Friday, November 09, 2018

Calvinism and Arminianism compared

I'll comment on a post by Roger Olson:

What is Calvinism? A) Belief that God foreordains and renders certain everything that happens without any exceptions; everything that happens in creation is designed, ordained and rendered certain by God; B) Belief that God alone decides, unconditionally, who will be saved, that Christ died only for them (“the elect”), and God saves them without any cooperation on their part (“irresistible grace”). “A” is called “meticulous providence,” “B” is called “double predestination.”

That's largely true but misleading:

i) To my knowledge, "irresistible grace" is a synonym for monergistic regeneration. There's no cooperation in regeneration. 

That doesn't mean Calvinism takes the position that "God saves them without any cooperation on their part" across the board. For instance, Calvinism regards sanctification has a having a cooperative dimension. It would be more accurate to say Calvinism denies that their cooperation is independent of God's grace.

ii) Olson has a formulaic characterization of Calvinism: "designed, " rendered certain". The problem is not with those descriptors but the implied contrast with Arminianism. But there's an obvious sense in which those descriptors apply to Arminianism as well (see below). 

*There are some varieties of Calvinism that deviate slightly from above, but above is classical, historical, evangelical Calvinism as taught by Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, R. C. Sproul, John Piper and all other classical, historical, evangelical Calvinists.

Notice that Olson typically ignores Reformed philosophers like Paul Helm, Greg Welty, Paul Manata, Guillaume Bignon, James Gibson, and James Anderson. He doesn't test his position against the most challenging opponents. 

What is Arminianism? A) Belief that God limits himself to give human beings free will to go against his perfect will so that God did not design or ordain sin and evil (or their consequences such as innocent suffering); B) Belief that, although sinners cannot achieve salvation on their own, without “prevenient grace” (enabling grace), God makes salvation possible for all through Jesus Christ and offers free salvation to all through the gospel. “A” is called “limited providence,” “B” is called “predestination by foreknowledge.”

i) How did the Arminian God not "design" sin if he created a world in full knowledge of the outcome? That wasn't an unforeseen development. So he took that into consideration–in which case it wasn't an unplanned event. Didn't the Arminian God intend the foreseen consequences of his own actions?

ii) When does God offer salvation to all through the gospel? Not in this life. Is postmortem evangelism classical, historical Arminianism? 

*As with Calvinism there are varieties of Arminianism that deviate slightly from above, but above is classical, historical, evangelical Arminianism as taught by Arminius, John Wesley, Charles Finney, C. S. Lewis, and Dallas Willard and all other classical, historical, evangelical Arminians.

I thought Finney was Pelagian, Willard was an open theist, while Lewis espoused Purgatory. Is that classical, historical, evangelical Arminianism? 

The underlying issues are not free will or predestination; both Calvinists and Arminians say they believe in both. (But they interpret them differently.) The underlying issue one has to consider is the character of God. The Arminian emphasizes God’s love; the Calvinist emphasizes God’s power.

i) What a gross caricature! According to Calvinism, salvation and judgment display all of God's attributes. 

ii) Moreover, there's different kinds of love. The Arminian emphasizes indiscriminate, ineffectual love while the Calvinist emphasizes exclusive, effectual love. 

According to Arminianism (as espoused and explained for example by John Wesley), double predestination and meticulous providence make God morally monstrous and not good in any meaningful sense of the word. Why?

According to Calvinism, salvation is completely produced by God from beginning to end with no free cooperation on the part of the sinner being saved. God decides to save some unconditionally and damn others when he could save them because grace is irresistible. Christ died only for the elect—those God decreed to save. Both the saved and the damned have no “say” in their eternal destiny (heaven or hell). Of course, they both feel as if they are making free decisions, but from God’s perspective everything, including sin, is part of God’s plan and purpose—including hell. Calvinist Theodore Beza (Calvin’s successor in Geneva): “Those who find themselves suffering in the flames of hell for eternity can at least take comfort in the fact that they are there for the greater glory of God.” Hell is necessary for God’s full self-glorification because God’s self-glorification (God’s purpose in creation) requires that all of his attributes be manifested. One of God’s attributes is justice and wrath, including hell, is necessary for the full manifestation of God’s justice. (Arminians argue that the cross on which Jesus died was a sufficient display of God’s justice and wrath.)

