Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Arminianism in Time

There is a common claim in Arminian internet circles that God’s foreknowledge of all future events is consistent with the idea that man still has free will. The argument generally goes like this: “God knows what a man will freely choose. If the man chooses X, God knows that the man will choose X. But if the man would have chosen Y, then God would have known that the man chose Y instead. Therefore, the man’s choice is still free and self-determined, despite the fact that God knows what it will be.”

Now I maintain that this position inevitably leads one to Open Theism where God cannot actually know what a person will choose until after said person has done so. Indeed, you can see this in the very language of the argument above. God knows a decision based on what the one who makes the decision actually does. That is, God only knows after (in the logical sense) the decision has already been made.

The only reason the Arminian argument can even get off the ground is because of the confusion most people have between a temporal “before” and a logical “before.” Most often, we are considering future events—that is, future from our perspective. And therefore, they have not temporally arrived. Now we all say that God knows the future. In fact, we would say that God is not temporal at all. That is not in dispute amongst Arminians and Calvinists. But that is also where the subtle shift in thought comes in, which causes the problems for the Arminian, for he confuses temporal sequence with logical sequence.

Let me try to give an example. Tomorrow, I either will or will not read any portion of the local newspaper. I do not know which I will do, for I do not even know if I will be alive tomorrow. But God does know. Now the Arminian claim is this: God knows because if I freely choose to read the newspaper then God has already seen that from His perspective and thus knows I will freely choose to read the newspaper. If I freely choose not to read the newspaper, then God has already seen that from His perspective and thus knows I will freely choose not to read the newspaper. Thus, the claim is, I freely choose and God still knows what I will do now, before I get to the future.

Yet the above requires that I actually choose before God knows what I choose. Just shifting it into the future from our perspective does not change the fact that from God’s perspective this choice has already occurred. In other words, the claim that “if you would have chosen otherwise, God would have known otherwise” is no different from saying “God doesn’t know what you will do until after you already do it.” The only difference is that we say God did all of this in our future. But our future is not God’s future, for He is not stuck in time with us.

There is another point that buttresses my argument. Even if we grant the Arminian view for the sake of argument, we are left with a determined future. It cannot be other than it is, for God knows what the future is. The distinction, says the Arminian, is that our choices are self-determined rather than determined by God. Let us go with that concept. If my choice to read a newspaper tomorrow or to refrain from reading a newspaper tomorrow is self-determined, then until my “self” exists to make that choice, then the choice has not been determined. That is, if I am the determining factor, such that I can say this choice is self-determined, then the choice cannot logically be determined before I, myself, determine it. So, in the end, if tomorrow’s choice to read or not to read is self-determined, then it cannot be known before I make the decision.

Simply shifting me into the future doesn’t help. For even if we say it is my future self that determines this choice, God can only know what that choice will be after my future self makes that choice. For until I actually exist to make that choice then the choice must be undetermined, else I am not the determiner of that choice.

Again, do not get caught up in the time aspect. All of these things can happen instantly from God’s perspective, yet He still cannot logically know what I will do until after I have done it, if I am the determiner of the action. Therefore, in essence, God functions little better than someone who watches a DVD he has seen before and knows what the next scene will be before the characters in the movie do; but he only knows that next scene because he’s already watched the movie at some point in his past. That means at some point in that past, the characters already acted out the scene. Thus, the characters’ actual future has already been completed in his past, and the observer has merely rewound time to see it again. This is hardly foreknowledge.

And this brings up problems similar to the time travel paradox. See, we know that God has intervened in time. He has given prophecy of things that will come to pass. Here’s the problem. If we determine our actions, then God has to logically wait (again, not temporally wait) until after we have made those decisions, and then He can intervene in our past to tell us what the result of those actions will be for us. Yet when we first made those decisions, we made them without God’s intervention. God could not have intervened at that point, for He did not know what our actions would be yet to tell us what would happen.

That means the universe we occupy after God informs us of what our future will be is no longer the universe we were in when the original decisions were made; thus, after telling us what the future (from our perspective) will be, God no longer knows what that future will be! He has to logically wait until we have made decisions based on our new information, and then He will know what that future will be once more. And if it’s still not what He wants it to be, He has to rewind and intervene yet again and the process repeats.

But here’s the real kicker. Consider the “you” that existed the first time God “ran the universe” under these implications. That you self-determined some action without God’s intervention. God decides to intervene instead. Now, the you that existed the first time God “ran the universe” no longer exists, for now you know something on this run-through that you didn’t know the first pass. As a result, what you self-determine could be completely, radically different—and indeed, what other reason would there be for God to intervene? If He’s not trying to change things, then there’s no need to intervene. But if He does change things, then the future is no longer what He saw and He has to let it play out again so He can know what the future has changed to.

But here’s the real mind-bending question: what is the difference between this you and that you as far as the subjective experience of the “you” is concerned? It appears to me that you would exist and you would have a specific history and then suddenly, poof, it’s gone (and you wouldn’t remember it, of course). You’re back in time and moving forward once more, but now God tells you something you didn’t know the first time. Everything after that point is affected by your new knowledge, and is not identical to the first pass through. The implication?

