Foreknowledge = Determinism? And God's Character.

Post Reply
Si
Posts: 95
Joined: Tue Aug 23, 2016 1:03 am
Location: Wisconsin

Foreknowledge = Determinism? And God's Character.

Post by Si » Mon Apr 16, 2018 7:43 pm

If God has a total and exhaustive knowledge of the future, if he knows every single thing that will come to pass, how can man do anything but act in a way that fulfills God's foreknowledge? If, before creation, God knew precisely who would be saved, and knew who would go to hell, can man go against such foreknowledge? How do you separate God's foreknowledge from his will as creator? Or in other words, how is what he foreknows not a part of creation itself? Arminians like to say that their system reflects best on the character of God, but I am not so sure. Before a single atom was created, God knew about the fall, he knew about sin, and he knew about the damnation of billions. Arminians say that no one goes to hell without making poor choices, but how does one choose contrary to the meticulous foreknowledge of God?

It seems to me the only difference between Calvinism and Arminianism is that Calvinism is determinism based on what God wills, and Arminianism is determinism based on what God foreknows and permits. The logical construction of the two systems are different but the end result seems the same to me.

So then, how do we defend the character of God as just, when most souls will be damned? I am drawn to two quite different conclusions. On one hand, open theism, which seems to me the only logically consistent way to defend the notion that man can make free choices, and therefore is responsible for the eternal consequences of his actions.

On the other hand, if open theism is not true; if God has meticulous providence or meticulous foreknowledge, It would seem to me that to preserve his character as being just, one would have to support universal reconciliation, otherwise God is ultimately responsible for those who suffer eternally or were annihilated, because they could not act contrary to God's will or foreknowledge.

I look forward to your responses. I do not hold to this position with a firm conviction, but this is something that has been rolling around in my mind for quite a while now, and this is the conclusion that I keep coming to as I reason things out. I really do appreciate such a community where I can bounce these ideas around and always get great feedback.

User avatar
mattrose
Posts: 1909
Joined: Fri Aug 22, 2008 11:28 am
Contact:

Re: Foreknowledge = Determinism? And God's Character.

Post by mattrose » Mon Apr 16, 2018 8:59 pm

I myself am an open theist. I am more convinced by the simplicity of it's proposition than by the explanations I've heard from Calvinists and Classical Arminians in regards to the conundrum you explained.

Singalphile
Posts: 892
Joined: Sun Apr 22, 2012 12:46 pm

Re: Foreknowledge = Determinism? And God's Character.

Post by Singalphile » Mon Apr 16, 2018 11:04 pm

I'm kind of agnostic about it, but I'll say the same thing about foreknowledge that most would say: God may know everything that I will choose, but I don't see how that in any way negates the fact that I will freely make all of those choices.
... that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. John 5:23

Si
Posts: 95
Joined: Tue Aug 23, 2016 1:03 am
Location: Wisconsin

Re: Foreknowledge = Determinism? And God's Character.

Post by Si » Tue Apr 17, 2018 6:22 am

Thanks Matt and Singalphile for your replies.

Singalphile,

If God has known since before the creation of the universe that a certain man would end up divorced, on drugs, and damned to hell, could that man instead choose to remain married, live clean, and serve the Lord? True freedom requires the ability to do otherwise, or else such a system is just as deterministic as Calvinism. If God knows everything that will happen, then the world was created with every single sin, death, and damnation in the mind of God, knowingly, before he created, and he was fine with that. Sinners are predestined to hell just as much as in Calvinism. The action of predestination is that of knowledge, rather than will, that is the only difference.

Maybe this foreknowledge or will serves a higher purpose for which I suggested universal reconciliation (an idea explored in The Shack, for example), otherwise the only way I see to preserve the character of God is open theism. If God left open possibilities, opportunities for us to make choices where we could choose one path or another, only then could the man in the opening paragraph could freely make a choice.

TruthInLove
Posts: 100
Joined: Mon Dec 29, 2014 12:35 am

Re: Foreknowledge = Determinism? And God's Character.

Post by TruthInLove » Tue Apr 17, 2018 10:23 am

Hi Si,

I and I'm sure many others can appreciate where you are coming from on this. My own brother is grappling with this very subject.

It may very well be that we can do nothing but that which God already knows we will do. We may never be able to surprise God with our actions. That doesn't necessarily mean we don't have free will.

Now, how is that possible? I have no earthly idea. How God can possess such knowledge without having baked it all into the creation from the very beginning, each subsequent event being the necessary and immutable consequence of the one that preceded it is a complete mystery to me. Like many of God's demonstrated abilities, this may be one of those things we will just never understand. Perhaps though, it's something we can at least accept based on what has been revealed to us in scripture. That may be the most rational way to approach it.

Now, the latter is quite an involved subject itself. However, I personally have found Steve's lectures under the heading God's Sovereignty and Man's Salvation to be very helpful in coming to terms with this. I'd highly recommend them although with 21 mp3s, they can take some time to cover and digest. I have some detailed notes on them I could share that may be helpful. If you'd like them, please let me know and perhaps there is a way I can get them to you.

