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Permit me a little exercise in theological philosophy and logic.

Almost every Christian believes that God knows everything. Many Christians believe human beings have free will. Some Christians affirm free will but deny traditional omniscience (e.g., open theists). Some Christians affirm omniscience but deny free will (Calvinists).  Other Christians try to affirm both (Arminians).  It’s no secret that I’m a Calvinist so it will surprise no one that I agree with the middle sentence.  I think open theism is a grave error.  But given that it is very much a minority position among Christians, I am not concerned about it in this post.  My reflections are focused on the disagreement between Calvinists and Arminians.

Of course, I’m not going to settle such a long standing debate with a single blog post, but I do want to think for a few moments about whether divine omniscience and free will are compatible.  That is, can the Arminian have it both ways and affirm that God knows everything and that we free wills?

Definitions

Let me define a few terms I’ll be using.  By omniscience I mean that God knows everything. A related term (that can also be used as a synonym for omniscience) is foreknowledge. By foreknowledge I mean that God knows everything that is yet to happen in the future. By free will I mean free will as Arminians define it. Arminians argue that we have a libertarian free will, which simply put means that we have the power of contrary choice; or to put it another way, that our choices can be otherwise than they are.

What’s for Breakfast?

Let’s put these terms in a typical scenario. Tomorrow morning I will open my freezer and choose whether to have Eggo waffles for breakfast or Eggo french toast. Arminians and Calvinists (although not Openness theologians) believe that an omniscient God has foreknowledge of what choice I will make. That is, God knows with certainty that tomorrow morning I will choose the waffles and not the french toast. Arminians go on to argue that libertarian free will is consistent with divine foreknowledge. I have libertarian free will to choose the waffles or the french toast. I have power of contrary choice. I may choose the waffles; I may choose the french toast. The outcome of my choice is not fixed. It is up to my free will to decide. Nevertheless, God, who knows all things, knows for certain that I will choose the waffles tomorrow morning.

By this understanding, we are led to believe that divine omniscience, or foreknowledge in this case, is wholly compatible with libertarian free will. God’s knowing what I will choose is simply a knowledge based on foreseen evidence, and this knowledge in no way determines my choice of waffles. God simply looked into the future and saw what my choice would be. It is as if he put into his cosmic VCR the tape marked “Kevin’s Breakfast October 27.” He saw that I would choose waffles and therefore he knows for certain what my free choice will be. But when I wake up tomorrow and look in the freezer I will have the power of contrary choice. God’s knowledge is certain, but my choice is in no way necessary or fixed; it is free and can be otherwise. Thus, according to the Arminian, foreknowledge co-exists just fine with free will.

But this is not so. Here’s why. If an omniscient God has foreknowledge as to my choice of waffles, than this knowledge must be of an event that is fixed and necessary. For if God’s knowledge is always correct, that is, infallible and certain, then what he knows of the future will certainly and infallibly come to pass. Take our Eggo example. Suppose God knows for certain that tomorrow morning I will choose the waffles. Then if I were to ask you, “What will I choose, the waffles or the french toast?” All of you would say, with certainty, “You will choose the waffles.” My choice cannot be otherwise. If it could be otherwise, then the possibility exists that God in his foreknowledge is mistaken. But if God’s foreknowledge is infallible, then what he knows will certainly come to pass. So when I open the freezer tomorrow morning, although the choice may seem very free to me, in reality my choice cannot be other than waffles. It is a fixed and necessary consequence that I will eat waffles and not french toast. I can possess no libertarian free will (with the power of contrary choice) where God has a sure and certain knowledge of the future.

What About After-Knowledge?

You may object that foreknowledge of an event has no more influence on the necessity of that event than after-knowledge. If you can look into the future and see that I will choose waffles tomorrow, all you have done is seen the future. Your knowing the future, you may argue, has no bearing on my choice of Eggos tomorrow. It’s no different than after-knowledge you may say. If you read in my journal entry for today: “Yesterday, ate waffles for breakfast” you simply know that I had waffles yesterday. Thus, as the reasoning goes, just as your after-knowledge of my choice did not make my choice necessary, neither does your foreknowledge of my choice make it necessary.