You could be on that false, original path right now and you would never know it.

For example, Christ promised to return having conquered death itself; but if we have actions that are self-determined, then He has to see how those will play out. Even though He intends a specific outcome, He has to logically wait to see what we will do in order to know what He would do. And though that takes no time from His perspective, from our perspective it does take time. So if we exist to make these choices, and if it turns out that our self-determined choices actually cause Satan to win, then God can go back in time (from our perspective) to intervene and change things, and all that we are right now will cease to exist. But that means that while we exist right now, God’s promise that Christ will return triumphant is actually a lie. He has to wait to see what we will do, then change it, and keep doing so until He finally gets the outcome He wants, but for all of those “false start” time threads, God is a liar. That we cease to exist and go down an alternate path later without remembering it doesn’t change the fact that now, as we are on that false path, God is a liar. This means this position cannot be Scriptural either.

So to summarize, if our actions are self-determined, then God must logically wait for us to determine our actions before He will know what we will determine. Saying, “If we would have chosen otherwise, then God would have known otherwise” actually proves this, for it explicitly states that God knows what we will do only because we have already, in God’s time, made the decision. But that isn’t foreknowledge (it is post-knowledge, for it is in God’s past even if it is in our future) and opens all kinds of problems with the flow of time. In other words, the Arminian position here is untenable pretty much any way you look at it.


  1. Wonder how Wm. Lane Craig would respond?

  2. Dan,

    I'm guessing Craig wouldn't use the "If they would have chosen otherwise, He would have known otherwise" response in the first place. I could be wrong, though, as I haven't made an in-depth study of Craig a priority for me :-)

    It seems to me, though, that his view is that God knows all possible universes *in a hypothetical sense*, and then chooses which of them to actualize. I don't see how that salvages self-determinism (since it's God determining which universe exists), but it wouldn't fall prey to the exact objections I'm currently giving to Arminianism.

  3. I think I got it!

    The distinction, says the Arminian, is that our choices are self-determined rather than determined by God.

    So, all that the Bible teaches God determines, like Christ suffering and rising again the third day is agreed to by both but He only determines one group to be the Elect and the other group is not elected because He cannot wait for them to choose Him to determine them to be elected before He can elect them because the appointed time He determined for time to run out "CAME ABOUT"?

    Wait just a minute now!

    What happens then when time is no more or I run out of money in my bid for election during my campaign to be elected during my lifetime?

    Does God give people who were to late choosing to be Elected before time runs out a new determination? Or is it just termination by default?

    "God, but I was going to choose You!"

    God: "Sorry, you were to late in your self-determination! What can I say? Time is no more because I set an appointed time predetermined for time to end and all self-determination is therefore suspended at that appointed time predetermined.

    You made a bad choice now didn't you?


  4. Peter - Maybe the way that I look at this is rather simplistic. Let me illustrate from my own experience.

    I have a patient with whom I have been fostering a therapeutic relationship and I have come to understand this person's motivations and decisions fairly well. I suspect that the person has decided that s/he doesn't want to return my therapeutic relationship. Nevertheless, s/he is saying that s/he wants to make an appointment. I know this person well enough to predict that s/he will not come back. Nevertheless, I make the appointment knowing full well that I will never see that person again. I am giving that person the decision of whether to pursue the therapeutic relationship or not. Hence, my knowledge doesn't affect his/her decision, the person is choosing freely.

    I know that this analogy is simple because God *knows* and I am simply *predicting* Nevertheless, an analogy is just to prove one point, in this instance that foreknowledge is not the same as making something happen.

    I hope to dialogue with you about my analogy to understand the strengths and weaknesses of my position.

  5. Hello Drwayman,

    I am more than happy to talk about that issue, but it's not quite the topic I was addressing. I'm not arguing that foreknowledge is equivalent to "making something happen." I'm arguing more from the position that we often take where we say that God's knowledge of the future is just as certain (moreso, actually) as our knoweldge of the past is to us. And my point is that if God's knowledge is that way, then we run into problems if we're going to maintain that we have self-determined choices.

    Essentially, it boils down to this. Calvinists have a *reason* to state that God foreknows what will happen: He foreknows what He has foreordained. But Arminians don't have that. Instead, God's foreknowledge is based on...what, exactly? It's never said. He just knows what will happen. Or maybe it's because He's outside of time (yet, as I showed, that doesn't help, for we're dealing with logical precedence and not temporal precedence here).

    No matter what we put forth to explain God's foreknowledge, it becomes very difficult to square with the idea that men have self-determined actions. If an action truly is determined by them, then God cannot know it before the actor makes that determination, for the determiner of the action must make the determination in order for the action to be determined in the first place. So, if I am the determiner of my actions, God cannot know what I will do tomorrow unless my future self has already done (from His perspective) whatever I will do tomorrow.

    So that's where I was coming from. I'm not quite sure how your counter-example would address this, since God does have actual knowledge and is not just guessing what the future will hold (even if His guesses would be pretty good because of how much He knows). But perhaps I've misunderstood where your counter-example applies here?

