May 12, 2014

Romans 1:26 and Bestiality?

[Parental Warning For PG13 Content]
I always interpreted that Romans 1:26 described various lesbian activity. But Patristics indicates that some church fathers thought that the passage describes something else. This brief essay considers if the verse refers to the Old Testament prohibition of bestiality.

Consider Romans 1:24–27 NRSV:

[24] Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, [25] because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
[26] For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, [27] and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
These verses refer to pagans who worshiped creatures instead of God and consequently became dominated by degrading passions that resulted in the pagans degrading their bodies with sexual immorality. Romans 1:26 refers to women who "exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural. Then 1:27 refers to men who "committed shameless acts with men," which clearly implies promiscuous anal sex among men.

Parallelism might indicate that Romans 1:26 referred to illicit female homosexual activity because 1:27 clearly indicated illicit male homosexual activity. However, patristics never agreed on the interpretation of 1:26.

Bernadette J. Brooten in "Patristic Interpretations of Romans 1.26" documents that the church fathers rarely commented about the degrading female activity in Romans 1:26 while the few who commented were divided between two interpretations. For example, Clement of Alexandria and John Chrysostom said that the degrading female activity was lesbian sex while Pope Anastasius and Augustine said that the degrading female activity was some type of illicit heterosexual sex.

I propose a third possible interpretation. Romans 1.26 referred to a type of degrading sexual activity explicitely prohibited in the Old Testament. For example, the Old Testament never prohibited or mentioned any type of lesbian activity while Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 specifically prohibited illicit practices of anal sex among men. Also, 18:23 and 20:15–16 specifically prohibits both males and females from bestiality, which is unnatural intercourse with animals. If Paul in Romans 1:26–27 referred to Old Testament prohibitions, then 1:26 could not have been a reference to lesbianism but possibly a reference to bestiality.

Does anybody agree or disagree?

Reference
Bernadette J. Brooten "Patristic Interpretations of Romans 1.26," Ninth International Conference on Patristic Studies, Oxford, September 1983 (published in Studia Patristica XVIII: Papers of the 1983 Patristics Conference. Vol. I: Historica-Theologica-Gnostica-Biblica, ed. Elizabeth A. Livingstone, Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian, 1985, 287–291), http://people.brandeis.edu/~brooten/Articles/Patrisitc_Interpretations_of_Romans_1_26.pdf.


Copyright © 2014 James Edward Goetz

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

May 8, 2014

My Links On General Partnerships

In 1990, I read about the paradoxical authority of a general partnership and saw that it was the best analogy for the the three-in-one paradox of the Trinity. I then started to informally teach this analogy. In 2010, I wrote a blog article about it and followed up with a couple brief essays. This year, I published a legal philosophy essay in THE JOURNAL JURISPRUDENCE 21 on the metaphysics of legal persons that include general partnerships. More to come....

"Natural Unity and Paradoxes of Legal Persons" (2014)
http://www.jurisprudence.com.au/juris21/Goetz.pdf

"Simple Divine Partnership and Functional Limits of the Incarnation" (2011) http://theoperspectives.blogspot.com/2011/03/simple-divine-partnership-and.html

"Weak Relative Identity and the General Partnership Model of the Trinity" (2011) http://philpapers.org/archive/GOEWRI.pdf

"The Partnership Law Model of the Trinity" (2010) http://theoperspectives.blogspot.com/2010/03/partnership-law-model-trinity.html

September 3, 2013

My Dream From June Or July 2013

I awoke and remembered a dream in June or July 2013. I rarely remember dreams over the past fifteen or so years, but I strongly remembered this dream.

In the dream, I became a world-class philosopher and theologian. I convinced all churches that marriage in the church is only for heterosexual couples. After a brief reflection on my accomplishment, I suddenly transported to another planet. On this planet, I learned that every inhabitant loved God. And some inhabitants incapable of heterosexual romance but capable of strong homosexual romance enjoyed monogamous same-sex marriages. Also, the people on this planet existed far better off than the people on Earth. The dream ended.

