The Concept of God (Ronald Nash)

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Puritanboard Clerk
Ronald Nash examines two charges that Christian theism is internally inconsistent on one hand and needs to be more “relatable” on the other hand. In this brief primer Nash gives a whirlwind tour of philosophical theology and introduces the reader to a number of problem areas.

Nash has been accused of jettisoning key aspects of classical theism (see Dolezal, “Reformed Forum” podcast) but this isn’t true. Nash vindicates classical theism, albeit he acknowledges some difficult issues.

The first villain is process theology, which makes God finite in order for them to consider God a “person.” It is not difficult to refute this position but we will highlight some areas:

* It is just as committed to Greek philosophy, except that it prioritizes “becoming” over “being.”
* If one “pole” of God is potentiality and the other pole is actuality, and potentialities can never actualize themselves, then how can God actualize himself? On the other hand, if God’s actuality is primary, then what is the point of process theology?

But is what is known as “Thomism” any more credible? Maybe. We must first say that “Thomism” is necessarily the view of the church from its earliest days onward. If one dissents from some Thomist formulations, one has not denied the doctrine of God. But even here Nash doesn’t reject the Thomist picture. He defends almost all key loci of Thomism, possibly excepting Thomas's version of simplicity.

In terms of omnipotence, God cannot do any act which is logically incoherent.. Further, God’s inability to do some actions (e.g., sin) is not his inability to act, but his not actualizing an imperfection.

The most interesting chapter concerned propositions about the future (Nash 55-62). Process theologians and open theists deny that God knows propositions about the future because the future doesn’t exist. Nash explores how the theist might respond:

If God doesn’t “know” the future, does he at least have “beliefs” about the future (59)? If knowledge is something like justified, true belief, and if God doesn’t know the future but does have beliefs about it, then are these beliefs simply “good guesses?” LOL!

Even worse, now it is possible for God to have false beliefs about the future!

But back to propositions. A sentence isn’t the same thing as a proposition (68). A sentence has meaning and the proposition is what is expressed by the meaning. So take the following two propositions:

1. Christ is born in Bethlehem.
2. Christ was born in Bethlehem.

If God’s knowledge is timeless, then God’s knowing (1) and (2) happens at the same time, which is a contradiction. But critics of theism move too quickly. We say that God’s eternal knowlege is about the tenseless state of affairs regarding Christ’s birth rather than the specific indexicals.
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