Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Question 1: God's Knowledge and Freewill continued

As I noted yesterday, I do not think we can answer the question of God’s knowledge and freewill by changing the definition of freedom. In order for us to be free we must accept the libertarian view of freedom which says there may be things in our lives that influence our decisions, but these influences are not sufficient causes, meaning we are free to choose other than what we do. If this is the case, then how can we be free to make choices if God already knows what we will choose?

The first way to answer this question is to say that God sees all of our actions as the eternal now. What this means is that God is outside of time and he sees our past, our present, and our future as if it were one moment. This view says that if God can see all of our moments in one instant, then we can remain completely free when it comes to making choices. God only sees our actions, he does not cause them. John Wesley describes it like this,

God, looking on all ages, from the creation of the consummation, as a moment, and seeing at once whatever is in the hearts of all the children of men, knows everyone that does or does not believe, in every age or nation. Yet what he knows, whether faith or unbelief, in nowise caused by his knowledge. Men are free in believing and not believing as if he did not know it at all. John Wesley “On Predestination”

The second option for answering the question of God’s knowledge and human freedom is to believe that God has middle knowledge. This theory is often called Molinism, named after Luis de Molina. Middle knowledge gets its name because it comes between God’s natural knowledge and God’s free knowledge. God’s natural knowledge are the truths that are necessary, like mathematics and logical truths. God’s free knowledge is the knowledge that God has based on his decision to create. These truths are contingent because God could have created a world other than the one he created. Therefore, Middle knowledge is the knowledge of what all possible created free wills would do in all possible circumstances or states of affairs before God decided to create our world. God created a world (free knowledge) based on what he knew all created free wills would do in all possible circumstances (middle knowledge).

If you are not totally confused yet, lets move on to option three. If you are totally confused, just wait, it gets worse. The next option is called open knowledge. This view says that God knows all things that are possible to know, however, since future undetermined free actions are impossible to know for certain, our future free actions cannot be known to God with certainty. I am sure this sounds like blasphemy, but let me explain a little more.

Yesterday we asked this basic question, “Is God’s foreknowledge compatible with human freedom?” The open knowledge view answers the question by saying, “No, not in the traditional way that we understand God’s knowledge.” Therefore, the proponent of this view believes, as Jerry Walls notes, that “if an action is foreknown with infallible certainty, that action can’t be free. (Why I am not a Calvinist)” The open knowledge view basically says that God does know all things that are possible to be known, but there are certain things that are not possible to know, not even to God. This makes more sense if you view it in light of God's power. For example, God cannot create a married bachelor or a sqare cirlce. Likewise, God cannot know with certanity something that a free creature will before the event happens.

You may be asking, “Does this mean that God is not in complete control of the world.” I want to suggest that this view still places God as sovereign in our world. The open knowledge view allows for the future to be open ended, but God is still in control. Instead of God determining our future actions, he works through our free choices in order to accomplish his will. It is also important to note that God does know all the potential choices a person can make and all the possible scenarios the world can have so that no matter what choice we make, God can anticipate and plan for his response in order to accomplish his will.

Tomorrow, we will continue this topic and I will tell you which view I choose and why.

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