To which I would respond, that this misses the point. You are quite right to argue that knowledge of an event does not make that event necessary. Knowing something ahead of or before its occurrence does not cause the necessity of the occurrence, but it does prove that it cannot be otherwise. If you have after-knowledge of my breakfast choice because you read my journal from today, you can have certain knowledge that I ate waffles. Your knowledge of this did not cause my choice, but your infallible certainty about the waffles proves that yesterday’s breakfast cannot be other than waffles. Any certain knowledge of a choice proves that the choice itself is fixed and cannot be otherwise.

In other words, foreknowledge does not affect future certainty; it assumes it. We see this plainly with after-knowledge. What you know for certain about the past does not cause the past event but it does assume that it is fixed, or else your knowledge would not be certain. So when it comes to foreknowledge the same applies. For all certain knowledge of a choice (before, after, or during) demonstrates that the choice is necessary, fixed, and cannot be otherwise than it is. And if my choice cannot be otherwise, then I have no free will in the libertarian sense.

A Middle Ground?

Someone at this point may raise the question “What about middle knowledge?” According to middle knowledge, God does not determine human choices but he does create the circumstances necessary to actualize these choices. God knows all things actual and potential, hence he knows what I would do in any given circumstances. God knows that if I wake up tomorrow morning and find the box of waffles in front of the french toast I will choose the waffles. Since God’s perfect plan is for me to choose the waffles he manages the circumstance such that I will choose the waffles (i.e. having the box of waffles in front of the french toast). By this knowledge of all possible decisions and outcomes (middle knowledge) God can direct the future and know for certain what my decisions will be.

Middle knowledge is an attractive “middle” ground, but it fails on two accounts. First, if God never violates human free will how can he effectively and consistently create the circumstances necessary to actualize my decision? God may try to arrange the situation such that the waffles are in front of the french toast, but he can’t prevent my wife from getting up before me, eating the french toast and putting the french toast box in front of the waffles. My wife is free to do as she chooses and her choice may disrupt God’s intended circumstance.

The second problem is that in the middle knowledge system where humans have libertarian free will, how can God know even my potential decisions? Can God really know for certain what I would do in any given situation? What makes God so sure that I will choose the waffles just because they are in front of the french toast? That may be a good hunch on his part, but as long as I have the power of contrary choice God has no way of knowing for sure that I will not reach behind the waffles and grab the french toast. So any middle knowledge that is certain undermines free will just like any other certain kind of knowledge.

God’s Timelessness?

There is one other objection that may be raised: What about God’s timelessness? God does not look into the future per se because all of history past, present, and future happens for God in the eternal now. He does not need to put in a tape of “Kevin’s Breakfast October 27″ because he is there right now. If we make the analogy fit a God who stands outside of time and can experience the past, present, and future simultaneously, we can imagine that God is watching (and experiencing) on his cosmic VCR all my breakfasts from eternity to eternity. There is no before or after for God; he is outside of time and experiences all of our time all the time. Therefore, since there is no succession of time for God, the argument runs, he simply knows all our free choices because he is right there with us. God knows what I will eat for breakfast tomorrow because he is already there.

But arguing for God’s timelessness (which is a proper thing to argue) does nothing to help secure libertarian free will. The same issue still surfaces. If God has certain knowledge of an event, whether that knowledge is a foreknowledge or strictly speaking a timeless knowledge, what matters is that God’s knowledge is certain. Because if it is certain, by whatever means, then the event will come to pass as it has been certainly known. If God knows that fifty years from now Canada will invade the United States, it matters not (for our discussion) if God knows it because the event, 50 years away for us, is present to God. What matters is that God knows the event with infallible certainty. Since God knows that in 50 years Canada will invade the United States, in 50 years it cannot be otherwise than that the United States will be invaded by Canada. If this were not so fixed, God, in 50 years may prove to be mistaken in his knowledge.

Hence, free will (as Arminians understand it) does not exist even if it be argued that God’s knowledge is timeless. In fact, that God’s knowledge has no succession of time points to a more important inference, namely, that God’s knowledge never increases. God has a perfect and never-failing knowledge. Nothing can occur other than how God knows it to be. All events must come to pass as God knows them because they are to a timeless God if they had already been. Therefore, the timelessness of God actually strengthens the argument against libertarian free will.

