>Foreknowledge and Free Will

>Exhaustive definite foreknowledge (EDF) can be defined as, knowledge of the all future events as definite truths about what will and will not occur. The emphasis of EDF is on the definiteness. It is knowledge of all future events as definitely this (one way) and definitely not that (any other way). No orthodox Christian view denies that God is omniscient (know all truths and knows no falsehoods), but there is discussion about whether God’s foreknowledge is best characterized as, “knowledge about what will definitely occur” or “knowledge about what will occur, and what might and might not occur” (in light of the witness of scripture). The second characterization of God’s foreknowledge is a neo-Arminian position on foreknowledge called, Open View. The Open View characterizes God’s foreknowledge, not as EDF, but as an exhaustive foreknowledge, whereby some of the future is definite and some of the future is possibilities and all of the future is known by God as such. Same definition of omniscience, different idea about what the content of the future is. This takes into account the full witness of scripture. God describes future things as what might and might not occur, and God reflects on the past, as if it was not always a foregone conclusion what would definitely occur, just to name a couple of ways that this view relates.

Most people in my neck of the woods, favor the Arminian “simple foreknowledge” or historical foreknowledge view, which says, God knows all the future as only what will definitely occur (EDF). In other words, God “looks” at the future much in the same way as He “looks” at the past, with the same certainty about what will occur, as He is certain about what has occurred. An alternative, but very similar view, suggests that God acquires EDF via intimate knowledge of free will beings. This view is only one step removed from historical foreknowledge, the difference being, God extrapolates a historical foreknowledge from intimate knowledge of how free will-beings will and will not act in every future situation.

At the same time, it is suggested (by simple foreknowledge folks) that free-will creatures retain the freedom to act/choose freely, in spite of the fact that their “free” decision is a divinely foreknown truth.

If you hold the view that God knows all truths and knows no falsehoods (and I do), and that God knows all of the future as what will definitely occur and will definitely not occur, how are you free to choose against the definite truth?
(At this point, some would like to chalk this up to “mystery” and “you can’t know” and “God is too big, stop trying to understand it” but I resist that kind of approach and press in anyway. Yes, there is mystery in life and yes, there is much that we don’t/won’t understand, but that’s not going to keep me from trying!)

Back to the original question: If you hold the view that God knows all truths and knows no falsehoods, and that God knows all of the future as what will definitely occur and will definitely not occur, how are you free to choose against the definite truth? You cannot be truly free to choose one way or another, if, in fact, there is a present truth about what you will and will not choose.

EDF cannot itself do anything, like constrain the exercise of your will, but what EDF (if true) does, is, show us that it cannot be the case, that we act freely. The question is, “Who or what determines the truth about what we do?” If God possesses exhaustive definite foreknowledge, then He eternally knows the definite truth about what we will do. Now, that ‘knowing’ itself does not determine whether we do this or that. I’m not arguing that since God knows, God determines. I’m arguing that if God knows (EDF), then we cannot be the ones who determine the truth about what we do. If the truth of what we do eternally precedes us, we cannot be the ones determining that truth. To be free to ‘self-determine’ (truly choose), we must be the ones determining the truth about our choices.

Here is my short and simplistic argument: If EDF is characteristic of divine foreknowledge… I wake up in the morning and decide at 9:00 AM (T) to eat cereal (X) instead of toast (Y) God always knew that I would choose X at T and not choose Y. When T comes, it appears that I am “free” to choose X or Y, but it is a foreknown truth that I will choose X. This is a truth that cannot be different from the truth of what then actually occurs. It is the truth that is binding. Before T, it is never possible that Y at T would occur. Y cannot occur at T, even if it appears that Y is “possible” at T, it is not possible because it is not the truth about what will occur. It (Y) would not be the truth that God knows perfectly. If Y at T is not a part of the truth that God knows perfectly, then Y at T cannot be a decision that could be made, even if it appears that I am free to choose it. I am, in fact, not truly free to choose that which is not the foreknown definite truth. X at T is the only truth that will occur, and this truth is a decisive constraint upon the exercise of free will. If EDF is characteristic of the foreknowledge of the truth, I am only “free” to choose X at T, and, in fact, I am not truly free.

So, the argument for the Open View (vs. EDF), is that the future is known, in part, as a realm of possibilities and not certainties only. Some things are “closed future events” (definite) and some things are “open future events” (might and might not occur) and they are known as such by God. This is not to say that God doesn’t know the future, it’s only to say that some of the future that God knows perfectly, He knows as possibilities.

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About kurtkjohnson

Husband to Abbey Johnson, proud father, irregular blogger and occasionally creative. View all posts by kurtkjohnson

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