Does Foreknowledge Change Anything?

One of the common rebuttals to Calvinism is the claim that predestination = God’s foreknowing our future decision(s) to choose or not choose him.  It’s an attractive position.  It allows human dignity and responsibility yet also posits a timeless God.  We will call it weak foreknowledge (Fw).  

While I’m sympathetic to this position and want to hold to something like Fw at the end of the day, I am not sure it delivers on what it promises.  It claims the following:

(1)  God foresees my future decisions.
(1a) God does not cause my future decisions.

Outside of Open Theism, every non-Calvinist agrees with these propositions.  We must then add some conclusions about God that both sides (open theism excluded) hold.

(2) God’s knowledge is immediate and nondiscursive.  

In other words, God doesn’t have to figure stuff out or reason his way to a solution that he didn’t know.  Yes, I understand the verses but every tradition holds those as anthropomorphic.  

(3) God’s essence is simple and immutable.  

(3) says that God doesn’t change.

(2) and (3) allow us to add another premise:

(4) God’s knowledge is fixed.

How does all of this relate to the discussion on predestination? If God’s knowledge is fixed and immutable, and if God sees into eternity future (whatever that means), then aren’t my actions just as fixed?

(1*) God’s knowledge of my future decisions is a knowledge of what I will do.

It’s not clear how I am still free on the quasi-Arminian gloss.  Sure, I as an acting free agent freely employ my will to choose God (JBA–I actually hold to something like this position), but the end result hasn’t changed   Let’s add the classic libertarian hypothesis:

(5) I could have acted otherwise.

Can (5) obtain?  It’s not immediately clear that it can.  Premises (3) and (4) point to a fixed knowledge of future events.  Has the Arminian’s commitment to (1) logically reduced to Calvinism?

Maybe not.  The advocate of LFW (Libertarian Free Will) has several responses:

(6) God’s knowledge of future events does not destroy certainty.

Even Charles Hodge will agree with this point (Systematic Theology, II: 294-306).  Hodge doesn’t actually say much on this point, simply that certainty and free choice aren’t exclusive.  That is true, but he doesn’t tell us why they aren’t exclusive.  

William Lane Craig, an Arminian, clarifies: certainty is a predicate of persons, of knowers.  Necessity is a predicate of events known (Craig, “The Middle Knowledge View,” in Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, 127-128).  Bruce McCormack agrees: “God’s foreknowledge gives him certainty with regard to what will happen.  Whether the events God knows with certainty take place necessarily or contigently is a function of the natural and historical conditions under which they take place” (McCormack, “The Actuality of God,” in Engaging the Doctrine of God, 205).

At this point the LFW’s commitment to (1) seems to obtain and functions as a logically coherent alternative to Calvinism.   However, there still lurks some ambiguities.

(7) Does the Bible teach this?   

I can’t go into the exegetical points here.  I am simply trying to work through some logical underpinnings.

(8) Granting (6) obtains, am I still really, really free?

The objection argues that (6) inevitably collapses back into (1*).  It still appears to be the case that I am going to do this set of actions (Sx) and not another set of actions (Sy).  (8) appears to be a psychological rebuttal to (6), not a logical one.  In other words, even if (8) obtains, (6) is still logically coherent.  However, the LFW has one more option:

(9) The doctrine of Middle Knowledge allows one to affirm (5), (6), and (1*).  

But that’s for another post.


Can the advocate of LFW offer (1) as a rebuttal and alternative to Calvinism? Phrase another way, (1) is logically coherent.  However, the ultimate truth of (1) depends on other exegetical variables.   



About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
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