Foreknowledge = Determinism? And God's Character.

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

Post by Homer » Sat Apr 28, 2018 11:00 pm

Some thoughts to consider....

Deuteronomy 18:20 (NASB)
20.But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’


Prophets speak for God, unless they are false prophets in which case they were to be put to death. Isaiah was a prophet of the Lord about one hundred years prior to Jeremiah. Concerning Judah, Isaiah prophesied:

Isaiah 39:5-6 (NASB)
5.Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord of hosts, 6.‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house and all that your fathers have laid up in store to this day will be carried to Babylon; nothing will be left,’ says the Lord.


Unless Isaiah has spoken falsely, Judah will be taken into captivity. God would not send Judah into captivity if Judah repented. Hence Judah will not repent at the preaching of Jeremiah. As is stated in Jeremiah, Judah will not give heed to the call to repentance. This is according to the foreknowledge of God.

So what are we to make of the prophecies such as Isaiah and Jeremiah?

1. It could be argued that it is not possible for God to foresee what free will agents will do in the future given that the future is open. In this case He would have to know what thousands of people would do in advance, which is not possible. The prophesies are something of an "educated guess".

2. Another position is that God has forenowledge of what people will, of their own free will, do in the future. His knowledge isn't just of what they will decide, but what they will freely decide. In spite of the appeal to repent, God knew that Judah would not listen to Jeremiah. He knew this at the time of Isaiah's prophecy.

3. A third option is that God doesn't allow free will decisions contrary to what He has predetermind will occur in the future. God intervenes and "makes it happen". Insofar as God has prophesied something will happen, there is no free will in regard to the matter.

What other options are there that explain the dilemma of Isaiah and Jeremia's prophecies?

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

Post by Paidion » Sun Apr 29, 2018 3:44 pm

Well, it seems to me that God's prophecy through Jonah, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" sounds just as absolute as those which you quoted, Homer. Yet that prophecy didn't prove that God KNEW that Ninevah would be overthrown—since, when He saw that they repented at Jonah's teaching, He CHANGED HIS MIND concerning the calamity that He has intended to bring upon them.
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it. (Jonah 3:10 NRSV)
If God had known all along that the Ninevites were going to repent, what was there for Him to change His mind about?
Paidion

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

Post by Homer » Sun Apr 29, 2018 11:09 pm

Hi Paidion,

Thanks for your reply. It is my understanding that the text Jonah 3:10 is the best argument for the open theist position. And if taken at face value it would certainly lend strong support to your position. However there are a few comments I would make:

Jonah 3 (NASB)
3. Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2. “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.” 3. So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days’ walk. 4. Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”

We see here that Nineveh was a very large city. Jonah began to walk about the city. It seems he covered about one third of the city on the first day. The mention that it was a three day journey to cover the city would imply that Jonah spent three days preaching the message God gave him. The description of Jonah's message is described in only eight words. He surely had more to say.

5. Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.

Faith in God and repentance must have been included in His preaching, for we know that "faith comes by hearing".

6. When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes. 7. He issued a proclamation and it said, “In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. 8. But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. 9. Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish.”

So we find that Jonah's preaching led to repentance and their hope that they would be saved.

10. When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.

Was the calamity God declared guaranteed unconditionally or was it a threat of what would occur absent their repentance?

And doesn't Jonah's own behavior indicate he expected their deliverance from calamity?

Jonah 4:1-2 (NASB)
4. But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. 2. He prayed to the Lord and said, “Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.

And how is this case any different than that faced today? The message of the gospel certainly foretells destruction of those who reject the Lord and when people repent God relents of His planned destruction. And God knows who will repent:

Romans 8:28-29 (NASB)
28. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;

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

Post by Paidion » Mon Apr 30, 2018 7:38 pm

Hi Homer. You quoted and underlined:
29. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.

What does "foreknew" mean? If someone foreknows another person, does that imply that he knows everything about that person, including everything he will do?

Clearly not. For exactly the same word "προγινωσκω" (prōginōskō) is used in Acts 26:5 where Paul says to King Agrippa that the Jews of his nation have "foreknown" him from the beginning. It doesn't appear to mean anything more than the fact that they were acquainted with him from the beginning.
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Homer
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Re: Foreknowledge = Determinism? And God's Character.

Post by Homer » Mon Apr 30, 2018 11:35 pm

Hi Paidion,

You wrote:
What does "foreknew" mean? If someone foreknows another person, does that imply that he knows everything about that person, including everything he will do?

Clearly not. For exactly the same word "προγινωσκω" (prōginōskō) is used in Acts 26:5 where Paul says to King Agrippa that the Jews of his nation have "foreknown" him from the beginning. It doesn't appear to mean anything more than the fact that they were acquainted with him from the beginning.
Not so clear; the primary meaning of proginosko is to know beforehand. Pro, before, and ginosko, perceive, understand, know. Clearly used with that meaning by Peter:

2 Peter 3:17 (NASB)
17. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand (proginoskontes), be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness,


In the context of Romans 8:29 God knew before hand who would be saved and He destined them to be like Christ, in this life, in the resurrection, or both.

J E Dunkin, Commentary on Romans: "God foreknows events without any relationship to the cause of those events".

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

Post by Paidion » Tue May 01, 2018 10:21 pm

I think part of the problem is that there is an absolute sense of "know" and a weaker sense of "know."
I could say that when my oldest son was a little boy, if I said, "Jamie, come here," I KNEW he would come. On what did I base my "foreknowledge"? I based it on my previous experience. Whenever I uttered those words to my son, he always came, and so if I should tell him again to come, I knew that he would.

