Friday, January 7, 2011

Grounding God's Knowing

Many determinists and open theists object to free will coexisting with exhaustive foreknowledge on the basis that God's foreknowledge of events implies that He has predetermined the event. They say that God can't know a future event in an undetermined world, but could only know probabilities of future events. They say that God either knows the future because He determined it, or because it is determined by the physical state of affairs as they currently are.

I've never thought that either of these were compelling. I've really never seen a determinist or open theist
argue for either point. They seem to simply assume it. Why can't God know future things simply as part of Him being omniscient? If omniscience is the knowledge of all true proposition, then it seems inherent in the definition that God knows future events without needing to deduce them from current physical states of affairs or personally determining them Himself. Not only that, but that definition seems to include counterfactual states of affairs as well; what things would be like if certain things are different. But it seems to me that, at least on the second option (deducing from current states), God cannot know these propositions, since they don't obtain in this particular world.

William Lane Craig has pointed out that this objection rests on the assumption that a certain form of truth-maker theory is correct. He argues that the person offering this objection can't simply assume something that controversial without arguing for it. I haven't seen an argument to make me think that these CCF's absolutely need to be grounded in the way the objector wants them to be. As Plantinga says, "It seems to me much clearer that some counterfactuals of freedom are at least possibly true than that the truth of propositions must, in general, be grounded in this way."

However, the determinist and open theist also seems to be unaware of the good attempts by libertarian free willers to give a ground to this knowledge. Alfred Freddoso has given such an argument. As Freddoso says, "it seems reasonable to claim that there are now adequate metaphysical grounds for the truth of conditional future contingent Ft(P) on H just in case there would be adequate metaphysical grounds at t for the truth of the present-tense proposition p on the conditions that H should obtain at t."1 In other words, the metaphysical ground for the truth of a counerfactual proposition is not that the event actually exists, but that it would exist if the certain state of affairs were the case. This parallels the grounding of the truth of future propositions. It is either true or false that my Chiefs will win on Sunday. The truth depends on what actually will occur at that time. That is how it is grounded.

Even if this account fails, the objector still needs to give us a reason for why God's knowledge needs to be grounded like this before it is to succeed.

For more on this, see here and here and here and here.


1 Freddoso, Alfred, On divine foreknowledge: (part IV of the Concordia). Cornell Univ Pr, 2004. Print. 72.

21 comments:

SLW said...

bossman,
This is an excellent treatment! And by the way, the Chiefs are toast.

bossmanham said...

Haha, we'll see. We almost beat the Blackbirds last year and didn't have near the personell we have now. Heck, Brodie Croyle was the qb then.

SLW said...

To tell you the truth, as a Steeler fan, I hope the Chiefs do knock off the Ravens.

bossmanham said...

We did beat the Steelers last year...

Just sayin' ;)

Kevin Jackson said...

Good stuff. Our doing is the cause of God's knowing.

And my 7-9 Seahawks are going all the way.

Godismyjudge said...

Good post Brennon, agree 100%. Dallas was out of the running a few months ago, so now I get to just watch for the fun. :-)

God be with you,
Dan

Tony-Allen said...

One thing I have been pondering with the issue of foreknowledge:

If God passively foreknows that Person A will accept Him and Person B will reject Him, then how much power does God really have and how much power does man really have in his own destiny? If it is already known that Person B will reject God, then there is nothing that can be done and he is already destined for hell, and God is ultimately powerless to do anything in that regard. If, on the other hand, God foreknows Person B might want to reject Him, but intervenes in a way that will allow Person B to accept Him, is that not intervening in the free will?

I've also been curious where the foreknowledge which permits Libertarian free will is found in scripture.

bossmanham said...

Tony,

Thanks as always for the comment.

I would say in that God allows free will, He doesn't have power over us in that way. I think He does extend His gracious love to all people such that they are shaken from their depraved state and enabled to accept Him (this is a necessary condition for coming to faith, but not sufficient in my thinking). I would also say that He does know what we would do in any situation, and could thereby place us in situations where He knows we'd accept Him, but I would also say there are probably people that wouldn't accept Him in any situation. It's one of the things that goes along with free will; God can't make people freely do something. As soon as He makes them do it, it isn't free. As far as that's concerned, in making us free, He decided it wasn't up to Him what we choose in that way, though I think He can providentially order creation via His middle knowledge.

