Christian Theology, Biblical Theology

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Foreknowledge and Free Will - Depends on Your Worldview

open Theism is Irrational
Much of Arthur Schopenhauer's writing is focus...Image via Wikipedia

Foreknowledge and Free will. Does God’s omniscience preclude libertarian free will? This question goes a bit beyond the classic arguments between hard determinism versus free will. Let’s restate the question into two more questions. 1. Does God’s choosing in eternity past which possible world to actualize in a sense determine all events of that world? 2. Does foreknowledge epistemically or logically preclude free will? I believe these two questions are at the heart of the debate of predestination and free will. Free will is not an illusion but rather a self evident truth that we know through experience, introspection, and the impossibility of proving the contrary position that every event in the universe is subject to a determinate causal chain of events. To prove determinism and to disprove free will one would have to prove the law of cause and effect. This inductive assumption is an artifact from the middle ages and cannot be proved. One would have to observe every single cause and effect throughout all of history to show that every event in history is part of a causal chain of events; therefore, determinism cannot be proven.

If there is any friction between God’s omniscience and free will; we must then look to the concept of omniscience and investigate the validity of the classic view. The classic view of omniscience and libertarian free will are logically inconsistent propositions; therefore, their conjunction is necessarily false and self-contradictory.

Whatever side of the argument one comes down on will depend on one's presuppositions regarding God's thinking and reasoning processes. furthermore, these presuppositions are transcendental in nature and are not subject to verification. (All of us have these presuppositions about God, life, existence, time, etc.; there is therefore no such thing as neutrality with issues dealing with the sublime and the mundane. Even the physicist will accept or eliminate evidences based on her worldview.) As a matter of philosophy and science, all knowledge claims are grounded in our presuppositions and there is no such concept of an unbiased view - of anything in this life. That is to say your argument will only be as cogent as your most fundamental presuppositions. This is why I have examined the leading views of omniscience and free will and have concluded that that God knows the world in ways beyond our ways is the strongest argument. The view that God knows the world mediated through propositions in a way that is understandable by humans is among the weakest arguments. This by the way is held by the open view. They believe that God in His thinking and knowledge can be subjected to our human systems of logic. This creates many problems which will be discussed at various times throughout this paper. 

The Open Theist errs as the Calvinist does in that she believes that everything that can be known about God can be explained within our logic and human reason - including God's knowledge and how He acquires it. I believe that the Open Theist doesn't have to take the position that the future is open in order to preserve free will. We do have free will, yet our will is constrained by our capabilities and the world that God created. We cannot escape the fact that if God created the world, He has ordained many events in history yet man is free enough to be judged by God. Additionally God's foreknowledge does not imply that it has a causation on what He knows anymore than my knowing something will happen tomorrow. Even though His foreknowledge is perfect (as evidenced in the bible) it doesn't imply determinism. Again we will have to assume and agree that God ultimately can be held responsible for maybe all the events of time simply because He allowed our world to actualize opposed to another possible world.

One major problem with this open view held by the OT (Open Theist) is that to subject God to human logic and reason is to elevate our reason above God and to judge Him and His word by our standards or systems of logical inferences and axioms. We sort of put ourselves back on a socratic dilemma of the Divine Command Problem. Secondly there is No system of epistemology known to man, within man's limitations; that is free of fallacies such as circular reasoning or an infinite regress to mention a few. So rather than concede the biblical testimony of the millions of free will events known by God, rather than concede that His ways are higher than our ways; the open view simply states that the future doesn't exist and therefore is not knowable to even God. I suppose this might have more traction if they were to completely ignore the bible, but this would set their view as one of strict philosophical inquiry and remove all theological implications which is not possible since the subject of the issue God.

Induction is Irrational 

To begin if we are to credit God with creation of the universe, time, space and all we know, and then assume He created man with free will, we have to accept some form of compatiblism. I say this because in time immemorial it was God who determined which world would actualize - even if every possible world He considered creating would actualize in part through the free will decisions of men. For example God allowed our world to actualize instead of a world where possibly Hitler would have been saved; therefore, God in this sense is responsible for Hitler going to hell since He allowed a world to actualize where Hitler went to hell.

