4 Views on God's Foreknowledge - Omniscience

Discussion in 'Other Christian Denominations' started by Faith alone, Sep 13, 2006.

  1. Faith alone

    Faith alone
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    Divine Foreknowledge
    Four Views
    with contributions by Gregorary A. Boyd, David Hunt, William Lane Craig, and Paul Helm.
    Edited by James K. Beilby & Paul R. Eddy

    The above is a book I read about a year or two ago. Very interesting. It's one of those books in which they choose a guru of various theological positions, who expresses his position, and then the others explain the flaws they see in it. Each of those four men are known for their work in the area of God's foreknowledge and omniscience from a different perspective.

    It has the 4 viewpoints to foreknowledge and omniscience clearly expressed by their proponents - the resident expert of that particular view gives a brief explanation of his view, and then the 3 others with different views explained the problem, from their perspective, with that particular view. Very handy, and fair treatment. The 4 viewpoints were:

    It should be noted that the person espousing the simple foreknowledge viewpoint - typically the Arminian view - David Hunt - is a reformed theologian who wrote, Middle Knowledge and Christian Exclusivism - an argument in opposition to "middle knowledge." Hunt has written many articles on the simple foreknowledge view of God's foreknowledge.

    William Lane Craig - many agree he is the foremost Christian debater of our time. BTW, in May last year he defended the resurrection of Jesus Christ on ABC's 20/20. I only mention this because some of you may have watched it. Lee Strobel was also on defending the traditional view of the resurrection. But Craig is the foremost modern proponent of what is referred to as "middle knowledge" today, though it has actually been around nearly 400 years.

    Also, just FYI, Craig is Arminian. :p

    Here's a brief overview of each of the 4 positions. I'd be interested in which of these positions some of you lean toward. (I'm a middle knowledge guy myself - since about 2 years ago. Used to be a simple foreknowledge kinda guy, though I usually said that I held to both election and free-will at the same time, though I was not able to logically defend my position.)

    1 - Open theism
    - First let me say that though I do not personally agree with this view, I think that there has been a misunderstanding about open theism and an over-reaction to it as a result. This view does not believe that God cannot know the future because the future is not knowable, as some have claimed they teach... exactly. (Actually this view is not that different from simple foreknowledge.) This view agrees that God is omniscient, though their view of that is different than the other three. This position says that God has settled certain issues, and He knows not only what has and is happening in the world, but precisely what will happen in those issues since He has determined to intervene in those particular issues. However, this view says that there are other issues which God has determined (chosen) to leave unsettled and open to the workings of other beings (humans). So hence God cannot predetermine what will happen there since it was intentionally left open to the workings of others. (God chose to do so.)

    So regarding such things, they say that part of the future is not knowable, and God does not know the future of such issues because he has chosen a world in which the future of such things is not knowable.

    2 - Simple Foreknowledge - This view says that God has a complete and unfallible knowledge about the past, present and the future as well. The other two views (excluding open theism) agree with them here. But regarding God's sovereignty and God's predestination/pre-detemination of certain events, they say that God does not really "predetermine" them but simply knows what men will choose to do and hence can in a sense "predestine" it since it will come to pass. Middle knowledge and the Augustinian-Calvinistic viewpoints disagree, sayin that God is fully sovereign and predetermines/predestinates what will happen. The simple foreknowledge viewpoint argues that man has a free will, and hence God cannot predetermine what he does or else his will would not be truly free.

    The Augustinian-Calvinistic view is that man does not have a free will, in general, and hence God can predestinate not only who will trust in Christ, but many other things as well.

    The middle knowledge view says that man does have a free will (like the simple foreknowledge viewpoint) yet God does predetermine what will happen.