i) As I've often pointed out, to say the Calvinist God could save "everyone" is equivocal. A possible world in which God saves everyone has a different world history than a possible world in which God saves some and damns others. It's not the same group of people in both worlds because regeneration and sanctification impact the choices people make, which impacts how the future turns out. And that has a snowball effect the earlier in the process that begins. Changing a few variables in the past generates greater changes in the future. Some people who are saved in a world where some other people are damned wouldn't even exist in a world where everyone is saved. So they'd miss out. 

ii) Rom 9:22-23 say one purpose of salvation and judgment is to manifest God's justice and wrath. 

iii) God's "self-glorification" is ambiguous. That's not for God's personal benefit, since he has nothing to gain, but for the benefit of the saints. 

iv) Notice that Olson never gets around to explaining how his (flawed) description of Calvinism makes God "morally monstrous". Does Olson think God has an obligation to save the wicked? This isn't like rescuing a drowning swimmer. 

v) According to classical (simple foreknowledge) Arminianism, if the world God foresaw contains hellbound sinners, and God makes the world he foresaw, then it's too late for hellbound sinners to change their eternal destiny. By making the world he foresaw, God locks in that world history. Having acted on what he foresaw by making that foreseen world, it can't be any different. 

vi) According to Molinism, although there may be two possible worlds in which the same individual is saved or damned, the individual has no say in which world God instantiates. The individual is never given that choice. God doesn't consult him on whether he'd rather exist in a world where he goes to heaven rather than hell. Rather, he's stuck with God's choice-for better or worse. 

Arminians believe God genuinely wants all people to be saved and does everything possible to bring that about—without taking away free will. The gospel (the Holy Spirit through the gospel) frees the sinner’s will from bondage to sin and makes it possible for him or her to respond with repentance and faith. 

But everyone doesn't hear the gospel in this life. Moreover, some people have much greater spiritual advantages than others in this life. Two people who hear the gospel aren't equally receptive depending on their social conditioning. So unless Olson makes postmortem evangelism a necessary component of freewill theism, his claim makes no sense. 

Arminians make a distinction between two wills of God: “antecedent” and “consequent.” God’s antecedent will is what God wishes were the case; God’s consequent will is what God permits to be the case. Sin has no place in God’s antecedent will; neither does hell. These exist only because of human persons’ free (not foreordained) rebellion against God and refusal of God’s mercy.

Doesn't that artificially compartmentalized God's omniscience? If God has foreknowledge and counterfactual knowledge, then he knows all along what will happen in case he makes the world, and he knows all along whom he will consign to hell. How can God not intend the consequences of his own choices and actions? Although he's not the only agent, his choices and actions create the necessary initial conditions for what unfolds. 

According to Calvinism (as espoused and explained for example by Jonathan Edwards), the Arminian view of salvation makes the human person’s free decision to accept God’s grace by means of repentance and faith the decisive factor in his or her salvation and therefore makes salvation less than a free gift; it becomes partly a “work of man.” This contradicts (they argue) many passages of Scripture including, of course, Ephesians 2:8-9.

Is that just a Calvinistic view of Arminianism? Is it not true from an Arminian viewpoint that "the human person’s free decision to accept God’s grace by means of repentance and faith the decisive factor in his or her salvation"?

Calvinists believe God wishes it could be true that God saves everyone, but for his own good reasons knows it is not possible—if his main purpose in creation is to be fulfilled (viz., his own self-glorification by means of the manifestation of all his attributes including justice).

Is it definitional to Calvinism that "God wishes it could be true that God saves everyone"?

Calvinists make a distinction between two wills of God: “decretive” and “permissive.” (They also distinguish between God’s “decretive will” and God’s “prescriptive will,” but that is not directly pertinent here.) God’s decretive will is all-determining; it decides and then God renders certain all that happens without exception for his glory. However, God does not cause anyone to sin or do evil; God renders these certain. There are two or three different Calvinist explanations of how God renders sin and evil certain without being guilty of them.

i) That's not really two different "wills". That's a verbal distinction based on using the same word twice. An unfortunate linguistic tradition. But to put it more accurately, they make a distinction between predestination and God's commands or prohibitions. 

ii) Actually, there is a sense in which the Calvinist God causes sin, but there's a sense in which the Arminian God causes sin. As one philosopher (David Lewis) put it:

“We think of a cause as something that makes a difference, and the difference it makes must be a difference from what would have happened without it. Had it been absent, its effects — some of them, at least, and usually all — would have been absent as well.”

