We Can Understand Why We Cannot Understand

“But,” you ask, “how can this possibly be?  How can Joseph’s brothers have acted freely and responsibly if what they did was what God had previously ordained?  How can Pilate and Herod and Judas and the Jewish people be properly blamed fror what God had predestined to take place?  How can God govern the choices of human beings without that entailing that those choices are no longer free?  How can the same event have two complete explanations?”

My answer is this: We cannot understand how these things can possibly be.  We cannot understand how some human act can be fully explained in terms of God’s having freely intended it without that explanation cancelling the freedom and responsibility of its human intenders.  We cannot understand how divine and human agency are compatible in a way that allows the exercise of each kind of agency to be fully explanatory of some object or event.  And yet — and this is the absolutely crucial point — we can understand why we cannot understand it.  It is because our attempts to understand this involve our trying to understand the unique relationship between the Creator and His creatures in terms of our understanding of some creature-to-creature relationship.  But these attempts, it should be obvious, involve us in a kind of “category mistake” that dooms us from the start… How the Creator’s agency relates to His creatures’ agency is to be categorized quite differently from how any creature’s agency relates to any other creatures’ agency.  This should be obvious merely by our remembering that God has created everything ex nihilo — out of nothing — while all creaturely creation involves some sort of limited action on some pre-existing “stuff”.

–Mark Talbot
Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (2006, p.69)
read 8-1-08

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Filed under foreordination and man's choice, Mark Talbot, unattainable knowledge

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