    3 - Middle knowledge
    - Talks about possible wortlds which never came into existence. (What could have happened, but which never did - God did not actualize it.) Now it is assumed that for an action to be free, it must be determined by the agent performing the action. This means that God cannot will a free creature to act in a particular way and the act still be free. Free actions must be self-determinative. Middle knowledge essentially says that God has much greater knowledge than we give Him credit for. He knows all of the possibilities out there (referred to as "counterfactuals" since they never came or will come to pass). Proponents of middle knowledge believe that things could have been different than they, in fact, are. We could have married someone else, or bought a different car. The main objection to middle knowledge by the Augustinian view is that it affords people such a high view of freedom that God’s providence is compromised, they claim. IN MK the person says that God does know who will trust in Him if this or that were to happen. An example is when Christ spoke regarding Capernaum that if the things done in that city had been done in Sodom that it would have remained to that day!

    Essentially, middle knowledge affords a way for both election and free will to cohabitate and yet not be a contradiction. It will take some time to explain how MK accomplishes this.

    4 - The Augustinian-Calvinist view - says that God predetermines (whether just election or double election, regardless) who will trust in Christ. This view says that it is not because of anything about our natures but simply because He chooses us. It says that man cannot have a free will, because he would never trust Christ unless God chose to regenerate him, and to say that man had a free will would be to impinge upon God's sovereignty. That would mean that God is not the determiner of who is saved in their reasoning.


    So then. what do you guys say? Which of these views do you support, and why?

    Do you hold to free will for mankind, election by God or both?

    Thx,

    FA
     
    #1 Faith alone, Sep 13, 2006
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  2. El_Guero

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    Not bad.

    Just gotta wonder what the outcome will be.
     
  3. Rippon

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    Ignore the rest -- the 4th is best !

    I'm with Paul Helm for the Augustian/Calvinist view . But that is no surprise . ( A friend of mine was grilled by Helm while going through his PHD defense . That is no reason -- just a BTW )

    People do not have free will . They are accountable for their sins though . There is no mystery or contradiction in saying mankind is responsible while having no free will . We've been around the barn a number of times regarding this issue here on the BB .
     
  4. Brandon C. Jones

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    I love the counterpoints series and this book did not disappoint. I agree with the fourth view, being a Calvinist. However, Calvinists do believe that man has free will, just not libertarian free will. As a previous poster has said, this issue had indeed been around the board a few times.

    John Feinberg's "No One Like Him" presents each view (and adresses the Boethian and Ockhamist view) and gives a response to each one that's not too philosophical. There are plenty of articles that will do that for those interested. For instance the grounding objective to middle knowledge or pointing out the incoherence of the simple foreknowledge view.

    From a different perspective, the staunch liberterian Keith Yandell offers a philosphical, and yet easy to read "Ockhamist" view in his Routledge book "Introduction to Philosophy of Religion."

    I have found both of them helpful, althouth I also had them both in class.
     
  5. webdog

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    I can't say I hold to any 100%. I believe God is omnipresent / omnitemporal. I disagree with 1 because He doesn't "look into the future"...He exists in the future...and present...and past equally. Time is a measurement for man, and God is not bound by it. I disagree with 4 because it logically leads to hyper calvinism where God predestines sin. That's heresy. 2 and 3 both have the "time" element involved, so I can't agree totally with either of them. I choose number 5. :D

    Both. Outside of the scope of time, I believe both to be true, but how exactly, we won't know until we get to Heaven. I do believe "elect" in the Bible is speaking of Jews, though.
     
    #5 webdog, Sep 14, 2006
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  6. Faith alone

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    Thx guys,

    I do like the point-counterpoint series. This is not really part of that series, but is done in the same manner. The issue I personally have with the simple foreknowledge view is that God is not truly sovereign. He does not pre-determine what happens, but is more of an observer, IMO, Who simply knows what is going to happen. The Bible doesn't say that he foreknew alone, but that He predestined. The issue I have with the Augustinian-Calvinistic view is that it turns God into a rogue - if followed to its natural conclusion. Also, I see many appeals in scripture concerning the gospel, and if they are genuine appeals, man must be able to respond with a free will.