As far as where it is in scripture, I would ask the same about divine determinism. I think scripture assumes free will. There are several good verses, however, that I think are pretty explicit. I've compiled a whole list here.

Tony-Allen said...

When we speak about "determinism," are we talking about certain extremes like hyper-calvinism? Because with normal Reformed theology, most of those verses cited would prove no problem. A belief in unconditional election or irresistible grace does not deny any confession of faith from the person itself.

Also, when you mention Middle Knowledge, where is there scriptural support for that (out of curiosity)?

bossmanham said...

When I say determinism I mean the philosophical position that all events that happen, including mental events, are determined by prior events. Our actions would be determined by our desires which would in turn be determined by something else, presumably God in the case of most Calvinists. In that case, God's decree of what will happen would be the sufficient condition of it happening. If He causes people to come to Him, they simply aren't doing it freely.

Verses: In Matthew 11:23, Jesus tells the people who didn't believe His miracles that had He done them in Sodom, they would not have been destroyed.

In Ezekiel 3:6-7 God says that if He had sent Ezekiel to foreign lands, they would have listened, but Israel won't.

In Jeremiah 38:17-18 God, through Jeremiah, tells Zedekiah of two different possible outcomes based on what he chooses.

In 1 Corinthians 2:8 Paul relays the information that if the rulers had understood who Jesus was they wouldn't have crucified Him.

In Matthew 12:7 Jesus tells them that if they had known one thing, they wouldn't have acted as they did.

Several others include Matthew 24:43, Luke 16:30-31, and Luke 22:67-68.

In terms of knowing it by reason, if omniscience means knowledge of all true propositions, then surely God would have knowledge of propositions in the form, "if some state of affairs were to obtain, then people would freely do such and such."

Tony-Allen said...

If you call it "philosophical," I would have to disagree in the sense that scripture affirms God knows and has determined what will happen, otherwise we would inadvertently turn God into a victim of fatalism. This belief is not held by the thinking of man, but the reading of scripture in earnest and honesty. For example, Proverbs says: "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD" (Prov 16:33). The Lord, through the prophet Isaiah, said to Assyrian king Sennacherib regarding his conquests: "Have you not heard? Long ago I did it; from ancient times I planned it; Now I have brought it to pass, that you should turn fortified cities into ruinous heaps" (2 Kings 19:25). The apostle Peter says that Christ was "delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). The apostle Paul later quotes God's words to Pharaoh, stating "for this very purpose I raised you up" (Rom 9:17), signifying that God was the active party. If what God says will happen cannot possibly happen, then, as I said before, we turn God into a victim of fatalism.

In terms of free will, there is nothing unbiblical in God permitting man, who is unable to God on his own terms, the enabling to come to Him. The apostle Paul, quoting the psalms, explicitly stated: "There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God" (Rom 3:10-11). Christ Himself said: "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day" (John 6:44) - note also that the person drawn by the Father and the person raised on the same day are the same person. The apostle Paul likewise writes that while we were "dead in your trespasses and sins" (Eph 2:1), and indeed "dead in our transgressions," it was God who made us "alive together with Christ," hence the following statement "by grace you have been saved" (Eph 2:4-5). This is why men like John Wesley and others had to come up with the idea of "prevenient grace" - that is, the idea that God takes us from a corrupt state to a spiritual neutral zone, then awaits our decision.

I'm not sure if the verses you cited were supposed to confirm Middle Knowledge (especially when some of those are judgment passages), however there is nothing unique in the idea that an omniscient Being would know all results of all actions. I don't think this denotes a teaching of a Divine "middle knowledge," unless I'm misunderstanding something.

bossmanham said...

Tony,

I'm not sure how using the term "philosophical" would entail that we'd be talking about fatalism. Fatalism and determinism are two different things. Determinism is a philosophical position. Whether or not you can deduce it from what one reads in scripture is a different matter.

I think you're doing yourself a diservice to say that the thinking man does not hold to determinism, as I'm sure John Frame and John Piper would take issue with that. Yes, they think that scripture teaches this, but that doesn't make it any less a philosophical position.

As far as the scriptures you cited are concerned, I agree that God must decide all of what happens in a sense, and does determine certain events for sure, ie the return of Christ. That doesn't entail that He determines all events in the way the determinist holds that He does. I think He must concur with all events that happen, in that He must allow them to happen and sustain the universe in being for them to happen, but that doesn't mean that He is the cause of all events that happen. God is not the reason we decide to sin daily, for instance.