    In any case, I would be happy to dialogue with you :-)

  6. I'm so glad to see someone else pointing out how Arminianism (and Catholicism) makes God a "time traveler".

  7. Actually, Craig does use the "If they would have chosen otherwise, He would have known otherwise" response.

    For example, here:

    "What we simply need to understand with respect to something foreknown by God, say E, is this: if E were not to occur then God would not have known E."

    Craig, William. "The Doctrine of God Part 7." Defenders Podcast. 6/24/2007. 20:26-21:36.

    And here:

    "And I would say that if God has foreknowledge then you can do things, say at E4, that will, because of God's foreknowledge, bring about things here in the past at E1. For example, suppose God knows that if Pilate were the governor of Judea and Jesus were delivered up to Pilate that Pilate would send him to the cross. Well, because God knows that he ordains back here that Pilate will be born at a certain place and time in history … and so forth. Pilate has the ability here not to send Jesus to the cross … maybe if Pilate were to act in that way, God would not have had him be born at this time and place and become the procurator … so Pilate has the ability to act in such a way that depending on how he would act the past would have been different perhaps, because of God's foreknowledge, which is really strange, I mean it's really strange. But I think it makes sense once you have a God who has foreknowledge of the future."

    Craig, William. "The Doctrine of God Part 7." Defenders Podcast. 6/24/2007. 30:52-34:39.

  8. Notice that Craig admits this is "really strange," but asserts that it makes sense *because* God has knowledge of the future. Of course the mere fact that God has knowledge of the future doesn't make his suggestion make sense... I think what Craig is also assuming is that creatures have libertarian FW. And so I guess he can only join these two things (Libertarian FW and Foreknowledge) by this "really strange" suggestion.

  9. Peter - My apologies, I wasn't trying to get off track. Thanks for responding to me anyway. I'm not meaning to hijack your thread. If you prefer, you can delete my comments and we can discuss privately.

    I guess I was addressing where I thought you were going, and you did in your response. You said, "He foreknows what He has foreordained." Is the converse true in Calvinism? "He has foreordained that which He foreknows?" If so, then my analogy would hold against the converse. I'm trying to show that God's perfect knowledge is not always related to His foreordination. As an Arminian, I believe that God can and does foreordain things but that is the exception rather than the rule.


  10. Drwayman,

    Nope, you're not hijacking the thread. :-)

    Obviously, as a member of the PCA, I agree with the Westminster Confession when it says that God has foreordained everything that happens. Yet as the WCF says further, it is without making God the author of sin and without denying the reality of secondary causes (instead, this view establishes those secondary causes).

    When you boil everything down, God is the ultimate determiner of everything that happens. Yet in the process, it is no less real for us, for I hold to compatibilism. I recently read a G.K. Chesterton quote which, while not dealing directly with this topic, I think summarizes the *sentiment* of how I feel about it. Namely:

    God made the frog jump; but the frog prefers jumping.

    That's in "Orthodoxy" although I don't have the page number handy for the reference.

    In any case, I would maintain that God foreknows because He foreordains, and that He never foreordains based upon what He foreknows (for that would reverse the order). Now there are certainly some valid questions about what God foreordained first (in logical order), but I think it is clear from Scripture that God foreordained everything that would happen so that at the moment of Creation, when He instituted time, the end was already in His mind. He had planned it all, and then ensured that His creation would go exactly as He planned so that the end He wanted would be exactly what it was. (We, of course, haven't gotten to that end yet.)

    By the way, since you said:
    I'm trying to show that God's perfect knowledge is not always related to His foreordination.

    I have a question for you. If God's foreknowledge is not based on His foreordination, then what is it based on? How is it that God knows all things that will happen? Do you think He "just does know all things" or have you never even considered this before? (I wouldn't be surprised if the latter is so, as very few people do consider this sort of thing.)

    I look forward to your response.

  11. Very interesting thoughts. Thanks for writing this!

  12. Peter - thanks for your response, I find this an interesting topic. Regarding *never* regarding how God knows, I would say that I have thought about it frequently. I was raised in a Christian home with brother and sisters (all who are Christians and two are pastors) and these were the kinds of things that we would discuss quite often. Our parents encouraged us to question Christian assumptions. It doesn't bother me in the slightest to continue to do so, even my own assumptions.

    I believe that the question of "how does God know all things that will happen?" falls into the realm of questions like, "where did God from?" and similar. The answers to this realm of questioning is not known to us. The Bible just starts with some assumptions and I believe that some of them are: God always was, God knows all, God is sovereign, etc.

    In my illustration, if I went to court to testify about my patient's attendance at my office, I would be held culpable for not offering the patient an appointment, even if I could know for certain that the patient would not return.

    This illustration breaks down in that there is no one who can hold God culpable for anything. There is no one above Him. Nevertheless, He can be blamed. However, I do believe that God can foreknow without foreordaining. There are biblical examples of things happening without God's approval. So, I guess, we will have to agree to disagree on our respective positions.

