Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Interesting Discussion Between Dr Paige Patterson and Roger Olson

I came across the above discussion and Q&A session between Dr Paige Patterson, Roger Olson, and others which I thought would be of interest to those who have been following my recent blog posts. While Dr Olson is an Arminian by his own admission, Dr Patterson is by no means a Calvinist—although he likes to call himself a “two point” Calvinist. In the discussion many interesting questions were asked (mostly by Dr Patterson), and answered by Roger Olson. I am posting it here for interest, rather than with the aim of writing a commentary on it.

At 22:33 minutes into the video a particularly interesting question is asked regarding 1 Samuel 23:7–13, Molinism, and so called middle knowledge or counterfactual knowledge that Roger Olson gives an answer to. For background see Wikipedia article on Molinism.

At 27:35 minutes into the video Dr Patterson asks Dr Olson the question: “If ‘good’ is not defined just by what God does, is there an external source, or an external standard by which God himself is judged?” to which Dr Olson gives a good reply. The only thing I would add to it is that the scriptures attribute to God certain character traits that are definitive and immutable, meaning that God does not, and indeed cannot act contrary to them. They include:

He is a God of truth, and cannot lie.
He is just. He cannot be unjust.
He is merciful.
He is “love”.
He is forgiving.
He is holy.
He is “no respecter of persons”.

These tend to support Roger Olson’s theological position. If God is immutable, and he also “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2); and he says that he is “holy” (Lev. 11:44-45; 1 Pet. 1:16), that means that he can never be unholy. It is impossible for him to be anything other than holy; or to act contrary to his character, which is holy. The same applies to all the other attributes in the character of God. When it says that God is “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Ex. 34:6), that is eternally fixed as part of God’s character. He cannot be otherwise. That means that the attributes of goodness and holiness etc. in the character of God are not “determined by what God does;” but that it is an independent standard of holiness and righteousness which God adheres to.

Now the question of where that standard came from, and whether it is something that exists independent of God or created by God, is a separate issue. Perhaps it is a mystery which we cannot give a definitive answer to at the present time. But that does not alter the validity of the argument presented above, about the immutable nature of the the character of God as revealed in holy scripture. “Good” is not “determined by what God does;” but there is an independent “standard of goodness” which God adheres to.

Throughout the scriptures God has commanded mankind to do good and be good. That presupposes a fixed, predetermined standard of goodness and righteousness that he expects mankind to adhere to—otherwise it would be impossible for man to comply with that expectation. If such a standard exists for man, does a different standard exist for God? If there are two different standards, how can “good” have any meaning for man or God? Such expectation would be meaningless unless the same standard was used by both. God’s commandment is, “Ye shall be holy; for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44–45; 19:2; 20:7, 26). This can only make sense if the same criteria or standard of holiness is used for both. And this applies equally to all the other character traits or attributes of God. Any observable difference could only be accounted for by man’s limited knowledge compared to God’s. God knows things that man does not; therefore some of God’s actions may appear to be morally inexplicable to man for that reason.

(The original version of the above video had poor sound and image quality; so I downloaded it to my PC, improved the sound and image quality, and uploaded it to my own YouTube channel. The original version can be seen here.)

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