Monday, May 19, 2008

Omniscience and the Odyssey theodicy

Mawson argues in Divine Eternity (forthcoming in Int.J.Phil.Rel.) that Open theism (that God's future is to some extent open) implies that God is not omniscient and hence not omnipotent either, whence God's goodness would be, to some extent, a matter of luck! So in Omniscience and The Odyssey Theodicy I defend Open theism against that charge—hopefully introducing to a wider world (this world is so odd) my yearling theodicy (that we asked to be born because we wanted to be the instruments of a scientific investigation into God’s uniqueness) as part of that defence (since evil is less of a problem for theism if we asked to be born, which we could more plausibly have done if God is everlasting rather than timeless).


Jeff said...

Hello Enigman. Fascinating stuff.
I'm afraid I'll forget a few points, questions, and disagreements if I wait 'till I get to the end. However, if I say things which you'll later explore more fully, then I'll accept a simple "read more, knucklehead."

#1) You sound so British in your academic writing! I know that you are... but when you blog you sound less so. I wonder why.

#2) If I understand the author you're refuting correctly, it seems like he's effectively saying "Failure to know the future fully implies a limit on God's power. If his power is limited in terms of knowing the future, then his knowledge might be otherwise limited. For example, God might be mistaken about what counts as right and wrong."
A) Is there any justification for the claim that failure to know the future counts as proof that God's omniscience is incomplete? Once we defined omnipotence as the ability to do anything. When it was pointed out that we don't generally expect that even an omniscient being can create square circles or married bachelors, we revised our definition: omnipotence is the ability to do anything possible.
Couldn't we similarly just adopt a more sophisticated understanding of omniscience? Omniscience is not the knowledge of all things, it is knowledge of all things which are knowable to begin with. If the future belongs to the class of things which are unknowable, it does not impinge on God's omniscience to be (atleast partially) ignorant of the future.

#3) Perhaps this question belongs in a post more directly about the odyessy theodicy, but I'd like to ask a few questions about it.
Do you think that you end up with a sort of Hindu/Eastern concept of Evil on the Odyessy Theodicy?
It seems like rather than explaining why evil exists you're providing an account which recasts evil as ignorance.
If this assumption is right, that you're recasting evil as ignorance, do you have any thoughts about whether it's worthwhile to even try to save traditional understandings, stories, and explanations?
As a Christian, I'm of course most interested in stories about the Garden of Eden and what Jesus' role was.
Regardless of whether or not view the Garden as symbolic or literal, it's hard for me to escape the idea that it seems like God didn't want it to happen and Adam and Eve were the worse for it.
Similarly, whatever the meaning of the crucifiction and resseruction are, they seem easiest understood as originally unplanned for reactions that God initiated at great personal cost.

Enigman said...

Hi, thanks for the thoughts. (1) I try to be more precise and sparse when writing academically (also I try harder to remove the parenthetical stuff).

(2) Maybe Mawson was trying to give such a justification, with his conclusion; but he was not saying that God might be mistaken about right and wrong. He was effectively presupposing the reality of the future (for no very good reason) and then arguing that not knowing how things will turn out leads to being liable to bodge things up, to fail in beneficence (not benevolence).

(3) I think that maybe I address your worry later on. (I don't know much about Eastern views, but as an Inclusivist I should hope it is a bit Eastern, maybe.) I think of God leaving Adam and Eve in the garden, before they sinned. If God had been there, they would have asked him about what the Serpent said. If God had left an angel behind to watch over them (as he left an angel with a fiery sword to watch over the garden later) they would have been alright, I'm guessing.

Enigman said...

Prima facie, if Adam was guilty because he did not watch over Eve sufficiently well, as she interacted with the Serpent (who only ever spoke truths, I notice, and who was made by God of course), then what of God's decision to leave them alone in the garden with the Serpent, having given them a rather deceptive reason for not eating the apple in question (that they would die that day, which they do not literally do, and they only become mortal because God chooses to eject them for disobeying him), especially given that God is omnipresent or immanent everywhere or whatever... (feel free to disagree:)

Also, I'm rewriting "Omniscience and the Odyssey theodicy" at present, and will put the new version out soon. The one linked to here is a bit unprofessional, I think. Incidentally, Mawson's paper is essentially chapter 2 of his 2005 book, Belief in God, which is not a bad read (although I disagree with most of his arguments and some of his conclusions).