Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Terminology Tuesday: Divine Foreknowledge

Divine Foreknowledge: God's knowledge of future events, including future free human choices. Some philosophers argue that since God's knowledge cannot be mistaken, and since the past cannot be changed, God's knowing future events before they occur implies that no other events could possibly occur and that free will is an illusion (the determinism viewpoint). A variety of responses to this problem have been given, including holding that since God is timeless he has no knowledge before an event but knows all things in a timeless now. Others accept Molinism, the view that God's foreknowledge and providence are linked to his middle knowledge, which is a knowledge of how free creatures would act in different circumstances. Still others limit God's foreknowledge by holding that, while omniscience includes knowing all true or false propositions, some propositions about the future are as of yet neither true nor false. And similarly, others limit divine foreknowledge by holding that, while God knows all that it is logically possible to know, it is logically impossible to have infallible prior knowledge of free decisions.1

1. C.Stephen Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), p. 45.


Nick Potts said...

I was actually just reading an article on this, and I was listening to a Reasonable Faith podcast on this. perfect timing! lol.

This is a difficult subject because a lot is entailed with it. God's foreknowledge, omniscience, philosophy of time, theology proper, ...etc.

Brian said...

Divine foreknowledge in action! : )

Gerschwin said...

Me too, Nick. Listening to Dr. Craig's teaching on the Doctrine of Salvation on my ipod right now. Co-incidence?

Randy Everist said...

Go Molinism! :)

Ex N1hilo said...

Go Molinism?

It's sad to see Christians taken in by idolatrous theological systems.

Randy Everist said...

Somehow, I doubt very much that you are sad; otherwise you would have responded much differently (as opposed to heavy-handedly throwing around either insults or accusations [or both]). Please do not accuse me of worshipping false gods. I will gladly discuss any matter with you (and if off-topic I will gladly send you my e-mail address), but I only ask for a small amount of Christian charity. God Bless,


Ex N1hilo said...


I don't mean to be unkind, really. But it is my conviction that one aspect of the Christian life is that, as we study the word of God and pray; as we engage in the life of the Church and the family, and in our daily activities, that God reveals to us areas of sin that we were not previously aware of.

In fact, I believe that God revealed to me just yesterday an idol that I was serving, in the form of a self-serving attitude; an attitude that I had thought was just normal and fine, but which amounted to a lack of trust in God and an implicit denial that whatever He brings into my life is for my good.

Now, would you not agree that there are doctrines being taught in the Christian world that are in opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ? Doctrines that are presented as benign and helpful? Do you not agree that when we have been made aware of the insidious nature of these doctrines that we should warn other believers of them?

I have, for example, been warning people for years, that a practice I used to engage in – the veneration of the consecrated host in the RC mass – amounts to idolatry.

Likewise, I used to be among those who believe that the knowledge God has of my free will choices is contingent on the (foreseen) disposition of my will to make those choices. In this view, God's “middle knowledge” is determined, at least in part, by the creature. And so, God's aseity is thrown out the window. Man becomes in a certain limited sense, God's creator.

Of course, I'm not saying that there are no true believers who hold to Molinism. I'm saying they need to seriously re-evaluate it. It's a God-dishonoring doctrine.

My email address can be accessed through my profile if you would like to discuss this further.


bossmanham said...

Ex, statements like that are discussion killers. Without argument, you simply assert that if one takes the Molinist position on the issue of divine foreknowledge and human freedom, they are somehow worshipping a false God. This is a serious claim. You say it is a false representation of the gospel, which itself is another dubious assertion (how one's view of this issue changes if you have faith in Christ for your salvation is beyond me).

So, you need to 1) explain how this (and the RC mass for that matter, which would also extend to lutherans) are idolotrous, 2) explain how it harms the gospel of the forgivness of sins by Jesus Christ, and 3) how it destroys the notion of God's self existence. Otherwise I think you owe an apology.

It's actually pretty clear to me that you're comfortable with only a partial understanding of what other people believe, and then throwing a straw man in their face as an accused heresy. Typical of most online hyper calvinists today.

Ex N1hilo said...

bossmanham wrote:

Without argument, you simply assert that if one takes the Molinist position on the issue of divine foreknowledge and human freedom, they are somehow worshipping a false God.