    When I do incarnational evangelism with my Calvinist friends, we have to agree to disagree to focus on the more important issues, namely telling people about Jesus and representing Jesus effectively as Christians.

    BTW - I'm a huge fan of Chesterton as well. I think that he was a genius. You might want to check out it is a great site.

    Your turn.

  13. Hello Drwayman,

    I'm glad you have thought about these types of questions before, although obviously I disagree with you regarding whether we can know how God knows all things that will happen. The Bible doesn't just speak about God foreknowing things, it speaks about Him decreeing them. In fact, simple foreknowledge is not evidence of divinity, for we read in Acts 16:16:

    As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling.

    So here we see a demon who could tell the future, to some limited extent. Another example would be in the story of the Witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28) who summoned Samuel and he gave an accurate prediction of the coming battle for Saul (although that one might be a bit harder to decipher, since there is question as to whether it was really Samuel or if it was a demon or what).

    The Bible contrasts this sort of thing with how God knows the future. For instance, Isaiah 46:9b-11:
    "I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,' calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it."

    So we see here that A) God declares what will happen. But that isn't the difference between Him and any fortune-teller. The difference is: B) *He will bring it to pass.* It is not just that He is saying what will happen, He is saying it will happen *because He will do it*.

    No fortune-teller can say that. Even Samuel (if it was Samuel and not a demon) couldn't say that. He could say what would happen, but the reason it would happen is only because God had made it so.

    So we see through Scripture that when it refers to what God knows, it speaks of God knowing because God is acting to bring it about. It's His purpose, His councel, His will that is done, and *HE* is the acting agent to insure that it happens.

    We see this again in Isaiah 48:3:
    "The former things I declared of old; they went out from my mouth, and I announced them; then suddenly I did them, and they came to pass."

    Notice once again that God declares what will happen, but they do not happen until "suddenly [He] did them, and they came to pass." So God's declaration is simply His statement of what He is going to do. He knows the future because He's the one *doing* it.

    And the reason He does this is found in verse 5:
    "I declared them to you from of old, before they came to pass I announced them to you, lest you should say, 'My idol did them, my carved image and my metal image commanded them.'"

    So God declared what He would do to show that it was *HE* who did it when it came to pass.

    And God's control is also asserted by Christ when He says in Matthew 10:29-31:
    Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

    Notice that the passage isn't saying that no sparrow falls to the ground without God knowing about it; but that the action doesn't happen at all without the Father. This level of detail is far more than simple foreknowledge.

    Anyway, to wrap this up, I have a question for you. You said:
    There are biblical examples of things happening without God's approval.

    1) What do you mean by "approval" in the above?

    2) Can you give me those examples?

    Thanks :-)

  14. Peter - I must confess that you are putting much more energy into our discussion than I am. I'm not sure I am willing to make this a protracted interchange because I wonder if we are getting anywhere. I suspect that neither of us will move much from our current positions. My initial post was just to discuss my example, which you said was off track from your post. Thanks for engaging me anyway.

    Nevertheless, I DO enjoy what we've talked about so far and appreciate the time that you have taken so far into making this a good discussion.

    My understanding of what you are saying is that God foreordains all actions including future events. Arminians don't exclude the fact that God can and does foreordain events, just that He does not foreordain all events. Hence, if there is just one example where God did not foreordain, then that causes some difficulty for how I am perceiving your position. (Please correct me if I am misrepresenting what you are saying.)

    Therefore you asked me to give you biblical examples of things happening which God did not approve. I don't want to engage in throwing a bunch of different scriptures at each other as we are both set in our position. I won't give you all the verses that I believe state so, but I will just give you a couple. I think, because of your skill at debate and reasoning, both of which are not my strengths, you will explain them from your position. Yet I will just give you a couple examples of human activity that God did not approve: 1) the story of Israel rejecting God as King and demanding a human king and God declares that He didn't know it (see Hosea 8), and 2) three times in Jeremiah (chaps 7, 19 & 32), God says that the people's behavior never entered His mind, nor did He command or mention it.

    Thanks for taking the time, please note that I will be getting off the net soon and won't be checking in for a while.

  15. Hello again Drwayman (assuming you read this, of course!) :-)

    I suspected that you were using "approved" in that manner. We actually recently discussed the passages in Jeremiah here on Triablogue, and I am convinced from looking at the verses that they are clearly stating that God did not think of *commanding* the Israelites to do human sacrifices, not that He had no idea it would happen nor that He didn't decree it would take place.

    I will look further into Hosea 8 as I have time to see if I can better understand your position, although if you're really not able to take much time in our discussion then it's true that we won't get very far between us. But that's the way life is, so don't fret over it or think that I am :-)

  16. Peter - I just dropped in for a bit and won't be back until tomorrow. I figured you had an answer for the Jeremiah passages. I can't say that I agree but that's the way it is.

    I was looking back over our conversation and I wanted to challenge your thinking a bit on demons knowing things ahead of time. You call it simple foreknowledge. I don't believe that the devil or his minions have foreknowledge. You stated yourself in the Isaiah passage that ability belongs to God alone.

