Some Quick Comments Regarding Free Agency and Foreknowledge

The following comments come from the “??Questions??” page.  Since they quickly address two of the most common questions Calvinists ask Arminians, I thought I would post the short correspondence on the main page.  You can read the original question in full here (which might provide some helpful context concerning the first question).  The inquirer’s questions are in italics, followed by my responses:

…though I have trouble understanding why God can’t know what a hypothetical person might do, even if there is no person to know about

Because there is no person to know anything about, just as you said. That seems plainly absurd to me. How can God know what a person (and remember there is no “person”, nor will there ever be) would freely do in a situation when the “person” will never exist to make the free choice or be in that situation? If God could know such a thing it would only be possible within the framework of determinism where God could know what such a person would choose simply because God would know what He would cause the person to choose. But the Arminian is operating from the perspective of freedom, and not determinism. For that reason, the objection, based on the presupposition of determinism, cannot succeed. It is simply question begging.

Also, if God did foreknow what a person would freely choose and then not create that person based on that knowledge, God would falsify His own foreknowledge by not creating that person. God would essentially make Himself wrong by making something He foreknew happening as not happening, or making a person He foreknew as existing, never to exist. Since God cannot be wrong, He cannot not create someone based on what He knows this “person” (who will actually never exist) would do or choose. Do you see the problem?

I think my question at the moment is ultimately about freewill and our responsibility. With libertarian free will, we are sent to hell for our free choice to reject God. Why then, do some choose God and others reject Him?

For a multitude of reasons. No one is denying that we make choices for reasons or in accordance with motives. Arminians only deny that such things irresistibly cause our decisions. When we choose in accordance with a motive, or for a reason, we do so freely, rather than by necessity. The free agent weighs the motives and chooses accordingly. Motives do not irresistibly dictate choices.

If they all have the same ability to choose freely, and are all given the grace of a choice to accept Christ, and yet some accept and others reject, what is the cause?

The cause is the God given power and capacity to make a free choice (or, as you say, “the ability to choose freely”). The cause is the agent himself and the agent’s will is a full and adequate cause in itself, needing nothing more to make (or cause) a choice, in accordance with whatever reasons or motives it deems important.

If it is external factors (influence from environment, time period, family, etc.) it seems unfair that the only difference between the one in hell and the one in heaven is that one had better environment.

Influences are factors, but they are not irresistible factors. That is all the Arminian is saying.

If you say, however, that the cause is something in us, rather than external factors, why are we that way in the first place?

Yes, it is the God given alternative power of the will that is in us. We are that way because God created us with the power to make free unnecessitated choices. It was His good pleasure and sovereign right to do so.

Did not God create us the way we are?

Absolutely. He created us as free moral agents.

I’ll try to put it another way… This is my dilemma. If person A chooses God and person B rejects Him, is it because of their differing environments or because of the way they are?

Ultimately, neither. Those things factor in to our choices, but they do not irresistibly cause us to choose a certain way. The reason for the choice is ultimately the agent himself who freely decides what he or she will do and why he or she will do it, in accordance with the God given power of free will. You would probably do well to read this series by J.C.

https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/fallacies-of-calvinist-apologetics/

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21 Responses

  1. Thanks for answering my question, by the way. I could think of no way of refuting your argument that shows how God cannot only create free agents who obey Him.

    This is hugely important. I find the Calvinist reasoning for why some go to hell rather than others unjust and disturbing. I thought arminians had the same problem in the end, but it seems like that isn’t quite the case.

  2. If God can’t know what a person He could create, but doesn’t, would do simply because that person doesn’t exist, then how could God know the future since it doesn’t exist? The grounding objection can’t simply be stopped there if you’re going to be consistent. 😉

  3. Also, if God did foreknow what a person would freely choose and then not create that person based on that knowledge, God would falsify His own foreknowledge by not creating that person..

    Middle knowledge solves this, since God knows what a person would do in any circumstance if they were placed in it. The situation actually having to happen would nullify any type of counterfactual knowledge of free acts at all. Basically, what this amounts to is God knows what IS going to happen (without any counterfactuals). But how can God work providentially if it would contradict His knowledge if He did?

  4. If God can’t know what a person He could create, but doesn’t, would do simply because that person doesn’t exist, then how could God know the future since it doesn’t exist?

    Because the future will exist. That is quite a different thing than God knowing what free will creatures who will never exist would do in a future that would never exist (and could never exist, based on God never creating the context in which that future could take shape).

    Middle knowledge solves this, since God knows what a person would do in any circumstance if they were placed in it.

