Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hard Questions

I love NPR and listen to it daily.  I especially have enjoyed the This I Believe segments.  I didn't hear this most recent one, but a friend forwarded it to me. The perspective is, I believe, probably a very common one among Christians in the scientific or academic community - and there is much to recommend it.

I'm more and more convinced God doesn't know the future – at least not the way we traditionally think he does.  The idea of open theism is not a new one, but is certainly gaining a lot of theological ground.  There are several deeply troubling aspects to the idea that God does know everything – not least of which is how his knowing (and the attendant inability to be wrong) doesn't therefore entail the outcomes prognosticated and therefore undermines the idea of a free universe.

ON the idea of God and evil, the author said, "I do not agonize over why God allows evil to occur" - which I agree is a very troubling question.  However, I don't agree with the article's answer.  It's letting God off the hook far too easily to say that he wound the world up, and is letting it wind down based on the "laws of physics" and the choices of man.  Because this doesn't answer how any omnipotent, all-knowing God who is benevolent and just would allow or create the kinds of horrors and evils (both natural and moral) that exist.  In other words, there is not an obvious way to reconcile the idea of a just and loving God with a creation rife with suffering, tragedy, horrific abuse and violence.  Even the most hard-hearted of humanity might blanche at standing idly by in the face of the kinds of evil and suffering human history has been witness to.  So how does a loving God? The traditional answers simply fall flat in the light of traditional Christian soteriology. There are, however, other answers.

Some great writings on this topic of evil and suffering here. Or, especially these two books by Marilyn McCord Adams.


Scott said...

What's interesting to me is that many of the early Christians had a redemptive reconciliation approach to soteriology.

Universalism was not derided as heresy until much later.

Len said...

First of all, were the words in purple yours or the NPR person's?

There are definitely issues with which we must wrestle and seek for further understanding. If God doesn't know the future, however, that also opens up a great big can of worms. What hope and confidence can believers have if God doesn't know what is going to happen? Do I stand at the next funeral I preach and say the following: "God has certainly promised in the Bible that there is a Heaven; Jesus has promised to come again. But let's not forget that He really doesn't know what is going to happen, so here's hoping for the best......but don't forget, we could be screwed."

CJR said...

Len -

All the words were mine.

You wrote,

"If God doesn't know the future...[w]hat hope and confidence can believers have[?]"

Our hope lies in God's ability to bring his will into fruition - in his power to execute and create and direct. If God is all-powerful, he can make any future he desires come to pass. Further, if he doesn't know the future (because he chooses to allow freedom to exist), we are truly free to act and enjoin with him in his great work.

God not knowing the future is not a problem theologically. It is only a problem because, post-Augustine, we have so syncretized our theology with classical Greek philosophy that we can't imagine a god who doesn't conform to Plato's Ideal (demiurge).

Having a God who does know the future is much more problematic. There's a lot of hand-waving on this point, but at the end of the day, if God knows (not causes) I will go to the store tomorrow at 9am and buy a gallon of milk, and God is perfect and infallible and therefore cannot be wrong, my future is sealed and closed and I cannot choose to not go to the store, etc.

I know, I know, someone will answer with C. S. Lewis's response regarding God being "outside" of time and therefore he's seeing all of history "all at once", not as a sequence as we finite creatures do and therefore him seeing the future doesn't constrain free choice. No offense, but that just doesn't make sense. If God acts, he is subject to sequence. If he is subject to sequence, he is a part of time. If he sees something happen in the future and he cannot be mistaken, then that thing must happen.

There's just no way around that. I've read the counter-arguments and the idea if divine middle-knowledge and the concepts of Molinarianism, etc. and they just don't wash.

Len said...

I have a lot of problems with this Jeff. First of all you criticize God for not doing something about the problems of this world. I believe that your very thought that God is standing idly by while all this suffering occurs is wrong. His working isn't always obvious, but that doesn't mean it isn't there.