Secondly when pushed about the foreknowledge in the bible, such as Jesus knowing that Peter would deny Him three times, and the battle of Armageddon; the Open Theist will argue that this knowledge is "inductive". They don't know that they are arguing for induction but they will say "God knew the hearts of Peter and men well enough to know what they would do if placed in such and such situation..." but to know of the denial by Peter is no trite issue. This would require Jesus to know thousands of free will decisions of everyone involved in this denial, and according to the Open Theist - inductively (which is not knowledge but guess work). For God to prophesy of the final battle of the ages would take His inductive knowledge of trillions of free will decisions, which for God isn't even possible? And if possible then His knowledge of everything would be certain, so we are back to square one. Secondly the Open Theist prides herself on the use of logic and reason; yet she attributes God's foreknowledge (which she cannot argue against such as the recorded prophecies) to induction. But induction is irrational in the truest logical sense. It begs the question to say the future can be predicted on the past. So the Open View is inherently irrational; yet most of the Open Theists are "armchair logicians" at best and don't know of their error because they want to badly to escape the sovereignty of God. Again if we attribute creation to God, then we must concede some sense of His sovereign choices in what He would put into motion that would actualize and therefore it is impossible to escape God's election and ordaining the future. And even the smallest degree of His involvement in history mandates that we accept a view of compatiblism. More on this later! 

Why should I accept this last premise? Why should I accept that the future is not knowable by God? Especially in light of the facts that God knows the end of the world at the battle of Armageddon? This knowledge alone must be based on millions of free will events? This by the way is one of many examples of God knowing the future of free will actions that ostensibly "don't have any basis in reality". By induction alone, if God knows these events will actualize, whether the future exists or not is moot. Moot because the OT holds that God cannot know the future with certainty or else He isn't a fair judge, and man doesn't have free will; yet to know all that is prophesied in the bible is certain (For all intents and purposes).

Again why should I accept the premise that since we humans cannot conceive of a free future that is known by God - that God knows the world intrinsically and does indeed know all free will events? I have also concluded that the proponents of the Open View are quite ignorant of logic, in that any system of logic and its inferences and axioms are ultimately grounded in convention; hence, the Open Theist who seeks objective truth through logic has begun her journey on the wrong foot. She has begun the search for truth constrained by the limits and biases of her humanity. The truth of God's knowledge cannot be discovered through the conventions of human systems of logic and reason - for this assumption limits God to a system of thought that is circular and again by convention. The Open Theist struggles to learn brute facts about God that don't fall subject to the systems of logic but fails to do so. She fails to do so because even she cannot know anything aside from her human reason which is inherently circular.

Can We Justify Applying Logic To God's Knowledge

Let's state the case against the Open Theist to test her philosophy (OT from here forward) and then study a comprehensive approach to the problem of free will and foreknowledge. The OT begins her argument for God by working within secular Aristotelian philosophy and trying to prove God through the world view of the unbeliever. Now I suppose there is nothing wrong with arguing with arguing this if you are trying to prove that there is a creator and not the Christian God. But again, we must acknowledge that every system of knowledge and logic is grounded in our basic beliefs, even if those beliefs are that God created the world and the bible is true, so no one can appeal to logic as the final arbiter since every logic and epistemology is ultimately grounded in our human reason that is bias, limited to our humanity and not objective. The correct Christian view is to begin one's argument with the Christian primitive presupposition that the bible is truth, and no truth is possible apart from God. In debates and articles written by Open Theists you will notice a lack of biblical arguments for their position. In my debates with them, I would say that many of them aren't even Christians. They will never discuss the thousands of prophecies that God knew while yet controlling a world free of determinism. They will never discuss the millions of free will decisions that Jesus had to foreknow in order to know the simple truth that Peter would deny Him. How about the battle of Armageddon; do you know how many free will decisions are needed to bring about this prophecy? I would say that if God knows all the prophecies of the bible His world is either one of determinism, His induction is certain, or He has a foreknowledge that is far beyond our understanding. So based on these prophecies alone, God's knowledge of them; however, He knows the outcome is moot! It is moot because even if the future is not certainly knowable as we humans can know things, at the very least God's induction is so accurate it might as well be considered certain knowledge.