My first impression was to dismiss the dream. I understood that the Bible teaches that the normal pattern for marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman. I also understood that every biblical reference to homosexual sex was a condemnation. I saw these facts as main points in a powerful argument against the legitimacy of same-sex marital covenants in the church. For a couple decades, I stated that every Christian who longs for a marital covenant and who is incapable of heterosexual romance needs to limit themselves to celibacy or heterosexual marriage. If heterosexual passions never develop despite prayer and devotionals, then Christian life for a devout believer with a homosexual orientation should include celibacy and strong chaste friendships.

I also understood that Romans 1:18–32 describes a pattern of paganism-induced hyper-sinfulness including hypersexuality. For example, this passage contains negative references to homosexual sex and the only biblical reference to lesbian sex. However, Romans 1 and the rest of New Testament never describe how a minority of chaste Christian teens develop homosexual passions during puberty while fervently praying to change those passions. Most Christian teens develop romantic passions and most develop normal heterosexual passions, but a small percentage of teens in strong Christian homes develop homosexual passions without any pagan or criminal influences in their lives.

Biblical arguments against the possibility of God-glorifying same-sex marital covenants are powerful and inexhaustive. To be continued....



Minor Corrections 9/4/2013

Copyright © 2013 James Edward Goetz

April 28, 2013

Apostolic Father Ignatius on the Deity of Christ

Tradition says that Ignatius served as the third bishop of Antioch from 67 to 108. His authentic letters help to illuminate views of Jesus Christ in the early second century. Despite various criticisms that say belief in the uncreated deity of Christ was a later invention, quotes from Ignatius indicate otherwise. Below are quotes of Ignatius translated by J.B. Lightfoot:

Await Him that is above every season, the Eternal, the Invisible, who became visible for our sake, the Impalpable, the Impassible, who suffered for our sake, who endured in all ways for our sake. (To Polycarp 3:2)
I bid you farewell always in our God Jesus Christ, in whom abide ye in the unity and supervision of God. (To Polycarp 8:3, italics added)
I give glory to Jesus Christ the God who bestowed such wisdom upon you. (To the Smyrnaeans 1:1, italics added)
Ignatius, who is also Theophorus, unto her that hath found mercy in the bountifulness of the Father Most High and of Jesus Christ His only Son; to the church that is beloved and enlightened through the will of Him who willed all things that are, by faith and love towards Jesus Christ our God...abundant greeting in Jesus Christ our God in blamelessness. (To the Romans 0:0, italics added)
For our God Jesus Christ, being in the Father, is the more plainly visible. (To the Romans 3:3, italics added)
By the will of the Father and of Jesus Christ our God. (To the Ephesians 0:0, italics added)
There is one only physician, of flesh and of spirit, generate and ingenerate, God in man, true Life in death, Son of Mary and Son of God, first passible and then impassible, Jesus Christ our Lord. (To the Ephesians 7:2)


Copyright © 2013 James Edward Goetz

February 9, 2013

The Trinity, Simultaneity, Temporality, and Riemannian Geometry

ATTN: CONDENSED ANALYTIC THEOLOGY ALERT

I. INTRODUCTION
Bernhard Riemann rocked nineteenth-century mathematics by smashing the boundaries of Euclidian geometry. He developed geometric models with a possible infinite number of curved dimensions. The Riemannian geometry laid a foundation for physics theories that include special relativity, general relativity, the Big Bang, and speculative physics models of an infinite multiverse.1 Previous articles of mine refer to special relativity and define God as the Trinity who is originally atemporal with infinite simultaneity and temporal since the beginning of temporality.2 This essay briefly explains how a possible infinite number of dimensions in Riemannian geometry help to model the paradoxical relationship between infinite simultaneity and temporality.

Classical theism says that God atemporally self-exists without change. Trinitarian classical theists attempt to explain how the unchanging God manifests in temporal theophanies such as the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the Incarnation who physically aged and temporarily died.3 Various contemporary Christian philosophers and theologians shifted from belief in divine atemporality to unqualified divine temporality that means God always existed and exists in temporality without origin.4 However, William Lane Craig saw the problems of classical theism and unqualified divine temporality. 5 For example, proponents of unqualified divine temporality never overcame the obstacles of John Philoponus's discovery that the completed passage of an infinite temporal succession is impossible, except when unqualified temporality includes ill-defined temporal succession. Craig embraced the best of both views and concluded that God existed atemporally apart from creation and temporally since the beginning of creation. This article supports Craig's view and ill-defined unqualified temporality by developing an analogy of Riemannian geometry that models atemporailty as an infinite simultaneous dimensionality and models the emergence of temporal succession in new parallel dimensionality.
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1. Roberto Torretti, "Nineteenth Century Geometry," Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2010, http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2010/entries/geometry-19th.
2. James Goetz, "The Atemporal Immutability of the Trinity and Conditional Providence," TheoPerspective, 2012, http://theoperspectives.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-atemporal-immutability-of-trinity.html; "Love and Special Relativity in the Atemporal and Temporal Trinity," TheoPerspective, 2012, http://theoperspectives.blogspot.com/2012/09/love-and-special-relativity-in.html.
3. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 3:2:1.
4. Gregory E. Ganssle, "Introduction: Thinking about God and Time," in God & Time: Four Views, ed. Gregory E. Ganssle (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity, 2001), chapter 1.
5. William Lane Craig, "Timelessness and Omnitemporality," in God & Time: Four Views, chapter 4.

II. DEFINITIONS
Definitions for this essay include:
A. Simultaneity means "dimensionality with no distinction between the past, present, and future."
B. Atemporality and timelessness mean "dimensionality apart from or without succession that could include a time dimension with infinite simultaneity."
C. Temporality and time mean "within a succession going from past to present to future" except when the context indicates simultaneity.

III: ATEMPORALITY AND SIMULTANEITY
Classical theists such as Aquinas teach that God is completely atemporal. For example, Aquinas said that God alone exists in eternity while eternity is a simultaneous whole with no succession.6 This compares to the atemporality in the materialistic models of Zeno and the philosophical concept of eternalism. Zeno proposed that the observable universe is motionless and an undivided whole.7 Eternalism similarly proposes that the observable universe is absolutely simultaneous with no distinction between the past, present, and future.8

Eternalism developed from Einstein's theory of special relativity that predicts relative simultaneity. Relative simultaneity means there is no absolute simultaneity of distant events, which indicates that there is no absolute time frame. This lack of absolute time frame from relative simultaneity ironically supports the radical simultaneity of all events in an infinite time dimension with no distinction between the past, present, and future. The absolute simultaneity of all events also indicates that the set of all events in the universe is uncaused and likewise self-existent while all apparent evidence of causation and time's arrow in scientific observations and human experience is merely an illusion.

Incidentally, McTaggart proposed two models of eternalism. First, McTaggart proposed the B-theory of time that says the time dimension has no distinction between the past, present, and future while all appearance of temporality is an illusion. Second, McTaggart ultimately rejected both his A-theory and B-theory while proposing that all appearance of a time dimension (A-theory or B-theory) is an illusion and there is no distinction between the, past, present and future.

In the case of atemporality in classical theism, God is uncaused, self-existent, and immutable. Similarly, in the case of eternalism, the observable universe is uncaused, self-existent, and immutable.
__________
6. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1:10:1.
7. Nick Huggett, "Zeno's Paradoxes," Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2010, http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2010/entries/paradox-zeno/.
8. Ned Markosian, "Time," Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2010, http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2010/entries/time/.

IV. TEMPORALITY
Aquinas clearly distinguished between eternity and temporality. He said that eternity exists with no beginning, no succession, and no end while temporality has a beginning, succession, and an end.9 However, Aquinas's view of temporality faces conflict with contemporary evidence of a flat universe that has a finite origin and a succession that will never end. For example, the observable universe presumably has a beginning while space-time and respective vacuum energy will continuously expand without an end and always approach zero degrees Kelvin. Also, despite the lack of an end in the continuous expansion of a flat universe, any possible measurement of temporality would always equal a finite age.

Temporality in the observable universe always involves entropy, which is the inevitable increase of disorder. However, perhaps there are created regions non-subjected to entropy. Such regions might be thought of as atemporal because nothing is subject to age, but such a region is temporal if there could be succession of activity, regardless of apparent reversibility. Also, some created regions might involve no succession of activity apart from their origin. These regions might appear atemporal except for their beginning, which makes them quasi-atemporal.
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9. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1:44—46.

V. SCRIPTURE AND PHILOSOPHY ON GOD AND TIME
Biblical scholars dispute the biblical definition of time. Here is an example. On one hand, Psalm 90:2 says that God is from everlasting to everlasting, which appears to say that God always existed in an infinite succession of time. On the other hand, 1 Corinthians 2:7 says that God existed before the ages, which arguably refers to divine existence prior to the beginning of successive time and implies divine atemporality. These verses and others lead many to the conclusion that the Bible does not focus on delineating philosophical and scientific definitions of time. This leads to philosophical considerations when trying to understand the relationship between God and time.10

As previously mentioned, Aquinas's classical theism saw God as atemporal and creation as temporal. This strains the concept of God relating to temporal creatures and some contemporary classical theists such as Paul Helm try to resolve this strain by proposing that creation is not temporal but atemporal.11 Helm proposes an atemporal relationship between an atemporal Creator and an atemporal creation, which is consistent with eternalism. But the biggest strain with eternalism is that it reduces all appearance of temporal succession to an illusion. Objects such as humans appear to exist after nonexistence while eternalism indicates that every such object actually has always simultaneously non-existed and existed. Also, the concept of cause and effect requires temporal succession while eternalism also reduces cause and effect to an illusion. In this case, statistical studies have nothing but an illusionary basis while the scientific method is based of repeatable experiments that typically involve statistical analysis. Likewise, eternalism reduces science to an illusion. Moreover, in the case of theism, the observable universe always non-existed and existed, which blurs the reality of the Creator.

Another proposal of God and time says that God has immeasurable relative time while creation has a finite origin and measurable time. Alan Padgett and Nicholas Wolterstorff take different directions with this proposal.12 Padgett says that God always exists in immeasurable relative time while Wolterstorff says that God originally existed in immeasurable relative time and then entered measurable time upon creation. The biggest problem with these views is that their immeasurable relative time is indistinguishable from the simultaneity in eternalism. For example, the reduction of Padgett's view compares to Aquinas's view of an infinite simultaneous atemporal God somehow relating to a finite temporal creation. Also, the reduction of Wolterstorff's compares to Craig's view, which as previously mentioned proposes an originally atemporal God who enters temporality upon creation. The next section models Wolterstorff's and Craig's view with an analogy of Riemannian geometry.
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10. Gregory E. Ganssle, "Introduction: Thinking about God & Time," in God & Time: Four Views, ed. Gregory E. Ganssle (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity, 2001), chapter 1.
11. Paul Helm, "Divine Timeless Eternity," in God & Time: Four Views, chapter 2.
12. Alan G. Padgett, "Eternity as Relative Timelessness," in God & Time: Four Views, chapter 3; Nicholas Wolterstorff, "Unqualified Divine Temporality," in God & Time: Four Views, chapter 5.

VI. COEXISTENCE OF INFINITE SIMULTANEITY AND SUCCESSION
This essay proposes that God originally exists in infinite simultaneous dimensionality and God generated new dimensionality with successive temporality while divine omnipresence likewise entered the new dimensionality. Riemann's geometry with a possible infinite number of dimensions and manifolds help to picture this. Similarly, Andrei Linde's speculative physics model of steady-state eternal inflation with an infinite number of parallel universes in a multiverse that continues to develop new universes helps to picture a model of infinite simultaneous dimensionality that generates yet new parallel dimensionality. Linde's steady-state eternal inflation model evidently includes a drawback of a zero probability for generating universes that produce galaxies,13 but the geometry nevertheless helps to picture the parallel coexistence of infinite simultaneity and the emergence of succession.