You then you say that since He is all powerful we can join in His work which will come to pass. If He isn't all knowing, then we cannot have confidence that His will can come to pass. Under your scenario we cannot get away from the possibility, however remote you may believe it to be, of playing for the losing team. If there is any shadow of a doubt with God, then how can we be sure that He is what He says? We cannot.

Having a God who doesn't know the future is a problem. It is a problem for no other reason than, in the Bible, He tells us things that will take place. "I will come again" is a definite statement about the future. Does Jesus know if He will return or not?

Your illustration about God knowing what you will do therefore you must do it is inconsistent. God's knowledge does not force you to do this. It does not follow logically that just because God knows then you must. Jesus believed and thought this way. In Matthew 26:24 Jesus says, "The Son of Man goes as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born." This verse shows both God's foreknowledge and man's free will. Jesus is following the plan laid out from the very beginning. That is foreknowledge. Judas chose to betray Him. That is free will. Judas is held accountable for his choice. If he truly had no choice in the matter and Jesus still holds him accountable then we now have an unjust Jesus. Are you ready to defend the position of an unjust God?

Elsewhere the Gospel writers indicate that Jesus knew the hearts of people and what they would do. Are you taking the position that He forced people to do certain things?

You may, in the end, be right. And I definitely agree that there is much here to wrestle with. I would many times rather someone have a questioning faith than a blind faith. But I feel that you too casually dismissing some solid theology.

CJR said...

Len -

If I gave the impression that I arrived at my position off-handedly or dismissively, let me be clear that I did not. I've read half a dozen theological texts on the topic along with a dozen or more papers. I held the position you hold now for years and did not discard it or abandon it quickly, easily or eagerly, but only after careful study, deliberation, dialogue and prayer.

"ou criticize God for not doing something about the problems of this world. I believe that your very thought that God is standing idly by while all this suffering occurs is wrong. His working isn't always obvious, but that doesn't mean it isn't there."

Len, you can believe whatever you like. I'm talking about what is actually happening. If you believe God cares and has the power to save people from evil, suffering or tragedy, why does it occur? Are you denying that evil and tragedy occur? If not, please explain how God has stopped it, because it appear to me to continue to happen. I did not "criticize" God - that is your incorrect characterization. I merely stated what anyone observing human history can readily see: human suffering is real and rampant and there is no decrease in it or relief from it. God may "make up for it" later - we can believe that by faith if we choose. But it would be dishonest to say he's stopping it from occuring.

"If He isn't all knowing, then we cannot have confidence that His will can come to pass."

I already answered this. This is what it means to be all-powerful. God can, at any instant, make exactly what he desires happen. So when he tells me he will come again, there is no greater power than God - and nothing can stand against or thwart God's power - so I have absolute confidence he will come again. This is not a difficult concept, Len.

"God's knowledge does not force you to do this."

I made this clarification in the earlier comment. God doesn't have to cause something to happen for his foreknowledge to be a serious problem for human free will. Whether God causes it to happen or not is irrelevant. Let me try to help you understand this by asking you to clearly answer this question: "If God knows on August 10th that I will commit suicide on August 22nd, is it possible that I won't commit suicide on August 22nd?" If you say "yes. it is possible", then God could be mistaken - so he is not all-knowing. If you say "no, it is not possible", then I am not free to choose. Which do you believe?

In the example you quote, did God know it would be Judas? If he did, was Judas free to choose to not betray Jesus? How?

"If he truly had no choice in the matter and Jesus still holds him accountable then we now have an unjust Jesus. Are you ready to defend the position of an unjust God?"

You've really worked to miss the point here. It is your position that creates an unjust God, not mine. I believe that Jesus just knew someone would betray him - and that his infinite knowledge about the present and the hearts of men gave him a pretty clear idea of who it would probably be. But there remained the possibility that it wouldn't be Judas. Had it not been Judas, it would've been someone else. Thus, God would bring about his perfect will without violating Judas' free will and could rightly hold Judas' accountable for his free choice. Under your view, Judas either had no free choice or God might be wrong. It is your position that requires an unjust God, not mine.

