Posts tagged ‘omniscience’

May 26th, 2013

A Missing Argument from March’s Debate

by Max Andrews

In preparation for my debate this past March I went through my opponents blog to find relevant arguments he may use. (He didn’t use any I had expected. Instead, he just did the scatter-gun approach by putting little, ineffective arguments out there hoping they’d stick instead of presenting a few robust, substantive arguments.) I found this argument on the impossibility of God from omniscience and omnipotence. I expected this because these are the types of arguments atheists should be using. In order to demonstrate a universal negative one must demonstrate that the referent is impossible or logically incoherent; that is, since contradictions are the only things that cannot obtain. To much misfortune, the argument was not presented. If it had been presented the debate would have been much more substantive. (To watch the debate for yourself, watch it here. Don’t take my word for it.)

April 30th, 2013

Q&A 20: Does God Know Infinite Sets and Can God Learn Anything?

by Max Andrews

Question:

 Max,

I have a question regarding God being all-knowing in light of the impossibility of an actual infinite set.
I assume the following premises:
·         God knows all true propositions of past, present and future.
·         God does not learn anything but has always known everything. If He was to learn something that would imply there was something He did not know, which would mean He is not all-knowing.
·         It is impossible to contain or hold an infinite set because such an action would imply that it is finite instead of infinite.
Are these three premises valid? If they are, does it follow that the number of events in the future are finite? If so, how does that cohere with the belief that we will be in relation with God for all eternity?

Bill Clute

April 29th, 2013

Grounding 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 2nd, 2013

Q&A 17: How Does God Know These Things With Certainty?

by Max Andrews

Question:

Hi Max,
Great site & I appreciate your comprehensive answers. Here’s a question that I’ve never been able to get a good answer for: If God doesn’t force us to do things, and we have free will, how did he know for sure that everything would play out exactly as it did when Jesus came to Earth? Say they made the choice not to put him on the cross, what if Peter went out of his way to make sure he didn’t deny him 3X, etc. Could you shed some light on this topic?
Thanks,
Brandan

Answer:

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. God’s knowledge is wholly intuitive and relies on no existent entity and is completely compatible with divine aseity.  According to Luis de Molina,

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: 

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

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 »

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:

April 26th, 2012

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] 

January 19th, 2012

Theology Thursday: John Cobb

by Max Andrews

Theology Thursday is a new feature on the blog, which gives a brief introduction to a theological person of significance.

Theologian: John B. Cobb

General summary of his theology: This concept of God has him evolving in the world, co-dependent, and God needs us to evolve with him. God is not all-powerful and he cannot necessarily bring out what he wills. God works with us by luring us; to lure the cosmos and us to an ever-greater directedness, novelty, harmony, and fulfillment. God is not omniscient because the future is truly open. This is a facet is similar to the open theist’s concept of omniscience though the open theist typically affirms that omniscience is defined as God knowing everything in so long as it is possible for him to know it. A more modest case would simply be that omniscience is redefined.

God is seen as an actual and everlasting entity who is becoming (evolving) in potential as a being.

  • He supplies every entity with it’s initial entity and gives to all beings relevance
  • God needs the world as much as the world needs God
  • The consequent of the pole (physical or actual pole; contrast to potential or primordial pole), also called nature instead of pole, which receives or prehends, uses and is affected by the concrete entities of the world
Consider the lemniscate as an illustration of God’s and the world.

Left side

  • Potential and not actual (dotted line maybe)
  • Eternal objects
  • Primordial and mental

Right side

  • Consequent or physical pole
  • Relates to all actual entities, galaxies, stars, physics, etc.

God is absorbing in and through the consequent nature all good and evil valuations from all actual entities. Through creative prehension, in order to make all things and to turn all increasingly to the good, God transforms everything he took in through the consequent nature and re-injects it into the consequent world. God is seen as dynamic, growing, evolving, learning, and directing; also, in an organic relation to all entities in the world. Because God is not distinct from the world we can infer things about God from the world. As responsive and growing God too is partially created by the universe as he interacts in it. He hopefully creates good out of all occasions and persuasively lures to greater creativity and harmony, etc.

Process is a view of reality as a whole. The world is dynamic, relational, and evolutionary. Time, process metaphysics, is not a single smooth flow but droplets or actual occasions. An actual occasion is the basic unit of reality. This actual occasion (currently understand as being Planck time, 10-43sec.) and it’s evaluation is prehended by the occasions that follow and personal human existence is wholly made up of these occasions dynamically. All of reality and it’s massive occasions are interrelated because the cosmic realm is a living whole (like an organism) then all things are vitally linked for ultimate actualization of possibilities. All reality, then, is an interrelated society of societies of occasions and all of things impact all other things—causal efficacy (not mechanical), understood as relational that which forms an organic whole. Ontorelations, a result of what exists as a result of relationships. From within all of this, God is lovingly seeking to lure the world to greater creativity… out of destructive chaos.

Positives about Cobb

  • Attempted to provide a way out of the problem of evil
  • Attempted to preserve libertarian human freedom
  • Integrates divine activity in the world and does not divorce them
  • God genuinely pursues relations with man and the created order

Negatives about Cobb

  • God becomes dependent on the world
  • God is not maximally perfect–seems to merely depict transcendent human properties and not fully infinite
  • God is no omnipotent–he cannot necessarily bring about what he wills
  • God is not omniscient
  • All of reality is rather mystic