On that definition, God causes sin and evil, although he's not the only cause. That's applicable to Calvinism and freewill theism alike. 

Arminians argue that Calvinism, with its all-determining decretive will of God, cannot escape making God the author of sin and evil.

I rarely see Arminians define "author of sin and evil". They use that as an intellectual shortcut. A substitute for an actual argument.  

Calvinists argue that Arminianism, with its emphasis on the necessity of human free acceptance of God’s grace (free meaning able to do otherwise) makes salvation something other than a sheer gift and ultimately falls into works righteousness.

A better characterization is that Calvinists affirm salvation by grace alone while Arminians deny salvation by grace alone. In freewill theism, salvation is a combination of God's grace and the sinner's independent consent. 

Arminian synergism emphasizes that God’s grace is the effectual cause of salvation while the person’s faith is its instrumental cause.

Since, according to Arminianism, saving grace is resistible, how is that effectual rather than ineffectual? 

According to Calvinism, evil, including sin, is efficaciously permitted by God (meaning his permission renders it certain) for a good purpose—his own glory in redeeming his elect people from sin and evil and his own glory in punishing the wicked (showing forth his justice and power).

According to Arminianism, evil, including sin, is non-efficaciously permitted by God (meaning his permission does not render it certain) for a good purpose—his desire to have a relationship with human beings created in his own image and likeness that is not coerced but is free. God grants (self-limitation) human beings the ability to resist his will. God is sovereign over his own sovereignty; he can remain sovereign and permit sin and evil which are not his antecedent will.

That's Olsons' stock formulation, which he repeats ad nauseam. It never occurs to him that merely allowing something to happen can (and often does) ensure the outcome. Some outcomes are be inevitable unless an agent intervenes to prevent it or deflect it. If I'm standing next to someone who jumps off a skyscraper, then once he makes the jump, his fate is sealed. If I tackle him before he makes the jump, I prevent his suicide. But if I do nothing, my inaction renders the fatal outcome certain. At that point the trajectory is irreversible. 

There are many situations where an outcome is initially indeterminate; up to a point it could veer off in more than one direction, depending on other factors, but then it crosses a point of no return. I can take the onramp or bypass the onramp . But if I take the onramp, I'm committed. I'm no longer in the same indeterminate position I was approaching the onramp. Making one choice excludes another choice. It's too late to change my mind. 

Calvinists respond that if God foreknew that some of his human creatures would reject and disobey him and created them anyway, he is just as responsible for their sin as if he foreordained it and rendered it certain. Arminians respond that God’s foreknowledge does not cause sin and evil but only “corresponds” with it. God foreknows because it will happen; his foreknowing does not render it certain.

i) Many philosophers argue that foreknowledge does ensure the outcome.

ii) It's true that God is responsible for the consequences of his own actions. But in my experience, the argument goes like this: if God foreknew that some humans would reject and disobey him and created them anyway, then he wasn't acting in their best interests. If he made them in full knowledge that by doing so, they'd be damned, he failed to treat them lovingly.


  1. Steve,

    I'm a Baptist centrist, holding to both unconditional election and the free will of men to choose otherwise (while it is certain the nonelect will reject God, "no man perishes of necessity"). I think both sides miss this: God would have saved all if that were possible, but the requirement of sin to God's plan rendered the race subject to the just result that only a remnant would be saved. Had man not sinned in Eden (had that not been God's plan), all men would have been eternally elect; but since it was God's plan for man to fall, then God accordingly elected only a remnant. However, this limiting factor comes from God's just nature and not from some limiting aspect of His love.

    Thanks for your consideration. (Some of my comments on "The metaphysics of original sin" might be in your spam queue).

    1. But as I point out, saving "all" is equivocal, since it's not the same "all" in both cases.

    2. Steve, I see your point. But that's only from the perspective of which individuals will be saved. From the perspective of how God might deal with men---the difference between God who saves/elects all, whomever that "all" may consist in, or God who is unwilling to save/elect all. While I don't agree with the Arminians that a God who saves monergistically would be monstrous if He didn't save all, their point is unaffected by the fact that those who are part of "all" vary with differing histories. In their argument (and mine), "all" stands for all those who will exist, no matter who or how many.