You really seem to be myopic here - either not understanding my position, or maybe not understanding your own.

I'm saying God is all-knowing (about the past, the present and the hearts of men, but not about the free choice men will make in the future). I'm saying God is all-powerful (that he can accomplish anything he sets his will to - nothing and thwart or defeat him). I'm saying God chooses to allow some degree of human freedom (meaning that God hasn't created a system that boxes us in either by His knowledge or his actions). I'm saying God is just (that he holds us accountable for the free choices we make, but not the actions we have no choice in).

You are saying God knows the future perfectly. You are saying we have free will. You have not yet reconciled the idea that God knows exactly what I will before I do it - while explaining how, with that perfect knowledge in God's mind, I can choose to do something else (thereby making God mistaken).

CJR said...

Len -

For detailed study, here are the works I am familiar with and have read myself (from Open Theism's bibliography, which I referenced earlier):


The Openness of God: The Relationship of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Free Will, Richard Rice, 1980, Review and Herald Pub. Association, ISBN 0-8127-0303-0
This book sets out the basic ideas and arguments but isn't the greatest treatment of the topic.

The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God, Clark Pinnock editor, et al, 1994, InterVarsity Press ISBN 0-8308-1852-9, Paternoster Press (UK), ISBN 0-85364-635-X (followup to Rice book includes contribution from him)
A much better treatment than the Rice book (IMO)

The God Who Risks: A Theology of Providence, John Sanders, 1998. InterVarsity Press, ISBN 0-8308-1501-5
Probably the best overall introduction to the ideas and positions,

God, Time, and Knowledge, William Hasker, 1998, Cornell University Press, ISBN 0-8014-8545-2
Hasker's not a great writer, but he is a tremendous thinker. This is worth the time.


No Other God: A Response to Open Theism, John M. Frame, P & R Publishing, 2001, ISBN 0-87552-185-1
As robust of a response as I'm familiar with - it captures all the arguments I've read elsewhere.

Multiple views

Divine Foreknowledge: 4 Views, James Beilby and Paul Eddy (editors), et al, 2001, InterVarsity Press, ISBN 0-8308-2652-1
Pretty good summary of the various perspectives, pro and con.

Related work

The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge & Human, William Lane Craig, 2000, Wipf & Stock Publishers, ISBN 1-57910-316-2
I'm a big fan of Craig and have read several of his works. However, his treatment here is obtuse and unwieldy and ultimately doesn't make the grade.

Time and Eternity: Exploring God's Relationship to Time, William Lane Craig, 2001, Crossway Books, ISBN 1-58134-241-1
Same comment as above. This is more of a layman's treatment of the topic covered in the previous work, but still falls short of making a compelling case.

Len said...

I am going to need some time to familiarize myself with this issue, Jeff. I'll begin with the books you recommend, but it may take me awhile to get do it. I ask for patience and guidance on your part.

Please forgive me for insinuating that your change of positions was weak and hasty. That wasn't my intent and I shouldn't have implied that. If I remember anything about Ole Main it is that Jeff is a studier!

One of my big hang ups is on the idea that because God knows, it must happen. Just because God knows what you will do doesn't mean that He forced you to do it. He can have knowledge without coercing us to do something. It will happen, not because God makes you do it, but because He knows what you will choose. Your free will is still intact whether or not God knows your choice. Your focus seems to be: since God knows, it will happen. My focus is: it will happen and God knows this.

As we go enter this and future conversations I think it would help if we knew where we stood on the issue of Scripture (and other things). I still hold to a pretty traditional view that the original manuscripts were inspired by God and were without error. It is our responsibility today to learn the language and culture and apply our knowledge to the study of God's Word. Interpretation should be done appropriately, which doesn't necessarily mean literally. Let me know where we agree and disagree as that will frame the discussion.