Conclusion

It is true, that none of this proves that God is the determiner of all things. What it does show is that the determination and necessity of future events is really no greater for the Calvinist than for the Arminian. The Arminian objects to the Calvinist God because God’s predetermination of all things does not allow for libertarian free will. But by my reckoning the Arminian scheme does not allow for libertarian free will either. For if God certainly knows the future, then the future must for certainty come to pass as God knows it. And if future choices are fixed and necessary, there is no place for the power of contrary choice.


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Comments:


86 thoughts on “Can God Know Everything and Still Give us Free Will?”

  1. Kevin,

    The blog post I linked you to actually deals with Adam’s observations at the top of the page.

    Warmest regards,

    Ron

  2. mzsoulll says:

    **** I see many places in Scripture that not only allow for what I am saying, but demand it, like the many reference to freewill, the many references to human choice, and the fact that there are many things that go against God’s will for starters. Kangaroodort linked to a great article on the reality of genuine free will in Scripture. Here is the link again: http://evangelicalarminians.org/Henshaw-Determinism-Free-Will-The-Reality-of-Choice-and-the-Testimony-of-Scripture. It does seem strange to me that you think God wants to be considered responsible for our sin when Scripture makes it clear that he is too pure to even look upon evil and would never tempt anyone to sin (he would never tempt anyone to sin, but he would irresitibly cause each person to sin every sin he or she ever commits?). Do you deny that many things go against God’s will?

    My friend, when did I specifically say that? If you can show me the error in my writing then I will respond to this specifically. Otherwise I’d rather you not misquote me Thank you.

    I asked for scripture so that the conversation could be more production. Not that I don’t care what you think, but if I am to learn something, it’s usually the bible that does the trick. I never assume that I know enough to never be corrected. I will post my scripts up, unfortunately, i dont go on the computer often.

    My original point was this. To say God merely knows may trump that he is the creator of all things. It is to my belief that He decrees everything that comes to pass, and nothing that happens is a surprise to him.

    To say that He decrees everything and there is still choice is true and false. True to me, in that we are finite and he is not. So for us, it is a choice, because we cannot know God’s ways. However, to say that our will is free…somehow out of hold from Him…beggs the question of what authority we hold to our own will, seein that we did not create ourselves, or rather, if God could pull us out of his will…can that even be possible? I’m rambling…i know.

  3. Arminian says:

    mzsoulll said: “My friend, when did I specifically say that? If you can show me the error in my writing then I will respond to this specifically. Otherwise I’d rather you not misquote me Thank you.”

    **** It is unclear what statement you refer to. I assume it is this: “It does seem strange to me that you think God wants to be considered responsible for our sin” I said this, because in response to me saying this: “he [God] knows many things will happen because they will happen, and he would prefer that they not happen, though he allows them to happen because he has sovereignly decided to grant man free will”, you said, “I don’t see anywhere in scripture that completely allows what you are saying. You are letting God off the hook where He does not want to be let off.”

    It seems like you were saying I am letting God off the hook for our actions that go against his will (i.e., our sin). How else was I to take your comments in this context?

    Also, please don’t post a list of proof texts for your positions, because that tends to make for unproductive discussion. It is one thing to discuss Scripture. That is a good and healthy thing. But if one simply posts a list of quoted passages begging the question that they support one’s view, it can be counterproductive. For example, I could simply counter with a list of proof texts for my position. And what will be accomplished? Here is a great little explanation of this problem, which the author labels “The Machine Gun Hermeneutic”: http://evangelicalarminians.org/node/161.

    God bless.

  4. iMark says:

    Kevin,

    Thanks for these thoughts. You have certainly spelled out things a bit more than the interaction I recently had on another blog.

  5. Chris heath says:

    If God truely knows all,why does he put people that he knows is going to hell?

  6. David says:

    So if I follow your logic in this article, God ordains rape, murder, theft, lying, etc. because it was necessary. It was never a choice to begin with. Am I understanding you correctly?

  7. Adam says:

    You need to think through your reasoning more, particularly on your response to “God’s timelessness”. At first glance your thought process seems to follow logically, but this is not in fact the case. Forget the Calvinism-Arminianism debate for a moment, and just use simple principles of logic.

  8. Arpad Edes says:

    Dear Kevin!

    What if God chooses not to decide whether you want waffle or French toast yet He sees everything, since our choices are not endless to put it middle, so none of your decesions come to Him as surprise. Math proffessors say that Theoretically there is one winning strategy in chess game, regardless to what steps the opponennt whants to take. It is good illustration to see that how can one thing look free from our side and foreseen on the other. So may assumption is that even if God allows things happen freely in a relative sense, it does not mean He is not in Conntroll. There is a winning plan, an unbeatable strategy of salvation with a predestined and but on our side we have multiple choices to make, and multiple futures to be foreseen at the same time which is no problem for God. Why I regard myself a calvinist is because I beleive God’s divine plan, his will, his grace has priority overagainst ours, and his will relatives our free will. And finally the emphesis is on the divine part!

  9. bruce jones says:

    It’s amazing to think that this was part of God’s perfect plan:

    http://www.break.com/index/jesus-ascension-fail-2278550

  10. tom says:

    although a believer for many years i have only recently considered predestintion, because i’ve always assumed free-will. upon reading many articles and dicussions on the topic i’m still confused on the matter. although leaning more towards predestination, i have a few questions that i’d like to share. 1- although i don’t know it, God will make so and so become a christian? 2- does God knowing what will happen in the future negate free will? or does it prove that we made a choice and he knows what that choice is?

  11. Williams says:

    Is not a fixed choice still a choice?

  12. Williams says:

    I can, with fair certainty, predict what a my child will eat for lunch if I offer him a choice of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or fried liver and onions. He would have full free choice. He probably thinks he got the best of me because he’s munching on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But even though I knew the outcome, he still had a free choice.

    I’ve played complex games like chess against people far above my ability. It doesn’t take long before I realize that I’m going to lose. The funny thing is, I still have full choice in regards to my moves, but no matter what I choose, I know I’m going to lose against my opponents’ choices.

  13. Gari says:

    I believe God does not know everything about the future but he chooses to predetermine certain events (BUT NOT ALL). God chose not to know our future because he wants us to have free will.

    Take for example, the laptop that I am using now, the designer of the laptop designs it to function in a certain way for a certain period of time before I need to buy a new one. The designer does not know who is going to buy this specific laptop and how its going to be used. If I pour water on it, the it will now work as per specifications of the designer. If my kid throws it on the floor it breaks and cease to exist.
    The same happened with creation, God created all animals to be self sustenance. If we follow his specification we will survive to the limit of a standard particular animal.God does not tell the wilder beasts of the Sarageti to migrate in search of pastures but the animals were created with instincts for such task. If a crocodile catches some of the beasts or if a lion catches one of the beasts that does not mean God knew. I can go on and on. Its a misconception that God knows everything. He knows the framework and may choose to know certain events.

  14. geri says:

    God knows everything. Pslam 139:1-6 “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”

  15. toni says:

    How can you have free will when God cast down devils demons and this horrible cruel snake head leader satan on humanity and give these evil spirits enormous invisible power to enter our bodies rip our souls apart and persuade multitudes to take the wrong path.

    The moment we open our eyes at birth to the moment we die…we are being watched studied, all our thoughts listened to every moment of the day… no privacy whatsoever! …how is this free will?

    What we are living in is a trap , one big trap that snares everyone of us one way or another. Thats not free will. I do everything possible to protect myself from privacy invasion from the government, internet hackers etc etc but when it comes to this there is nothing you can do.

    That is not free will.

  16. toni says:

    In Deuteronomy 28 Moses tells the people of all the curse God would lead them and their children and children’s children to, until the end of time! if they walk away from God. Ok, the original person walks away from God and God curses his children to believe in other gods or whatever The Lord decides….how is that free will? these children who grow up have no chance because of some dude hundreds or thousands of yrs ago gave up on God.

    How is this free will if people are cursed before birth and lead astray unknowingly during their life to walk a path that is indifferent to Gods ways.

  17. toni says:

    I believe in God and I believe messages from prophets, mostly Catholic prophets, but not all. From the ones I do believe, Jesus say’s many many times He gives us free will….I believe it and I wanna believe it but for whatever reason I can’t help it, it just doesn’t sink in with me for the same comments I wrote above.

    In the end and even right now, my comments will be wrong and are wrong, even though it may sound legit …If God says He gives us free will, I’m not going to argue with Him anymore.

    The Bible says God thinks differently then us…and we all know God is always right!