    3. Oh, I think it does make a difference. When freewill theists say the Calvinist God has the ability to save everyone, I think they imagine God could leave everything else unchanged but change that one variable. But in fact there are tradeoffs. Some people who are heavenbound in a world where other people are hellbound won't exist in a world where everyone is heavenbound. It's a different group of people. To say God saves everyone sounds like everyone is a winner, but that overlooks the fact that there are many people who lose out on that alternative because they don't exist in that timeline.

    4. It seems to me that if one has never existed, one can lose nothing. The losses, gains and wins would be limited to the court in which the game is played out. No individual's existence transcends the "different worlds" being compared in such a way as to incur loss in a certain world by never coming into existence.

    5. If one did exist in world A, but world B would've rendered that person non-existent, then the person in world A would have lost out on their existence in world B.

    6. EoD,

      Nothing from one world can go beyond the boundaries of its own world to cross into another in order to affect anything or anyone in another world. Each world is self-contained.

    7. At this point, I'm simply assuming there's only one world (ours). If our world is the world that's been instantiated by God (A), but God could have instantiated another world (B) instead of our world (A), then many people who existed in world A would not exist in world B. That's a problem for those people who would not have existed since they do exist in our own world.

      However, if you want to argue there are multiple parallel worlds in existence, then that opens up other issues.

    8. EoD,

      Please tell me, then, in which world would they have the problem? In the current world, it is not a problem, since they do exist. In the hypothetical world, they would not have any problem, since they would never have existed.

    9. Ken Hamrick,

      Sorry, I'm not sure I follow. I was responding to your contention: "It seems to me that if one has never existed, one can lose nothing..."

    10. Never to exist is a greater deprivation than losing particular things, given existence. Nonexistence is totalistic. Take missing out on the opportunity to enjoy eternal bliss.

      Suppose you have a son who grows up to be 20. Suppose you could step into a time machine and contracept his existence. He never existed in the new timeline, but that's a drastic contrast. Is there no loss? Indeed, ultimate loss?

      You could try to say you did nothing to your son because, by your preemptive action, he never existed in the first place, but that's superficial. How can we cherish the gift of life if we adopt an Epicurean view of nonexistence?

  2. Steve,

    You state:
    "v) According to classical (simple foreknowledge) Arminianism, if the world God foresaw contains hellbound sinners, and God makes the world he foresaw, then it's too late for hellbound sinners to change their eternal destiny. By making the world he foresaw, God locks in that world history. Having acted on what he foresaw by making that foreseen world, it can't be any different."

    Foreknowledge is not determinative. Certainty is distinguishable from necessity: it's not that it can't be any different, but that it WON'T be any different. This is also the difference between natural and moral inability. People will certainly follow their greatest inclinations, but the choice was still genuinely theirs, and they could have chosen differently (and inclination is no excuse).

    1. I didn't refer to foreknowledge alone. Rather, I referred to foreknowledge in combination with divine action. God acting on his foreknowledge. If God creates a world that corresponds to his foreknowledge, then it can't deviate from what he foresaw, not merely because that's what he foresaw, but because the world he made matches the world he foresaw. That's what he had in mind when he made it. Having made it, it's too late for it to be different.

    2. Foreknowledge most certainly is determinative in the sense of God's creative decree. Once God acts in creating the world according to His foreknowledge and decree, He, as Steve says, 'locks in that world history'. There's no going back. It *can't* be any different, not merely won't be any different.

      This reminds me of the old Arminian Shuffle, where it is said that, ah, but X *could* have chosen P instead of Y, and God would thus have chosen to create a different world, completely swerving the pertinent point which is that, Yes, but given that God *did* choose to create the world in which X chooses Y, could X have chosen other than Y?

      Once God's creative decree is set in motion, and that world history is 'lock[ed] in', then it can't be any different than that which God foreknows, thus rendering positing hypothetical alternate timelines utterly irrelevant.

      In the final analysis, the Arminian/freewill theist is in no 'better' position than the Calvinist.

    3. Steve,

      You say it's too late to be different. I said it won't be different. Those "hellbound" sinners end in hell either way. The issue is the nature of the binding. Even with divine action to ensure God's plan is perfectly carried out (a view the Arminians do not share), it is not proven that hellbound sinners had no power whatsoever to choose to believe. History is as effectively locked in if that lock is the foreknown, freely willed rejection of God, as it would be by any more restrictive mode. The difference is that, in the former, Arminian objections find much less of a foothold, and sinners are left without excuse.

