Posts tagged ‘Middle Knowledge’

February 12th, 2014

Boethius, Foreknowledge, and Human Freedom

by Max Andrews

Boethius discusses the problem in reconciling genuine human freedom with God’s foreknowledge in “Divine Foreknowledge and Freedom of the Will” (proses III-VI).  He bases his whole discussion on whether or not something that is foreknown happens by necessity.  He offers the disjunctive option of the necessity of either thing, which are going to happen be foreseen by God or that what God foresees will in fact happen—either way, he argues, human will is removed.  When discussing the uncertainty of future events he concludes that, for God, there must be no uncertainty in these events because it’s then reduced to possible conditionals, or could-counterfactuals.  Hence, the law of excluded middle is true for knowledge of future tensed events.  He makes an interesting point when discussing aspects about Cicero’s contribution to the problem.  If foreknowledge is removed then the events of human will are no longer necessary. Considering all of the discussion so far he believes that everything that happens does so by necessity.

February 8th, 2013

Defining Omniscience

by Max Andrews

As advocated by St. Anselm, God is a maximally perfect being.  If ignorance is an imperfection, all things being equal [according to Ockham’s razor], then it is greater to be knowledgeable.  To prevent initial detractions from the classical definition of omniscience, omniscience should be understood as knowing all truths.

O.  For any agent x, x is omniscient= def. For every statement s, if s is true, then x knows that s and does not believe that not-s.[1]

If there are truths about future contingents, God, as an omniscient being must know these truths.  Since there are truths about the future, that is to say, since statements about future contingents are either true or false, and they are not all false, God must therefore know all truths about the future, which is to say He knows future-tense facts; He knows what will happen.[2]  One may try to avoid this reasoning by contending that future-tense statements are neither true nor false, so that there are no facts about the future.  Since the future does not exist, it is claimed that the respective future-tense statements cannot be true or false, simply without truth.[3]  To make this assertion is a misunderstanding behind the statement’s truth claim.  For a future tense-statement to be true it is not required that what it describes exist, but that it will exist.  In order for a future-tense statement to be true, all that is required is that when the moment described arrives, the present-tense version of the statement will be true at that moment.[4]  Nicholas Rescher gives an illustration for this assertion: 

February 4th, 2013

Q&A 9: Layering Divine Middle Knowledge

by Max Andrews

Question:

Hey Max,

I read your blog often and really enjoy it.  For your Q&A section I have a molinism question for you if you’d be interested in answering:
God considers world A in which God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on the altar at time T
Abraham curses God and refuses
God does not actualize world A
 
God considers world B in which God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on the altar at time T
Abraham proceeds to attempt to carry out God’s command
God actualizes world B
 
My hang-up is that even in world A – God had to “look” or “wait” to see what would happen if He didn’t directly cause what happens (which means there is some type of split-second/logical moment or whatever of not-knowing). If that is the case, I’m not sure how that’s much different from open theism; the only difference is that God didn’t actualize the world until He knew.  
 
Now even if you help me understand the above, I still have another problem.  As a very simple example, I happen to really like oysters; I have a friend who does not.  God can know with certainty that if I’m invited to the oyster roast that I will freely attend and eat oysters – but He created me with taste buds that appreciate oysters.  Had he created me with different taste buds, I would choose differently – which seems Calvinistic – I’m destined to say yes.
read more »

August 3rd, 2012

The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom Contra William Hasker

by Max Andrews

William Hasker is deeply committed to the position that man holds some level of libertarian freedom.  In his section on “Freedom, Necessity, and God,” Hasker takes the libertarian to task by challenging him with free will’s compatibility with divine foreknowledge.[1]  Hasker proposes an argument suggesting that divine foreknowledge is just as inconsistent with free will as predestination.[2]  Consider his argument:

1.  It is now true that I will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow.  (Assumption)
2.  It is impossible that God should at any time believe anything false or fail to believe anything which is true (Assumption:  divine omniscience)
3.  Therefore God has always believed that I will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow.  (Inference from 1 and 2)
4.  If God has always believed a certain thing, it is not in my power to bring it about that God has not always believed that thing.  (Assumption: the inalterability of the past)
5.  Therefore it is not in my power to bring it about that God has not always believed that I will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow.  (Inference from 3 and 4)
6.  It is not possible for it to be true both that God has always believed that I will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow, and that I do not in fact have one.  (Inference from 2)
7.  Therefore it is not in my power to refrain from having a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow.  (Inference from 5 and 6) So I do not have free will with respect to the decision whether or not to eat an omelet.[3]

June 8th, 2012

A Review of Salvation and Sovereignty (Journal Publication)

by Max Andrews

I did a review of Ken Keathley’s Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2010) in the Midwestern Journal of Theology 9 no. 2 (Fall 2010) issue.  Below is the first paragraph of the review and a link to download the whole PDF version (with appropriate copyright information).

