Divine Foreknowledge In Sensu Composito

by Max Andrews

Surely, the biblical witness is that God sovereignly controls everything in creation, but it does not mean He causes all things.  God knows what will happen because He makes it happen.  If the interpretation of the Bible is understood in light of God causing everything, He inevitably becomes the author of sin, since it is He who moved Judas, for example, to betray Christ, a sin which merits everlasting perdition for the hapless Judas.[1]  Whatever is foreknown by God must occur, which is often taken as theological fatalism.  The problem foreknowledge may have, as theological fatalism, is its effect it may have on human freedom confusing necessity in sensu composito and in sensu diviso.

1. Whatever is foreknown by God must occur, which may be taken to entail a denial of human freedom.  But (1) in sensu composito means merely:

 1*. Necessarily, any event which is foreknown by God will occur.

 In this case, what is necessary is not the occurrence of any event per se, but the composite state of affairs consisting of both God’s foreknowledge of the event and the event’s occurrence. The whole conjunction is necessary, but not the individual conjuncts. Hence, this necessity in sensu composito is in no way obstructing human freedom. On the other hand, (1) in sensu diviso means:

1**. Necessarily, any event, which is foreknown by God, will occur.

This does entail a denial of human freedom, since what is necessary is any event itself. In this case, we do not have a mere composite necessity, but one of the conjuncts is itself asserted to be necessary. The opponent of theological fatalism will claim that (1) when understood in sensu diviso, that is, as (1**), is false, but when understood in sensu composito, that is, as (1*), is true and that therefore theological fatalism fails.[2]

Thus, theological determinism and fatalism fails at being a plausible explanation for divine providence [by denying human freedom].



[1] William Lane Craig, What Does God Know?  Reconciling Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom (Norcross, GA:  RZIM, 2002),  49.

[2] William Lane Craig, “’Lest Anyone Should Fall’:  A Middle Knowledge Perspective on Perseverance and Apostolic Warnings.”  International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 29 (1991):  65-74. “Hasker on Divine Knowledge.” Philosophical Studies 67 (1992): 57-78


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