So it is in ignorance of the primitive nature and grounding of logic that the Open Theist attempts to demonstrate her case. Trying to demonstrate the knowledge of God by way of logic is similar to solving an exponential function with simple arithmetic. The ultimate quagmire for any system of free will is God! Regardless of "how" free man might be, God determined in eternity past which world He would allow to actualize. So causally - God is responsible for eternal destinies of all men (if we are going concede that we can know His mind, which I don't concede). The conclusion of the Open View is no answer at all. The view claims that the future is not yet in existence therefore, not even God can know it. This is false on two accounts 1. God has demonstrated through (at the very least induction) that He can know the outcomes of billions of free will decisions through the fulfilled prophecies in His word. 2. Again the Open View just assumes that God does not have any other means of knowledge available to Him aside from the knowledge that humans are privy to.

Back to the issue of presuppositions: For example; what a physicist believes about the nature of electro-magnetic fields will be determined by his worldview. If he is a Naturalist, he will have to concede that electro-magnetic fields are material in nature; if he is a Platonist of some sort, he will acknowledge a dimension of the immaterial and possibly conclude that electro-magnetic fields are immaterial. The quagmire for the Naturalist is that if these fields are material in nature, how can two objects ever collide if there are an infinite number of points between any two given objects in space? If he is a Platonist, then he loses his funding from the atheist-naturalist scientific community because he acknowledges a "conceptual space" which is outside of the material realm and implies a "spiritual realm". This is just one example of how everything in life is ultimately grounded in one's metaphysics.

Does God's thinking mirror our logic and reason? Does He think and know things in ways that are outside the domain of human knowledge and understanding? Does God have propositional knowledge and therefore subject to the logical laws which presumably create a logical problem between foreknowledge and free will; or does He simply know all truths (necessary and contingent) without the mediation of propositions?

The Classic view holds as a presupposition that God knows all truths; necessary and contingent. Furthermore His knowledge is not mediated by propositions and therefore not subject to the logical binds that logicians might find between free will and foreknowledge. Now this view is cogent; and leaves no room for debate since the view is grounded in a transcendental proposition and/or presuppositions about God which is/are not subject to verification. All views of God's omniscience are grounded in these transcendentals as well; let's put this aside for the time being and move on with the debate.

Let's now address the classic views of omniscience and omnipotence. We will demonstrate that both views are logically self-contradictory and do not describe the God of the bible. Our final decision as to what theory we are comfortable with will depend on our definition of omniscience. Regarding omniscience, the classic view states that God knows all things. This is false, God cannot know of a square circle, He cannot know of a herd of unicorns, nor can He know that 2+2=7. God cannot know anything that is false or doesn't exist. Therefore, God does not know . A more logical and reasonable view of omniscience would be that God knows all that is knowable(this does not exclude the view that God can know all truths necessary and contingent - assuming we do not limit Him to a theory of time such as theory A). Regarding omnipotence, the classic view teaches that God can do absolutely anything. The bible teaches that God cannot tell a lie, nor can He deny Himself. The proposition "Can God make a rock too big for Him to lift" can be restated "God is omnipotent and it is not the case that God is omnipotent". This conjunction is a necessarily false proposition and is self-contradictory; therefore, there is no possible world in which this proposition is true. God, according to logical reasoning and the bible is not omnipotent and omniscient in the absolute and classic sense; He is still the infinite creator of all and His wisdom and power are unchallenged.

Foreknowledge and Free Will - God's Inductive Knowledge and Actualization Destroys All Libertarian Freedom

If God had an infinite number of possible worlds that He could have created; but chose to create the actual world that we live in, hasn't God in a sense predetermined or predestined history? Let’s say that God could have created three worlds, and each world was inhabited by 100 million people. In world one 10 million people became Christians and the rest of the world went to hell. In world two, 20 million people became Christians and the rest of the world went to hell; in world three, 40 million people became Christians and the rest of humanity went to hell. Let’s assume that God chose to create world two. Hasn’t His selection essentially become the election of 20 million people to eternal life, and the election of 80 million people to eternal damnation? We can carry this further and include in the analysis every event of history. Now with this taken into consideration, wouldn’t God’s election of which world to create and His knowledge of every detail of this particular world entail Determinism? Yes, God would have essentially ordained every single event of history; even if we wanted to concede that men truly had free will, God's selection of the world to create would preclude such free will because God could have chosen another world to create whereby men's free will decisions would have been different. This argument is of course predicated on human reason and logic; if God's ways are not our ways, and His knowledge is beyond the domain of human knowledge this argument would not be applicable. Furthermore if at all possible worlds, men were truly free; then man would be accountable for his own destiny; even though God chose which world to actualize, men still freely chose their destinies. We have to remember that as long as God Almighty created the universe, we can never break free from His sovereignty, no matter how we frame the argument. But since we are limited to argue and reason within our human condition, let is continue for arguments sake.