In this theological model, the Trinity self-exists in infinite simultaneous dimensionality. The three divine persons infinitely love each other in indivisible infinite dimensionality and experience infinite pleasure. Divine omniscience knows all reality and all possibilities, which indicates self-consciousness. Divine power includes inexhaustible capacity to create new dimensionality. Infinite time within the original dimensionality involves no distinction of past, present, and future. This original dimensionality is internally simple without change. There are no elementary particles and no vacuum energy that generate movement. God lovingly and freely decides to generate new dimensionality with succession. The first new dimensionality might have involved only inter-Trinitarian relationship. Regardless if that was the first new dimensionality, God lovingly and freely decided to create new dimensionality with successive time for the habitation of creaturely free will agents while God wanted to cultivate new loving relationships. God remains omnipresent in the original simultaneous dimensionality and continues omnipresence in all new successive dimensionality.

God's omniscience and inexhaustible creative capacity could have completely determined the outcome of all created dimensionality. However, God's omniscience and inexhaustible creative capacity could have decided to forbear complete determinism and enable boundaries of freedom for contingencies such as genuine stochastic processes and creaturely free will decisions that could go in more than one direction. A model with complete determinism is called meticulous providence while a model with partial determinism is called general providence.
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13. Alan H. Guth, "Eternal Inflation and Its Implications," 2007, http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0702178v1.

VII. ESSENTIAL AND NONESSENTIAL DIVINE NATURE
Aquinas referred to the Incarnation as the union of God's essential nature and God's nonessential created nature.14 This model refers to God's original simultaneous dimensionality as God's essential nature and God's temporal dimensionality as God's nonessential nature. However, the term nonessential in this context in no way implies unimportant or inadvertent.

The central nonessential experience of God in Christian doctrine is the Incarnation. Christ is the second person of God who remained one hundred percent God and also became one hundred percent human, which according to the Fourth Ecumenical Council is the divine-human hypostatic union. The hypostatic union was a manifestation of Christ who originally existed in essential mode, developed a nonessential mode at the beginning of temporality, and eventually developed into the Incarnation. Likewise, Christ possessed at least two nonessential modes while each mode was one hundred percent the second person of God.

Another divine nonessential mode in basic Christian doctrine is the outpouring and manifestation of the Holy Spirit, the third person of God. The essential mode and the nonessential mode of the Holy Spirit are completely God in the same way the essential mode and nonessential modes of Christ are completely God.

An example of a manifest nonessential mode of the Father was at the baptism of Christ. The Father spoke an audible declaration: "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."15

The three divine persons relate to each other both in essential nature and nonessential nature. Also, no created person can possibly perceive the essential nature of God, but God reveals nonessential divine manifestations to angels and humans while cultivating loving relationships.
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14. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 3:2; 3:25:1.
15. Luke 3:22.

VIII. DIVINE OMNISCIENCE AND PROVIDENCE
Temporal succession results in continuous development of new reality. This leads to questions about divine omniscience and foreknowledge. Ancient church fathers evidently unanimously believed that God possesses static foreknowledge, which means that God has always exhaustively foreknown the definite outcome of all events. This meticulously includes for example the formation of all dust bunnies. However, some ancient church fathers believed in general providence while asserting divine static foreknowledge.16 Regardless, this divine model of parallel dimensionality could only possess static foreknowledge in the case of meticulous providence. Any range of unpredictability in general providence results in dynamic omniscience, which is a major component of open theism.17

This model of divine parallel dimensionality in the case of meticulous providence resembles Thomism. The divine essence possesses simplicity, immutability, omnibenevolence, and static omniscience. God's omnipotence is limited only by non-contradiction.18 Divine foreordination completely determines all activity. God meticulously orchestrates all appearance of contingencies such as all genuinely stochastic processes and free will decisions that could go in more than one direction, which means that no detail is unpredictable to God. Also, all divine relationship to creation is nonessential.

In the case of God granting creation a range of unpredictability in general providence, then the divine essence possesses simplicity, immutability, omnibenevolence, and omniscience while omniscience is the knowledge of all reality and possibilities. God's omnipotence is limited only by non-contradiction. In the case of divine foreordination, divine omniscience has always known the range of omnibenevolent responses to every possible circumstance. Also, all divine relationship to creation is nonessential.
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16. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4:39:4.
17. Clark, Pinnock. et al. The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God, (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 1994).
18. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1:25:4.