    Best just to read the bible repent and let The Lord take over.

  18. Joe Noll says:

    God did become angry with his people in the old testament.
    I would say that this is because their decisions were surprising to him. If he already knew what they would do, his anger is irrational.

  19. Laurie says:

    Then if people don’t have a choice, why would God make people who “have” to go to hell if there is no “choice”?

  20. Tony says:

    Omniscience Vs. Free Will…

    I believe it works much like this…

    There are two paths in which individuals take, God’s will and self will.

    God knows the outcome of each but we have free will to choose one path or the other.

    We complicate the situation because we are too often, alternating from one path to the other and back again…

    God’s foreknowledge remains true and free will as well.

  21. August Berkshire says:

    “If an omniscient God has foreknowledge as to my choice of waffles, than this knowledge must be of an event that is fixed and necessary.”

    Typo: “than” should be “then.”

  22. James says:

    Kevin,

    Isn’t it possible that God’s foreknowledge, even though it is chronologically prior to our actions, comes logically AFTER our actions? This model would leave room for free will because it would mean that if I had chosen differently than I did, and God would simply have had a different foreknowledge of how I chose. God’s foreknowledge does not entail that I CAN’T choose differently; his foreknowledge only indicates what my choice in fact will be. Can you comment on whether or not I am correct about this? If I am correct, it seems to me that your article fails to demonstrate that free will is incompatible with God’s foreknowledge because you have failed to see how God’s foreknowledge would have been different if our choices had been different. Instead, you seem to give the impression that his foreknowledge could be somehow thwarted if we had the free will to change our mind and choose differently. I am suggesting that this is impossible, because God would simply foreknow that we would choose differently. Please let me know if I am wrong. I am having trouble seeing how this couldn’t be possible.

    Thanks, always, for your service to the Christ and His church!

    -James

  23. James says:

    Kevin,

    I found a transcript from William Lane Craig that expresses my concerns more clearly. He says…

    All that follows from “Necessarily, if God foreknows X, then X will happen” and “God foreknows X” is: “X will happen.” But it doesn’t follow that “X will necessarily happen.” Thinking so commits a fallacy in modal logic. So from the fact of God’s foreknowing X, it follows that X will happen but not that X will happen necessarily. X could fail to happen, and if it were to fail to happen, then God’s foreknowledge would have been different.

    …Can you (or anyone reading this post) comment on William Lane Craig’s analysis?

    God bless,
    James

  24. B A Brightlight says:

    @James: Dr. Craig is a proponent of middle knowledge and Molinism and I think you are going along that line of thinking. Kevin wrote, “Can God really know for certain what I would do in any given situation?” Dr. Craig’s answer I think would be that an omniscient Being would know for certain all factuals and counterfactuals of every situation. So in short, “Yes, He would.” Somewhat mathematically we could say that a person, P, in environment, E (where E is all the contributing forces of the universe), at a point in time, t, may have 4 choices of A, B, C, or D. If God has absolute foreknowledge, then God would know that person P in E at time t would choose B. God would also know how to alter E to say E’ which may cause person P to choose C vice B. This may describe how the Bible was “inspired” where God tweaked the variables of E and t so that the prophet, P freely wrote what God desired.

  25. B A Brightlight says:

    However, my concern with Calvinism, Armenianism and Molinism is that absolute foreknowledge by God makes God a co-conspirator before the fact to sin. My first argument is that in any of these theories, man does not have true choice. As in my previous comment, If God knows for certain that person P, in environment E, at time t will choose B, then the probability of B occurring is 100%. The probabilities of A, C, & D are therefore zero. If something has a probability of 0, does it exist? The answer is no and therefore there was no “choice” involved. It is simply a result no different that mixing chemical X with Y and it turns green. Thus God knew Adam and Eve would sin and it could never be said that God wants all to come to truth 1 Tim 2:4 and that no one should perish 2 Pet 3:9 because He knew that was never possible. My suggested solution to this dilemma is to add a quantum dash of open theism. God is omniscient which means He knows all that can be known. When you study quantum physics, we find that the universe is not deterministic (see Heisenberg uncertainty principle). Unlike the goofy question, Can God create a rock He cannot lift, my question is more subtle: Can God create a random number? In order for it to be random, it can have no meaning for its existence nor can it be foreknown. In a sense I think God did add this sub-atomic sliver of uncertainty to our universe. Thus in our thought experiment, God knows that person P in E at time t will choose B with .999999999999 accuracy and God also knows all the other potential outcomes as well. Mathematically, this is minute, theologically, this is huge. There did legitimately exist the probability (albeit perhaps very small) that man would not have fallen in the Garden. The world was as God described, “Very good.” The future is not a straight line where we as actors recite our lines then exit stage left, but an immense bush of possibilities—all under the loving and watchful eye of our Father. I hope this helps.