I believe I gave a concise argument. I will expand on it a bit in the interest of making it more understandable.

Premise 1: Anything that is presented as having logical priority over the God who is revealed in scripture is an idol.

Premise 2: Molinism presents the choices of free creatures as having logically priority over God’s knowledge of those choices.

Conclusion: Molinism makes an idol of man’s free choices.

It has been explained by Molinists (if I am understanding them correctly), that the choices of free creatures are logically prior to God’s knowledge of what those choices would be in every possible circumstance. These potential choices do not originate in God; they originate in the creature, independently of God’s will and purpose. Thus God’s middle knowledge is logically antecedent to; is based in; is dependent upon; and is determined by, the creature. This makes God, in one sense, the creature’s Creator; but in another, the creature’s creature. (The Molinist does say that it is God’s choice as to which possible world to create, thus actualizing this creaturely choice and not that one. But the “middle knowledge” God has of creaturely freedom comes, ultimately, not from God, but from the “potential creature.”)

Now, is it not the case that if we should hold anything to have logical priority over the God that is revealed in Scripture, over any of His revealed attributes, that we have violated the command, “You shall have no other gods before me.”?

It's actually pretty clear to me that you're comfortable with only a partial understanding of what other people believe, and then throwing a straw man in their face as an accused heresy.

I want to represent opposing positions accurately. I do appreciate being corrected when I have a mistaken notion about them. In such criticisms, specifics are more helpful than generalities.

For example, it would be more likely that I will see where I have erred in my representation of Molinism if you said, “You claim Molinism entails the logical priority of man's free choices over Divine foreknowledge. In actuality, Molinism teaches that God's foreknowledge holds the logical priority. In this you mistakenly think that you are in disagreement with Molinism.” It would be less likely that I would get the gist of your correction of me if instead you said merely, “You are straw-manning Molinism.”

And I would be happy to find that I have misunderstood Molinism to teach the logical priority of man’s choices over God’s foreknowledge; that this is not actually the Molinist position. Please correct me if this is so.

Ex N1hilo said...

bossmanham wrote:
explain how this (and the RC mass for that matter, which would also extend to lutherans) are idolotrous...

It is the teaching of the RCC that the elements, when consecrated by a priest, become the literal body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ and are to be worshiped by all Christians. It is my conviction that the priest does not have the power to affect this transformation. If I am right, then the mass is idolatry. It would have to be. If the RC teaching is right, then, of course, it would not be.

Now, as I understand the Lutheran position, they believe that the body and blood of Christ are present in and among the elements. The basis of this teaching is the view that Luther held that the physical body of Jesus Christ is omnipresent throughout the created universe. But, as far as I know, they do not worship the bread and wine either before or after consecration.

Typical of most online hyper calvinists today.

Generally, Hypercalvinists hold that God’s Spirit works conversion and the new birth in people apart from the means of the preaching of the gospel. (BTW, in this they appear to have a kinship to certain apologists who want to talk cosmology, philosophy, ethics and just about anything and everything else, while holding back on presenting the gospel till folks are “ready” for it.)

Thus the quintessential hypercalvinist statement regarding missions, “If God wants to convert the heathen, He'll do so without your help.”

Hypercalvinists also tend to deny that all men have a duty to repent and believe the gospel, and to deny that God has any love for the non-elect. I disagree with them on every one of these points. Thus, it is simply inaccurate to label me a Hypercalvinist.

Phil Johnson’s Primer on Hypercalvinism is a good resource on this issue:

Unknown said...

Philosopher Michael Sudduth has argued convincingly I think that the boethian or atemporal solution doesn't work. I tried to find his paper, but his old website on Plantinga isn't available anymore apparently (or it's very hard to find). Anyway, the basic idea of his paper, as I recall (it's been several years), is that if God knows something like "Brian Auten is now A-ing" it is no less fixed than if God knows "Brian Auten will be A-ing". In fact, it seems to be even more fixed if God knows "Brian Auten is now dying at a happy old age in California" than "Brian Auten will one day die at a happy old age in California."

Philosopher John Martin Fischer has also shown, convincingly I think, that Molinism is NOT a solution to the foreknowledge problem. It simply *assumes* that there is some solution. You can see his article "On Molinism" in Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion, vol 1.

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