Also, all of those are far better represented on the Arminian/Molinist model, especially given the scriptures that I've listed that clearly say man is acting contrary to God's perfect will.

You're preaching to the choir in your second paragraph. I affirm total inability as well, as did Wesley. Wesley didn't come up with prevenient grace, though perhaps he made it popular in evangelical circles. That has been an idea in Christianity from very early on. It's also not accurate to characterize it as a "neutral zone," as it is God's grace invading someone's life, compelling them to come to Him. It takes active rejection, not passivity, to renounce that offer. It's far from neutral. It WILL lead one to Christ unless rejected.

It seems that may not be familiar with what middle knowledge is. Middle knowledge is complete knowledge of what any possible free agent would do in any situation. So for possible agent A in possible circumstance C, God knows what A would freely choose to do. This seems to be exaclty what happened in the case of the crucifixion. God used the sins He knew that Pilate and the pharisees would commit in that situation to accomplish His will.

I'm not sure what difference those verses being judgment passages would make, since it seems to denote that God knows what would happen in those situations.

Tony-Allen said...

I think you misunderstand me, or I assume that in your saying that I believe “the thinking man does not hold to determinism” (which I don't believe). I also don’t see how you’re assuming I’m connecting philosophical with fatalism. I merely asked what we meant by determinism, then said that classical Reformed theology was not merely philosophical as it is taken from scripture. I was also trying to say that if we strayed from the scriptural example of God’s sovereignty, wherein He is truly sovereign, then we fall into fatalism (either for God or for man). In any case, if determinism is a philosophical position, then any theology is a philosophical position.

It is therefore ironic that, in your response to my scriptural citations, you have ultimately responded with reasoning that does not answer the scriptural examples given. You say, for example, that God’s sovereignty does not “mean that He is the cause of all events that happen,” and cite as an example “God is not the reason we decide to sin daily, for instance.” Yet that is our sinful nature, which is openly active. You say “it takes active rejection,” but that is all mankind knows. This is why our Lord said, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day" (John 6:44). You see, there is nothing contradictory in the idea that a person must make a decision, but it must also be noted that mankind cannot, by his mere will, accept God. That is why, again, it is often slightly amusing when those who support a libertarian free will quote passages that involve choice or the requirement of faith when that is never denied in Reformed theology. God is fully capable of ordaining the means by which a person is saved as much as the fact the person is saved Himself.

God, however, does not merely know how people would respond to various situations, and I say this in reference to the verses I already cited. He does not say, “I knew if I put Pharaoh in this position he would do this,” but rather He says "for this very purpose I raised you up" (Rom 9:17) - it was God raised up Pharaoh, and for a specific purpose. God likewise told Sennacherib: "Have you not heard? Long ago I did it; from ancient times I planned it; Now I have brought it to pass, that you should turn fortified cities into ruinous heaps" (2 Kings 19:25) - God planned long before Sennacherib was even born that he would lead armies across the Middle East. There are many more examples (Judas himself was prophesied from old to betray Christ), but the fact is that God not only is in charge of what happens, but He is indeed the cause of these actions.

Even staying with the idea of Middle Knowledge, there is still a problem in regards to man’s free will and God’s sovereignty. If God knows a person will respond a certain way in a certain situation and uses it against them...then how free is that person? For if, as an example, God knows Pilate will respond if said a certain way, Pilate, in a way, has no free will. If it is already known from the beginning of time that Pilate will indeed respond a certain way, then it has already been decided, fatalistically for Pilate, that he will respond a certain way. It always reminds me a bit of that line from “Lawrence of Arabia” where the Bedouins say of a man who wandered out into the desert, “Let him die, it was written!” That is where I am still struggling with the idea that this permits man to be free - it might be working with a free will, but it is still putting a person in a position for which their choice has already been set in stone.

Tony-Allen said...

Part 1/2:

In regard to the more on topic discussion, in regards to whether foreknown events can come to past, I’ve read the post you’ve provided and...I think I’m still very confused. It seems like the logic is: “Man has free will, but God’s not a victim of fatalism, but don’t be fooled, even though God knows what’s gonna happen, the person still has the option of not doing it, but he’s not going to.” Your additional comment in the post regarding “chronologically necessity” (“But, no philosopher has been able to explain how this works out and why this should be true”) seems like more of a dismissal than a response. I guess what just confuses me is that if God knows something is going to happen, and His knowledge is perfect, then there’s no way it can go any other way. To argue that there still exists a kind of free will where a person can change their mind would have to denote some fault on God’s knowledge. I recognize that’s not what you’re saying but...well, again, I’m confused (by the way, I'm not saying this to be difficult, I'm serious).

