Date of Award

2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

School

Theological Seminary

Program

Religion, MA

First Advisor

Martin F. Hanna

Second Advisor

John C. Peckham

Third Advisor

Felix Cortez

Abstract

Problem

This thesis addresses the conflict of interpretation between Richard Rice’s model of God’s exhaustive knowledge of the future as a realm of possibilities and the generally accepted traditional model of God’s exhaustive definite knowledge of the future. In harmony with the traditional perspective, Richard Rice has affirmed God’s exhaustive knowledge of the past and the present. However, in contrast to the traditional perspective, he has denied God’s exhaustive definite foreknowledge of future free choices. According to Rice, God can know everything there is to know. This implies that, on one hand, the future does not yet exist, so God does not know it. On the other hand, the future that God knows is partly composed of possibilities and partly determined by God. Moreover, Rice cites as evidence several passages of Scripture that describe God as regretting, repenting, and changing His mind. Such passages suggest to Rice that God does not have exhaustive definite foreknowledge of the future. The question is: Should God’s emotional regret (נחם) be interpreted to imply lack of exhaustive definite foreknowledge?

Methodology

Chapter 1 introduces the background, problem, purpose, significance, delimitation, and research methodology of the study. Chapter 2 briefly surveys Rice’s theological background, education, and professional development, and the theological scope of his writings. Chapter 3 presents a descriptive analysis of Rice’s view of God’s exhaustive foreknowledge of the future. Chapter 4 evaluates Rice’s view of exhaustive foreknowledge and divine emotions and how these emotions should be interpreted. This involves a study of נחם (relent, repent, or regret) in selected biblical texts used by Rice as a means to evaluate his conflict with the traditional interpretation. Chapter 5 summarizes the findings and conclusions of the study.

Conclusion

Rice’s interpretation of God’s emotional regretting, repenting, or changing His mind (נחם) creates an apparent tension between God’s exhaustive definite foreknowledge and human freedom. Rice asks, if God knows the future definitely, why does He seem to be emotionally surprised by free-will decisions? The problem exists because Rice chooses one possible analogical interpretation of biblical statements on God’s emotions, correctly avoiding the univocal and equivocal interpretations of divine emotions. However, Rice denies God’s exhaustive definite foreknowledge of future free choices because he aims to affirm the biblical teaching of human freedom. In contrast, this study proposes that within the spectrum of analogical approaches to נחם, there is another way of understanding exhaustive definite foreknowledge of future free choices that can allow space for human freedom. This alternative, might be a satisfactory biblical response to the apparent tension between divine foreknowledge and human freedom.

Subject Area

Rice, Richard, 1954- ; Free will and determinism;

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