Thesis: Implications of Boyd’s Warfare Theodicy

I had a thought tonight regarding possible implications of Boyd’s Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy, and I need work them out. Please bear with me.

Boyd asserts that the reason that God allows Satan to continue to choose evil in the world is because it is required by the nature of true freedom. If God gave us free will, but revoked that will as soon as we made the wrong choice, we didn’t actually have free will at all. Further, he claims that for us to be truly free we must have the same ability to influence the world for evil as we do for good: the more good someone is capable of, the more evil they must also be capable of. And further still, he claims that for our freedom to be genuine we must also have a duration or span of time over which we can exercise our influence that corresponds to the amount of influence that we have.

To make this more concrete: Satan was supposedly God’s second-in-command, the most beautiful and powerful of all of the angels, given authority over the entire earth (as he himself claims when tempting Jesus). He has unparalleled ability for good (next to the triune God, of course), and therefore he also has unparalleled ability for evil. He was created with this incredible ability, and creating creatures with free will is a gamble; in this case, Satan went bad and we’re all feeling the effects. If God were to retract Satan’s freedom, or more directly, simply kill Satan, the free will that God bestows upon his creatures would be a sham, and all real relationship between God and his creatures would fall apart.

Now, Boyd claims that Satan fell long before human beings were created, and that we were created as a part of God’s plan to take back creation from Satan (without violating Satan’s free will). Satan was given dominion over the earth, abused it and rebelled against God (and perverted creation as a part of this rebellion); God fought against Satan and his forces, decimating the earth in the process of subduing Satan, and then re-creating the earth out of the ashes and creating humans as his new representatives to rule over it (see my previous post for a brief discussion of Boyd’s tentative support of the Gap Theory of creation in support of this view). But Satan returned, corrupted human beings, and resumed his dominion over the earth. Now, on to implications and speculations!

This view implies that human beings were plan B (or XYZ, for all we know). Open Theists are okay with this notion, holding that by allowing for the free wills of his creatures, God inherently allows for multiple ways for us to enact his plan, and that even God cannot (or need not) know exactly how everything will happen even if he knows how it will end. I for one am okay with the notion that God might not know how long it will take for his desired ends to occur; it might take a few billion years and a few million “plan B’s” for people to come around, but eventually God’s plan for the earth and perfect relationship with humanity will come about in such a way that it does not require the overriding of his creatures’ free wills. I don’t feel like this makes God any less sovereign, only more patient!

But here’s the other implication: if God originally created angelic beings to represent his dominion and authority over the earth, and then later gave that role to human beings after the fall of those angels, this particular “plan B” seems to imply that God is working in a specific way, namely, investing moral agency and dominion in creatures of lesser power and influence.

Satan was given dominion, and had incredible and unmatched power among all created beings. His fall means incredible levels of evil in the world, and so his freedom entailed a bigger risk than, say, my freedom. If God created human beings after Satan fell, and gave us dominion as he had previously given Satan dominion, this implies that God has replaced Satan with a far less risky type of steward. Rather than one incredibly powerful creature, God has created billions of relatively puny and powerless creatures who can only match Satan’s power when acting collectively. Is this divine risk management in action?

Then, seeing that we have incredible power when acting collectively, Satan corrupts our systems (the Powers), using us (to amplify his power?) for collective evil. So we have our God-given power to choose good or evil and a relatively small amount of influence either way, but Satan is empowering us for collective evil. God, seeing this, breaks Satan’s power through the cross and empowers us with his own Spirit, so that collectively we might have not just the power of the agency that he gave us, and not just (or not even, when we are set free from sin) the empowerment of Satan for collective evil action, but we now have the power of God himself for collective good action (i.e. the power to be the Church, the collective embodiment of Jesus Christ on the earth).

The implication, then, is that God is managing his risks by investing his dominion in less powerful creatures, diffusing the power for evil over many free agents rather than a few more powerful ones. In so doing he has also diffused the power for good over many agents, lessening the effectiveness of his agents.

When God created humans, he created democracy.

Or bureaucracy. Probably both.

