Saturday, May 13, 2017

Divine Foreknowledge

How is man free if God foreknows all things (i.e. states of affairs that will happen)?

Middle knowledge and Simple Foreknowledge affirms libertarian freedom (LF), commonly called liberty of indifference. The position can be construed, roughly, that a person is free if she can choose equally options A or B as the primary source of her choice. She is the first cause of her choice in that she creates the causal chain between actions and acts. This construal of freedom may be the case without the principle of alternate possibilities (PAP). Moreover, it denies the logical possibility of LF and determinism to be compatible, thus named incompatabilism.

The alternative takes compatibilist freedom (CF) as true. This approach argues freedom is best formulated as liberty of inclination. A person is free if she can choose her strongest inclination either option A or B without coercion or constrain. This view allows for hypothetical alternate possibilities.  However, it concedes, all things considered, determinism and freedom (i.e. as so defined) are compatible.

If the first approach is true then God's foreknowledge is not equated with foreordination. God knows things intuitively and exhaustively either by simple foreknowledge  or middle knowledge. So God's foreknowledge is causally inert.

God's knows all true necessary and contingent propositions qua omniscient. Any given proposition is known by God:

(1) God knows P will obtain

But this does not logically entail:

(1)* God knows P must obtain

(1) is a contingent proposition while  (1)* is a necessary proposition. For example, God knows John will choose to eat a cheeseburger for lunch at T1. If John at T1, chose otherwise (e.g. Chicken Strips) then God would have known prior to T1. God's knowledge of free creatures is, in some significant sense, dependent upon their choices.

If the second approach is true then God's foreknowledge is grounded in foreordination. God knows things intuitively and exhaustively since He directly or indirectly determines the truth value of all contingent propositions. God determines all things such that it preserves liberty of inclination.

If, indeed, a person denies (1) he then affirms libertarian free choices are excluded from bivalence thus have no truth value until they obtain. Thus the future remains open. God's omniscience is revised. God only knows what is logically possible which excludes libertarian free choices.

Some problems with the open-theist that denies (1):

Open-theism's denial of the principle of bivalence is implausible. Propositions cannot be neutral, like concepts, since they bear truth value. Hence, a proposition is either true or false--despite it being indexed--thus bivalence applies to future contingent propositions.

If open theism is true then God is the most perfect being yet learns what free creatures will do. This seems contradictory to God as the greatest conceivable being.

Middle Knowledge is a creative attempt to reconcile meticulous providence with libertarian freedom. I agree with the Molinist it is not logically contradictory to say God determines the outcome of a free creatures decision. Perhaps some Molinist ideas can be used by the compatibilist as a heuristic device (e.g. Bruce Ware). However, in my judgement, Molinism does not reconcile the two. In fact, it compounds the problem. It adds mystery with mystery. The Molinist does not explain precisely how God knows what all free creatures will do in all circumstances. Some molinists assert God's knowledge penetrates to the very essence of free creatures. Yet this remains a mystery. But then we are asked, by Molinists, to affirm God knows what all free creatures would do in all circumstances. Two mysteries without parsimony or comprehensive explanatory power and scope.

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