Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Prescience Prophecy Problem

Genesis 15:5-6: He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be. Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

What a monumental event. Did God foreknow Abram’s belief? Most Christians say yes. The question I would like to ask is, is such a belief consistent with simple foreknowledge?

Simple foreknowledge is the view that God simply knows the future. Those who hold to simple foreknowledge are not divine determinists; they hold to libertarian freedom. Likewise they are not Molinists, God does not have middle knowledge (the idea that God knows what people would choose in various settings). Also they are not open theists, they believe God has exhaustive foreknowledge. They say God simply knows the future. 

But simple foreknowledge is providentially useless. Consider the grandfather paradox (i.e. you go back in time an kill your own grandfather). Similarly, on simple foreknowledge, God cannot change the future He foreknows. It’s logically “too late” to do anything about it. This is because on simple foreknowledge, God foreknows the future because it is future.

I argue that by extension, on simple foreknowledge, God cannot foreknow the results of what will happen based on a prophecy. Imagine, on hearing he will become a great nation, Abram says, “this ain’t for me” and does not do the things needed to become the father of a great nation. God’s statement about the future would turn out to be wrong. Simple foreknowledge cannot account for this prophecy because the prophecy shapes the past of the foreknown event.

God’s telling Abram he will be the father of a great nation motivated Abram to believe and to try to become one. Abram’s actions result from and are logically dependent on God’s telling him the future. So the prophecy logically precedes and helps explain the foretold events. But on simple foreknowledge, God knows the future because it is future. Foreknown events logically precede and help explain God’s foreknowledge. The simple foreknowledge view is in trouble - God’s foreknowledge of Abram’s actions is logically before and after Abram’s actions. That’s a contradiction.

This rends a huge hole in God’s foreknowledge, under the simple foreknowledge view. The downstream consequences of Abram’s faith are history shaping. Any events resulting from any prophecy could not be foreknown, under a simple foreknowledge view.

The answer is of course that God knew that His prophecy would motivate Abram to believe and obey. But that’s beyond simple foreknowledge, and gets into middle knowledge.

8 comments:

SLW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SLW said...

on simple foreknowledge, God cannot change the future He foreknows

That assumes God's knowing is locked time. God knows outside of time, without regard to time. How can iteration (e.g. the grandfather paradox) be an issue to an omniscient, omnipresent, omnitemporal being? Simple foreknowledge only requires that God knows because he simply knows not that he foreknows because it is the future.

Godismyjudge said...

SLW,

I agree, I think. If one gives up on the idea that the future is explitorily prior to foreknowledge, then yes there wouldn't be a problem. However, that gives up one of the main ways used to reconcile God's foreknowledge with free will.

As far as God being outside of time, I am afraid that creates more issues then it solves.

God be with you,
Dan

SLW said...



Only if one does not see that God knowing is observationally without time whereas are willing is in time.

As far as God being outside of time, I am afraid that creates more issues then it solves

I don't know about that. It matches what is revealed in scripture, without going outside of revelation to play "I wonder how he did that?" That is what Molinism seems to me to be.

SLW said...

Sorry, that should be *our*. Too many distractions!

Godismyjudge said...

SLW,

Hey, hey, hey, now. Don't hate on Molinism. :-)

If you seriously want to get into it, that's fine, but I suspect it will take some time.

God be with you,
Dan

Anonymous said...

Hey guys;

I would apprecaite looking in on a disccusion where the two of you 'get into it', as Dan put it, on this topic. I didn't much like Dan's comments on how prophecy and simple foreknowledge don't seem to work together. How did he put it? Oh yeah, it ' rends a huge hole' in things. I didn't much like it because it's got me thinking and digging ever since I read it :^)I think an open discussion between the two of you would be a big help to me, if not to many others.

If you guys don't have the time to get into things here, then could you both direct to some online articles/discussion where Molinism and SF are compared/debated?

Grace and peace,
David D.

Godismyjudge said...

Hi David,

I would be happy to discuss it futher, if you or SLW would like to.

As far as recommendations, I recommend Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views. William Lane Craig represents Molinism, Greg Boyd represents Open Theism, Paul Helm represents Calvinism and David Hunt represents simple foreknowledge. The book has some good interaction without getting overly complex.

God be with you,
Dan