New Title from Ric Machuga: Three Theological Mistakes: How to Correct Enlightenment Assumptions about God, Miracles, and Free Will (Cascade Books / Wipf & Stock; published January 5, 2015; 294pp+).
Though the Enlightenment was responsible for much that is fine, just, and good, it also promoted three bad ideas: mechanism, universal quantification, and mono-causation. Mechanism is the claim that physical causes always have predictable effects fully determined by the laws of nature. This led to the assumption that the laws of cause and effect are logically clear and mathematically precise. So we must, as Galileo advised, “Measure everything, and that which you cannot, measure it anyway.” Finally, since causal relations are always clear and precise they must be exclusive—if something is physically caused, then it was not caused by God, and conversely, if something is caused by God, then it cannot be physically caused. This sort of mono-causation produced a rigid natural/supernatural divide and the search for an “empirically detectable” God.
These three assumptions are demonstrably false, both philosophically and scientifically. In their place I articulate and defend three good ideas found in Thomas Aquinas and Karl Barth:
- Not all causes are mechanistic.
- All quantities are ultimately qualities.
- Full understanding requires dual-causation.
Then I consider Christ’s promise that “if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” This kind of freedom comes from without and is wholly the product of God’s grace.
Of course, many will reject this sort of freedom because it eliminates human autonomy. And without human autonomy, they say, the problem of evil is greatly exacerbated. No longer can it be argued that most pain and suffering is the result of the bad choices that we make.
But this is not the position of Aquinas and Barth. They understand evil as a privation. It is the uncreated “impossible possibility” that cannot be explained; it can only be redeemed. And when evil is redeemed, those who have suffered evil will bear no grudge, while we who have done evil (which includes everyone) will turn our eyes to Christ and joyfully sing, “Oh happy fault that merited such a great redeemer!”
Ric Machuga has taught philosophy and in the Honor Program at Butte College for thirty-five years. He is the author of In Defense of the Soul (2002), Life, the Universe, and Everything (2011), and numerous pieces for Books & Culture.
Download a flyer here which includes an interview with the author [PDF].