In regards to scripture: I agree with you that scripture speaks as a singular whole - however, I also believe that there can be a mistake in taking this to mean that a scripture must be responded to by jumping to another scripture. For one, it leaves the immediate context of the passage we are discussing, grabbing another passage elsewhere, ignoring the author’s original intent and purposes. Let me put it this way: reading your responses right now, I have no way of knowing what you are going to say a year into the future on your blog, and we are speaking in a unique context.

You demonstrated the danger of this error in your jumping from John 6:44 to John 12:32, using it to say that Jesus will draw all men (literally) to Himself. That, however, is not the context. Greeks had come to see Jesus (John 12:20-23), to which Christ begins to talk about His crucifixion. At this point, which you cite, Christ explains that He will draw all men - both Jews and Greeks - to Himself. This section of scripture ends with Christ leaving and not addressing the Greeks at all (John 12:36). This is not just Reformed “philosophy” talking, but this is exegesis of this verse that even synergistic theologians (John Wesley, Adam Clarke) and some Eastern Fathers (John Chrysostom, Theophylact) affirm as well. In any case, it has nothing to do with John 6:44.

Tony-Allen said...

Whaddaheh? My first post didn't get through. Oh well, I'll try again.

Part 1/2:

In regard to the more on topic discussion, in regards to whether foreknown events can come to past, I’ve read the post you’ve provided and...I think I’m still very confused. It seems like the logic is: “Man has free will, but God’s not a victim of fatalism, but don’t be fooled, even though God knows what’s gonna happen, the person still has the option of not doing it, but he’s not going to.” Your additional comment in the post regarding “chronologically necessity” (“But, no philosopher has been able to explain how this works out and why this should be true”) seems like more of a dismissal than a response. I guess what just confuses me is that if God knows something is going to happen, and His knowledge is perfect, then there’s no way it can go any other way. To argue that there still exists a kind of free will where a person can change their mind would have to denote some fault on God’s knowledge. I recognize that’s not what you’re saying but...well, again, I’m confused (by the way, I'm not saying this to be difficult, I'm serious).

In regards to scripture: I agree with you that scripture speaks as a singular whole - however, I also believe that there can be a mistake in taking this to mean that a scripture must be responded to by jumping to another scripture. For one, it leaves the immediate context of the passage we are discussing, grabbing another passage elsewhere, ignoring the author’s original intent and purposes. Let me put it this way: reading your responses right now, I have no way of knowing what you are going to say a year into the future on your blog, and we are speaking in a unique context.

You demonstrated the danger of this error in your jumping from John 6:44 to John 12:32, using it to say that Jesus will draw all men (literally) to Himself. That, however, is not the context. Greeks had come to see Jesus (John 12:20-23), to which Christ begins to talk about His crucifixion. At this point, which you cite, Christ explains that He will draw all men - both Jews and Greeks - to Himself. This section of scripture ends with Christ leaving and not addressing the Greeks at all (John 12:36). This is not just Reformed “philosophy” talking, but this is exegesis of this verse that even synergistic theologians (John Wesley, Adam Clarke) and some Eastern Fathers (John Chrysostom, Theophylact) affirm as well. In any case, it has nothing to do with John 6:44.

bossmanham said...

Well, somehow almost all of the comments here accidentally got deleted, which is extremely annoying. We can continue the discussion, however.

bossmanham said...

I hate how blogger's comment system works.

Tony,

For some reason your part 1 never went through. It wasn't even in the spam filter for some reason.

On John 6:44. Both of us agree that God must draw men if they are to come to Him. Jesus is saying.

unless the Father who sent Me draws him

So, unless the Father draws him, man can't come.

…and I will raise him up on the last day. - The “him” is the same “him” as the previous section of the verse, the one drawn by the Father to Christ.

If this were indeed the case, then we need to look for the guy that this verse is talking about, since there'd only be one guy that Jesus was referring to.

Rather, as the verse starts out, no one can come to Jesus unless the father draws them. Then (as the verse starts), assuming they come, they will be raised up. You can't omit the conditions of being raised up, which are not only to be drawn, but to come to Jesus. No where does it say that one entails the other. It simply is not in the verse.