CJR said...

Len -

See my recent post on Scott's blog about my attitude toward these ideas as they relate to Scripture.

In my opinion, this particular issue has nothing to do with the view of Scripture - holding a high or low view won't make a difference. The subject texts are open enough to be interpreted either way. What matters more are the preconceived notions about God's character we bring to the texts.

It seems to me that you believe if you make two apparently contradictory statements ("something will/must happen" and "I am free to choose what I do"), but then say "It's not a contradiction", then it's not a contradiction.

That's not the way I think it works.

If something appears to be a logical contradiction, you're going to need to come up with a reasonable framework to explain how it is not a contradiction.

So, in your model,

Fact #1:
"[God] knows what you will choose."

Fact #2:
"Your free will is still intact"

This is a contradiction. If someone knows [perfectly and infallibly] in advance what I will choose, how can I choose otherwise? If I cannot choose otherwise, how can you claim I am free to choose?

I don't know how much further we can go with the discussion until you answer the question I asked before:

"If God knows on August 10th that I will commit suicide on August 22nd, is it possible that I won't commit suicide on August 22nd?" If you say "yes. it is possible", then God could be mistaken - so he is not all-knowing. If you say "no, it is not possible", then I am not free to choose. Which do you believe?

CJR said...

Len -

Take all the time you need. I'm not trying to convince anyone, just sharing what I've come to believe.

Most of the folks who struggle with the question are confusing the issue with whether God is "causing" or "making" me do something. I again state that whether God "makes" you do something is not at issue or relevant.

If God knows something will happen, because he is perfect and all-knowing, that thing must happen - it's locked into place in an inalterable way. The fact that God isn't "making" it happen is irrelevant to the issue, the question is can I choose to not do it and thereby make God mistaken?

The problem derives from the fact that we take to the Scripture our own definitions about God's attributes of omniscience and omnipotence along with our idea of human free will.

These three things are simply incompatible and one or the other will have to shift to make room for all three.

One possible solution is that we aren't free.

Another solution is that our definition of omniscience is wrong. I think this is the right solution. God is all-knowing - he knows everything that can be known, but the future in a universe that allows free will is unknowable. Thus, God remains all-knowing, and my future choices remain free. Through God's omnipotence his will remains inalterable and inevitable.

len said...

Jeff, I can't answer that question in a way which will satisfy you because you are saying my beliefs are not an option. But they are a viable option, and many great Christians have thought this way. Yes, they (and I) may be mistaken, but that is their belief. My option is #3, that God's knowledge does not force my will. He sees what we will choose because He is all-knowing, but I am still free to choose. I don't choose it because God knows it, He knows it because He can see what I will choose. My free will has not been violated because I have still made the choice.

If you commit suicide on the 22nd and God knows it on the 10th has God killed you? Is God the one responsible for your death? How is He responsible? God's knowledge does not make you do something. You try to tell me that is not the case, but (and maybe I am slow) I just don't see it. The fact that God isn't making it happen is exactly the issue. His knowledge and our free will are both intact and are not in contradiction. It is not a contradiction because God knows what you will choose. He hasn't made the decisions for you, you have made it yourself. The word is choose.

I will do my best to defend my statements and hope you will do the same. Please explain to me, or point me to a source, how God's knowledge has crossed the line into coercion and He has forced you to do something against your will. Again, I haven't studied this as you have, primarily because it has not been an issue within my particular denomination and other circles. That's why I am so glad to have stumbled upon (maybe I was predestined!) your site and subsequently Scott's.

Is it just me or am I detecting some bitterness or maybe shortness on your part about this issue? I would love to discuss this with you but hope to keep it civil. Is this an issue we can agree to disagree on?

CJR said...

Len -

No bitterness! If I seem a bit short it's because I think you are evading the issue.