  26. James says:

    Hi B A Brightlight. Thanks for your response. I have a question regarding your claim that man does not have “true choice” under Molinism, which is William Lane Craig’s view of divine foreknowledge.

    You seen to define free choice as being something less than 100% probable to occur. I am having trouble seeing why probability is a necessary condition for free will. If we look at the past, our choices are 100% probable because they have already been made and cannot be changed. Can’t the future be the same way as the past?

    If I know what will happen, then I cannot change it. It is 100% probable. But, there is no cause that 100% determined my choice in the future any more than there is a cause in the present that 100% determined what my past choices were. My choice is mine to make. God’s foreknowedge of my choice is dependent on what I in fact choose based on my free will. I do have the power to choose differently. And if I were to choose differently, then God’s foreknowledge would change along with my decision to choose differently.

    Therefore, I would change your statement about my will not being free because my choice is 100% probable. Instead, I would say that God’s foreknowledge is not free because his foreknowledge is 100% probable (infallibly so) to depend on and perfectly align with my choices that I make with my free will, and my choices are NOT 100% probable to be one way or another.

    Thanks for your observations. I look forward to additional clarification on you thoughts.

    In Christ,
    James

  27. B A Brightlight says:

    Hey James, Sorry for my delayed repIy. I agree with Dr. Craig (and you) and his position on middle knowledge. God’s absolute foreknowledge does not make a choice necessary—it’s the other way around. As in the example we’ve been using, if person P in E at time t chooses C instead of B, then God’s foreknowledge will be that for C. Mathematically, complete omniscience implies zero degrees of freedom which is logical…if I know every variable and every reaction to every variable then I can accurately predict the future and thus even a human thought is reduced to electrical impulses, the firing of dendrites, body chemisry, etc. Thus P in E at time t will always “choose” B. So if B is certain (Probability = 100%), then all other so-called “choices” do not really exist. It appears to us in our ignorance that they exist, but the mathematics say otherwise. Another area of investigation is to ask, How does God know the future?” God is outside of time and can see time not in a one-dimensional fashion as we do, but in multi-dimensions. If time were a 2 dimensional plane then any point in time (along the x-axis) God can see everything going on at every place (y-axis). Thus He can hear and respond to multiple prayers simultaneously. Expand to three dimensions and perhaps God sees all plausible actions (z-axis) in a moment in time (middle knowledge). Go beyond that..and well I haven’t thought it out that far. So how does God “see” the future? Is it an omnisicient extrapolation of data that is projected into the future or is there some time-space position or other dimension position that sees the future as already ocurred? I lean toward the former than the latter.
    I did ask Dr. Craig once about the Heisenburg uncertainty principle which states that we cannot know both a particle’s position and momentum (roughly where it is and where it is going) simultaneously. In his opinion, we currently cannot but God can which makes the universe deterministic. The logical inference is that our future is on a single course of which there will be no deviation. I don’t believe that. I think God intentionally designed the universe with this quantum sliver of indeterminancy (even to Him) and thus via His middle knowledge He oversees all things and is never surprised nor is anyting beyond His conrol. To me it is the only way true free will and God’s omnisicence can co-exist without conflict.
    In His grip,
    Tom

  28. James says:

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for clarifying. I see that we mostly agree. However, are you assuming a perceptualist model of divine cognition?

    I think that Dr. Craig believes in a conceptualist model where God knows everything, but He grasps it all at once instead of knowing things as individual propositions or by having to look into the future before He can know what will happen.

    Also, couldn’t God avoid the impact of causal determinism on creaturely freedom by granting the power of agent causation to human beings? Would you consider this a part of the sliver of quantum indeterminacy you had mentioned.