However, when God says to Sennacherib, “Long ago I did it, from ancient times I planned it. Now I have brought it to pass...” (2 Kings 19:25), well, how else can one perceive it?

The way I perceive it. Just because you have it ingrained in your view that this must be talking about meticulous determinism doesn't mean I have to read it that way. To me, it plainly reads that God planned for something to happen, not that He made people act in a certain way. Middle knowledge can explain this very well. God wanted a certain thing to happen, and He created man with free will, so He places people in a position where they will accomplish His plan by knowing what they will freely do in that situation.

If God is the one who makes every action happen, even the choices of man, then how is this not a world of puppets? We're not actually choosing anything, rather it's God who chooses everything. That means God chooses to make us sin, and then holds us as culpable for that sin. That's the logical problem associated with determinism.

And you are cherry-picking John 6:44 and 2 Kings 19:25, neither of which I find troubling for my view, and totally ignoring other passages, like 1 Corinthians 7:37 or the free will offering verses, or Hosea 11 (where God's drawing is clearly resisted), or Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34.

bossmanham said...

Well, now I see your part 1. This is getting ridiculous.

Your additional comment in the post regarding “chronologically necessity” (“But, no philosopher has been able to explain how this works out and why this should be true”) seems like more of a dismissal than a response.

It's not just my response. If someone wants to say that chronological necessity somehow exists, then the onus is on them to argue for it. It seems clear to me that the reason God knows about future free choices is because the person will actually choose that in the future. If they would freely choose something else in the future, then God's knowledge in the past would correlate to that. His knowledge is based on the free choice.

I guess what just confuses me is that if God knows something is going to happen, and His knowledge is perfect, then there’s no way it can go any other way.

It could go the other way, but if it were to then God would have known that. There's no problem in saying people can genuinely choose or choose otherwise (within their power) and that whatever they would choose, God will have known it.

To argue that there still exists a kind of free will where a person can change their mind would have to denote some fault on God’s knowledge.

Why? Is it a fault for His knowledge to be based on what we would choose? That seems like true power to me.

In regards to scripture: I agree with you that scripture speaks as a singular whole - however, I also believe that there can be a mistake in taking this to mean that a scripture must be responded to by jumping to another scripture. For one, it leaves the immediate context of the passage we are discussing, grabbing another passage elsewhere, ignoring the author’s original intent and purposes. Let me put it this way: reading your responses right now, I have no way of knowing what you are going to say a year into the future on your blog, and we are speaking in a unique context.

I'm not doing that. I am seeing you take singular verses out of a larger context and saying they mean one thing. Then I point to other verses that contradict what you say that verse must mean to show that that verse must mean something other than what you are saying it means. Obviously I don't think even in the context that the specific passage is found in says that, but it is simple to point to other passages that clearly contradict what you're saying.

Greeks had come to see Jesus (John 12:20-23), to which Christ begins to talk about His crucifixion. At this point, which you cite, Christ explains that He will draw all men - both Jews and Greeks - to Himself.

Of course I think you are mistaken. In fact, the word 'man' or 'people' is not even in the Greek text. It simply says "I will draw all to myself." Translators add the filler word for clarity sake. But there's no indication in this passage that Jesus is dealing with the Greek/Jew controversy. He simply says what the results of His crucifixion will be; that all men will be drawn to Him. Not to mention that the Jew / Greek drawing isn't all that is done, since other nationalities also come to Christ.

Note I never said the context was the same in the two passages, but the teaching is not as you would have it. John 6:44 says God must draw us, and John 12:32 says He draws all. If this drawing is irresistable, then all should come. But they don't so it's not. Not to mention the other passages that indicate the universality of the drawing of God, which are listed at the link I provided earlier.

Tony-Allen said...

Huh, strange, never been on a blog where posts disappear. Weird.

I don't know how far we can get so I will gently bow out for now, but I will ask one question just to hear your response and give you the last word: where, in your belief, does God's sovereignty begin and end, and where does man's free will begin and end?

bossmanham said...

Well I figured out what happened. I thought I was in the spam section of the comments and was deleting a bunch of duplicates when I was actually in the regular comments section and deleted them. Sorry about that.

thechemistscorner said...

BMH

I guess we read the same books. I just finished reading similar arguments. I have to say, Molinism as a structure seems to make a lot of sense given libertarian free will.