April 25th, 2011
If everything God does is GOOD, and if God controls EVERYTHING, then it would be BAD had one less child been gassed in Auschwitz. -Greg Boyd’s Twitter Status
I read Dr. Boyd’s status and was very intrigued. I believe open theists deserve a seat at the table of discussion and despite my view that I think they’re wrong, their arguments are stronger than many give them credit for. Let’s look at this.
- If everything God does is Good [and]
- If God controls everything [by weak and strong actualization]
- Then, it would be bad had one less child been gassed in Auschwitz.
- It would have been good had one less child been gassed in Auschwitz.
- Therefore, either not everything God does is good or God does not control everything.
- God is good and everything he does is good.
- Therefore, God does not control everything.
It seems like Boyd has posed an interesting dilemma (at least for the Molinist who affirms that God’s means of providence is not exclusively causal, but that he controls all things). To avoid a dilemma you must either deny a horn or add another premise. I would add the premise that God has good reasons for his control (control will encompass permission and causality, or, weak and strong actualization). Control and goodness aren’t mutually exclusive and the dilemma isn’t as clear-cut as the open theist wants it to be [granted they only have to make one case against it to make their point]). A problem with Boyd’s position is that only immediate consequences seem to have the perspectival role. The temporally distant consequences seem to be ignored, which are many. (i.e. Permitting that one child to live may cause more children to be gassed). With such a counterfactual it may be the case that the allowance of such an undesirable event actually bring about a greater event in the course of history. We are not in a spatiotemporally privileged position to make such an assessment, but if God possesses such knowledge then it may be the case that permitting such an action is the choice which enables the most good to come about. Had that bad not occurred then the greater good could not have come about any other way given the previous counterfactuals of human freedom. This isn’t to say that God is dependent on the bad to bring about good; it’s to say that God uses bad to bring about good [and perhaps even a greater good]. Whether or not God has such knowledge is the more fundamental grounds for such a discussion.
Auschwitz Gas Chamber
There’s also a distinction between the suffering aspect [of being gassed] and the death aspect because if God merely permits someone to die either by weak or strong actualization that’s God’s prerogative. God is not morally obligated to extend anyone’s life, the issue is suffering. If the bad
is death and not suffering then I’d merely need an argument for why God is morally obligated to extend one’s life; thus, I’ll assume we agree the bad
is suffering. In the end, it doesn’t seem to be the case that Boyd’s dilemma is a true dilemma. As long as God has a morally sufficient reason to allow the bad
to occur, then God’s control is still good. For more information, see Boyd’s contribution to Four Views on Divine Providence