    4. "Even with divine action to ensure God's plan is perfectly carried out (a view the Arminians do not share), it is not proven that hellbound sinners had no power whatsoever to choose to believe."

      I'm arguing from Arminian premises. To say God knows the future is shorthand for God knows what will happen if he makes the world. If God has foreknowledge, and God makes the world, then the world must have *that* future. For the future is the result of God actualizing that world history. It can't be some other world history, because God didn't actualize an alternate world history. Rather, he made a world corresponding to his foreknowledge of what would happen if he made it. He made what he saw.

    5. Steve,

      Doesn't the truth of what you said depend a lot on how the words "make" and "actualize" are loaded? We agree He made the physical world ex nihilo; but to make "a world in which person X chooses Y at T might entail more than one possible method of divine action or interaction--and to what degree the agency of person X is involved is not established merely by saying that God actualized that world, nor does it establish that "the world must have *that* future," rather than it WILL have *that* future. Thank you again for your consideration!

    6. Irrelevant. Even if God's causal role is confined to creating the initial conditions, while future choices of human agents are libertarian–nevertheless, if that's the future which God foresaw, and his contribution is only a necessary condition to trigger that stochastic outcome, that must exactly match what he foresaw.

    7. Steve,

      Doesn't that give up the argument? If the "future choices of human agents are libertarian," then the choice was freely theirs, and it does not mitigate that to say that the end result was fixed by God's choosing that particular "world." While Arminians may not be satisfied by such a view, it fits the centrists.

      Within God's knowledge and plan, there is and will ever be only one world, and neither God's knowledge nor His plan can fail; however, within this temporal world, there are myriad possibilities at every moment, each one genuinely available to us and within our ability to take, which is why men are accountable for not acting as they should and could have. No man perishes of necessity, but instead rejects a God who would have saved them if they had only been willing.

    8. No, that doesn't give up the argument since I'm not conceding the Arminian position, but responding to them on their own grounds for the sake of argument. Even if (ex hypothesi) humans have libertarian freewill, considered in isolation, it remains the case that if God makes a world with a foreseen future, then the future cannot deviate one iota what God foresaw. Having made a world that corresponds to his foreknowledge, the future is now cast in bronze. Which falsifies your contention that "within this temporal world, there are myriad possibilities at every moment, each one genuinely available to us and within our ability to take."

    9. Steve,

      Thank you for the good discussion. I'll consider what you've offered and move on for now.

  3. "Irresistible grace" is not a synonym for monergistic regeneration. You may believe that for God, the two concepts are inseparable, but as concepts, they are not synonymous.

  4. Danny,

    It seems to me that much is being assumed. Foreknowledge is not the decree (or "plan," as I prefer). God will effect His plan, so that plan is determinative insofar as God will do what is needed to bring it about in every detail, acting both transcendently and immanently. But foreknowledge itself does nothing to effect what is foreseen.

    While it is in the nature of God to perfectly bring about His plan, it is not in the nature of the world that all events are determined. While God's plan has been "locked in" from eternity past, men are not locked in to any particular decisions and actions. God's working in the world to accomplish His plan incorporates the foreknown freewill responses of men in every situation (both those that will actually occur as well as "counterfactuals"). So then, the question of whether events could turn out differently has two levels: 1, Could God's plan or foreknowledge fail?; and 2, Could any man have chosen or acted differently? While the answer to 1 is obviously no, I contend that there remains a valid, human level on which the answer to 2 is also yes--and does not contradict 1, because 1 depends not on how men CAN act but on how they WILL act. The reason this distinction is relevant is because it puts responsibility fully back onto the sinner where it belongs, removing the excuse.

  5. Ken,

    1. I have not said that foreknowledge is the decree (although I hold that much of God's foreknowledge is *based on* and *flows from* His decree Acts 4:25-28; Rom. 8:28-30). I said that God's foreknowledge is determinative *in the sense of* His creative decree. Foreknowledge alone is not the decree, whether one holds a Calvinist or non-Calvinist view of foreknowledge. As I said, once God acts in creating the world according to His foreknowledge *and* decree, or determinate purpose, He 'locks in' that timeline.

    2. I'm afraid that talk of 'all the foreknown freewill responses of men in every situation' both actual and counterfactual, while an interesting discusion, only avoids the pertinent issue which is that, in the *actual world*, if God foreknows that x will choose y at t, then x cannot do other than choose y at t. Granting Molinist assumptions, which Calvinists can do to a degree - that God in eternity past toyed with every counterfactual for men in every situation in order to bring about His plan, *once* He actualised *this world*, with His infallible knowledge that x will choose y at t, then it is impossible for x to choose other than y at t. This is not to say that x's choosing is not a free choice, which you must grant given your talk of God's weighing the counterfactuals of how x will *freely* choose.

    3. I believe the distinction between 'Can't' and 'Won't' is an equivocation.

    4. Finally, what does it even mean to say that x could choose other than y at t? This assumes that perhaps x would *want* to choose other than y at t. But if God looks down the timeline and counterfactual alternate timelines where x would choose other than y at t, yet chose to actualise the world in which x chooses y at t, then surely x would have *no inclination* to choose other than y at t, since *that* desire was in an alternate counterfactual timeline. Therefore, it seems the x's choosing y at t is indeed a free choice.

    1. Danny,

      You said, "I believe the distinction between 'Can't' and 'Won't' is an equivocation.

      " I believe that the "Can't" and "Won't" distinction in both determinism and in the inability of sinners is such a close parallel as to be the same issue. It is also the same question regarding the inability of Christ to sin. Any act for which a man could not act otherwise can have no moral merit or demerit. And as Edwards & Fuller said, to say that a man cannot will a thing is to say that he "could not will if he willed," which is self-contradictory. You said that, "if God foreknows that x will choose y at t, then x cannot do other than choose y at t;" but it does not necessarily follow. God foreknows that he WILL choose y at t, not that he must accept y due to having no other real option at t. As you see it, please tell me why God can only perfectly effect His plan by means of making all things necessary, as opposed to rendering all things merely certain (leaving all alternative possibilities intact and available, but with the certainty they will be rejected).

    2. Ken,

      Hence why I called it an equivocation. You initially stated in response to Steve that, 'Certainty is distinguishable from necessity: it's not that it can't be any different, but that it WON'T be any different.' (emphasis original.) Insofar as it goes, yes. It depends on the context. In the context of God's creating the world according to His foreknowledge and decree, where He 'locks in that world history' (yes, I am fond of Steve's phrasing here), then it is an equivocation to pit one against the other. It is not *merely* that it won't be any different, but that it *can't* be any different. It is not an either/or; it is the case that *both* are true.

      Again, this is not to confuse 'can't' with man's having no free choice. Man exercises free choices in accordance with his nature. Man's free choices are *taken into account* during God's 'pre-creation deliberations,' so to speak, and, on your own assumptions, God 'incorporates' man's 'freewill choices' both actual and counterfactual. Once God actualises the world and 'locks in that world history' then there is *no deviating* from that actualised world history. 'Free choice' is not in question here; the free choice was known by God prior to His actualising of the world in which that choice is realised. This is an imagined problem. And you are yet to answer how it is that x could choose other than y at t given God's infallible knowledge of x choosing y at t; you merely say that they won't. It seems to me that the 'dilemma' you imagine boomerangs back to your court (to mix metaphors).

      To your question, Ken, again, it is not that God 'can only perfectly effect His plan by means of making all things necessary...' The 'necessary' comes *once* He has created that world according to His foreknowledge and decree. The counterfactual world where x chooses other than y at t has been considered and rejected. This really is not to say that x will not consider all their possibilities when choosing y at t; x is not a puppet on a string. It is just that once God actualises the world *in which* x chooses y at t, then that world is set in stone. Free choice is not undermined here, Ken. It is simply that God *knows infallibly* x's free choice.

      In the counterfactual world where x chooses other than y at t, Ken, could x choose y at t instead?

  6. Danny,

    God transcends time, and immutably has is view all moments of the "timeline." But there is no temporal progression outside of time. God does not know anything “ahead of time” or before it occurs, because there is no before or after outside of time. God’s knowledge never changes. He has ever known all that He ever will know—but even this fails to accurately describe what is without any “before” and “after.” It is difficult, when discussing God’s atemporal view, to not slide into before-and-after thinking. When God has shared with men what is future to us (prophecy), His view is just as much of a “live” event as our own present. God is not describing merely what we will do, but rather, He sees the live action of what we freely choose to do in that future moment. If we had chosen differently in that moment then God would have foreseen the living out of that different decision. The fact is that we (retroactively from our point of view) write God’s foreknowledge with every temporal decision that we make, and there is no restrictive effect of foreknowledge whatsoever. Every logical proof that can be presented to the contrary incorrectly attempts to apply a “before” and “after” to God’s atemporal view. But God is not knowing it before it occurs--God knows it AS it occurs.

    There is more to prophecy than simple revelation. Any changes that such a prophecy might introduce must be factored in. Revealing a prophecy introduces a new variable into the world, and might cause a change to what will occur. A prophecy of destruction as a judgment may cause a person or people to repent, thereby prompting God to relent and not destroy. It is not only possible, but probable, that what God sees taking place in the future, in some cases, cannot be revealed to men without changing what will take place. And in all cases where God has foretold an event that has or is to come to pass, it was foreseen that the foretelling itself WOULD not change the outcome. So then, any revelation of what you will decide in the future has already factored in how such knowledge might affect your future decision, so that you remain completely free in that decision, and are still within the clear foresight of God.

    While I acknowledge the certainty that men will follow their greatest inclinations, and that history will pan out exactly as God has both "foreseen and planned," I contend that men are without excuse because of the genuinely possible alternatives presented to them and rejected and---as their consciences testify---that they should have and COULD have chosen differently. As Andrew Fuller and Jonathan Edwards taught, to speak of men being unable to do any differently is to speak figuratively, since they literally have it within the power of their hand to do otherwise; they simply can't find it within their hearts (and inclinations) to do otherwise, which is no excuse.

    1. Ken,

      I understand that God transcends time, and that there is no 'temporal progression' (as we would define it) outside of time.

      What I believe you have done is offer a view that does not do full justice to God's foreknowledge.

      As one who, at this moment in time (I had to!), holds to Presentism, I can agree with God's seeing our future actions 'live' as they happen in time. When I talk of a 'timeline' I do not hold to an Eternalist view where, as well as the present, the future and the past are in some sense taking place. I do not believe that the Battle of Hastings, for instance, is still raging in some sense. Of course, Hastings, England itself is still *spatially present*, but the Battle of Hastings itself is not somehow still raging. I do not hold that God looks on as a 'permanent loop' of time takes place.

      But of course, all this is ultimately irrelevant to God's exhaustive foreknowledge of all *future events prior to their taking place*, and so does nothing to undermine my point.

      God's witnessing the 'live' realisation of events does nothing to undermine His prior knowledge of those events in eternity past. When God created the world according to His foreknowledge and decree, mankind had yet to exist, so mankind itself cannot be the source of God's knowledge in some active, 'live' sense. Mankind's actions in time cannot 'inform' God of what He already knew would take place.

      To the rest of your post, Ken, I see you again misunderstanding my position when you speak of men having 'genuinely possible alternatives'. I do not deny man's free choice (see my response above.) God actualises a world in which man's free choices are excersised/realised. That is not the issue. The issue is that *once* God actualises that world then that timeline is set in stone. God's infallible knowledge of what will take place in that world *cannot* be circumvented. None of this is to deny that x's choice of y at t is a free choice.

    2. Danny,

      All the talk of God actualizing worlds seems to me to imply a kind of dominos effect, front-loading the causality. Once God chooses a world, then He has actualized it, so it is said, and nothing can be changed. While I agree with Molinism's understanding of counterfactuals, I disagree with this bundling of world circumstances and events. God actualizes His plan one moment at a time. He is always at work within the world, both immanently and transcendently, to effect His plan within this world full of freewill agents. It is His plan that is unchangeable, and not the world in which He works.

      You said, "God's witnessing the 'live' realisation of events does nothing to undermine His prior knowledge of those events in eternity past." There is no literal eternity "past." There's only eternity, outside of time. When God created the temporal world, He created time, and all moments were known to Him. Maybe the question comes down to which is logically prior. You hold that if God foresees a man's choice at T, then he cannot choose differently; whereas I hold that if he did choose differently, then God's foreknowledge would have reflected that different choice. God foreknowledge of men's choices is what it is because they have freely made those selections from among many genuinely possible alternatives. Since God knows how every man would act in any possible situation and under all variable circumstances, He can bring to bear circumstances and influences that will result in His plan being carried out in every freely made decision of every man. He need not render all alternative courses of action impossible or every decision necessary.

      If I have misunderstood you, I apologize, as that is not my intent.