The concept of knowledge implies that what God foreknows must to be true; therefore, what He foreknows must actualize exactly as He knew it would in eternity past. This is true to a certain degree, but not as most Determinist's understand it to be. The concept of knowledge logically entails that the object of our belief is true. Knowledge implies a justified true belief. For example we may infer that "if God knows A, then A is true". But most people commit a modal fallacy in their thinking and state the proposition as such: "if God knows A, then A is necessarily true"; this is a fallacy because it is saying that A must be a necessary truth. But A could also be a contingent truth. Again "If God knows that John will eat a cheese burger tomorrow, then John will necessarily eat a cheese burger". But the fallacy is in the scope of the necessity of the proposition. John's eating a cheese burger tomorrow is not a necessary truth it is a contingent truth. To repair this proposition we must restate is as such: "Necessarily if God knows that John will eat a cheese burger tomorrow, then John will eat a cheese burger tomorrow". The necessity involved here is the necessity of consequence versus the necessity of the consequent. Otherwise stated: the necessity of the relationship between the antecedent and consequent; for a material conditional to be true; in terms of semantics, the antecedent cannot be true and the consequent false.

The impact this fallacy has on the issue of foreknowledge is that if God knows something will happen in the future, His knowing it doesn't make the event a necessary truth; in fact His knowing it is not even causal. In the case of the cheese burger example, John's eating the cheese burger was a contingent truth. John didn't eat the cheese burger because God knew that he would, John ate the cheese burger because he freely chose to eat it. John could have chosen to eat a taco salad, in which case God would have foreknown that John would eat a taco salad. But still, even though John is free to choose between eating a cheese burger or a taco salad; there still an element of predestination involved since God chose in eternity past the actual world where John has freely made this decision.

This is a very important issue because if we accept the modal fallacy or the necessity of the consequent; then we will have to say that everything that we know is a necessary truth - which is clearly not the case. Now granted that when we consider God's knowledge we don't allow for a fallibility thesis and therefore, God's knowledge is certain; yet this certainty doesn't make the object of knowledge a necessary truth. So according to our logic, if God foreknows something, it will actualize, but this truth will remain a contingent truth and not a necessary truth as the Hard Determinist believes. This is the dilemma we have when we apply our logic to the classic view of omniscience and free will.

Questionable Views of Open Theism - Foreknowledge and Free Will Derived From The Belief That God Is Knowable in the Domain of Human Reason

There is a school of theology that has arisen to deal with these logical binds viz. Open Theism. Open Theism begins with the flawed presupposition that God thinks and knows things on a human level. That is to say that man has the complete capacity to know how God thinks - even though the bible teaches that only the Spirit knows the mind of God. This view arose by some arm-chair philosophers who mistakenly apply a secular view of epistemology to the mind of God. The open theist is a simpleton view that restricts God's thinking and knowledge to the domain of human reason; God does condescend to communicate with man; however, I find it quite unreasonable to believe that He thinks and reasons as a human.

In ignorance they don't realize that their view is circular and as they set out for a view of omniscience and free will that would be free of fallacies - they have stepped back into their own dung because they judge the mind of God with human reason which by nature is circular. Ultimately their system of belief is one of rebellion, they are trying to escape the sovereignty of God; however, in the end - we are a little snow globe on God's desk! He is the author of time, reality, and yes the puny mind of man and his limited logic that can't even conceive an epistemology without fallacy. In short this view assumes the theory of time that teaches the future doesn’t yet exist and per our epistemology, nobody can know something that doesn’t exist. Secondly this belief system teaches that if free will events exist, God's foreknowledge would preclude true freedom for the reasons stated above viz. God in eternity past chose which world to actualize which included which free will choices would actualize as well. (The Open View is grounded on the presupposition that we can understand the relationship of God's knowledge and free will with the conceptual framework of our humanity).

