Friday, December 16, 2011

Other Views on the Middle Knowledge Texts

I recently posted a list of verses teaching God knows what we would choose under various settings.  (link)   Steve Hays responded, providing two alternative views of these texts. The first grants that the passages teach what a person would in various settings but denies we are choosing1. Here’s Steve’s suggested alternative:

God knows what might have happened because he knows how things would turn out had he decreed that alternative.

And that’s also consistent with God as the final source of every alternate possibility. What’s possible is a measure of divine omnipotence. God knows what God is capable of doing. Divine omnipotence is the engine generating those possibilities. (link)

I don’t think omnipotence (i.e. God’s capabilities) is enough to account for these passages. Imaging God creates Santa (which of course He could do). God could have Santa deliver toys this year or He could have Santa occupy Wall Street instead. How does He know which would happen if Santa existed? God must not only be able to do either, but He must choose one.

The Dominicans (early opponents of the Molinists) said God decrees not only what will happen, but also what would happen under every possible scenario. If you believe in God’s decree about what would happen in every hypothetical world, then you could use that view to account for these texts. And they accuse me of imposing speculative philosophy on scripture. James White once said middle knowledge reminded him of the Star Trek episode when Spock had a beard. Welcome to the club.

Steve also posted a link to Brandon’s post suggesting that in Matthew 11:21-23, Christ uses a figure of speech meaning Capernaum is more hard-hearted than Sodom. (link)   Unquestionably Christ is teaching Capernaum is more hard-hearted than Sodom, but how is He teaching that? Are we looking at a divine guess? No way I am buying that. Is it exaggeration? Rhetorical exaggeration works if the person knows you are exaggerating. If I tell my kids, have some of this salsa, but not that one or smoke will come out of your ears, it works, because they know I am exaggerating. But is it obvious Christ is exaggerating? No, what He is saying is plausible. Besides, His point is better made with the truth.

Brandon also suggests that in 1 Corinthians 2:8, if the leaders knew who Christ was, they could not have killed Him. Granted, it would have been much harder, but impossible? What about Satan or Judas? They faced hard evidence and still rebelled.


1At least what I mean by choosing and what I strongly believe the bible means by choosing - Steve and I had an extended debate on this, which I don’t mean to reopen, but clearly we ended with different views (link))


guilderbig said...

I am not sure why these texts would be debated with Steve Hays. Molinists and Calvinists are hardly in disagreement about this. These texts (or at least some of them) teach the truth of counterfactual statements about human free will. But who denies that? Only open theists and proponents of the simple foreknowledge view are logically committed to the denial of counterfactuals, and maybe Molinists if the grounding objection goes through. But when arguing against Calvinists, those texts are irrelevant apart from the question-begging assertion that the free will of whose counterfactuals these texts affirm is libertarian rather than compatibilist. Now you may happen to also have a sound, independant argument for why free will must be libertarian, but surely it is not taught in these texts, is it?

Godismyjudge said...

Yes, my reasons are primarily independent although Matthew 11:21-23 does seem to be a significant problem for irresistable grace which in turn implies LFW.

God be with you,

guilderbig said...

Sounds fair!