our own knowledge. But you can I put it this way, if if it omniscient being knows something to be true, then that thing must be true. And so it has it hasn't come to Lewis as it hasn't come to be yet. It hasn't doesn't exist yet. Thinks what you said. Well, when I come to to that point in time, as time moves law, if I come to t to and and decide I want to do differently, I can't because I'd be confusing divine knowledge. Richard Taylor makes this point in his book Metaphysics. Gosh, it was published in the late sixties, if my memory is correct. There might be a second edition that came out in the seventies, but Taylor makes that point, so take God out of the picture. You could go back to Aristotle's Sea battle tomorrow, and when Aristotle writes this little scenario of the sea battle tomorrow, he says, If the captain of the ship see, he he just takes go ahead.
He says if it's true today that there'll be a sea battle tomorrow. If it's true today, a future tense proposition. Sisk is so technical. If a future tense proposition is true today that there will be a sea battle tomorrow, then tomorrow the captain who must order that can't not do it. That's God. No. Even in the picture. That's true. Whether it's whether it's the case, the future tense propositions even have a truth value. That's really interesting stuff. And then you bring God in the picture and you and you've already got a little bit of understanding of of some of the difficulty just about claiming propositions are true in a logic propositions. Then God comes in the picture of foreknowledge and a strong, strong ideas about that. So it's a fascinating area. And I don't mean to be evasive. I don't have a well-worked out view. I have a well-worked out view like on what men's basketball team will win the title in 2015. I say give it to us now that that's true today. Yes, that's right. That I just read it out of context that this debate is as same as it was he was talking about not the risk on God's behalf, but by God, knowing this ahead of time was not a matter of whether or not Abraham knew whether or not that was going to happen. So that's what that's what he was talking about, is if God made the Athenians come fast with Abraham. So Abraham grew the experience? Not necessarily. Yes, absolutely. But I think that's what I was taking your saying, though, because if God knew in advance, in advance that Abraham would obey, then was Abraham free not to obey when that exact moment of decision came true? That's I just think that's really a conundrum.
And there really is a technical literature out there and the but the open theists, they've really gotten out there and gotten themselves criticized because they're not saying things as strongly about God's knowledge. And so as some would think they should say. And so but we'll know what their reply as long as it Well, you want us to say things are so strong, they imply the denial of real relationship or real relationship possibilities. So back and forth. But that argument goes, Oh, I see. I actually see Lewis as dead set on this being a relational god and a relational universe for all the reasons we've been talking about and the high potential for us to live in to God, all is met with equal possibility of downside risk. And that's part of an answer to the problem of evil from pain. Why can we do that? Well, God has given us a sphere of operation that has wonderful potential upside, but very strong downside potential. And so Lewis wants all the values he thinks. What's at stake in this openness debate, I think, is what's really at stake myself, the openness. People think so. And the question of first want to be, you know, do a paper on Lewis Well, then are some of the things he's saying about timelessness or the nature of divine knowledge. They put a little pressure maybe on him being able to protect the high value of relationship. So that would be a question about whether Lewis doesn't perceive some of the invisible, logical tensions that the openness people probably would see there. But his value really is on relationship. He sees no tension with even that remark. He's trying to sweep aside her attention. Well, just to know something in advance doesn't mean has to.
Well, there's more to that debate. There's more to that debate. Oh, yeah. I wondered first, in part, if time is the result of the fall time. Yeah, the time is relational for one. I mean, one of the things to think about is if we start with the presupposition of view of God in time, that he might for know something in the future, Yeah, we are putting him in our world. Yeah. In order to make sense of something you. Yeah. Timelessness supports foreknowledge. Okay, so with us is for with respect to our position in time, God's timelessness gives him foreknowledge. And the other thing I was thinking about is just as far as time being relational, there's space physically and and I guess theoretically in time. So if I I'm to know you, there's a distance between us here. Oh, yeah. And then but then, like, how do we come to know each other? I would argue narratively or through story, we tell each other our stories and there's actual time as we measure it. Take it. Right. No. And then there's like, this hint in the scriptures of We shall know. And we know that we should get to know each other. But almost like this. Yes. Of that knowing relational. George MacDonald said something like, Maybe our very soul will be able to pass through or not. In theory, but yeah. How prokaryotic is that? Yeah, I mean, these are these are very interesting and very difficult things. You can look at timelessness. Two ways at least. One is you're saying just that God's mode of existence. Is not ours. And we are subject to the ravages of time. We come into being and we pass away. We're perishable. We don't have our own existence under our own control.
We don't have the next minute under our own control. But God, his nature is to not be in that particular sphere of finitude and perish ability. And that or you can take the stronger view of timelessness and say this got imported into Christian thinking via classical Greek philosophy and the timelessness of God, the timeless timelessness of some absolute, let's say Aristotle's unmoved mover is all bundled up with a lot of other baggage. Immutability impossibility, unable to be affected by the crucially world, almost of static. And of course, Luis is so much on the dynamism of the divine life, but he's got that class. So you don't know if he's picking this up, how much classicism he's picking up in investing timelessness, which really did get into Christian discussion early on with Augustine and others and Augustine's Neoplatonism Louis is all Neoplatonism, you know, is so and he's got a good dose of a deep Gaston and through a gust in a good dose of Neil play Neil played platooning and thought which was Neil Platon plate tonic. Yeah and so it just takes so much close analysis to get down to what could he mean by this? Can you Christianize the idea of timelessness? I think your only hope is to say, we're just saying he's not. He doesn't have our mode of existence. But if you take the more positive investment of that idea with all these Greek ideas, more you do that. A lot of like the openness people say, the less and less you've got the God who's dynamic and interpersonal and relational. More like a move, move or of Aristotle, see that kind of thing. So it's an interesting debate. I'm on the outside of that in that I'm an observer, an appreciative observer.
Like I tell my openness friends all time. I agree with what you think's at stake. I'm just not sure where I come down on the timelessness omniscience for knowledge. There are a lot of technicalities there. By the way, on the book, The Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion. We're going to a second edition within the next couple of years, and I don't know if we'll do the same questions. You know, like that. QUESTION Does God take risks in governing the world? We probably won't use all the same People Think Bill Haskell be a little too old, Bill, 17 years older than I am. He's 83. We'll leave him alone. And so. But in the first edition, Bill said he would argue yes, God takes risks because it's the relational point. And so who else could we. We asked Paul Hill out at the seminary in Vancouver, is that called Regent Regent and perhaps is No, God does not take risks. There's nothing that's risky for God. And a strong view of sovereignty strongly, you know. And where they went at it, they I think Casper gets the better of that one. But it was really interesting that you got an Orthodox Christian, Reformed Christian saying there's no way that God takes any risks. Any detail of how the world turns out. Two very different visions. We prefer to take a break in 5 minutes. So will that work? Okay.