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November 28, 2008


Derek Rishmawy

A few points:

1. Boyd moves from “who’s God is smarter” to “wisdom.” I dunno about you but I’ve always thought the word “smart” implied “knows more stuff.” If that’s the case then by definition Craig’s God is “smarter” simply because he knows more stuff than Boyd’s God.

2. Quite frankly, I don’t know why having a god who can “outsmart” his opponents is so much better than a god who just beats his opponents because He’s the God of the Universe and they don’t come close. If the praiseworthiness of God’s omniscience, (God’s knowledge of everything its possible for him to know), is dependent solely on the basis of its “problem-solving” power, or in relation to his use of it to defeat his opponents, then I could see Boyd’s argument as being pertinent. But, I see no reason to think that this is the only, or even main basis for the praiseworthiness of God’s omniscience. It is praiseworthy simply because of what it is inherently. Just like his other qualities. God’s beauty is inherently praiseworthy and not simply in relation to other, less beautiful beings, but in itself, such that even if there were no other beings it would still be praiseworthy. It seems that God’s omniscience would be praiseworthy, in the same way, such that even if there were no problems to solve or enemies to defeat, it would still be . In which case, Boyd’s point doesn’t really do much.

3. Also, Boyd says that in Molinism, “God is simply controlling or knowing what is natural for God to control or know”, which seems to point to the fact that he thinks that God just doing what it is natural for God to do isn’t praiseworthy. But I see no reason to think that is the case. Most of the stuff we praise him for is stuff which it is simply natural for him to do. Just being God and doing God-stuff, should be good enough. So, I don’t think the charge does much. Also, it seems that in Open Theism, the same charge could be made. God would simply be anticipating moves or outsmarting opponents which it is natural for him to anticipate or outsmart. So, the same principle would seem to apply. Only this time, God is just little bit smaller.

4. Also, I don’t know why we should use the chess analogy. What if the relevant example is not chess. What if its Jeopardy? What if simply knowing more stuff is the relevant example?
I will concede that it seems reasonable to think that wisdom, for humans, is knowing how to properly use the information they have to solve problems. But I see no reason for thinking that the nature of human wisdom is the same as Divine wisdom. Human wisdom is the wisdom of knowing how to work within certain limitations. But are we sure that we can so easily apply that definition or that conception to God? It seems to me that we have sufficient reason, (in light of all of God’s other attributes and the vast differences between Creator and creation), to think that this is, at the very least, not obviously the case. In fact, it seems to me that we can safely say that its probably not a good idea to apply the same definition, that of human wisdom, to Divine wisdom. As with all talk about God, it is necessarily limited and analogical, (in the Thomistic sense.) In which case, we shouldn’t go about thinking that the praiseworthiness of God’s wisdom in the way that Boyd does.

5. Boyd says of the OT God, “he anticipates each possible (but not certain) free move his opponent might make and must prepare a response to each possible future move. But he’s so wise, he does this as effectively as if he were certain of each future move, and thus every move of his opponent plays to his ultimate advantage.” This quote makes me doubt the seriousness of Boyd’s OTheism. I mean, if this is the case, then I’m not sure how much more praiseworthy the OT God is because it sounds pretty darn, freaking close to the Molinist God, with nearly the same effects, only without the guarantees or assurances that its things will actually turn out well. Also, he’s close enough that all the other supposed benefits of the view as linked with the problem of Evil, prayer and stuff like that, seem to disappear because a God who anticipates and plays in such a way that it is “effectively” as if he knew, then he seems to face all the same problems that classical Arminianism and Molinism face.

6. As for the incoherence of Molinism’s claims about the knowledge preceding the choice: That assertion is quite debatable. In any case, its not as simple as his little 4-sentence paragraph makes out. There are large issues of semantics and metaphysics that need to be worked out in more detail than I can here. I would recommend the sections written by David Hunt or William Lane Craig, in the book 4 Views on Foreknowledge.

7. Final thoughts: For me, with Open Theism, it again and again comes to these basic points: 1. Almost nobody in the history of Christian Thought for nearly 1900 years has believed this. 2. The Scriptural arguments are very weak and if anything Calvinistic-leaning statements and passages are far more troubling and strongly attested in Scripture. 3. I don’t think it is of any use Philosophically, Theologically, or Pastorally. Case-in-point: The Problem of Evil. There is tons of stuff on the Problem of Evil from a Classical Arminian to Reformed view that is extremely satisfying philosophically, and definitely pastorally, and I think, theologically. We just don’t need to OTheist view and in fact I think it hurts rather than helps.

Anyways, there are some thoughts. As always, thanks for posting Mike. Stimulating stuff.


I do like Boyd's use of the term "wise" to distinguish from "smart" or "knowledgeable" (which are very different things). However, I think "strategic" would be a better term to use. (Will Ferrill Bush jokes aside).

But I am not sure if God being more strategic/wise is more important than Him being knowledgeable. A fascinating discussion though.

I think so much of the nature of God's foreknowledge depends upon one's starting point. I would like to see Boyd and others argue should you start with God's relationship to time and then develop your theory of His forekonwledge, or develop your theory of His foreknowledge, then develop a theory as to His relationship in time. That could also be said to Calvinist/Arminianist debates (i.e. should one start with God's love or His sovereignty?).

Although I think WL Craig is an absolute genius when it comes to God's existence (none living better than perhaps Plantinga), I just don't understand his hybrid theory of God being out of time before creation, then in time once creation begins. I respect Boyd. Like the Calvinists, he bites bullets and draws things to their logical conclusion, even when it is philosophically uncomfortable.

Perhaps in 20 years I'll be smart enough to actually pick a position on this debate.

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