    But this is only true of a person who will in fact exist. I do believe that if a person will certainly exist (because God will in fact create that person) that God can then have counterfactual knowledge of what that person would freely do in any given situation, even situations that never attain (since God will in fact create a world in which such hypotheticals can be known to Him via middle knowledge). I believe this simply because Scripture seems to plainly teach this in a few places.

    How does God do this? I am not sure. It may be, as was suggested to me by one Arminian, that God has direct access to the will in such a way that He can know such things without removing freedom or relying on deterministic causation to know it. However, the Bible nowhere speaks to God having middle knowledge of what a person who will never exist (again, there is not even any “person” to speak of) would freely do in a given situation (in a future and world that will also never exist).

    God Bless,
    Ben

  5. Ben,

    Because the future will exist.

    I’m not sure what the big difference is. It doesn’t yet. God knows it because He knows what will happen. Likewise, it’s possible that God could know what a certain person would do if He created them.

    Can you explain how it is different?

    But this is only true of a person who will in fact exist. do believe that if a person will certainly exist (because God will in fact create that person) that God can then have counterfactual knowledge of what that person would freely do in any given situation, even situations that never attain (since God will in fact create a world in which such hypotheticals can be known to Him via middle knowledge)

    Presumably, you believe that God knows counterfactuals about these people who actually do or will exist, like what I would do if born in 2050 instead of when I was, for instance. But those circumstances don’t exist, and will never actually exist, yet, presumably, God knows what would happen in those circumstances. Why shouldn’t He know what a person He could create (by instantiating a different possible world) would do in that world?

    Your decision to leave out that God could know about people who won’t exist seems to be ad hoc. I don’t see any logical reason for it if you accept that He can know about events that will never obtain.

    God bless, buddy 😉

  6. since God will in fact create a world in which such hypotheticals can be known to Him via middle knowledge

    Further on this point, if God knows the counterfactuals of this world, then He has knowledge of different possible worlds, since a deviation in events is what a different world is. But if hypothetical events that won’t exist, but would in a different world, can be known by God, why can’t God know about people that won’t exist, but would in another world?

    These are logically equivalent statements. Just replace “hypothetical events” and “people in those statements.

    If h1 that won’t exist, but would in another world, can be known by God, then h2 that won’t exist, but would in another world, can be known by God.

    Otherwise, I think your position is inconsistent.

  7. Brennon,

    Not sure how much time I will have to continue this discussion (I only have access to the internet now because I am on vacation). I really think I already explained the issue well enough. I don’t see how your problems are really problems at all. I think there is an obvious difference between a person or future that will exist and a “person” or “future” that will not exist. To say that Brennon will eat pancakes tomorrow in the real world is a sensical statement. To say that a person who will never exist will eat pancakes tomorrow is nonsensical and absurd. It is a meaningless statement.

    I do believe that God knows the future exhaustively. He is a spirit who is not bound by time and space and, in fact, created time and space. I do not feel comfortable limiting such a Being with regards to how He might be able to know the future. It may indeed exist in some way to Him. At any rate, it certainly will exist.

    As far as what a person would do in 2050, rather than now, I am not sure that is the case, though God could probably know what such a person (who exists now) would do in a scenerio taking place in 2050. The Bible never addresses such things. The Bible speaks of God knowing what Saul would do in response to David’s actions and what the people of Sodom would have done had they seen the same miracles performed as the Jews had.

    I also tend to shy away from the “possible world” language, as I do not think it really fits what the Bible describes and creates confusion. I would just say that there are other possible decisions we could have made rather than speak of “possible worlds” where such decisions were made.

    To sum up, it does not seem problematic to me for God to have middle knowledge of persons who will in fact exist or do exist. I do see big problems with speaking of what persons who will never exist would do in futures that will never exist and they will never exist in. To me, such speaking is plainly absurd as described above. The only way God could know such things is to know that He would create them in such a way that they would necessarily do such things, which is determinism.

    As for the grandfather paradox, it seems you have changed your position on that since writing this a while back:

    There are numerous responses to the problem of evil, but first I want to point out an obvious logical problem that anyone who would question the libertarian runs into, and that is the Grandfather paradox. Since the libertarian believes that God foreknows actual future acts, then if God foreknows what a free creature will do in the future, he cannot not create that person, otherwise His foreknowledge of what the person will do would be wrong (since the person would not in fact do what God knew he would do; indeed, God’s foreknowledge of the person’s existence would be wrong as well!), and God cannot be wrong. If you want to introduce middle knowledge (or whatever you may call God’s hypothetical knowledge) then I would just point out, as a friend has done, that “God can only have middle knowledge…of people who will certainly exist at some point. He cannot know what someone who never exists would do; there is no person there to ever know anything about.”

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/bossmanham.Is-There-Trauma-in-Sovereignty.A-Response-to-James-Swan-by-Brennon-Hartshorn

    I think you nailed it back then. I think you sound incoherent now. We will probably just need to agree to disagree at this point.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  8. Hey Ben,

    I think there is an obvious difference between a person or future that will exist and a “person” or “future” that will not exist.

    Yes, but presumably we both think God has knowledge of both things, you’re simply limiting it to events and not people. You think that God knows of events that will never happen, these are counterfactual events. I think that knowledge extends to people that could exist, but won’t. I don’t see any reason why you are stopping with only events, especially since these counterfactual events God knows of could lead to the birth of people who in the actual world are never born.

    To say that Brennon will eat pancakes tomorrow in the real world is a sensical statement. To say that a person who will never exist will eat pancakes tomorrow is nonsensical and absurd. It is a meaningless statement.

    Of course it is meaningless, and I’m not proposing that people that don’t exist will do something. I’m saying that if person p (who does not exist and will never exist) did exist, they would do something. Similarly, we could talk of myself or you being in circumstances that will never happen and, it seems to me, you acknowledge that God knows what we would do in any situation. Why should He not know what a person who could exist would do in situations we’ve been in (or not been in)? You’re still believing that God has knowledge of things that will never exist.

    I do believe that God knows the future exhaustively. He is a spirit who is not bound by time and space and, in fact, created time and space. I do not feel comfortable limiting such a Being with regards to how He might be able to know the future. It may indeed exist in some way to Him. At any rate, it certainly will exist.

    Yes, and this is God’s free knowledge; His knowledge of what WILL happen in the world He instantiated. But He has knowledge, middle knowledge, of what would happen in other worlds He could create. If you accept that He has some middle knowledge, I don’t know what logical reason you have to exclude other things.

    Don’t you think God was free to create other people that He has chosen to, or do you think He was constrained in some way to create people He has created? That’s the only way I see that your position could work. Otherwise, I think you should accept Molinism. This is the reason I did, because there was no logical reason not to, and there’s nothing problematic about it anyway in terms of theological concerns.

    I also tend to shy away from the “possible world” language, as I do not think it really fits what the Bible describes and creates confusion. I would just say that there are other possible decisions we could have made rather than speak of “possible worlds” where such decisions were made.

    Well speaking of different ways things could be is simply speaking of different worlds. Possible world lingo simply makes it more convenient, unless this is the only possible world. But then you’d be a determinist.

    I do see big problems with speaking of what persons who will never exist would do in futures that will never exist and they will never exist in

    Ok, and I hate to belabor the point, as I know your access is limited, but what are those reasons? I still haven’t really seen any. If God can know of events, past, present, and future, that could have happened, but won’t, why can’t those events include the existence of different people? If we include every sperm and egg that COULD meet up (and that extends to the people that won’t exist) then we have nearly an endless number of people who could exist, but wont.

    And yes I have changed my position on the grandfather paradox. I really didn’t feel comfortable at the time with it, but hadn’t fleshed out all of the issues in my own head and thought it was good to include, as I had several suggestions.

    God bless,
    Brennon

  9. Hello JC,

    I want to go back to the original comments of TDC to make some observations:

    [[“TDC, on July 14, 2010 at 6:35 pm Said:
    Hey guys,
    I kind of a Christian. Used to be more fervent but now I’m in loads of doubt.
    My question is related to the question “Why would God create people whom he perfectly foreknew would reject Him and go to hell?” I understand that this question is answered here
    http://evangelicalarminians.org/bossmanham.Is-There-Trauma-in-Sovereignty.A-Response-to-James-Swan-by-Brennon-Hartshorn
    though I have trouble understanding why God can’t know what a hypothetical person might do, even if there is no person to know about.”]]

    Note that first question talks about “God creating people” and combines it with God foreknowing these people “would reject Him and go to hell”.

    Arminians have pointed out that the determinists/calvinists have a major problem when it comes to their beliefs regarding “reprobates” (i.e. all whom God did not choose to save, all unbelievers who never repent of their sins and turn to Christ for salvation). If all is determined (i.e. God first conceives of a total plan that includes every detail of history, and then controls things in such a way as to make sure that plan gets realized in every detail) then it is true that we are exactly the people that God created us to be (our thoughts, desires, actions, what kind of people we are, everything is decided beforehand by God). This means that it is a Calvinistic premise that God creates us to be exactly the people that we are. Well this become problematic with believers because that means that God decided beforehand every sin they would commit, their rebellion against God, their unbelief, and God wanted them to be every one of these things. Then at the final judgment God condemns these people for being the people and doing the things, that God preplanned for them to be! That is both gruesome and sadistic and does not fit the bible at all in terms of God’s character and plan of salvation.

    Well the determinists know this is a problem (a problem they have no solution for) so their strategy is to respond that Arminians have the **same** problem. The determinist will argue that if God foreknows everything, and if God creates people to be the persons that they are, and if God knows you will become an unbeliever but does not prevent this from happening, then how is this different from what happens to unbelievers in Calvinism? TDC’s initial question is this deterministic come back.

    We need to see the problems with this question. First, this claim that God creates us or makes us into the persons that we are is questionable. And this question presupposes determinism so the question does not properly apply to Arminians.

    TDC continued:

    [[“I think my question at the moment is ultimately about freewill and our responsibility. With libertarian free will, we are sent to hell for our free choice to reject God. Why then, do some choose God and others reject Him? If they all have the same ability to choose freely, and are all given the grace of a choice to accept Christ, and yet some accept and others reject, what is the cause?”]]

    Here TDC appears to be trying to find the “necessitating factor” that ***makes*** the person choose to believe or choose to reject, when as JC pointed out there is none.

    TDC then tries to tighten the reins, limit the options into either an ***external necessitating factor*** that necessitates the choice or an ***internal necessitating factor*** that necessitates the choice, when neither is true because our freely made choices are not necessitated by either external or internal causes as JC pointed out.

    [[“ If it is external factors (influence from environment, time period, family, etc.) it seems unfair that the only difference between the one in hell and the one in heaven is that one had better environment. If you say, however, that the cause is something in us, rather than external factors, why are we that way in the first place? Did not God create us the way we are?””]]

    What is meant by “did not God create us the way we are?

    If you mean is our human nature designed by God, then Yes God made us “the way we are”. And part of this design for humans is that we were designed to be capable of having and making our own choices. We were designed to sometimes experience freely made choices. We have real choices and we do real actions that have real consequences.

    If you mean our character, our habitual ways of acting, when you speak of God creating us the way we are. No, our repeated choices make us into the persons that we are. And we all have seen this in many people’s lives.

    Take two identical twins, both coming from very athletic parents, both have the capacities and potential to be great athletes. One chooses to work out with weights for years, eat right, do extensive exercise. The other chooses to engage in playing video games, sitting on the couch and eating potato chips for hours a day. Now say the first one becomes a very good athlete, wins awards and trophies. And say the other one never becomes a good athlete. Did God **make** the good athlete into the good athlete that he is? Did God **make** the couch potato into the couch potato that he is? They made themselves into what they are by their continual choices.

    Or take another example. Two newly married Christian couples go to a marriage seminar where they are well instructed in what the bible says about marriage. Then both couples go back home afterwards, and one couple conscientiously applies bible verses they learned to their marriage, while the other just goes back to “same old same old.” And say the first couple that is actively practicing biblical principles is developing into a stronger and better marriage. Did God “make” the second couple into the person they were with the quality of marriage that they have? People forget that our repeated choices can have huge impacts on what kind of persons we are. And it is clearly not the case that God made us into these persons, rather our choices make us into the person that we are.

    And say a brilliant scientist had a **foreknowledge machine** in which he could see how these two boys would end up before it happened (and he would see one become a great athlete while the other became a couch potato!). Did the scientist **make them** into what they became, simply because he knew beforehand what they would each become, how each would freely choose? This makes the point that foreknowledge alone does not cause our choices, we do.

    It is the case with each of us that God gives us certain capacities and abilities (see especially the parable of the talents), but then what we actually become is a combination of those capacities plus what we choose to do. If you don’t work out, eat right, you will not become a great athlete no matter how much God-given potential you have. And we have all known and observed people who had a much greater potential, but due to wrong choices, they did not fulfill these potentials (e.g. the addict who is intelligent, educated, has a good marriage, etc. but then gets addicted, loses their job, marriage falls apart). What sometimes short circuits a person realizing their potential is some bad choices. And we cannot claim that God “made” the addict into an addict, rather, the addict made a series of bad choices with real consequences.

    Likewise you may have God-given potential but if you choose instead to play video games and eat chips you will not become a great athlete. And God has given biblical principles for a strong marriage, if you do not choose to live them out you will not have that strong biblical marriage. We are a result of nature (that is our God-given capacities, that is our genes) nurture (that is our environment) life experiences (that is the things we experience in life) and our choices (that is our freely made choices).

    [[“I’ll try to put it another way… This is my dilemma. If person A chooses God and person B rejects Him, is it because of their differing environments or because of the way they are? And if it is the way they are, how is God not responsible for creating them that way?”]]

    Here TDC appeals to “differing environments” versus “the way they are”. He rules out environment as the necessitating cause. Which leaves “the way they are” as the explanation. He then adds the claim that “the way they are” is the way God created them to be. But his notion that God created them to be the way they are is DETERMINISM. This is only true if God decided beforehand every detail about you and then uses history to actualize this plan for you. But that completely leaves our free will and our own freely made choices.

    The same goes for a hell bound sinner. In determinism God wanted them to be a hell bound sinner and God preplanned their every thought, desire, action and God made sure that it happened and made sure they ended up in hell just like he planned for them (that is determinism). The non-determinist who believes in free will on the other hand, believes that God truly loves sinners, developed a plan of Salvation centered in Jesus, reaches out to sinners and for a person to end up in hell they have to repeatedly freely choose to reject God and His love and plan of salvation, and do so for their entire lifetimes.

    It is like the addict again who experiences an intervention where people who really care for him/her set up a meeting and make it clear they want to see them healed and turn away from his/her addiction. The addict now has a choice. If the addict experiences multiple interventions and repeatedly keeps saying No: who is responsible for their not getting healed? They are. They cannot claim no one loved them or cared enough about them to attempt to help them. They cannot claim that the interventionist “made them into the addicts that they are” the people that they are (in fact this “interventionist” was willing to come down from Heaven be mistreated, humiliated and die on a cross for sinners).

    It seems to me that TDC’s problems resulted from deterministic premises in his thinking. The idea that God makes us exactly the persons that we are, is determinism.

    The idea that there is some external or internal necessitating factor that makes us make the decisions that we make, is determinism.

    The question about God foreknowing a person would be hell bound, God creating that person (creating them to be hell bound persons, creating them with exactly the desires, thoughts and actions they do) and then not preventing that person from existing is a question loaded with deterministic premises which Arminians do not hold.

    This question is committing the fallacy of complex question (i.e. when a question already presupposes things we may not agree to, so the question sets us up to fall). The most famous example of the fallacy of complex question is: if someone were asked “have you stopped beating your wife?” If you say Yes, you admit that in the past that you did so. If you say No, you admit that in the past that you did so and are continuing to do so, either way you lose (even though you may have never harmed your wife ever). The question is set up on a premise (the assumption that you did so in the past) that is not true and sets you up to fall. Similarly when a determinist asks: if God foreknows everything and if God creates the hell bound person, and if God does not prevent this hell bound person from existing, then how is that different from Calvinistic reprobation? The question contains deterministic assumptions (including the assumption that God creates people to be the people that they are, the assumption that God creates hell bound sinners). If you reject these deterministic/Calvinistic ideas, they you reject the question. If someone asks you have you stopped beating your wife, you don’t answer Yes or No: instead you show the question already has false assumptions in it. You show the question is a set up created to make you fall.

    The fact remains the determinist has an insoluble problem when it comes to God preplanning every thought, desire, and action of unbelievers, of God literally and actually (if calvinism/determinism is true) creating hell bound persons. And we should not be fooled when they try to “turn the tables” on us by saying we have the same problem. We don’t.

    Robert

  10. Yes, but presumably we both think God has knowledge of both things, you’re simply limiting it to events and not people. You think that God knows of events that will never happen, these are counterfactual events.

    God knows of decisions that we would make given certain situations. This is not the same as saying God knows of events that will never happen. If I could somehow know what you would do in a certain situation and that situation never presented itself, would you say that I had knowledge of an event that never happened? Probably not. That seems like an imprecise way of describing things to me.

    I think that knowledge extends to people that could exist, but won’t.

    I think this is something you really need to demonstrate, just as you need to demonstrate that it is basically the same thing as I am describing. I am speaking of God knowing what actual people would freely do in certain situations that may never present themselves. You are speaking of God knowing what people who will never exist would do in situations that they will not exist to face (and again, it does not even make sense to speak of “they” since there is no “they” and never will be). To speak of what a hypothetical person who will never exist would freely do is to speak nonsense IMO. It isn’t really saying anything at all. It is like discussing how wonderful you thought the non-existent pizza you just ate tasted.

    I don’t see any reason why you are stopping with only events, especially since these counterfactual events God knows of could lead to the birth of people who in the actual world are never born.

    God could know that a certain decision would lead to pregnancy even though that decision would never take place, without having to know about a resultant child that will never exist. Your conclusion here simply does not follow.

    I’m saying that if person p (who does not exist and will never exist) did exist, they would do something.

    But they won’t exist, so it is nonsense to speak of such things. As my friend used to say, “If cat poop were jelly, you could eat it.”

    But He has knowledge, middle knowledge, of what would happen in other worlds He could create. If you accept that He has some middle knowledge, I don’t know what logical reason you have to exclude other things

    Exactly because those “other things” are illogical. You even admit that such things are nonsense. It is up to you to demonstrate that it is not absurd to suggest that God can foreknow or have middle knowledge of what a being who will never exist would freely choose or do, unless we inject a form of determinism into the equation.

    Don’t you think God was free to create other people that He has chosen to, or do you think He was constrained in some way to create people He has created?

    This really involves other issues such as creationism versus transducianism. However, I do not believe that God was constrained to create persons as He did. But if He had created other people, then He would only have middle knowledge of what they would freely choose or do in certain situations. This says nothing of His freedom to create certain people, it simply excludes the idea that God could have middle knowledge of what nonexistent person would freely choose (e.g. whether or not they would accept or reject the gospel). Regardless of who God created, He could only have such knowledge of them. God could have knowledge of what people who were never created and would never exist would do, but only within the framework of determinism (i.e. God knowing what He would cause such “people” to do in certain situations).

    Otherwise, I think you should accept Molinism. This is the reason I did, because there was no logical reason not to, and there’s nothing problematic about it anyway in terms of theological concerns.

    Because to me Molinism can only work if it is combined with determinism (as I have pointed out more than once), and since I find determinism to contradict Scripture and God’s holy character as revealed in Scripture, I have serious theological concerns about it.

    Well speaking of different ways things could be is simply speaking of different worlds. Possible world lingo simply makes it more convenient, unless this is the only possible world. But then you’d be a determinist.

    Possible world lingo goes beyond the scope of how I Biblically apply middle knowledge. That is why I hold to middle knowledge, but reject Molinism. I am speaking of God knowing what persons would do in given situations in this world. Molinism’s use of the language goes far beyond that, to hypothetical worlds with full hypothetical people and histories that God could have actualized, but did not, prior to creating this world. That is why I avoid the language of “possible worlds”. I find it more confusing than helpful.

    Ok, and I hate to belabor the point, as I know your access is limited, but what are those reasons? I still haven’t really seen any.

    Because it is self evidently absurd as I have described and given analogies to illustrate. If you think it makes sense to say that God can have knowledge of “persons” who will never exist and what those non-existent persons would choose to do in non-existent situations, then I think the burden of proof rests on you to show how that makes sense.

    If we include every sperm and egg that COULD meet up (and that extends to the people that won’t exist) then we have nearly an endless number of people who could exist, but wont.

    I already addressed this non sequitur above.

    And yes I have changed my position on the grandfather paradox. I really didn’t feel comfortable at the time with it, but hadn’t fleshed out all of the issues in my own head and thought it was good to include, as I had several suggestions.

    Nothing wrong with changing your opinion on something. I did notice at your site that you are currently reading a lot of Molinist books. Just a reminder to take a step back and recognize the influence of others on your thought processes.

    I do not have a problem with Molinism in that it affirms both libertarian free will and denies determinism. I just personally do not see how Molinism can consistently do so given all of its premises. Maybe I just do not understand it well enough yet, but from what I have read, I have not seen a Molinist really adequately explain how God could have knowledge of complete “possible worlds” prior to creation without needing to inject determinism into the equation to make it work. I may be wrong, and surely Molinists deny such things, but as of right now I do not see how they can.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  11. Robert,

    Just a heads up that I wrote the post and not JC. JC has been the only one writing posts lately, so I understand the confusion, but just wanted to help you avoid making the same mistake in follow-up comments. Thankfully, I have some internet access this week since I am on vacation and decided to get a few quick posts out while I had the opportunity. Thanks for your insightful comments.

    Ben

  12. Re: Whether God has foreknowledge about persons who don’t exist nor ever will exist:

    It seems Matthew 11:23 speaks to this point, when Christ says:

    And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

    To me Christ is stating that Sodomites (by the term “Sodomites” here, I mean a general citizenry, not homosexuals), had they witnessed His miracles during Lot’s era, would have responded with such approval unto such lasting effect as to produce a righteous ethos, one sufficiently embraced by Sodom’s descendents as to ensure that community’s existence up to Christ’s time.

    To me that just seems like the natural reading of Matt. 11:23. Yet we know such descendents of Sodom (along with their beliefs) never existed in the interim of 2500 years between Abraham and Christ. And so it appears that Christ does have foreknowledge about contingent histories even of persons who don’t exist nor ever will exist, but who would have existed under different circumstances.

  13. My comment is how it is beyond me how ARMINIANS and CALVINISTS can keep arguing back and forth and expend so much energy to try to be right and STILL, AMAZINGLY maintain any faith at all…………

    Your petty Calvinist/Arminian arguments are NOT bearing the fruit you’d hoped, not HELPING anyone, and in fact drive people AWAY from the faith…I for ONE.

    Calvinists, don’t blame it on the Arminians. Arminians, don’t blame it on the Calvinists. You’re BOTH wrong. You’re BOTH to blame. Although I have to side with the Arminians in this one in that the Calvinists can fall back on that God “Decreed” it. Oh well Calvinists, no big loss, huh?

    Well, almost THIRTY years being a believer, I’m all done.

    All DONE.

    You guys definitely helped……… If your redundant arguments produced anything, it was people like me.

    ALL DONE!

    Thanks!

    ~Theresa

  14. Theresa,

    Might I suggest that instead of being “ALL DONE” with the faith that you be “ALL DONE” with blogs.

    I pray that you have a good church and a good pastor that can help you as you struggle through this, blogs may not be the best places to get ones religion. I would encourage you to pick up your bible and read it. Pray that the Spirit guide you and fall in love with the simple gospel message all over again.

    I will pray for you today and would encourage you to read the word of God and stop with the blogs altogether.

    God Bless!

  15. Theresa,

    Like Mitch said, if issues like this bother you then it would seem to be in your best interest not to read blogs and articles that deal with the subject. Those of us who discuss these things do so because we feel it is important. Arminians feel that God’s character is at stake, and I think you would agree that is something rather important. Also, we see that Calvinism can potentially harm the body of Christ since the logical implications of Calvinism can have negative affects on how one views God and how one practically lives out the Christian faith. I have heard many testimonies from former Calvinists of the negative affect Calvinism had on them prior to leaving Calvinism. Negative views of others, a tendency towards arrogance and lack of concern for the perishing, a lack of desire to pray, etc. Even you said that Calvinism had a negative impact on your Christian walk, if I remember right.

    Still, if such discussions bother you, spend your time elsewhere. But do not assume that these things cannot produce fruit. It has produced positive fruit in my life and has helped me to gain a deeper understanding of God, my relationship to Him, and His word. I count all of that as good. Like I said, this is not for everyone, but you cannot escape disagreements among Christians. Jesus and the apostles said that their would be false teaching in the church. If that is the case, then Christians need to deal with it and it may not seem like a pleasant task to people who would prefer not to deal with such things. Honestly, one of the main reasons that Calvinism is gaining ground and we have popular people like Piper saying that God creates reprobates for the purpose of eternal destruction in order to display His full glory is largely because for many, many years Arminians have left the fight and focused on evangelism and other things. Those things are important, but so is defending sound doctrine. Because we have neglected that, Calvinism has made a strong comeback. That is the reason why I think Arminian blogs like this one are so important right now. Are you comfortable with the teaching that God needed to create people for Hell so that He could fully display His glory?

    In the end, I am fine with you being ALL DONE with this issue. Focus on your relationship with Christ. Read the Bible and come to your own conclusions as you let God speak to you. Pray and share your love for Christ with the lost. Leave the rest to us.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  16. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

    All this tells us is that if the Sodomites experienced the same miracles, they would have responded differently. This is a statement about people who actually lived, and not non-existent peopel who never had any existence and never will. Obviously, things would have gone differently had they not been destroyed. God’s knowledge of that is rooted in their actual wills and not in hypothetical non-existent persons.

    As far as the impact such things might have had on their descendants, it may be that repentance was all that was required for them, as a nation (including their descendants) to avoid annihilation. God may have made a promise to them along those lines had they repented, similar to the promise he made to Noah, despite the fact that men would become increasingly wicked again. I don’t think that we can read out of this that God knew how hypothetical descendants that never existed would have lived had “their” forefathers repented and not been destroyed.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  17. Theresa,

    When I said,

    Even you said that Calvinism had a negative impact on your Christian walk, if I remember right.

    I was referring to your testimony on the X-Calvinist page. On that page you concluded with:

    I feel so sad that they don’t know the sweetness of Christ but only fear and anger and a sense of duty (yes, they opened up and shared with me that they struggle with anger and don’t really have any assurance of salvation, ironic as that is one of the very foundations of their doctrine). I pray for them everytime they come to mind that God will bring them out of that twisted system. Also I realize that not all Calvinists are as extreme as they and not everyone who accepts this doctrine goes through what I did. I thank God for this website and believers who understand that doctrine IS important. I am a good example of why it is important. His character is truly at stake here!!! Keep fighting for the truth!!! You’re helping people!!!

    Was that from you, or are you a different Theresa? If so, I don’t see how you can now be saying that such things don’t matter; and if you are not the same Theresa, I encourage you to read through some of those testimonies to see the negative affect that Calvinism has had on many of these people. That should put things in perspective.

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/x-calvinist-corner/

    God Bless,
    Ben

  18. Hi Ben,

    [Unless otherwise stated in this comment, by “divine foreknowledge” I mean divine foreknowledge of agency other than of God himself, e.g., of human agency]

    Apparently, then, Ben, we have different definitions of “divine foreknowledge” in some aspect. My own view is that the future that shall be is no less contingent than the future that never shall be. This is because neither future exists at all, despite God’s advanced foreknowledge that one of these contingent futures shall exist. Put another way, persons who in the future shall be, constitute the same qualitative contingency as those who are not and never shall be but which could have been. In other words, when I read some of your statements about the far off future, you seem to attach “real contingency” only to those who will be, to a point where you exempt these persons themselves—i.e., their individual existences—from contingently existing. (If this isn’t what you mean, I’m having trouble inferring anything else.)

    That is, as far as I can tell, you appear to be saying that God has foreknowledge only of those persons who exist or will exist in the future. But why would this [i.e. persons who exist or will exist in the future] be a necessary condition for God’s foreknowledge? In fact, the impression I gather from your writing is that this condition more or less explains the how of God’s foreknowledge, placing the matter (in some way) upon a logical, comprehendible basis. I say this because you find the idea of divine foreknowledge of hypothetical non-persons “absurd”. But, in fact, the how of God’s foreknowledge even of persons real is beyond human comprehension, and is not logical at all (in the normal sense of the word), since for God to know another person’s Choice, e.g., scores of generations hence, is not something humanly comprehendible logically.

    So why do I accept the idea of divine foreknowledge if it is illogical? I accept it on the basis of the semantic/lexical use of the word “foreknowledge” in biblical and non-biblical Greek usage during the N.T. era, which defines it to mean “knowledge (of something) in advance.” (This is how Thomas Edgar in his article on foreknowledge defines it.) So then, I accept this antimony (of divine foreknowledge of human choice) by faith, not logic, since it really cannot be accepted on any other basis.

    Personally, then, I do not think I am reading anything into Matthew 11:23 but am simply taking the ordinary meaning that for Sodom to “remain to this day” implicitly means that persons who never existed would have existed, and would have followed their ancestral example unto positive enough effect for their generations to have survived up to Christ’s era. To me that is the most natural reading.

    Let me close by saying that despite my reading your comment a number of times I remain unclear about one of your points in particular. Re: Sodom’s survival until Christ’s day, you say that it “may be that repentance was all that was required for them, as a nation (including their descendants) to avoid annihilation.” But in speaking of Sodom’s survival up to His time Christ is surely speaking definitively here (according to his foreknowledge) of hypothetical non-persons, not expressing a hypothetical about hypothetical non-persons (i.e., were the descendents to do such and such).

    Now, Ben, I tend to write only on certain occasions when I disagree. And so you probably think I disagree with you all the time; but actually, that is not the case. More often than not I AM in agreement with you but see no point in adding to what you have already so superbly and succinctly stated. Please know that I feel that way. In fact, it explains why I have commented relatively rarely when you have blogged.

  19. Dan,

    I do intend to respond to this, but it may take me a while.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  20. No problem, Ben. I realize you don’t have access to the internet as you once did. I don’t know if Satellite link up would be an answer for you, but I suppose even if that were possible that would be expensive(?).

    BTW when I recently wrote a paper about unconditional eternal security some months ago I found your comment on Peter very helpful and quoted you. I was the glad for the resource.

  21. I can see bossmanhams point on general principle. If God can know counterfactual events, why not counterfactual anythings? Why draw a line logic wouldn’t necessitate?

    When we look at the actual biblical instances of God’s counterfactual knowledge, such knowledge is always rooted in the actual wills of actual people (as Ben pointed out). Does that mean God could not know what bossmanham suggests? No, it only means that if God has such knowledge, we have no record of it in scripture, and we would have to rely on the speculative to posit it.

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