I'm not saying you're beliefs are not an option. Your belief is that God knows the future and that my will remains free. Fine. That's your belief and that is an option - many people - smart people - believe that. What's at issue is whether your beliefs have been rationally thought through and established or accepted without critical thinking. What I am saying is you haven't yet (in this dialogue anyway) defended how your beliefs make sense.

As I said, all you have to do is answer the question (whether I like the answer or not) that has been asked several times. Instead, you seem to refuse to answer it - and I wonder if it's because you know that any rational answer to the question presents real problems for your point of view on this issue?

So, instead, you keep going back to the non sequitor about "God making" versus "God knowing". Once again, that is irrelevant as I have shown earlier.

Just to be clear, and as I have now repeatedly said, I make no claims that God is making us do something in the future (though he could if he chose to).

Nonetheless, if my future choices are already fully known and knowable beforehand, my choices can not be free.

The word is choose

Just calling my decision a "choice" doesn't mean it's a choice or that's free.

All you have to do is tell me how my future actions can be perfectly known before hand while at the same time remain perfectly free. That remains the central part of the question you have yet to answer.

If you can't answer it, that's fine - admit you don't know how it works, but you will study and think about it. But don't dodge the question! That is a bit frustrating.

There are many smart people who hold opinions on both sides of this issue. There are several sophisticated responses to the question I have asked you to answer. The writings of William Lane Craig (which I referenced earlier) provide several responses. Many of the responses follow the position of Molina - a medieval Jesuit priest who understood the problems of the question I've presented to you. Molina developed a complicated and clever response dealing with the idea of God's middle knowledge - that is, knowledge of future counterfactuals wherein God can in some way know my future free choices contingently in a way that preserves my free will. I ultimately find the argument flawed, but it is at least a reasoned response to the question that attempts to reason through the prima facie irrationality of God's foreknowledge and man's free will.

I don't know about Free Will Baptists, but since, as I understand it, FWBs primarily diverge from Calvinism exactly at the point of the consideration of man's free will, I feel certain there has to be a history of thought on this topic - since all the relevant writings come from the Arminian arm of Protestantism.

At any point, we can agree to disagree. As I said before, I'm not trying to compel anyone to believe what I believe. But if we're going to discuss it, I am going to press you to defend your statements. And if you make irrational claims, I'm going to say, "that's irrational" and ask you to explain it further. If that's short or bitter, I don't know how else to approach it. Regardless, I'm not upset or angry or anything like that!

CJR said...

Len -

As a further reference, you might want to check out Paul Helms' blog and his recent post on the various views. He is not an open theist, but is instead Reformed (so he doesn't like the Arminian view either). I don't agree with him, but he does understand the difficulty of the traditional view and has attempted to capture a summary of how to deal with its problems. Here is a specific excerpt you may find useful on his summary of the Arminian view (to which I think you subscribe):


By contrast with open theism, Arminianism does attempt to formulate doctrines of divine foreknowledge and predestination. For both the tradition and for Arminianism, the number of the elect is unalterably fixed. Yet, as we shall see, the Arminian account of divine foreknowledge is fundamentally different from that of the tradition. God elects those whom he foreknows will, of their own free will, come to Christ. God may provide varying degrees of assistance, depending upon the variety of Arminianism in question, but not even the strongest degree of such assistance infringes upon the will's freedom to choose Christ or (at the very same moment) freely to reject him.

In attempting such formulations of the compatibility of divine foreknowledge and human libertarian freedom many Arminians currently employ the doctrine of middle knowledge, a tactic which, as we have noted, goes back to Arminius himself. We shall briefly consider such a version of Arminianism in what follows, although it is unnecessary for us to enter the debate about the intelligibility or plausibility of the idea of middle knowledge itself. We shall simply consider the sort of doctrine of grace and predestination that Molinism delivers.

Middle knowledge is the view that besides the knowledge that God has of all possibilities—known as his natural knowledge—and the knowledge he has of what he freely wills or decrees—known as his free knowledge—God also has knowledge of what possible human creatures, possessed of libertarian freedom, would freely do if placed in various circumstances. Guided by this knowledge, God wills that particular world order which overall suits his purposes. What attracts many to middle knowledge is that it promises a scheme which will preserve both libertarian free will and 'perfect providence'.