    I think that demons can give the appearance of foreknowledge and try to imitate God's abilities. Demons have been around since the beginning of creation; hence, they have had more time to study us than for us to study them. They are students of human behavior and can make reasonable assertions due to their observations and experience so that they can mimic foreknowledge. Also, they are interconnected and have a better knowledge of private human events than we do. Jesus said that the devil was a murderer and liar from the very beginning. So, I would encourage you to reconsider those thoughts and not give the devil and his demons more credit than they deserve.

    Let me know what you think of the Hosea passage. TTYL

  17. Hello once more, Drwayman,

    If you look at the passages in Isaiah again, you'll see that what God is speaking of isn't that He knows what will happen, but that He *CAUSES* what will happen. He has declared what He will do. He doesn't say, "This is what is going to happen" as if what happens is apart from Him.

    That is the distinction. And I don't believe I'm giving demons too much credit here. For one thing, I don't think they have universal foreknowledge at all. But on the other hand, the woman whom Paul cast the spirit out of *was* called a fortune-teller, and she was obviously good at her job because Paul was arrested for costing her owners the income they were getting. And Samuel (or whatever spirit it was) was correct in saying Saul and his sons would die in the battle.

    But the key is the distinction that God knew what would happen because He was acting to make it so. He said, "I have purposed this, and it shall be done." That's why it was certain. It wasn't that God was the infallible knower of the future; He is the *shaper* of the future.

  18. Wow, I actually followed that (I think) for such a heavy subject. I have never quite been able to articulate the Arminian "problem" like that, but I've dwelt on that temporal/logical thing before. Nice article.


  19. Drwayman wrote:
    ...the story of Israel rejecting God as King and demanding a human king and God declares that He didn't know it (see Hosea 8)...

    Hello Drwayman, (BTW, if you have a preference on how to capitalize your name correctly, let me know!)

    I assume that you are referring to verse 4, which begins (in the ESV):

    They made kings, but not through me. They set up princes, but I knew it not.

    This is an instance where I believe the NIV catches the gist of the meaning better than the more literal translations, for what does it mean that God "knew it not"? Obviously, whether under Arminianism or Calvinism, God knew what the people would do; foreknowledge is not in dispute here. So the "plain" meaning of the text that God "knew it not" cannot be right, for it would argue against God's omniscience.

    So the NIV says:

    They set up kings without my consent; they choose princes without my approval.

    "Knew" has lots of connotations in Scripture beyond just simple knowledge. An easily recognizable one is the fact that sexual relations are referred to that way (e.g., Adam *knew* Eve, and she conceived and bore a son, etc.). And in this case, I believe the NIV at least has a legitimate ground to stand upon to say that the meaning of the word is really in the sense of "approval."

    No Calvinist says God "approves" of evil qua evil. But God uses evil, and He foreordains evil. If there is any aspect of "approval" there, it is only in terms of God's ultimate end--evil must exist in order for God to conquer evil, which is what He wants to do. But saying that something is necessary to an end doesn't mean that one approves of that thing in and of itself.

    To reuse an over-used example yet again, a surgeon cuts into a patient. He doesn't do so because he enjoys cutting people, and he doesn't approve of cutting in and of itself. But he approves of removing the diseased tumor from the body or repairing a weakened artery, and that *requires* him to cut into the patient. We would not charge the surgeon with hypocrisy for saying that he disapproves of stabbings and yet he cuts into people all the time, for the reasons for the action are different.


  20. (continued from above)

    In the same way, God did not approve of Israel having a king other than Himself--not because the concept of the king was wrong, but because their *motivation* for having a king was wrong. See, God already had planned that the Messiah would be from the lineage of a king (David). God had *intended* the Messiah to be prophet, priest, and king; and to get to the kingship required a royal lineage. So He was going to establish one, but the people wanted a king because they wanted to be like other nations, *NOT* because they wanted the Messiah.

    "Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations... No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles" (1 Samuel 8:5, 19b-20).

    And finally, the reason I don't think having a king itself was wrong is because God gave permission for this to occur:

    And the LORD said to Samuel, "Obey their voice and make them a king" (1 Samuel 8:22).

    Would God have told Samuel to obey had Israel demanded child sacrifices so they could be like the other nations? Such a question answers itself!

    So, I maintain that God always intended a royal lineage for the Messiah, but the people wanted a royal line so they could be like the other nations (which was a sinful motive for a good thing). God granted this because it was not wrong in and of itself, even if the motive was wrong. And in Hosea, God's charge against Israel isn't that they have a king; it's that they do not establish kings and princes by consulting God first. Their sin is turning their backs on God and not caring who He has annointed for the role.

    So that's my take on the passage. There is probably a lot more we could investigate together, should you have the time or inclination. Until then, take care :-)

  21. Peter - See? I knew that wouldn't be too difficult for you. Thanks for taking the time to explain your view.

    When you and I have discussions with atheists, it's usually a good idea, IMHO, to ask the question, "what kind of evidence do you need to believe in God's existence?" You will hear all kinds of answers but the honest atheist will say either, "I don't know" or "Nothing will convince me." For an atheist to be open to our arguments, there has to be an openness to the possibility that God does actually exist. If the atheist is not open to this possibility, then no amount of excellent & skillful discussion will work.

    You wrote, "But God uses evil, and He foreordains evil." So, that leads me to a similar question, "how many verses do you need thrown at you from an Arminian to convince you that God does not foreordain evil?" This idea of exhaustive determinism (foreordaining evil, causing evil to happen) presents problems if one is open to the idea that God does not exhaustively determine all things.

    Arminians believe in determinism. We believe that God does order, shape and/or arrange things/people/events for His purposes. However, we believe that He does that as exception and infrequently violates the true freedom of choice that He has granted humanity. God is not limited by the freedom that He has given to humanity. He is, after all, sovereign.

    This is your blog and more exactly, your thread. Hence, you have sovereignty over what happens here. How would you like to proceed? 1) Would you like me to keep throwing verses at you and then you deflect/explain them from the Calvinist system? 2) Would you like to throw verses at me and then I deflect/explain them from the Arminian system? 3) Would you like to take our communication to a private area? (probably just you and I are reading at this point), or 4) Would you like to stop at this point annd pick up discussions on other posts? Maybe you have a fifth idea?

    You can spell my name drwayman (no capitalizations are necessary). Your brother in Christ, drwayman

  22. Hello once more, drwayman!

    You wrote:
    How would you like to proceed?

    I'm open to just about anything. If you want to go private, my e-mail is If you think there's benefit to our having our conversation public for others, then I certainly have no problem responding in public either. I think you are right that just giving Bible verses back and forth won't convince the other person since we've got genuine worldview differences, but that interaction can be helpful to others too, even though it probably won't change either of us. But I also think at some point we'll need to get to the worldview level--the axioms--and look at the specific differences between your view and mine as it relates to Arminianism and Calvinism.

  23. Such arguments against libertarian free will/divine foreknowledge have to [a bit over] simplistically assume agent self-determination strictly as a function of time. If God created men, angels, etc in such a manner so that He perceives the full possible spectrum of their self-determination (i.e. what they would do in any given circumstance) logically prior to instantiating them within time, then ramifications such as "God has to wait till it happens" or "He'd have to re-run the universe many times" wouldn't really follow.

    The question boils down to whether God is capable of creating beings in such a way that they are both free, yet their choices et al derived from their independent self-determination are 'calculable' from His eternal standpoint? If God is capable of this, then there really isn't warrant to claim that LFW in conjunction with foreknowledge is logically impossible.

  24. Hello JC,

    You said:
    --- such a manner so that He perceives the full possible spectrum of their self-determination...

    In which case God only knows what *potentially* will happen. He still doesn't know what *actually* will happen until after it does happen. That's the problem that you cannot avoid if the agent is the determiner of the action.

    Look at it this way. If you have an honest deck of cards and ask me to pick one of them, you know that the card I pick must be a spade, heart, club, or diamond. It must be and Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, or K. You know all the possibilities. But you can't possibly know which one I will specifically pick until after I've picked one.

    And if we want to get further into it, I don't see how God could even predict such an outcome, if His foreknowledge is based on prediction. The first problem: how is God going to predict the exact way in which you shuffle the deck of cards? Say you cut the deck to shuffle it. Odds are the pile in your right hand won't have the same number of cards as the pile in your right hand, yet you didn't *decide* how many cards you would take in each hand. You didn't think about it at all. You just grab somewhere near the middle, but "somewhere near the middle" gives a lot of wiggle room for which cards will be there. And then you shuffle them, again without consciously deciding which card will fall first. So all of this cannot be predicted by an examination of your mental characteristics. It is essentially random.

    Then, from this essentially random ordering of the cards, *I* am choosing one. Now my choice does at least involve some level of conscious discernment. I may prefer choosing from the top, middle, or bottom of the deck. Yet once again, my choices leave a lot of wiggle room because while I pick a general area, I never think "I must pick the 17th card in the pile."

    So I conclude that if you are the determiner of what the sequence of cards will be based on how you shuffle them, and if I am the determiner of which card I select from that pile, then not only must God wait for the action to be completed before He can know what it is, He cannot even *predict* what it will be other than the completely useless "it must be a valid playing card" set that I gave above.

    How do you resolve that problem and still maintain self-determinism with God's accurate foreknowledge?

  25. @In which case God only knows what *potentially* will happen. He still doesn't know what *actually* will happen until after it does happen.
    @You know all the possibilities. But you can't possibly know which one I will specifically pick until after I've picked one.

    This again relies upon self-determination being strictly a function of time. If our self-determination abstracted from the world is such that God can derive what the resulting choices would be in any circumstance, then yes, it would constitute actuality given that world, not mere possibility.

    @The first problem: how is God going to predict the exact way in which you shuffle the deck of cards?
    @And then you shuffle them, again without consciously deciding which card will fall first. So all of this cannot be predicted by an examination of your mental characteristics. It is essentially random.