Open Theism teaches the theory of omniscience that God does not know all things but rather He knows all that is knowable; and the future as well as free will events are not knowable since neither exists until they actualize (occur). This is a cogent view of omniscience if you are ignorant enough to presuppose that the God who spoke creation into existence thinks and knows things the same way you and I do. God's foreknowledge includes that which He has determined to do in the future by His decree and His powers of induction. With His manifold wisdom He can forecast the future with great accuracy, but not certainty. This view cannot deny God's inductive knowledge because we see thousands of prophecies in the bible that have actualized. If God caused all of these events to actualize, then throw free will out the window. If God knew these events based on His induction....let's just say that His induction is absolute and therefore a moot point. God knows the future!

On the other hand the Classic View of omniscience begins with the presupposition that "God knows all truths - necessary and contingent and His knowledge is NOT propositional". He has a knowledge that is clairvoyant (or unknown to us) and beyond our domain of knowledge and understanding. There is a way in which He knows the future and yet doesn’t violate our free will because His knowledge of our free will decisions is not causative.

Just as the Open View has its presuppositions about how God reasons and knows things; and these processes are subject to the analysis of logic; so does the Classic View. The Classic View simply asserts that God knows all truths whether they be necessary or contingent and His knowledge is NOT propositional knowledge.

Presuppositional apologetics teaches us that God is the creator of the universe and has given sentient beings the ability to know this universe through perception and reason; however, when we attempt to prove or disprove God and His word through this reason - we are in error. We are in error because we are trying to verify God's existence from the vantage point of humanity; or rather the creature is judging the creator with Aristotelian logic? We the creature are putting the creator and His word on trial. If this be the case, that we subject the word of God to logic, then we are elevating our logic above God and we unknowingly gore ourselves with one of the horns of the divine command problem.  God's word is self-verifying through the Holy Spirit and doesn't need any verification from an ostensibly higher authority such as propositional logic, the three laws of reason, Aristotelian logic; we are to presuppose that reason or evidence for any truth are not possible outside of the truth of God's revelation.

God knows things in a clairvoyant, direct sense, therefore the proposition of "if God knows P will actualize in the future, then P must actualize and cannot be otherwise" is not an issue with Him because His knowledge is not propositional nor does he suffer from this logical dilemma. He simply knows all truths contingent and necessary. If P actualizes, God foreknew it, if ~P actualizes, God foreknew it. Because of the presuppositions that this view is grounded in, it is not subject to any fallacies of backwards causation, issues with time or an ad hoc derivation. The Open Theist that is stuck in this ostensible quagmire, not God.

Additionally, I don't think we can justify the belief that God laid out all possible worlds in eternity past and knowingly selected a particular world to actualize (although any view of omniscience will rely on a set of metaphysical presuppositions that cannot be proven or disproved). The bible tells us that God’s wisdom is infinite and His mind is unsearchable. His wisdom is without bounds and no one can know how He thinks or reasons. God said in the bible “My ways are not your ways, My thought are not your thoughts”. God has given us a partial revelation of Himself; but how much do we or can we know of an infinite being?