    The whole "free will" vs. "liberterian free will" distinction has never made sense to me. Perhaps one of you Calvinists can explain it more clearly for me. As I understand it, liberterian free will is one in which the person is able to do whatever he wants/wills uninfluenced by God. MK doesn't exactly say that. It assumes that since God knows all of the possibilities in life, He can cause what He wants to happen while not coercing anyone. Some say that in order for this to be true that we cannot really be free. But Craig has addressed that in some articles. The reason that is concluded is a limited view of how God works and what he knows, IMO.

    What I like about the middle knowledge viewpoint is that it logically allows for both (liberterian) free will and genuine election (choosing). It also assumes a greater view of God's omniscience than the other views.

    There is also a book out there by Norman Geisler, who has written a classic on systematic theology. He doesn't really approach it from a philosophical POV, but he has some nice arguments. The book is...

    Chosen But Free.

    Anyone else read it?
     
    #6 Faith alone, Sep 14, 2006
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  7. Faith alone

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    webdog,

    I have the same basic position - both are true. What MK has done is allow me to make a bit more sense out of it.

    FA
     
  8. webdog

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    MK to me seems to shackle God to the element of time. It's almost like God had a perfect existence planned for us, but do to bad choices, this existence keeps getting altered because God can't control it. I'm not sure if His sovereignty plays out with MK.
     
  9. Brandon C. Jones

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    Faith, thanks for the correction publishers love to copy each other don't they?

    Anyhow I recommend reading Feinberg's "No One Like Him" chapters 13-16 especially (and as a bonus there's quite a discussion of God and time in chapter 9). The arguments there are fair although Feinberg clearly presents his case for a Calvinistic view.

    I don't really feel like restating them here myself. As to the 4th view presenting a rogue God, I can tell you've read Geisler's work. He would have it that if you believe in compatibilism that there is some "rogue God" that you believe in because he equates the classic Calvinistic view with the old medieval doctrine of voluntarism (I think he has an entire appendix on it). That's a misnomer since most Calvinists believe that God has a morally good nature and can not act outside of it-unlike the voluntarists of the past who emphasized His will over His nature, which rightly led to the charge of a possibly "rogue" god.

    I hope that helps,
    BJ
     
  10. BobRyan

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    the Arminian view is closest to correct - but the MK view is correct about God knowing alternate endings.

    God does not create Adam saying "I have a little secret for you - I created you to fail".

    In Christ,

    Bob
     
  11. FriendofSpurgeon

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    Bob -- Gotta love you, at least you are consistent.
     
  12. Faith alone

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    I don't think that's what MK does at all. God is in control. Yet He has chosen to do so in a manner that allows people to have a free will as well.

    And God is the God of the past, present, future and possibilities as well with MK. Perhaps you can explain that a bit more. ?? I agree that in the Reformed system God issaid to be in control of all. But that turns God into an evil being IMO and it does not acknowledge all the evil in the world which He is then allowing to happen though He could easily stop it. The MK system simply acknowledges that God has chosen a particular manner of working in this world, and in doing so He works through possibilities as well as realities in bringing about His will.

    Now obviously we live in a world of sin, and that cannot be denied. It cannot be doubted either that this is not the perfect plan that God would have drawn up since He obviously would stop murder, rape and genocides. God is obviously not ruling this world as He will one day. All systems need to deal with this issue.

    FA
     
  13. Faith alone

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    Thx BJ - it does. Actually, I lent out that book to a friend about 8 months ago, and I don't remember much of what he said. Most of my ideas come from WLCraig.

    Of course Calvinists believe that God has a morally good nature and cannot act outside of it. I suppose otherwise it would be hyperC. My problem is that it simply doesn't jive with scripture or what we see in the world today. But the condition of the world is an issue with all 4 systems - to a degree.