    In Christ,
    James

  29. B A Brightlight says:

    Hello James: That is the position I think Dr. Craig maintains. We choose, therefore we cause. God’s foreknowledge does not influence our choice nor make it necessary. However, if I knew that two trains were on the same track heading toward each other, then I could not state that the situation is “very good”. Legally, if I had the ability to intervene to prevent such an impending disaster and did nothing I would perhaps be liable. By analogy, God knowing (with 100% accuracy) that Adam would “fall” appears to me to be a similar scenario. If we add a sliver of indeterminism to the equation, then there exists the possibility (however slight) that Adam (& Eve) would not fall. The other point addressed is how does God “see” the future. You stated (or implied) that He sees past, present, and future all at once. I agree but I don’t know the “how” regarding the future. God is omnipresent so He “sees” every current moment and thus knows every past moment, but a future moment is not “seen” per se, but known via omnisicient knowledge of E at any point in time t. Or perhaps there are other dimensions or places in time-space where our future has already occurred. God exists outside of time (the great I AM), but interacts with the temporal universe no different than the 2nd Person of the Trinity becoming human and entering time. It’s all a work/thought process in progress. : ) The end result or action is all the same—whenever we hit a wall of knowledge limitation, just trust God!
    In His Grip,
    Tom

  30. John says:

    Much of what was written is just confused and ripe with semantics. How can God know your potential choices or prevent your wife from serving something different? Really? What, is God not smart enough? The job too complicated?
    He seem to demand a mechanism that enables God to do these things. Why is he omnipotent? Is it because he works out in the gym? God knows all potentialities because he’s God. This god who “foresees” is not God but a fortune teller. God simply knows all by virtue of His nature, he finds out nothing.

  31. Vincent Clay says:

    Well I am only commenting hoping that someone might yay or nay my thoughts. With regards to free will, isn’t it directly stated in the bible that God gave us the free will to do as we please for or against his will? Also with regards to the “Breakfast scenario”, I don’t think it is as simple as God putting a VHS in the VCR , but wouldn’t anyone agree that if God knows the reason behind a choice, he would be able to dictate the result. For example maybe God does not know you are going to choose waffles simply because he knows, but maybe he knows because he is aware that you prefer waffles, and you are going to be in the mood for them once you wake up. Also he knows that you went to the store last week, and because the opportunity that you presented for yourself is there, you are going to choose it. I would have to say that if God knows his creations as well as he claims to know them in the bible, any decision that we choose would be a no brainer to him because it is God who wired our brains to be the way that it is, and God that formulated the formula that makes us choose the choices that we choose. God gave us the ability to think like him but on a smaller scale. In the life of a child, most parents are able to sometimes dictate what their children will or have done based off of their past actions, and what they know about their child. I feel as though God works the same way. He knows his children better then we know ourselves, therefore he knows our future. I am not a bible scholar or anything, I am just a college philosophy major, but I feel as though with some logical thought all things can be figured out to an extent. I feel as though the variations of religions are simply the over complication of the world, and to go to heaven is simply assessing the quote that we literally say every day as Christians. “God is Good”. God wants us to act as the humanly form of him, therefore is God literally is Good, then doing Good is God, or of God.

  32. James2 says:

    Good Sunday AM reading :-) There are a couple of issues I have with this debate. 1.) That if God knows for certainty what I will eat for breakfast, whether or not my will remains free, then does he no longer have the power to change my choice? Or to put it another way does God’s omniscience make his omnipotence impossible? Because if he cannot make my choice be any different than what it is then he is powerless to change our destiny. 2.) I agree with all posters who propose that the logical argument for Calvinism is twisting words around. Kevin says, “For all certain knowledge of a choice (before, after, or during) demonstrates that the choice is necessary, fixed, and cannot be otherwise than it is. And if my choice cannot be otherwise, then I have no free will in the libertarian sense.” The part “And if my choice cannot be otherwise” is where the logic gets twisted. The choice was freely made. Just because God knows what the choice was does not take away from it being freely made. In any case, I’m not sure where I stand between Armenian and Middle, except on this: God is bigger than my choices and if I make good ones or bad ones, he still loves me and directs my life in ways that I don’t understand. My goal is to put my trust in him no matter what happens. Peace to you all, my sisters and brothers in Christ.