    Not knowledge of one's mental state only, knowledge of all involved variables (physical, neurological, etc), would also be needed, which God most surely has. Even so-called 'random numbers' can be calculated for a given circumstance if all variables are known. God having knowledge of individual self-determination wouldn't preclude Him knowing the other involved factors.

    So if I determine the sequence of the cards by how I shuffle them, but God knows from my self-determination what manner of shuffling I'll use, the subtleties of my muscle movements and related factors, as well as the sequence of cards to begin with, then He can know the sequence after I've finished shuffling. And if He knows the result of your self-determination when asked to pick a card, and can factor in the context of your subconscious inclinations and workings of your mind (even if you're working on a whim), then He can know which card in the sequence will be chosen, and can therefore know which card will be picked in any given context.

  26. JC,

    Do you no longer assert that PAP is necessary for a choice to be made?

  27. For choices between viable options that are free in the libertarian sense, I would think PAP applies. I don't think middle-knowledge necessarily sacrifices the concept, it just doesn't define it the way Open Theism does.

  28. JC,

    I'm sure you're well aware that the reason I asked is because it seems incompatible to hold to PAP while also saying that God could predict (such that said prediction would actually *be* knowledge of the future) a free choice. If it is free, how could it be predicted (to the point of being called foreknowledge), if there actually is a possibility of an alternative?

  29. Peter,

    My thoughts would be that both our choices in a given context and God's knowledge thereof are derived from the common source of a set of base factors of self-determination (sometimes called 'essence' or some similar name) abstracted from time. I would place PAP back at that logical point rather than at the temporal point of the choices it produces per se. The result would be that the future (in terms of human choice at least) is certain, but still contingent upon our self-determination. Because it is independent to some extent, it would definitely be libertarian, but because it produces a certain and specific result given the world God creates, it is then knowable by God.

  30. Thanks, JC.

    I, of course, view what you said as being contradictory (I realize you don't). Most simply, I don't see how it's possible for something to be "independent to some extent" and yet also produce "a certain and specific result." These two things don't go together. In my mind, it's like saying, "The light is on to some extent, yet it is certainly off."

  31. Peter, I understand the statement, but I don't quite grasp your reasoning behind it: Could you articulate why you believe that logically precedent independence in self-determination would be mutually exclusive with said determination obtaining a certain and specific result in a given context?

  32. JC, I don't see how your suggested solution solves the original problem. To be honest, I don't see that your suggested solution makes any real kind of sense at all, though.

    In your view, is God's knowledge of our choices based on the actual choices themselves, or not?

  33. DBT,

    @is God's knowledge of our choices based on the actual choices themselves, or not?

    If you'll even bother to read 3 posts prior to your question....

  34. Dan said: "Wonder how Wm. Lane Craig would respond?"

    Thing is, he responded to this like 20 years ago in The Only Wise God. It's fallacious thinking.

  35. Whoops. Sorry for the double post.

    I wrote a while back a summary of the fallacy that Craig elucidates.

    This mode of thinking works out like this:

    1) Necessarily, if God foreknows x will happen, then x will happen
    2) God foreknows x will happen
    3) Therefore, necessarily x will happen

    which would take the form:

    □ P -> Q
    □ Q

    But this is a non sequitur. All that would actually follow from the premises displayed is Q. In terms of God's foreknowledge, all that would follow is that x will happen, not that necessarily x will happen.

    If I may answer this question about Molinism:

    It seems to me, though, that his view is that God knows all possible universes *in a hypothetical sense*, and then chooses which of them to actualize. I don't see how that salvages self-determinism (since it's God determining which universe exists)

    God is simply actualizing a universe where free creatures make choices of which He knows. That doesn't undo the freedom with which the creatures act. How would it?

  36. JC, I apologize; I'm obviously not getting something about your argument. You talk about our choices being "abstracted" from the world, so God can "derive" our choices. But I must confess I don't know what you mean by this.

    Are you saying that the part of us which makes decisions is non-temporal? That the decisions are actually made timelessly, but are acted out in time? I honestly just don't understand what you're getting at, which is why I asked my original question.

    Perhaps you could explain your view in a bit more detail?

  37. Brennon said:
    In terms of God's foreknowledge, all that would follow is that x will happen, not that necessarily x will happen.

    Is it possible for x not to happen (I refer specifically to your section "all that would follow is that x will happen")?

  38. Brennon said:

    1) Necessarily, if God foreknows x will happen, then x will happen
    2) God foreknows x will happen
    3) Therefore, necessarily x will happen

    You're doing it wrong. Either both statements are true, or both are false. You can't just omit the bivalency because it's inconvenient.

    1. Necessarily, iff x will happen, then God foreknows x will happen
    2. God foreknows x will happen
    3. Therefore, necessarily x will happen

    □ Q <-> P
    □ Q

    Fixed it.

  39. Dan said ...

    Wonder how Wm. Lane Craig would respond?

    This is my bet:

    It is a fallacy (fallacy of modal logic to be precise) to argue that God's foreknowledge of an event makes that event necessary (inevitable).

    Confusing the knowledge of some truth condition and the truth condition itself is that fallacy. Like all fallacies, this one is particularly seductive, and authored in a lie.