IX: MYSTERY OF EMERGENT TIME
Immanuel Kant in Critique of Pure Reason struggled with the mysteries of an infinite universe. For example, an infinite passage of measurable temporality could never completely occur. This logically indicates the emergence of measurable temporality. But absolute nothingness that by definition never changes from nothingness could never cause the emergence of measurable temporality. Or how could an atemporal nature that by definition never changes cause the emergence of measurable temporality?

The emergence of temporal succession is perhaps the greatest partial negative mystery in philosophy and theology. I previously mused the possibility that God's atemporal creative capacity had compelled God to make an initial unspecified creative decision that by definition began temporal succession, but I now reject that anything compelled God. Most open theist scholars in personal communication assert that God needed immeasurable temporality to make the first creative decision. But open theist philosopher Alan Rhoda in personal communication disagrees and says that God needs no temporal succession to deliberate a decision despite that all finite humans need temporality for deliberation. I consider the impossibility for the passage of infinite measurable temporality and that omniscient God needs no measurable temporality for deliberation. I assert the partial negative mystery that God in infinite simultaneity freely made his first creative decision that necessarily included the emergence of temporal succession.

X: CONCLUDING NOTE
This essay briefly introduces a new academic model of God and time. This leads to many questions that I plan to answer in a scholarly book. I also plan to illustrate the concepts in popular books. I would greatly appreciate any thoughtful feedback from blog comments or email.

Perhaps the most sensitive questions instigated by this model involve the coexistence of God and temporary evil. I began answering these questions in my blog essay "Divine Love, the Problem of Evil, and Theodicy."19
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19. James Goetz, "Divine Love, the Problem of Evil, and Theodicy", TheoPerspective, 2013, http://theoperspectives.blogspot.com/2013/02/divine-love-problem-of-evil-and-theodicy.html.


Copyright © 2013 James Edward Goetz

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

February 2, 2013

Divine Love, the Problem of Evil, and Theodicy

What in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support;
That to the highth of this great argument
I may assert Eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.
(John Milton)
I. INTRODUCTION
Advocating belief in God tends to draw criticism about the problem of evil. The contemporary philosophical problem of evil is an argument that supposedly disproves the existence of God who possesses the attributes of omnibenevolence (all goodness and all lovingness), omnipotence (all powerfulness), and omniscience (knowledge of all reality) in a world with extensive evil such as the moral evil of Hitler's Holocaust and the natural evil of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.1 For example, in the case of Hitler's Holocaust, God could have disabled Hitler in 1934 instead of permitting him to progress into extensive horrific evil, so the problem of evil concludes that Hitler's Holocaust indicates that God does not exist. Or perhaps deity possesses the power and knowledge that could have disabled Hitler in 1934 but did not care to disable Hitler, so the deity lacked omnibenevolence. Or deity possesses omnibenevolence but lacked the power and knowledge to disable Hitler. However, the philosophical concept of theodicy supports belief in God who coexists with temporary extensive horrific evil.

Christian theodicy asserts that God's love and providence temporarily permits horrific evil in a fallen world for the purpose of a glorious long-term plan. Two primary approaches to Christian theodicy are meticulous providence and general providence. Meticulous providence means that God completely determines the outcome of all events while humans nonetheless freely carry out their plans, which is also called compatibilism and soft determinism. Notable Christian proponents of meticulous providence are Augustine, Aquinas, and John Calvin. Alternatively, general providence means that God determines general plans without completely determining the outcome of all contingencies such as stochastic processes and free will choices that could go in more than one direction. Notable proponents of general providence are Tertullian, Irenaeus, and Jacobus Arminius. This paper assumes general providence and asserts that God's love temporarily permits unendorsed horrific evil in a fallen world while God develops free will agents and literally never gives up his loving pursuit for every agent. The following sections define omnipotence, God's love while temporarily permitting extensive horrific evil, and universal reconciliation.
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1. Michael Tooley, "The Problem of Evil," Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2012, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evil/.