It is a central feature of middle knowledge that God deals in 'world orders'—or sets of possible worlds. The various possible worlds that God knows by his middle knowledge are not created or willed by him. His knowledge of that possible world which he creates depends on what the free creatures in that world would do were that world to be the actual world. God selects the world which best realizes the ideals that he wants exemplified. This has significant theological implications.

For one thing, it reverses the order of explanation of human actions. In the tradition, God's decreeing of human actions is sufficient for the occurrence of those actions logically prior to the disclosure of his revealed will, the contents of which and the reaction to which serve to fulfill his decree. Everything is ultimately explained by reference to the divine decree. For Molina, on the other hand, human actions are not explicable in terms of God’s prior decree, but his prior decree is explicable in terms of the possible free actions, creaturely and divine, which God knows by his middle knowledge, some of which he then creates. And similarly with divine foreknowledge. Given middle knowledge, divine foreknowledge cannot be only God's knowledge of what he then decrees. Rather, it includes knowledge of what he can't decree, the exact outcomes of his creatures' free actions. Selecting one of these possible outcomes, God brings it to pass and as a consequence foreknows it. In middle knowledge, the idea of God’s two wills is also reversed. God's absolute will, which is that no creature should sin, is subordinated to the world order that God chooses to create, a world whose choice is partly (as we noted) determined in the light of God's middle knowledge of the free creaturely choices that will be made in that world in reaction to his revealed will. Yet in the tradition, God's decreeing of human actions is logically prior to the disclosure of his revealed will to his creatures.

Despite all this, the Molinist may appear to endorse the tradition. For example, Molina upheld a doctrine of particular providence. But in what sense? God is concerned with the particular because of the respect he has for the particular choices of libertarian freedom and because he knows by his middle knowledge how they fit into the overall scheme of things, the rest of that particular world order. Yet in the tradition predestination is the destining of a fixed number of people, those chosen by God, to eternal salvation. For the Molinist, the predestination of individuals is based upon God's foreknowledge of what, if they were created, they would freely do, and his decision to create them is based on whether predestining those individuals (i.e. creating that world in which they freely choose for Christ and so are predestined) is part of that possible world that he chooses to create. 'The act of predestination is simply God's instantiating one of the world orders known to him via his middle knowledge'. However, the fact that Scripture contains statement s of God’s knowledge of what would have happened if things had been different (e.g. I Sam. 23, 8-14, Matt. 11. 21-4.) does not establish middle knowledge, only the fact that God could have decreed what he has not in fact decreed,

The gap between the tradition and Arminianism may appear to close further because according to Molinism predestination is gratuitous in that it is not based upon foreseen merit. This is because the choice of those predestined is subordinated to that particular 'world order' that God determines. So their being predestined (and not others) is simply a logical consequence for certain individuals of God's choice of world order x (a world which, as it happens, includes them and the good use they’ll freely make of God’s grace) rather than world order y (a world in which they make a bad use of grace). 'Given God's immutable determination to create a certain order, those who God knew would respond to his grace are predestined to be saved’. That is, their predestination to salvation is logically subordinate to that world being created.

By contrast, we have noted that the tradition upholds the New Testament teaching that personal election, based upon God's knowledge of his own will, is fundamental to an understanding of predestination. Predestination is fundamentally concerned with the destining of certain individuals to eternal salvation, those chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, just those individuals (no more and no less) eternally chosen for that end. But perfectly clear New Testament statements regarding predestination, when they are 'molinised', fall within a framework of divine middle knowledge about which these New Testament texts say or imply nothing. Rather, the New Testament argues that the world order decreed by God is for the glory of God and for the ultimate benefit of the predestined (‘all things are yours’ (I Cor.3.21-3); ‘it is all for your sake’ (2 Cor. 4.15); ‘all things work together for good’ (Rom. 8. 28)). As noted earlier, Thomas Aquinas echoes this New Testament emphasis. So according to Scripture and the tradition, God's reason for choosing that world order is chiefly that just these, and no others, are predestined. There are many possible worlds in which others are chosen and predestined than those who in fact, in the actual world, are chosen. None of these worlds is created.