If there is ever a time to play the ignorance card, it is in dealing with the mind of God. There are scriptures in the bible that attest to the fact that Jesus knew the free will acts of men. Consider the denial of Himself by Peter. Jesus told Peter, "before a cock crows three times you will deny Me this evening." Sure enough, Peter was pressured by the sinners around the fire and upon his third denial of Jesus, a cock crowed three times. Now this seems like a trite issue; however, consider the knowledge of the hundreds of thousands of free will decisions that would have to be known by Jesus to prophesy this denial. Jesus had to know that Peter of his own free will would place himself among a group of sinners around a camp fire. He had to know the free will decisions of those who taunted Peter and convinced him to deny Him three times. Jesus had to know the lives of these sinners and the free will decisions that would bring each of them to the fire that evening. Jesus even had to know that a rooster would be in proximity of Peter at the exact moment of his denial. Consider Joseph being told by the LORD of the 7 years of prosperity and 7 years of famine; according to the Open View - God would have had to have predestined these 14 years of weather and famine. The only other alternative for the Open View would be God foreknowing 14 years of weather and famine through induction, which for even God would be doubtful. How about the Battle of Armageddon; God showed John a vision of the battle. God gives us explicit details of this battle which is to take place thousands of years in the future; imagine the millions if not billions of free will decisions that God must know to prophesy and show this battle to John. It would be hard to accept the view that God knew all of these free will decisions by mere induction; even so - with such a demonstration of inductive knowledge, doesn't this render the kind of foreknowledge moot? measuring God by "man's" knowledge may even be considered exalting the system of secular logic above God...

Along these similar lines of Classic Theism Immanuel Kant postulated that there were two realms of reality. 1. The phenomenal realm is the reality of the universe that we can experience through our senses and apparatus of humanity. 2. The noumenal realm is the realm of intrinsic reality; the realm that God is privy to. This realm according to Kant is where the paradox of foreknowledge and free will could be reconciled. Although there is reasonable justification for the distinction between these two realms or realities; it is still none the less an argument from ignorance.

The Open Theist's view of omniscience entails that God's powers of reason are those of ours and His knowledge must comply with what we know to be the laws of thought - certainly a cogent view. The Classic View of omniscience entails that God's powers of reason are greater than ours and beyond the domain of human understanding and knowledge - a little tougher to prove philosophically and relies more on the testimony of scripture. In either case I think we have two views that are acceptable and allow for the patently evident truth of free will, and at the same time allow for God’s manifold knowledge, wisdom, and reason.

Following is an argument for compatiblism that truly allows for free will and absolute foreknowledge. I thought this was an excellent argument and is similar to the Open View in that God's knowledge of the future is self-limited. God allows His creation to actualize the future, He did not in eternity past determine which world He would actualize:

Reconciling omniscience with free will is always a tricky one. For starters, we will have to assume the following (these can be argued at separate times, but for the sake of this argument give as granted):

God Exists
God is all knowing
God has Free will
God knows the future and has Free will

1. There are a finite number of possible future events, but God has infinite knowledge, so is aware of all of the possibilities.
2. God allows there to be a number of different future events.
3. God allows this because he gifts humans with free will, in accordance with His character as good and kind and generous.
4. God's nature as kind and generous is part of His "essence", and His essence is prior to His praxis (actions). That means, His actions must be in accordance with His essence, or they would be contradictory.
5. The universe, without wills, is "essentially ordered", that means that no act can occur that is not caused to occur; ie: without humans/animals/God, a rock will only act in accordance with its nature, and only act in one way.
6. There are wills in the universe, that is - man's, God etc.
7. Nonetheless, the wills of man are only able to be exercised in accordance with their capacities (man cannot "will" himself to fly, or to be as tall as a skyscraper) - these wills are finite.
8. Thus, as with above there are a finite number of potential occurrences in the universe, both willed and unwilled.
9. Therein, if there is a finite number of occurrences in the universe, and God is omniscient etc. etc. back to (1).
10. The only exception to the finitude of wills is God, as God is omnipotent, as well as omniscient, then His will can exceed finite values or potentials were He to want this.
11. Therein, God's will is not constrained by His thoughts, or by events on the world, it is prior to those other things, and as such free from them.
12. Now, although God is aware of the finite number of "finite willed" and "unwilled" acts and occurrences in the universe, He is not constrained by this knowledge, as not only is His will not constrained by elements of finite power or knowledge, but also His will is prior to His actions and thoughts - it can act regardless of the latter.

God does NOT actualize "this" or "that" world, out of all the potential worlds. He leaves it for us to actualize, with our free will. Even though God can know all the possible ones, He cannot know which possible one will be chosen, Unless He chooses it Himself, He does not choose or actualize which one it will be - because that would violate free will, But, if He willed it so, he could - even though that would be contradictory to His good and generous nature.

God's knowledge includes all the potential occurrences; however, because of His choice to allow us to remain free, He sacrifices His certitude, as a gift to us of freedom.
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