Blessings,
Carmine

Singalphile
Posts: 892
Joined: Sun Apr 22, 2012 12:46 pm

Re: Foreknowledge = Determinism? And God's Character.

Post by Singalphile » Tue Apr 17, 2018 9:44 pm

Hi, Si.
Si wrote:If God knows everything that will happen, then the world was created with every single sin, death, and damnation in the mind of God, knowingly, before he created, and he was fine with that. Sinners are predestined to hell just as much as in Calvinism. The action of predestination is that of knowledge, rather than will, that is the only difference.
I'm not following. The action of predestination is that of knowledge, you say. Knowledge of what? Knowledge of what we will freely choose. That still leaves us with the free choice, doesn't it? I don't see how God's knowledge of what we will freely choose is necessarily a problem. I don't claim that God chose (or chooses) to know everything that will ever occur, for the record, but I don't see it as a problem if He did ... at least not as it relates to our free will. But much smarter people than me struggle with it, so I'm probably missing something.
... that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. John 5:23

User avatar
TK
Posts: 1475
Joined: Mon Aug 25, 2008 8:42 pm
Location: North Carolina

Re: Foreknowledge = Determinism? And God's Character.

Post by TK » Wed Apr 18, 2018 3:43 pm

Hey singlephile-

If God has perfect foreknowledge today that I will have a turkey sandwich tomorrow for lunch, guess what I'm having for lunch tomorrow? I may feel "free" eating it, but in actuality I am just doing what God foreordained I would do.

By the way, I have often thought if God has already seen everything that happens before it happens, then he also saw himself seeing everything before it happens, ad infinitum.

Si
Posts: 95
Joined: Tue Aug 23, 2016 1:03 am
Location: Wisconsin

Re: Foreknowledge = Determinism? And God's Character.

Post by Si » Wed Apr 18, 2018 7:15 pm

TruthInLove/Carmine,

Thanks for offering your notes, but I will most likely get around to listening to that series eventually. This topic has been one I have explored quite a lot. In addition to listening to nearly every narrow path for the last two years, I've watched or listened to a lot of debates, including some with Steve. I also watch Dr. James White's Dividing Line, so I get both sides of the issue!

Your comments about the mystery of how our free will and God's foreknowledge works is a concept I have explored; I did myself in the thread on compatabilism on these subforums. The reason why I stated that I am not firm in these positions is precisely because of this element of mystery, that I can never expect to fully wrap my mind around these issues, because that is for God.

Singalphile,

TK summed it up well in his sandwich analogy, that if God knows every single detail of what will occur, then that is what must occur. It seems to me that if a person is to truly choose whether to eat a turkey sandwich or a roast beef sandwich, or more importantly whether to submit to God or live in rebellion, then God must leave open that possibility to choose one way or another. Leaving open that possibility would include both what God wills and what he foreknows.

When you say, "I don't claim that God chose (or chooses) to know everything that will ever occur, for the record," that sounds like a little bit of open theism. I like how I have heard Greg Boyd describe open theism, simply that God allows for possibilities. I'd like to share a short little video that was kind of an eye opener for me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gApXDGjyksw
Last edited by Si on Wed Apr 18, 2018 7:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Seballius
Posts: 59
Joined: Fri Mar 30, 2018 11:19 am

Re: Foreknowledge = Determinism? And God's Character.

Post by Seballius » Wed Apr 18, 2018 7:17 pm

mattrose wrote:I myself am an open theist. I am more convinced by the simplicity of it's proposition than by the explanations I've heard from Calvinists and Classical Arminians in regards to the conundrum you explained.
Leighton Flowers talks much about Traditionalism and says that it is different from Arminianism. Open theism seems to go directly against direct statements of the Bible. Have you ever studied Traditionalism?


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

User avatar
mattrose
Posts: 1909
Joined: Fri Aug 22, 2008 11:28 am
Contact:

Re: Foreknowledge = Determinism? And God's Character.

Post by mattrose » Thu Apr 19, 2018 12:45 am

Seballius wrote: Leighton Flowers talks much about Traditionalism and says that it is different from Arminianism. Open theism seems to go directly against direct statements of the Bible. Have you ever studied Traditionalism?
1. I have never heard the label 'traditionalism' used in this debate (as I'm not a Southern Baptist like Leighton Flowers). So, while familiar with his viewpoint (having read his statement online just now), I was not familiar with the label. I have previously referred to his viewpoint as either soft-calvinism or moderate-calvinism. In some ways though, it has more important similarity to Arminianism than to Calvinism.

2. It's certainly a better view than hard-calvinism

3. It is certainly different from Arminianism on a number of points. But I consider it inferior to Arminianism on those points. Particularly, I think he's under-estimated the scope of the gospel (article 1 in his statement). This leads to an unbiblical positon on Article 9 (eternal security). Article 7 is the point we're debating in this thread.

4. I do not find that Open Theism goes 'directly against direct statement of the Bible'... though I am sure Open Theism goes against popular interpretations of certain statements in the Bible. I consider Open Theism to be a superior viewpoint to classic-calvinism (hard-calvinism), soft/moderate-calvinism (traditionalism), and classic-arminianism.

http://connect316.net/the-statement/

Post Reply

Return to “Calvinism, Arminianism & Open Theism”