Hasker on Theological Determinism

The Triumph of God Over Evil: Theodicy for a World of SufferingIn his book The Triumph of God Over Evil (2008) William Hasker writes:

If theological determinism is true, then everything whatsoever that takes place, including all the evil, suffering, degradation and injustice the world contains, is exactly as God wants it to be in every respect. This contradicts a great deal of what is said in the Bible, which repeatedly and emphatically insists that many things are not as God wishes them to be [see Matthew 23:37; Hosea]. (Pg. 93)

This implies, of course, that theological determinism is false. By “theological determinism” Hasker means “the view according to which everything that transpires is necessarily determined by a unilateral, efficacious divine decree” (Pg. 80). In  support of the first claim, Hasker has us imagine God’s pre-creation scenario where every possible world is before the divine mind. The one selected has to be the most satisfying and most in tune with God’s creative purposes, otherwise God wouldn’t create it. The inescapable conclusion, says Hasker, is that “God is entirely pleased with the world exactly as it is; there is no single fact he would wish to alter in any respect” (Pg. 151). With respect to the those events in creation that are evil, God takes whatever steps are necessary to ensure that they occur.

Objection: we must distinguish between all the of events, taken as a whole, that make up creation, and the individual events, which in of and themselves, make up creation. It does not follow from the fact that God is pleased with the whole of creation, that he is pleased with each individual part of creation. That is, God is not pleased by an evil event taken by itself in isolation from the others, and God would not desire to create the conditions necessary for its existence just for its own sake.

Hasker’s reply: “It remains true, nevertheless, that every event that occurs, no matter how evil or tragic, is exactly what God intended to occur, and God has taken whatever steps are necessary to guarantee its occurrence” (Pg. 152 n4). It is, thus, very cold comfort to suppose that, all things being equal, God does not desire evil events to occur, though, all things considered, he most certainly does.

As far as I can tell this argument is sound, but it should be noted that the belief in its soundness depends more on judgments formed more by intuition than a method of reasoning (though, I think this always happens at some point). It just doesn’t seem right to me that the actual world is the best or one of the best possible worlds, meaning it is most satisfying and most in tune with God’s creational purposes. Interestingly, Hasker agrees when he says he is not hopeful that those who are committed to theological determinism will be persuaded by this argument. If a method of reasoning is needed, it should start from Scripture to show that, all things considered, God is not pleased with people rejecting his overtures of grace.

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