Olson Reviews Oord’s Book

From Arminian Roger Olson:

My second question is whether the God of the Bible in whom Oord believes (both God and the Bible as his inspired Word) ever intervened, interfered, powerfully and unilaterally, without the creatures’ consent, to control a creature—to make something happen to him or her that would not otherwise have happened? Oord does not think so. His final chapter (8) is “Miracles and God’s Providence.” Let it be noted that Oord affirms miracles. What he denies is that any miracle of God was or ever is unilateral, controlling and coercive. Let’s go right to two main miracles in the biblical narrative—both which Oord believes happened: the exodus and the resurrection of Jesus. Oord believes, and attempts to explain, that both involved creatures’ consent and participation. In neither case, Oord claims, did God act to control, without some level of cooperation from the things, persons being affected.

This is where I find Oord’s explanations frankly tortuous (not “torturous”). In fact, they become so fanciful and obscure that I cannot even imagine them as true. For example, in the exodus of Israel from Egypt, Oord suggests, God foreknew the wind that would separate the waters of the Red Sea and directed Moses to lead the Hebrew people to that spot at just the right time to walk across the Sea on dry land. One wonders how often that phenomenon happened! For example, in the case of Jesus’s bodily resurrection, God raised him back to live, to new life, immortal life, with Jesus’s own consent. True enough, I suppose one could argue and believe, but one still has to wonder about all the other circumstances surrounding and included in the resurrection event. But let’s turn to another “resurrection”—the resuscitation of Lazarus. Did Jesus gain Lazarus’s consent before raising him back to life? At one point Oord mentions that someone else’s consent can occasionally stand in for the consent of the person directly being affected by the divine act (when their consent is impossible). This would apparently be a necessary case of that. But is that really consistent with Oord’s overall thesis? What if Lazarus didn’t want to be resuscitated?

Whose consent did Jesus get to turn water into wine?

Then there are all the biblical events in which God apparently acted (or will act as prophecied) with the result of great harm to creatures: the flood of Noah’s day, the striking dead of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), the judgment and punishment of rebellious angels and human sinners in the eschaton.

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