Tuesday, March 24, 2009


We saw Knowing last night...an apologetic for Calvinism, or an opportunity to think about providence and prophecy? Depends who's watching it.

While I enjoyed the film, I had a hard time with its black-and-white orientation: "Either determinism or randomness." Either everything is caused, and stands in a long chain of cause and effect, or else nothing is caused. There is no option for metaphysical libertarianism, which defines freedom as the ability to act against a cause (contra-causal power). From this perspective, persons are regarded as agents, as initiators themselves of causal chains, but the film does not countenance that possibility.

To me, the most telling scene occurred in the MIT classroom, as Koestler lectures. He equates purpose with determinism. In a world starved for final causality, it is refreshing to hear the word "purpose" even mentioned in a film. (No, I am not a Purpose- Driven Groupie. If anything, my sympathies lie much further down the line, with Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas). But what if there is a God who allows us the freedom to determine our own ends? Then there would be purpose without either a "hard" or "soft" determinism. Then we could understand and appreciate Ezekiel 18.

If you roll with its presuppostions, the film is certainly a thriller. It has the definitive image for Malachi's "Day of the Lord," though I found its (super?) natural beings at the end not at all convincing.

Bottom line: Worth the ticket, but Signs was better.

Here's Roger Ebert's review

and there's more (including spoilers) at Roger Ebert's Journal.

There's a great resource for Christians interested in the question of God's omniscience, foreknowledge and human freedom here.

And finally, there's this little video explanation of determinism by David Sosa, chair of the philosophy department at the University of Texas, Austin.

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