  33. B A Brightlight says:

    Hey James2, I believe your breakfast question (#1) involves God knowing counterfactuals—the what ifs. This is evident in 1 Sam 23:12 where David asks the LORD if the men of Keilah will turn over David and his men to Saul in which the LORD answers in the affirmative. Thus, God knew what “would” happen and so David and his men left Keilah so that they would not be captured. So God can know what you will have for breakfast and He could cause a tree to fall on your power line and thus your desire for waffles may be thwarted in lieu of darkness and cold cereal. Since every decision and possible action we can take in a segment of time is finite, God certainly knows all possible thoughts and actions and He can alter/intervene in the environment to change the outcome—sometimes dramatically like a pillar of fire to keep the Egyptians back while the Israelites fled through the parted Red Sea to the more sublime of God guiding the rock (maybe?) that David slung to kill Goliath.

    It’s all interesting stuff to ponder. Even in nature, what makes a circular wind pattern disperse and what makes it convert into a tornado? Is it so sensitive that the angular momentum of one air molecule can make the difference as to whether a funnel cloud appears or not? Does prayer somehow interact in this process?

    We see in a mirror dimly….but we can absolutely trust in our LORD! Have a blessed one!

  34. David Martinez says:

    Pastor DeYoung’s final statement, “For if God certainly knows the future, then the future must for certainty come to pass as God knows it” creates a problem in me. How does this type of theology fit with 1 Samuel 23:10-13 that says,:

    Then David said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, your servant has surely heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O Lord, the God of Israel, please tell your servant.” And the Lord said, “He will come down.” Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the Lord said, “They will surrender you.” Then David and his men, who were about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah, and they went wherever they could go. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up the expedition.

    In this passage it is clear that God knows the future. He clearly tells David that Saul is coming but at the end of the passage Saul decides to give up the expedition. Did God lie? I don’t think He did. Perhaps God can observe the future without having to cause it. Knowledge does not imply causation. God knows all the possibilities of the future and lets man decide. In the case of our passage God knew that Saul was coming if David stayed in the same city, but David decided to move therefore changing the situation. God knew Saul was coming but He did not cause Him to come.

  35. Alan Fergusson says:

    No wonder we can not even begin to fathom the knowledge that He holds. Surely He is The All-knowing.
    It is very human to think in such linear way. The possibilities between 0 and 1 is not 1, it is infinite. The example of choosing breakfast does not really do justice here, even so, the choices between waffles and cereal are not only two but infinite. Think of a computer, it processes vast amount of calculations within seconds. When you make it play chess it calculates all the moves possible, knows all the outcomes if a certain move is played next turn, and what could be if other moves are chosen next. If you let it, it will choose the move that IS the best. But when it comes to a human, he might not choose it, even if he knows that would be the best move.
    We believe human choices are similar, God with His infinite knowledge sees all the possibilities, what could possibly be and what can not be. If He wills something, it shall be, even if it is impossible. But with humans, He gave them free will, He knows the outcomes, but humans get to choose.
    On a different note, what does one do when he sees a weather forecast with 99% chance of rain? Does he take an umbrella on his way out? or does he rely on the 1% chance of not raining? What would he call the forecast? It will rain? or it wont? As long as his knowledge is not infinite, he will only understand a finite answer. And in pursuit of comprehending subjects beyond his comprehension, he might even end up assuming ideas that are ridicule-ous to Him Who knows all.
    In the names of the Most Merciful the Most Kind,
    Behold, I send an angel before you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared. Give heed to him and hearken to his voice, do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; for my name is in him. “But if you hearken attentively to his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. “When my angel goes before you … and I blot them out. (Exodus 23:20-23)
    Not off topic here, but surely people have noticed the discrepancies between I and WE in the Heavenly Books?
    This life is a test for the humankind, and a lesson for all the creations to learn, including the ones humans call Devil. God is All-knowing, All-seeing, Who sees the good. Everything has purpose, everything has potential, hence He made the Hells not only for punishment, but also for redemption. When Adam was created God proclaimed him as His best creation. But Adam was tricked because a certain someone was jealous. Jealousy and Foolishness do not form themselves, they were there to begin with. Like emotions guide humans in making their decisions. Whether right or wrong.
    Contemplation in this life is better than redemption in the next, surely humans will do their best to be their best before the Judge on the day of final judgement.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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