II. OMNIPOTENCE AND NON-CONTRADICTIONS
One might object to the concept of omnipotence because of the law of non-contradiction. For example, one might ask if God can or cannot make an indestructible object that God cannot destroy. This tricky question limits God to an inability to make an indestructible object or the inability to destroy an indestructible object. However, Christian tradition accepts that divine omnipotence works within the context of non-contradiction. For example, Aquinas said that God Almighty could not possibly change the past because the past no longer exists, which is an example of Aristotle's law of non-contradiction that applies to God.2 Likewise, this Christian tradition rejects the validity of challenges that say omnipotence is impossible because of consistency with non-contradiction.

One might also reject the possibility of various divine miracles recorded in the Bible by holding that God cannot contradict the laws of nature that God created. However, every miracle recorded in the Bible may have involved a non-contradictory divine or angelic manipulation of natural phenomena such as gravitational dilation of time and space, microreversibility, and nuclear transmutation. For example, New Testament miracles such as walking on water, calming a potentially deadly storm, the instant multiplication of bread, and the resurrection of Lazarus after four days of death could happen without absolutely contradicting the laws of nature.

Therein lies the challenge of theodicy. Why does God allow extensive horrific evil while such miracles could disable most or all horrific evil?
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2. Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1:25:4.

III. THE TEMPORARY PERMISSION OF EVIL
The first step in understanding why God temporarily permits extensive horrific evil begins with understanding why God permits any evil. Why would omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omniscient God permit evil? A major part of the answer to this question is that God permits evil because the moral development of finite free will agents necessitates the possibility of evil responses from the agents. God wanted loving relationships with morally developing agents, which risked the existence of moral evil. Another major part of understanding why God permits evil is that finite agents develop character and abilities while they face evil, which works with God's long-term plan for the development of agents. For example, heroes develop and arise in the face of evil.

As indicated above, God's loving risk of creating morally developing agents and the developmental process of the agents are excellent reasons for the divine permission of evil. God could have meticulously determined the outcome of all events in the world, but God chose to execute divine prerogative that permits limited freedom for evil because of loving anticipation for creaturely agents such as humans. God never endorses evil but God permits limited freedom for evil while pursuing loving relationships with developing agents.

One might argue that God could have originated all agents with incorruptible morality and no need for moral development. That might be true but, but a world of agents who never needed moral development would have limited the diversity of the agents and disregarded the benefits of moral development. Such a world would have excluded the existence of humans apart from incarnations of incorruptible agents, which means no typical humans. The long-term goal of heaven populated by agents who no longer need moral development is extraordinarily wonderful and glorious, but heaven without morally developed agents would exclude typical humanity with their glorious pleasures and relationships.

One might also agree with the benefits of God temporarily permitting evil as outlined in this paper but object that an all-loving, all-powerful, all-knowing God would permit the magnitude of evil in this world. For example, Christianity teaches that God delineates the boundaries of evil. But considering the most heinous crimes against children and all humanity makes believers tearfully wonder why God would permit the magnitude of evil in this world. However, one weakness of this objection is that nobody can pinpoint real categories in the possible boundaries of evil, but all possible boundaries of evil involve a progressive continuum of evil. Also, the boundary of evil corresponds with the human potential for moral development and moral responsibility.

One might also agree with the benefits of God temporarily permitting evil as outlined in this paper but nonetheless disputes that God is guilty for not preventing evil when God could have prevented the evil. God asks humans to prevent evil when possible, so God should prevent evil when possible. However, such judgment rejects that God could permit the development of typical humans, which includes any such disputants. In any case, God took full responsibility for evil when he incarnated and died on his cross.

IV. HOPE OF UNIVERSAL RECONCILIATION
Regardless of the above logical arguments that support theodicy, many find theodicy a hard pill to swallow if God's judgment sends multitudes of humans to irrevocable everlasting torment. However, that was but one view of hell in the ancient universal church. For example, Augustine and his colleague Evodius said that many believers in the church asserted the reality of postmortem conversions as taught by Peter the Apostle.3 Augustine also said that some versions of eventual salvation for lost souls in hell were an amicable controversy in the church.4 Besides, Augustine and the later Fifth Ecumenical Council condemned Origenist versions of universal reconciliation, but they never addressed Gregory of Nyssa's version of universal reconciliation in The Great Catechism.5 Furthermore, Emperor Justinian in the Fifth Ecumenical Council honored Gregory of Nyssa side by side with Augustine as holy fathers of the church. Moreover, Gregory saw no conflict between his version of universal reconciliation and the Nicene Creed's doctrine of judgment.

