A very quick postscript to the last post. The word study on “foreknow” to which I linked there has an appendix exploring an idea by Hugh Ross that 11-dimensional string theory might help to reconcile God’s pre-determination with man’s freedom. Now given the questionable status of string theory, I’m doubtful that such a theory is going to stand the test of theological time.
But it demonstrates nicely the point I made in the Freedom and autonomy series – Scripture is actually quite plain in assuming the freedom of choice of mankind whilst positively teaching God’s sovereignty over it, yet makes little or no attempt to resolve the issue to our human satisfaction. Most people accept it by faith, or reject it because they don’t like it.
As I said there, efforts to resolve the tension require philosophical input, and that will vary according to what philosophical tools are available, or fashionable at the time. As I mentioned, Augustine drew on Neoplatonism (though Cal corrects me by saying his main source was Plotinus), Aquinas on Aristotle and so on. And for our scientific age, Ross has obviously been most satisfied with taking a mathematical approach. Though since only a few dozen people in the world seem to understand string theory, it’s precariously close to “Hey Presto!” compared to Aquinas, say. In the latter it’s still hard to get our modern heads round, but is at least described in common sense terms rather than formulae.
So string theory, Thomism-Aristotelianism, Neoplatonism or Plotinism are all merely more or less useful handmaidens of faith. Understanding the Bible’s language, however, is absolutely central because God has chosen to use words to instruct our faith.