But according to Craig, God's ultimate ends do not include the salvation of the elect. Writing of Molina's attempt to reconcile divine sovereignty and human freedom, Craig says

He [God] directly causes certain circumstances to come into being and others indirectly by causally determined secondary causes. Free creatures, however, he allows to act as he knew they would when placed in such circumstances, and he concurs with their decisions in producing in being the effects they desire. Some of these effects God desires unconditionally and so wills positively that they occur, but others he does not unconditionally desire, but nevertheless permits them because of his overriding desire to allow creaturely freedom and knowing that even these sinful acts will fit into the overall scheme of things so that God's ultimate ends in human history will be accomplished.

On middle knowledge there cannot be a personal election that is wholly of grace. For according to Molinism the efficacy of grace is not to be found in the inefficacious divine call itself which issues from the decree of election, but in what men and women will freely do with the divine call that they receive, and how this fits into the overall best world order."

CJR said...

Len -

A little more background on the view you espouse:

"Simple Foreknowledge

God attains His foreknowledge of all future events and free-will choices by "looking" into the future and observing humanity. Election and predestination are then based upon this foreknowledge.


Simple Foreknowledge is the term used to describe the type of foreknowledge Arminian theologians find in the Bible. Simple Foreknowledge is not based on God's pre-determining of all events, but on His ability to "see" the future. He has chosen to give His creatures free-will, but He can see what choices they will make before time begins. In this view, predestination and election come after God aquires foreknowledge. Once God looks ahead and sees who will choose Him, He elects those to salvation. The proof text for this view is usually Rom. 8:28-30. Here an ordered process of God's working in and with man is presented. Because foreknew comes before predestined, it is inferred that foreknowledge is the basis of election.

Some Theological Difficulties

Without answering the question of to what extent man has free will, we can find some problems with Simple Foreknowledge. [Eph 1:5 says the elect were chosen "according to His good pleasure and will[/v] and Eph. 1:11 says "according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will." These passages seem to indicate that God chose the elect for reasons other than the content of His foreknowledge. Whether or not we affirm free will or some compatibility between predestination and free will, we must acknowledge that His election is in some way rooted in His will. With this in mind, it is very difficult to say that God's foreknowledge can come from His looking into the future at human free-will choices alone.

Some Logical and Philophical Difficulties

Simple Foreknowledge does not provide God with any real ability to "help" in the present. He may have exhaustive knowledge of everything at every time, but because He already knows what will happen, He is powerless to change it. The future is already known. Simple Foreknowledge is then often further defined so as not to include any actions of God. This way He can still inform His prophets of future events. But God remains powerless to change the future. If Billy were to ask God if He should marry Kate or Jennifer, God could only tell Billy what will happen. If God's foreknowledge says that Billy will marry Kate and the marriage will not work out, this is all God can tell Billy. God could not tell him to marry Jennifer instead because God already knows what will happen. This makes prayer not only an empty exercise, but a futile one.


The Simple Foreknowledge view does not adequately explain God's foreknowledge or how He aquires it. From scripture, we must affirm that God's makes choices about election and predestination based at least partially on His will. Therefore if foreknowledge is at least somewhat based on man's free-will it must also be based on God's will, which precludes foreknowledge from being simply a snapshot of future human free-will choices. Also, the future must be at least in some sense under God's control for His foreknowledge of it to be useful. Otherwise, He is a slave to His own foreknowledge."

On that last point, it turns out that humanity is a slave to God's foreknowledge as well. As I said, this is the difficulty (or at least one of them!) of the position you hold.