My Conditional Futurism supports that Peter the Apostle and John the Revelator taught about postmortem conversions.6 For example, John's apocalyptic imagery shows kings dying while opposing the Lord at Armageddon and eventually entering the pearly gates of the New Jerusalem. These biblical teachings by Peter and John support the doctrine that God never gives up loving pursuit of any human regardless of hell or high water. God's endless pursuit also facilitates the eventual glorious reconciliation between all perpetrators and victims with no hardship but pleasure for the victims. This theodicy envisions the eventual glorious reconciliation of all enemies, ethnic groups, and social classes to God and each other.
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3. Augustine, "Letter 163"; "Letter 164."
4. Augustine, City of God, 21:17.
5. Gregory of Nyssa, The Great Catechism, 26.
6. James Goetz, Conditional Futurism: New Perspectives of End-Time Prophecy, (Eugene, Oregon: Resource Publications, 2012), chapters 13—15.

V. CONCLUDING NOTE
My mind comprehends an outline of why God permits evil; my philosophical studies indicate the necessary Creator; my decades of practicing Charismatic Christianity include observations of divine intervention. Nonetheless, the question of why God permits extensive horrific evil challenges me when I consider world history and current events. Every day, devout believers and disbelievers alike suffer pain from experiences of heinous crimes and natural evil. God could say "Peace! Be still!" to every potentially devastating storm and tsunami. God could disable all evil people who plan horrific evil. God could prevent all horrific evil at its roots so that heroic deeds are unnecessary, but God does not do that while he develops human agents. No human completely understands the omnibenevolence of all divine responses, but believers ultimately accept that God has a loving and glorious long-term plan. Human development occurs during earthly life and the afterlife. Christians cling to the words of Paul in Romans 8:18:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.

Copyright © 2013 James Edward Goetz

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

January 19, 2013

Book Review of RELATIONAL THEOLOGY: A CONTEMPORARY INTRODUCTION

My Christian experience began with an overwhelming sense of God's Spirit flooding my mind, body, and spirit with divine presence, healing, and forgiveness. God loved me and I loved God. I entered into a glorious relationship with my heavenly Father. I also soon embraced that my God's most important commandments are to love God and love my fellow humans. I eventually studied at a Pentecostal Bible college and everything agreed with my sense of relationship with God except for some study of Trinitarian classical theists such as Augustine, Aquinas, and Calvin who taught about unqualified divine impassibility, which means that humans have no emotional affect on God. But these classical theists believed that God became a man and wept with Mary and Martha over the death of their brother Lazarus, and I thought the classical theist views were confused but close to mine in many other ways. Nonetheless, the church suffers a huge divide between classical theists and "non-classical theists." One great response to Trinitarian classical theism is Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction, a series of thirty-two brief essays co-edited by Brint Montgomery, Thomas Jay Oord, and Karen Winslow.

Co-editor Oord defines relational theology:

At its core, relational theology affirms two key ideas:
1. God affects creatures in various ways. Instead of being aloof and detached, God is active and involved in relationship with others. God relates to us, and that makes an essential difference.
2. Creatures affect God in various ways. While God's nature is unchanging, creatures influence the loving and living Creator of the universe. We relate to God, and creation makes a difference to God.
I found myself agreeing with over ninety percent of what I read in Relational Theology. The thirty-two brief essays address the most important Christian theological topics such as the person and work of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, ministry, Christian living, and ethics.

On one hand, I suppose that the concepts of relational theology are clearly evident in the Bible. I feel no need for the concept of relational theology, but the prominence of belief in unqualified divine impassibility in Catholicism and the Reformed tradition make relational theology an important perspective that needs public proponents. If you agree with me or disagree with me, then read this book available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, the distributor Wipf and Stock, and other outlets.


Copyright © 2013 James Edward Goetz