In this way, he could maintain the free will of his creatures while still safeguarding his creation. Human beings depose or kill monarchs or autocrats who abuse their power; God gives us irrevocable power and the ability to use it freely, but created a system in which the fallenness of a few will not destroy the whole. Meanwhile, our dignity is not less than that of an angel so long as we are able to act collectively, as collectively we embody Christ himself, and collectively we are adopted as children of God, and collectively we hold dominion over the earth.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, as my own are only half formed. It seems to be a strong call to the Church, leading to a robust ecclesiology. It seems to apply ethics, something that is usually applied to individuals, at a collective level. I should note that I didn’t get the notions of collectivity from Boyd; it just seemed to arise from the implications of what Boyd was saying about levels of influence, and the implied notion that we are plan B for God’s dominion on the earth. What do you think?

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7 thoughts on “Thesis: Implications of Boyd’s Warfare Theodicy

  1. I note that the Plan B as stated implies that God experiences time in the same way that we do. I’m not sure that’s the case. I am sure that my efforts to comprehend the infinitely greater — while necessary efforts — can lead to fairly silly conclusions sometimes. (I don’t mean that this blog is a silly conclusion, only that I would hold all such conclusions lightly.)

    • Hi Daryl, thanks for your comment!

      Boyd does argue (in his book God of the Possible, among other places) that God does not stand outside of time in the classical sense. I’m not sure that he would say that God experiences time in precisely the same way that we do, but as it relates to this, I think he would say that it’s at least analogous to the way we perceive it. Basically, open theism holds that for free will to exist the future must be at least partially open (undetermined), and for this to be true even God cannot know what will happen all the time. There are some things that God determines, certainly, and there are other things that God can predict, but there are some things that God cannot know with complete certainty; because the future remains to some extent “open” in this way, God would experience time in a way that is similar to the way humans experience time.

      I think he makes a decent case of it, and it makes more sense to me than some of the mental gymnastics the Calvinists and Arminians have put me through 🙂

  2. I believe what you have here is good logic following a bad presuposition. That presuposition is that the angels were created long before us and that we are God’s plan B.

    I am an early earth creationist and believe that when the bible says 6 days it means 6 days.
    And with all things in the heavens(the Bible describes 3) and in earth created in 6 days besides God who alone is eternal then all angels were created within those 6 days. Gods original intent was for us to populate and subdue creation.

    Why then did God create angels. While not stated in the Bible I would speculate that angels held specific task involved with maintaining creation. This speculation comes from extrabiblical sources like the book of enoch and beliefs about the roles of the little g gods that fell with satan. Hence why there is the worship of fertility gods, sun gods, moon gods, gods of the harvest, earth gods ect.. but this takes us away from our point.

    I believe God to be restoring our original intent. To rule the earth which the righteous will someday do with their redeemer Jesus Christ(not go to heaven but rule and reign with Jesus on earth).

    I believe Gods plan b is more like the talons and teath and poisons of the beast and animals of the earth. The lions were not made to eat flesh but it sure would apear that way. They will one day eat the grass of the earth again. The frogs poision is a defense mechanism that is God’s second best his plan b. In the same this is what the kindoms of this earth are. The Bible compares kindoms to beast. These beast rule the earth because their rule is beter than chaos and anarchy. It is God’s second best. They are agents of God to execute his wrath or vengence on the evil doer. But these agents are not Christian as we are called verses earlier in Rom 12 to not execute vengence and return good for evil.

    These beast or kindoms of the world are under the rule of satan. Sometimes the will of God and the will of satan are in line although their motives are polar oposites. Hence why we execute Ecclesia discipline and hand brothers over to satan for the destruction of their flesh that their soul may be saved.

    This is what I get out of Warfare Theodicy. There is a real war going on. It took Michael 21 days i believe to get to daniel because of the prince of persia(my belief is the prince of persia was likely a fallen angel or demon acting through the man who was the prince of persia). God is like a bigger stronger boxer than satan, and satan is like a weaker boxer. However, the reason the fight has dragged on and is dragging on so long is because God has certain attributes of his character that he upholds and so he has limited perameters of what he can do in the fight while satan does not have these perameters and fights with no rules taking as many low blows as he can.

    We have now been given power to fight the root of evil, satan demons principalities ect and our battle is now spiritual where in the OT we fought the simptoms of evil, ie wars in the flesh. God has given us Christ Victorious and the name above all name to proclaim over the enemy that the Father may make the enemy his son’s and our foot stool.

    To comment of one more thing. God is able to know everything that will ever happen as God is outside of time(he created it). Just because God knows doesn’t mean that our free will is lost, it just means that he knows and has a way to take the move that satan has made on the chess board and turn satans move to good in our life(Romans 8:28).

    Hope this helps a little.

    If you or anyone want to dialogue more my email is coolixk@msn.com

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