    My issue with Reformed theology's approach to this issue is that it mainly ignores all of the appeals in scripture - which indicate that we have a free will.

    FA
     
  14. BobRyan

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    Question for Calvinists: If Satan does an evil deed that God knew he would do but that was totally against God's will - a deed that God never intended him todo such that God might say "it never entered my mind that Satan should do such a thing" -- is it a defeat for God's Sovereignty?

    In Christ,

    Bob
     
  15. BobRyan

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    Some Calvinists have responded to a question like the above as in "how dare you think that we would view that as a defeat for sovereignty"

    Other Calvinists answer it as "why of course it would be a defeat - God IS the author of all things even evil".

    So just trying to figure out which group is with us now.

    In Christ,


    Bob
     
  16. Brandon C. Jones

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    Which Scriptures prove libertarian free will again? :)

    Bob, this I'm part of the group that remembers you from the old C/A debate forum. I hope you're doing well. I think I'll decline answering anything you say though.
     
  17. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    HP: The Cause is the Cause as the Cause is the Cause. Now what is that you said about man being free?

    This is nothing short of double talk. If God is the Cause, and man is said to have a free will, puppets have a free will also. The can do as they will. They move and they obviously chose to do it just like the puppeteer predestined them to.

    If man is not the cause of his moral intents, all talk of free will is a chimera. The MK model does nothing that I can see to remove the absurdity of the old Calvinistic view. i.e., man is responsible for something he was not the cause of. If the old Calvinistic scheme ends with God as the Cause, and MK ends up with God as the Cause, are we to assume that the MK model avoids the downfall or is of any real significant difference of the Calvinistic system they seemed to desire to distance themselves from? Unless there is some eye opener yet to be revealed, it would appear to me that MK reminds me of one that despises his shadow. That old Calvinistic model, so despised, yet unshakably present.
     
  18. Faith alone

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    Hello Bob,

    Well, I'm not a Calvinist (I actually consider myself a "soft" or "moderate" Calvinist, FWIW), but my reaction to your hypothetical question is that we are talking about a possibility which could never happen since God is fully and completely aware of all possibilities, or else He would not be God. Hence nothing can take Him by surprise.

    Psalm 139:1-4, 6, 13, 16 Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; You understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; You are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, You know all about it, Lord.

    Such extraordinary knowledge is beyond me. It is lofty; I am unable to [reach] it.

    For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother's womb.

    Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all [my] days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began.

    and

    Isaiah 40:12-15 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
    or marked off the heavens with the span [of his hand]? Who has gathered the dust of the earth in a measure or weighed the mountains in a balance
    and the hills in scales? Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or who gave Him His counsel? Who did He consult with? Who gave Him understanding and taught Him the paths of justice? Who taught Him knowledge and showed Him the way of understanding? Look, the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are considered as a speck of dust on the scales; He lifts up the islands like fine dust.


    FA
     
  19. Faith alone

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    You are misunderstanding what middle knowledge says. God can bring about His will. That does not mean that we cannot have a free will as well. God does not manipulate people like puppets. Not even Calvinism says that.

    When someone defines free will as "ascribing such autonomy to people such that the their actions can be described as self-generated or caused rather than determined externally," then by definition God cannot predestine an individual's actions and he have a free will. But that is merely defining away free will.

    MK merely seeks to explain the relationship between God's knowledge/sovereignty and human freedom by acknowledging that God is fully able to evaluate and select from a series of possible worlds and possible human choices. Nearly everyone acknowledges that not all worlds are really possible since they violate God's very nature. MK merely maintains that certain other worlds are not possible since they would violate man's free will and God has chosen to give man freedom of choice.

    This was not "double talk." Calvinism and "simple foreknowledge" has merely defined away the reality of which I speak as I see it.

    FA
     
    #19 Faith alone, Sep 15, 2006
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  20. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    HP: I have a question. Who is the cause of moral intents of man? Is it God or is it man?
     

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