    The fallacy is taking the necessary condition of knowledge to be necessary on its own:
    X knows Y to be true -> Y is true

    The point is, that just because something is known to be true, doesn't mean that knowledge itself, makes it true.

    As an example, consider standing on the top of a building watching a TV being thrown through a window below; even as an imperfect human with imperfect knowledge of the fate of that TV, foreknowledge that it will smash on the ground is not what makes its eventual smashing necessary.

    It is logically consistent for God to have complete knowledge of every event (contingent and necessary) and still not be the cause of it. This means that it is logically consistent for man to be the author of his own fate because of free will (assuming God gives man this freedom), and for God to still have complete and perfect foreknowledge. (In other words, this argument does not necessarily lead to Open Theism)

    The argument about God's foreknowledge comes up frequently in theological discussions simply because far too few theologians are adept enough to recognize it for the fallacy it is.

  40. Yet I just formulated a valid argument directly above, which doesn't rely on the modal fallacy, and which shows that God's foreknowledge of a choice implies the choice is necessary (and so not libertarianly free)...

    1. Necessarily, iff x will happen, then God foreknows x will happen
    2. God foreknows x will happen
    3. Therefore, necessarily x will happen

  41. This comment has been removed by the author.

  42. Dominic Bnonn Tennant said: "Yet I just formulated a valid argument directly above, which doesn't rely on the modal fallacy .."

    You substituted one fallacy for another. The example above is a textbook perfect example of the Fallacy of Affirming the Consequent without where:

    P is Necessarily, iff x will happen
    Q is God foreknows x will happen

    Fallacy of Affirming the Consequent
    1. If P, then Q.
    2. Q.
    3. Therefore, P.

    Whether we use the Fallacy of Affirming the Consequent or the Fallacy of Modal Logic arguing that God's foreknowledge of some truth condition necessitates the truth condition itself is still erroneous logic.

  43. ἐκκλησία, it would be a truly embarrassing mistake indeed if I had formulated the argument as you say I did. But I did not.

    If I had formulated a mere conditional statement (if P, then Q), you would be correct: that is the fallacy of assuming the consequent.

    But I formulated a biconditional statement (iff P, then Q; ie (P → Q) ∧ (Q → P)). Thus, my argument is valid, and proves that if God foreknows x, then x occurs necessarily.

    You can read about biconditionals on Wikipedia if you doubt me:

  44. Dominic Bnonn Tennant said "ἐκκλησία, it would be a truly embarrassing mistake indeed if I had ..."

    I was giving you the benefit of the doubt by assuming you were following the discussion.

    The two statements “Necessarily, iff x will happen, then God foreknows x will happen” and “Necessarily, if God foreknows x will happen, then x will happen” are logically equivalent:

    Let P be “X will happen”
    Let Q be “God foreknew X would happen”

    The assertion “Necessarily, iff x will happen, then God foreknows x will happen” is (P <-> Q)

    (P <-> Q) is equal to (P->Q ∧ Q->P) {by definition}
    (P->Q ∧ Q->P) is equal to (Q->P ∧ P->Q) {law of symmetry}
    (Q->P ∧ P->Q) is equal to (Q <-> P) {by definition}
    Therefore (P <-> Q) is equal to (Q <-> P)

    Thus (Q<->P) is “Necessarily, if God foreknows x will happen, then x will happen” which is equal to what we started with.

    Although you switched around the order of the clauses, you didn't actually improve the argument. Logically there should be no controversy at this point, as the proof above is trivial.


    The controversy (and the fallacy which has already been shown) is in (P<->Q) which can also be written as (P -> Q ∧ Q -> P).

    No one doubts (P->Q) which is “IF X will happen God foreknows X will happen”.

    But that isn't what you're saying. What you're saying is (P->Q ∧ Q->P)

    Since everyone accepts P->Q as true we'll only look at the controversial part (the fallacious assumption).

    The premise ( Q->P ) has already been shown to be the Fallacy of Modal Logic because Q is knowledge about the truth condition of P. Q could be written as K(P).

    This premise (Q->P) which we'll rewrite as K(P)-> □P is fallacious:

    K(P) -> □P

    It is false reasoning to take the necessary condition of knowledge to be necessary on its own (this is true whether that knowledge is perfect or imperfect knowledge).

    You've ignored that bit in your argument and simply reasserted “iff P then Q” as your premise, hiding the fallacy deep within the symbology of the IF AND ONLY IF). But where have you addressed the actual fallacy of (Q -> P) and showed that “iff P then Q” is a sound premise?

    (Before you are tempted to argue that "iff P then Q" is valid because it falls out of God's omniscience realise that [James 1:17] makes it impossible for God to be either logically incoherent or self-contradictory.

  45. For those following this thread, the argument more simply is this:

    If (Q->P) is fallacious {by Fallacy of Modal Logic} than Dominic's premise (P->Q)∧(Q->P) which contains it, is also fallacious.

    Q is "God foreknew X"
    P is "X is necessary"

  46. ἐκκλησία, you are right, of course. Thanks for taking the time to work through that. I retract my argument.