But did I "know" in the absolute sense of the word. If I had known that he would come in the absolute sense of "know" then it would have been impossible for him NOT to have come. For if he had chosen not to come, it would prove that I DIDN'T actually know in the absolute sense. So I don't believe I COULD have known in the absolute sense. In spite of the fact that in the past he always came when called, he COULD HAVE chosen not to come on any particular occasion. So my foreknowledge was not an absolute foreknowledge. So it with any foreknowledge. It is logically impossible to know in advance (in the absolute sense of "know") what a free-will agent will choose in the future. This is an inherent contradiction. Such knowledge would preclude the ability to choose. In the absolute sense of "know", only what a person HAS chosen in the past can be known.

If I am right, and absolute foreknowledge of a person's choices are logically impossible, then even God cannot know people's future choices. For God cannot do the logically impossible. For example, God cannot create a stone so large that He can't lift it. For if He could create such a stone, then there would be something He could not do—namely lift the stone! But God is omnipotent. He CAN do anything that is logically possible. Contradictions are not objects of power.

In Jeremiah, it is written that God thought or said that after Israel had done certain evil things, she would return to Him. But Israel DIDN'T return to Him. Did God KNOW that she wouldn't return? If so, would it make sense for Him to say or think that she WOULD?
Paidion

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

Post by Homer » Wed May 02, 2018 3:23 pm

Hi Paidion,

It seems to me that the thing missing in the logic used in regard to foreknowledge is "cause". Does foreknowledge cause an event and if so, how?
The logic in the idea that if God knows now (T1) that I will have a tuna sandwich next Friday (T2), then that I will inevitably have the tuna sandwich is simple to understand. I have no quibble with it. What I do not see is cause. If I am totally ignorant of God's knowledge that I will have the tuna sandwich, then how does God knowing cause my choice? I can still freely choose the tuna sandwich, God simply foresaw my free choice.

What place is there for cause in the logic?

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

Post by Paidion » Wed May 02, 2018 10:01 pm

Homer, there is NO place for cause in the logic, and I haven't remotely suggested such. The simple fact is that if a future action is known in advance (no matter who knows it) that implies that the action will take place.

Philosophers say that if Person P knows that Sentence S is true then:

1. P believes that S is true.
2. S is true
3. There is sufficient evidence that S is true.

The third one is the stickler. What constitutes sufficient evidence?

But all we need for my argument is the second. If a person truly knows that S is true, then S is true. For example, if someone knows that that there is a fresh water lake within the East Caribbean island of Grenada, then there is such a lake within Grenada. Indeed, I KNOW that there is such a lake; I have seen it. However, if no such lake within Grenada existed, NO ONE could KNOW that such a lake within Grenada existed—not even God!

So if someone knows that you will eat an apple tomorrow, the implication is that you will eat an apple tomorrow. For if you do not eat an apple tomorrow, then no one could know that you will eat an apple tomorrow. No one CAN know that which is false. For example, no one can know that all dogs have two heads. Why? Because it is false.

So if someone knows that you eat an apple tomorrow, then you will eat an apple tomorrow. You don't have the ability NOT to eat an apple tomorrow. Therefore you are not free to choose not to eat an apple tomorrow. And so it would be the case with each of your other future acts if they were known in advance—therefore you would not have free will (the ability to choose).

Conclusion: No one can know in advance whether or not you will eat an apple tomorrow—or in general, no one can know in advance the choices of free-will agents.

However, someone's intelligent prediction of what you will do tomorrow based on that individual's knowledge is an entirely different matter. Such a prediction that you will eat an apple tomorrow doesn't imply that you WILL eat an apple tomorrow.
Last edited by Paidion on Wed May 02, 2018 10:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Si
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Re: Foreknowledge = Determinism? And God's Character.

Post by Si » Wed May 02, 2018 10:06 pm

Homer wrote:It seems to me that the thing missing in the logic used in regard to foreknowledge is "cause". Does foreknowledge cause an event and if so, how?
The logic in the idea that if God knows now (T1) that I will have a tuna sandwich next Friday (T2), then that I will inevitably have the tuna sandwich is simple to understand. I have no quibble with it. What I do not see is cause. If I am totally ignorant of God's knowledge that I will have the tuna sandwich, then how does God knowing cause my choice? I can still freely choose the tuna sandwich, God simply foresaw my free choice.

What place is there for cause in the logic?
If God created the universe knowing how everything would end up, meticulous to every detail, how do you explain evil? Before any created being existed, there was only God. If God, as the creator and first cause of everything that followed, knew every single detail that would follow, then I don't see how anyone can be blamed for the existence of evil but God. To argue otherwise is to say that what God perfectly foreknew, he did not intend. With meticulous foreknowledge, every single detail that followed creation would be an effect of that first cause, and all of history is nothing but a series of dominoes falling exactly as God foreknew.

For creatures to actually be free, and therefore bear responsibility for their choices, it seems to me that one has to remove them from such a deterministic system, and leave room for free choices which could go one way or another. Otherwise history is nothing but an elaborate web of cause and effect leading straight back to God.

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

Post by Paidion » Wed May 02, 2018 10:14 pm

I understand you, Si, but I think Homer would say that God even though God knew in advance all the evil choices that have made, that foreknowledge does not make God responsible for those evil choices. And I agree. If God COULD know in advance people's choices (which I believe to be logically impossible) that wouldn't imply that His foreknowledge CAUSED those choices.
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

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