Molinism seems to be a mere drop in the bucket of theological thought with little attention in Church history.  Ken Keathley’s Salvation and Sovereignty surely brings hope of resurgence to the little known school of thought.  With an exemplary effort to reconcile some of the most difficult theological doctrines.  Keathley demonstrates amazing consistency in his pursuit for a Biblical understanding of salvation and divine sovereignty.  Just as the Calvinist has his TULIP so does the Molinist have his ROSES.  The acronym may be understood as “R” for radical depravity, “O” for overcoming grace, “S” for sovereign election, “E” for eternal life, and “S” for singular redemption.

June 8th, 2012

The Molinism Directory

by Max Andrews

I’ve decided to gather all my posts on Molinism in one post for easy reference.

  1. Middle Knowledge in a Nutshell
  2. A Review of Salvation and Sovereignty (Journal Publication)
  3. Review Essay: Four Views on Divine Providence
  4. Defining Omniscience
  5. Q&A 9: Layering Divine Middle Knowledge
  6. Why I’m Not an Arminian
  7. Why I’m Not a Calvinist
  8. God Controls Everything–Good and Bad
  9. The Incoherence of Theistic Determinism–Moral Responsibility
  10. Overpower–Is God Ultimately Responsible for Everything?
  11. The Pelagian Equivocation
  12. The Singular Redemption View of the Atonement
  13. Does God Ever Literally Change His Mind?–Yes
  14. Is a Molinist Concept of Providence Discomforting?
    read more »

May 1st, 2012

Molinism and the Grounding Objection

by Max Andrews

The grounding objection asks the question: By what means or grounds does God know what he knows (particularly middle knowledge)?

Suppose I have an argument similar to the grounding argument from the grounding objection claiming that contingent truths are not self-explanatory but must simply exist, from all eternity, as an ungrounded, metaphysical surd.  How would I, as a Molinist, respond?

This objection is merely the result of misunderstanding the means by which God knows what he does.  God’s knowledge is wholly intuitive and relies on no existent entity and is completely compatible with divine aseity.  According to Luis de Molina,

God does not get his knowledge from things, but knows all things in himself and from himself; therefore, the existence of things, whether in time or eternity, contributes nothing to God’s knowing with certainty what is going to be or not to be… For prior to any existence on the part of the objects, God has within himself the means whereby he knows all things fully and perfectly; and this is why the existence of created things contributes no perfection to the cognition he has of them and does not cause any change in that cognition… [And] God does not need the existence of those things in his eternity in order to know them with certainty.[1]

April 30th, 2012

What if God Doesn’t Have Middle Knowledge?

by Max Andrews

If God doesn’t have middle knowledge then he has only natural and free knowledge.  There are two options.  The first option is that God possess mere or simple foreknowledge.  If one turns to simple foreknowledge, there lies no good sense in God’s providential planning of a world of free creatures in the absence of middle knowledge. William Lane Craig insists that,

…On such a view of God [He has], logically prior to the divine decree, only natural knowledge of all possible scenarios but no knowledge of what would happen under any circumstances.  Thus, logically posterior to the divine decree, God must consider Himself extraordinarily lucky to find that this world happened to exist.  “What a break!” we can imagine God’s saying to Himself, “Herod and Pilate and all those people each reacted just perfectly!”  Actually, the situation is much worse than that, for God had no idea whether Herod or Pilate or the Israelite nation or the Roman Empire would even exist posterior to the divine decree.  Indeed, God must be astonished to find Himself existing in a world, out of all the possible worlds He could have created, in which mankind falls into sin and God Himself enters human history as a substitutionary sacrificial offering! [Anthropomorphically speaking][1]

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: