Posts tagged ‘counterfactual knowledge’

April 28th, 2012

Middle Knowledge in the Bible

by Max Andrews

Any affirmation of counterfactuals does nothing if it is incompatible with biblical teaching.  The Bible acknowledges that God uses counterfactuals to achieve His will and that He knows the truth-value to hypothetical propositions.  An example of this would be in 1 Samuel 23.6-10.  This passage accounts for David’s inquiry to the Lord by means of a divining device called an ephod (which gave a “yes” or “no” answer).  David thus flees the city of Keilah so the predictions do not come true.  What the device had predicted to David was not simple foreknowledge (“Saul/the men of Keilah will do X”), by hypothetical knowledge (“If David stays, then Saul/the men of Keilah will do X”).  The answer given by the ephod were correct answers, even though the events did not come to pass, since the answers were indicative of what would happen under certain circumstances.[1]

Another example may be found in Jeremiah’s prophecy to King Zedekiah:

Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “Thus says the Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘If you will indeed go out to the officers of the king of Babylon, then you will live, this city will not be burned with fire, and you and your household will survive.  ‘But if you will not go out to the officers of the king of Babylon, then this city will be given over to the hand of the Chaldeans; and they will burn it with fire, and you yourself will not escape from their hand’” (Jer. 38.17-18).

April 27th, 2012

The Reality of Counterfactual Knowledge

by Max Andrews

For a good context for this post please see ‘The Theological Advantages of Molinism’ for a list of relevant discussions on middle knowledge and Molinism.

The second moment to God’s knowledge is His knowledge of the contingent states of affairs that would be produced by an antecedent state of affairs were it to be obtained.  Counterfactuals are conditional statements in the subjunctive mood. That is to say, God knows what any free creature would do.  This is not because the circumstances causally determine the creature’s choice, but simply because this is how the creature would freely choose.  God thus knows that were He to actualize certain states of affairs, then certain other contingent states of affairs would obtain.[1]  Middle knowledge does not depend on any decision of divine will; God does not determine what counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are true or false.  Thus, if it is true that:

If some agent S were placed in circumstances C, then he would freely perform action a,

then even God in His omnipotence cannot bring it about that S would refrain from a if he were placed in C.[2] WL Craig expands on the subject: