Innate vs Self-Imposed Dependencies

Does God depend upon anything in creation? Everyone agrees that God has no need of things like food, water, shelter, rest, etc. We often refer to this as God’s aseity –His independence of His creation.

So God has no innate need of these things, and is utterly self-sufficient. But can God take on a need in some sense? God the Son certainly did in a way when He walked the earth, but let’s go a little deeper than even that. Reading in Genesis and beyond, we see God making promises to people.

“For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” (Romans 4:13)

Since God cannot lie (Heb 6:18), then it follows that He must fulfill the covenants He has made. In terms of His independence, something has changed: He is no longer completely independent of creation. God cannot fail (not that He would want to anyway, but bear with me) in His good promises towards His faithful. That produces something of a two-way dependency relationship between God and creation. We have need of God to sustain us, and God needs to sustain us to be faithful to His covenants.

The idea of God depending on us in any sense may seem awkward, so I’ll illustrate by example: If God did not sustain us, we would cease to be (for He holds all things together, Col 1:17). God made a covenant with Abraham (His creation), to show him mercy and make him co-heir of all things. Having made such a covenant, He cannot go back on it. God’s faithfulness depends upon Abraham existing and inheriting eternal life. Not that God needs Abraham to feed or clothe Him, but rather, He cannot unmake Abraham or consign him to Hell; He must bless Abraham as He promised for the sake of His faithfulness. God’s faithfulness requires that Abraham live eternally.

God having a requirement or need of some kind? Doesn’t that contradict God’s independence from creation? Not quite: Aseity is God’s innate independence from creation. God never had to create Abraham or make such promises in the first place. It says nothing against the idea of God taking on a sort of self-imposed, indirect dependency through the act of creation or making covenants. This is something that God Himself chose to do.

Objections on Omniscience

Some Calvinists have objected that such a view of aseity is deficient, especially as it pertains to God’s omniscience. That is, God creating people as free agents, and knowing what we will do based upon what we actually do (as opposed to scripting all our choices out for us); they frame this as God needing creation to be omniscient. One particularly bad objection comes from a certain cage-stage Calvinist we’ve interacted with, who insists that we must logically be denying God’s aseity because of His entering into a voluntary dependence with creation. It’s not that we haven’t alluded to the argument above before.

[Me]: That is true, God is faithful regardless of whether there is a world, just as He is omniscient. Catch is, God’s faithfulness now doesn’t just exist by itself, He is not only innately faithful, but He is now faithful to people like Abraham. God being faithful to Abraham requires that there be an Abraham. Our over-eager objector is confusing God’s immutable attributes with the relational, optional specifics encompassed by those attributes. (Calvinism’s Inconsistencies on God’s Attributes)

Problem is, he still doesn’t seem to recognize the difference between optional aspects of an attribute versus the attribute itself.

So, my dilemma of irrelevance or absurdity stands. If these examples where relevant, then God’s acts cause him to change himself…

While God’s innate attributes themselves do not change (He is always Holy, faithful, etc.), some optional aspects of them do (such as who He is faithful to). God was not in a relationship with Abraham before Abraham existed, but He is now. If we buy our objector’s hyper-Hellenized objection to God having some sort of ‘change,’ then we must also logically reject God taking on the self-imposed dependencies of having to fulfill His covenants, thus jettisoning the biblical promises of God in the process.

Calvinism Makes God Innately Dependent

The point that I brought up that these things aren’t “optional aspects” at all.

If such things as who God is faithful to aren’t optional for Him, then they can only be necessary to Him, meaning that God had no choice in the matter. Hence, my deductive proof  holds:

P1 To be truly omniscient requires that one’s beliefs match reality.
P2 Per [high] Calvinism, God innately and immutably believes that creation comes into existence (becomes a reality).
C Therefore, per Calvinism, God innately and immutably requires that creation comes into existence to be truly omniscient.

Far from establishing God’s aseity, Calvinism (at least our objector’s version) changes God’s relational dependency upon creation from a thing that’s self-imposed, into an innate need.

Objector: Now, he doesn’t grant the distinction between natural and free knowledge in this argument.

Our objector’s view of aseity entails that everything God knows about the world is essential to His being and immutable, there could be no such thing as ‘free knowledge’ by such a view.

Innate Knowledge and the Authorship of Sin

The above absurdity isn’t the only reason why God’s knowledge of the world can’t be innate to Himself. The problem of God being the author of evil also makes such a view logically impossible if we accept the testimony of scripture. As I’ve repeatedly argued without substantial challenge, the Bible is very clear that sinful things (lust, pride, etc) do not come from God (1 John 2:16), and that in fact there is no such darkness in Him at all (1 John 1:5). Our objector does his thing:

This section is about the “Authorship of Evil” objection he dragging out because his doctrine of God is so bad. He is too inept to know that this is a red herring. It has nothing to do with the fact his position doesn’t allow for aseity to be the case.

We can not only show it’s relevance, we can prove it via the rules of logical implication. If I have the implication,

P → Q (P implies Q),

then if I can show that Q is false, I also show that P is false, or,

~Q → ~P

This is called the Law of Contrapositive. It also works for multiple implications, e.g., for,

P → Q → R

then,

~R → ~Q → ~P.

So if I can deduce,

Legal American Voter → American Citizen → Human

If the subject is a Cocker Spaniel, that implies,

Not Human → Not American Citizen → Not Legal American Voter

The necessary implications of our objector’s position are,

If the High-Calvinist version of aseity is true → everything that happens finds its source in God’s mind → sinful actions find their source in God

Logically then, since the there is no such darkness in God,

Per 1 John, sinful actions do not find their source in God → not everything that happens finds its source in God’s mind → the High Calvinist view of God’s aseity is false

Bottom Line

  • Divine Aseity implies God having no innate needs, it does not preclude God taking on a self-imposed relationship with some kind of dependency in creation.
  • Knowledge of, and covenants with free agents that God freely chose to create would obviously be self-imposed relationships.
  • Actual knowledge of a thing’s existence requires that the thing exist; so God having innate knowledge of creation’s existence (as some Calvinists argue) means that He innately needs creation to exist.
  • The popular high Calvinist view of God’s aseity implies that all of man’s actions, including his wicked motives and deeds, come from God; 1 John 1 & 2 directly refute such a claim.

 

Tackling Calvinist Errors on Omniscience & Aseity (Plus a Deductive Proof)

In our last post on Calvinists who talk past the debate, we handily disposed of the fallacious arguments of a Calvinist objector insists on misrepresenting the issue. He tries to salvage his rapidly-crumbling narrative with yet more proof that he is simply talking past what is being discussed without understanding it.

Still Missing the Point

I’ve been pretty clear since the beginning of our dialogue that God doesn’t derive His attributes from creation. Quoting previous posts:
[Me]: No one is arguing that God’s nature has changed or acquired new attributes, but as I argued, the “relational, optional specifics encompassed by those attributes” do change. When God chose to create the world, He chose to involve people as objects of certain of His attributes, and said attributes come to involve people. 
God is both omniscient and faithful regardless of whether the world exists or not, but the specifics thereof – who He knows about and who He is faithful to, depends upon our existence.
I pointed out that the objector was drawing conclusions about my beliefs that were the polar opposite of what I wrote. He proves my analysis correct yet again in replying,
But very few people think we ground God’s characteristics via his actions. 
I think this is simply a denial of aseity because it is him admitting that characteristics of God are not innate to him but something he takes on.
If some of God’s characteristics are contingent upon the world, then wouldn’t that imply on his view the world is necessary for God to have certain qualities?   
His persistence in the exact same error indicates that he’s either being hasty and not reading, or just outright disingenuous.

Ignorance About Omniscience

He finally clears up his ‘explanation’ objection.
It is clear that J.C. doesn’t understand what explanations are. For example, the Leibnizian cosmological argument is an argument about explanations. It asks the question about the necessary foundations of reality.  … So, we are asking the same metaphysical question about God’s being(mainly his attribute of omniscience). … It isn’t grounded or explained by God. The reason for which God knows certain things are thus grounded not in himself but in the world.
To sum up the heretofore poorly-explained objection, the objector makes the error of conflating the attribute of omniscience with the specifics of God’s knowledge. As I’ve already pointed out to him,
[Me:] God is eternally faithful whether we exist or not. God has chosen to create man and made covenants with him. God’s faithfulness has not changed, who God is faithful to has changed. God knows all that is whether He creates the world or not. God has chosen to create a world with free agents. God’s omniscience has not changed, who God knows about has changed. That is an important distinction, and the point of confusion that our dear objector is stuck on and talking past in his objections to what no one is arguing.
Looks like he’s still just as confused and lost in noobie-land as ever.
While my question still stands, is God temporally not omniscience?  
He seems to be asking, “Is God temporally not omniscient?” If the same God is both transcendent and immanent (not just one or the other), then God in His immanence (within time) would know all that He does from His also-transcendent (from outside of time) perspective. Given that, our objector’s question seems to be a category mistake.

The Calvinist Argument Backfires!

I also made a counter-argument showing that God’s innate attributes, such as His faithfulness, are not created by people, but that some optional aspects of those attributes (such as who He is faithful to) do involve creation. The objector replies with a counter-example of his own:
The point is the same argument that he produced about Faithfulness and Omniscience can equally be made about God’s goodness.  … So, either he has missed the argument I provided, or his argument about God’s attributes has zero relevance.
Yes, I absolutely agree that the same point I made about faithfulness and omniscience can also be made for God’s goodness. In fact, I’ll make it right here:
  • God is good (immutable attribute)
  • If God did not create the world, there would be no human persons to be good to, but that would not detract from His being good
  • God did create the world and has chosen to show His goodness to members of creation
  • Said showing of goodness is an optional aspect of God’s goodness contingent upon Him creating
Just like,
  • God is omniscient (immutable attribute)
  • If God did not create the world, there would be no human persons to know about, but that would not detract from His omniscience
  • God did create the world and knows everything about His creation
  • Said knowledge of His creation is an optional aspect of God’s omniscience contingent upon Him creating
Talk about an epic backfire. That the argument could easily fit God’s goodness is fairly obvious, which shows again that our beloved cage-stage objector is simply talking past the point he fails to grasp.

Shooting Down Miscellaneous Errors

Freewill theists wish to agree with that sentiment but are inconsistent when it comes to grounding God’s knowledge of future contingents in the random and arbitrary choice of human agents.
That’s right folks, your choices are just metaphysical dice-rolls. Fallacy sighting confirmed: The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics – Fallacy #3: We Choose by ‘Chance?’
I’ve presented a model where God is ‘Self-Contained’ no explanation extends beyond God himself.
When combined with the idea of God predetermining everything, the idea that all of God’s knowledge comes only from Himself makes for an unworkable mess for several reasons:
  1. That there is spiritual darkness in the world is evident. Yet as I’ve pointed out when addressing the authorship of sin, John writes, “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5) Likewise, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world -the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does- comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 John 2:15-16) So if spiritual darkness, sin, etc. exist, but there is no such darkness in God or that comes from God, then from whence does it originate? The determinist ultimately has to concede that all such evil originates within God, contrary to the teaching of the apostles.
  2. It contradicts the contingent statements God Himself makes, [e.g. “…through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” (Gen 22:18), and numerous other places].
  3. It paradoxically contradicts God’s aseity (independence from creation), and likely His power to freely choose altogether (see the argument below).

Deductive Proof

The question of necessitarianism becomes relevant. What kind of freedom does God possess?   
If every proposition that God knows is innate to Him and an immutable part of His being, then choices such as whether to create the world wouldn’t be choices at all. God would literally have no choice other than to carry them out. I can simplify the problem with a brief syllogism:

P1 To be truly omniscient requires that one’s beliefs match reality.

P2 Per Calvinism*, God innately and immutably believes that creation comes into existence (becomes a reality).

C Therefore, per Calvinism, God innately and immutably requires that creation comes into existence to be truly omniscient.

* That is to say, High Calvinism that holds that the specifics of God’s knowledge are an innate part of His being (many of which debate us from that standpoint). This argument would not apply to Calvinists who don’t hold that premise.

If our sovereign God is intrinsically independent of creation, then He certainly has no innate need to create us to be truly omniscient.

 

Calvinist Debate: Talking Past the Argument

In reply to my post on Calvinism’s Inconsistencies on God’s Attributes, our dear objector has given us another demonstration of missing the point entirely. As is all too common when discussing theological issues, most ‘cage-stage’ Calvinists have a dreadful habit of trying to define what you believe for you rather than actually listening to or reading what’s being expressed. As a result, they usually end up talking past whatever point is being made to attack some imagined or extreme position, as our esteemed objector appears determined to demonstrate.

Before we get to that, his big objection in his initial post was that the Arminian view of free will would somehow ‘explain’ God’s attributes. Though I expressed that his objection about people ‘explaining’ God’s attributes wasn’t clear, instead of any clarification we get this:

The problem with the second point is that it is clearly incorrect. It is relevant because it still shows that Arminians have tensions in their worldview.

He’s still not clear what he means by this, but suffice to say that complaining about creation ‘explaining’ God’s attributes without even defining his objection proves neither tension nor relevance.

 

A Matter of Time

We also went a little bit into the nature of God and time. I mentioned John Frame….

I should also point out the fact that John Frame is a Calvinist.

Hmmm…so he is… Hey, wait! Maybe that’s why I cited him when I mentioned, “Calvinists are no strangers to the idea of God’s transcendence over time…!”

Since God on Frame’s view exists both timelessly and at every point in time, then we can still ask at any moment, how he knows future choices from that specific moment….

He seems to think God in his temporal existence is located everywhere throughout time. So, God simply observes each moment and therefore knows what we are going to do. The problem with that answer is how at any moment in the past can he know what a human will choose?

And he’ll get the same answer that I gave before: “God also exists outside of time, and is therefore not limited by time or the ‘present’ as we see it….” 

It makes one wonder how our objector can read that God knows because He exists outside of time (transcendence) and conclude that we’re arguing He knows because He exists within time (immanence)?

The other problem is that of time. Does Thibodaux hold to an A series or a B series of events? If A theory is true, then the future is unreal. So, God would only be located in the present or only in the past and the present.

The answer to that should already be obvious. Between the two, only the B theory of time allows for God to exist in a state ‘above time,’ as it were.

He calls my argument “noob arguments” in his moment of class and maturity but as I’ve pointed out on other occasions many philosophers throughout time have discussed these issues. They know the difficulty of dealing with future contingents.

Of course there’s some difficulty in describing things that don’t fit in with the normal human experience and perception of time (even some things observable by science such as gravitational time dilation). However, the idea of God’s transcendence in relation to time is already quite well-known as a defeater argument against determinist objections to the Almighty’s abilities, rendering his protests mere cringeworthy noobie mistakes.

 
Not Paying Attention to the Argument

The objector’s main argument was that the Arminian view makes God’s attributes ‘dependent’ on man. I answered by way of comparison, which I’ll reproduce here:

  • God is faithful (immutable attribute)
  • If God did not create the world, there would be no human persons to be faithful to, but that would not detract from His faithfulness
  • God did create the world and is faithful to His covenants with His creation
  • Said faithfulness to His creation is an optional aspect of God’s faithfulness contingent upon Him creating

I think those points are beyond dispute here, so why is it so hard to grasp:

  • God is omniscient (immutable attribute)
  • If God did not create the world, there would be no human persons to know about, but that would not detract from His omniscience
  • God did create the world and knows everything about His creation
  • Said knowledge of His creation is an optional aspect of God’s omniscience contingent upon Him creating

We get this as in reply….

This leaves Thibodaux in a dilemma, if God is truly independent of the world, then his attributes aren’t dependent upon the world, but under his scheme, God’s being is dependent upon the world. God’s attributes are explained by certain things of the world. I’d look at those passages at as extrinsic relations God has given his act of creation. Nothing in creation has given him a certain attribute. So, it seems he’s forcing these passages to mean something more than they actually state….

It is like arguing because God is good to various people throughout time, that divine goodness is dependent on us.

How in the world can anyone read, If God did not create the world, there would be no human persons to be faithful to, but that would not detract from His faithfulness.“, and conclude that it means ‘divine goodness is dependent on us’?

So, he is presenting a position that is unnecessary because God is just as faithful in his atemporal existence as in his temporal existence but what he saying couldn’t be true of God’s atemporal existence.

Again, I argued that God is faithful whether people exist or not, so he’s eisegeting in the exact opposite of what I wrote.

But isn’t God’s goodness not dependent on his creation? God acts in ways revealing to us what he is like. But his being is in no way dependent upon the world. That is just to deny aseity. Hence you’re conceding to my argument without realizing it.

I said that God is faithful even if there is no creation to be faithful to. How does he interpret that as denying God’s aseity?

I think God is unchanging and timeless. … If God is timeless, then his nature can’t be changed at any time. Because he is timeless. So, Thibodaux is only speaking about God qua his temporality. Now, I don’t hold Frame’s view as I have said already, but I’m pointing out that in his own position that these are just events where God’s faithfulness is demonstrated and not that God because of these covenants are acquiring a new attribute.

No one is arguing that God’s nature has changed or acquired new attributes, but as I argued, the “relational, optional specifics encompassed by those attributes” do change. When God chose to create the world, He chose to involve people as objects of certain of His attributes, and said attributes come to involve people.

God is eternally faithful whether we exist or not. God has chosen to create man and made covenants with him. God’s faithfulness has not changed, who God is faithful to has changed. God knows all that is whether He creates the world or not. God has chosen to create a world with free agents. God’s omniscience has not changed, who God knows about has changed. That is an important distinction, and the point of confusion that our dear objector is stuck on and talking past in his objections to what no one is arguing.

 

Still no Answers to Calvinism’s Undermining God’s Aseity

I further pointed out that the Calvinist objection trips over its own feet:

[Me]: If God’s knowledge is innate to Him, then everything He knows is innate to Him. My existence is one of the things God knows about. If God innately knows that I was born some time in the latter part of the last century, then that fact has eternally been an innate part of God’s knowledge; God therefore had no choice but to create me, else He would falsify His knowledge. Thus God’s omniscience is now dependent upon my existence. (The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics: The Arminian View of Divine Foreknowledge Attacks God’s Simplicity and Immutability)

To which we only get,

This is more silliness from the author. the point is that humans future actions can’t be the grounds for which God knows what they will choose to do.

It’s pretty telling that his only reply to the argument is a non-answer via mere assertion of a point unproven.

[Objector]: God decrees events to occur at specific times. [emphasis mine]

At least he’s figuring out Calvinism now.

 

Conclusion

It’s kind of sad and disappointing that the objector hasn’t really read the material carefully enough to understand the argument to which he erroneously objects; nor does he yet possess the self-awareness of his own position to realize that his own views ultimately undermine God’s innate independence from creation even more than his arguments against free will & foreknowledge purport to.

 

Calvinism’s Inconsistencies on God’s Attributes

Some years after writing this article on God’s aseity, I was pointed to a reply by ‘TheSire’ (hereafter, ‘the objector’) that more or less misses the point of my original post. It’s not very long or well-conceived, but I’ll address his main points.

 

Lack of Explaining Power

The first of his objections involves people ‘explaining’ God.

Van Til thinks of aseity as God being self-contained. Nothing can further explain God other than himself but on Thibodaux scheme, God being is explained by creatures. But how can a being that is a se or self-explained be further explained by created things(people and their choice)?

It isn’t really clear what he’s asking. If he’s talking about how we define God, He most certainly is, in some ways, defined by His creation.

“God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’” (Ex. 3:15a)

“But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob…” (Isa. 43:1a)

God identifies Himself by both His relationship to His people and status as Creator (which of course requires a creation).

Nobody is making the argument that free will requires us to create God’s being.

Yes they were in fact: the post was addressing a particular fallacy by a Mr. Prussic that amounted to just that. That said, if that’s not what our dear objector is arguing for, then the objection against us ‘explaining’ God is apparently as irrelevant as it is ill-defined and poorly explained.
Situational Lack-of-Understanding

Our objector’s piece here is a bit of a facepalm. Calvinists are no strangers to the idea of God’s transcendence over time (that is, in addition to being within time [immanent], God also exists outside of time, and is therefore not limited by time or the ‘present’ as we see it, see John Frame’s The Doctrine of God, pp. 570-71), but when it comes to arguing against free will, they temporarily fall into a state of obfuscating ignorance (à la Hays and his ilk), which makes for some hilarious noob arguments.

If their choices ground these future contingents, then how can God know prior to what they are going to do before they choose to do it?

From a perspective of prior to creation, it is hard to see how it is coherent to suppose God knows something that is either false or has no truth value.

How could non-existent things ground God’s knowledge?

Maybe because being in the stretch of all time that is clear to God is not non-existent from God’s perspective.

It is easy to see on a Calvinist scheme that God simply thinks of agents making particular choices and that is what makes it’s true.

Per Calvinism, that would be ‘decreeing,’ not ‘thinking,’ though neither road will avoid slamming headlong into the author of sin problem.

It’s a short walk to Open Theism at this point.

Indeed, if we were to adopt the “How kin God know yer tomorree choice-makins’ if dey ain’t done happund yet?” stance that he’s posited for the moment, then I suppose Open Theism would follow.

 

Freedom!

He does try to address the main argument in the post, but sadly falls flat.

That clearly makes some aspect of God dependant on my choices.

The dilemma either an essential attribute of God is dependant on human choices or God simply doesn’t know the future.

I address this point in the post linked to above, comparing God’s knowledge to His faithfulness: God is both omniscient and faithful regardless of whether the world exists or not, but the specifics thereof – who He knows about and who He is faithful to, depends upon our existence.

[Me]: Let’s look at another one of God’s attributes: faithfulness. God is indeed called “faithful and true” (Revelation 19:11, see also Deuteronomy 7:9, Isaiah 49:7, 1 Corinthians 10:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:24, 2 Thessalonians 3:3). Knowing this, I ask, has God ever made a promise or oath to anyone? He certainly has. His covenant with Abraham and his descendants is a prominent example (Genesis 22:16-18). Second question: for God to remain faithful to what He has promised, does the one(s) to whom He made such promises have to exist? I would think so: Abraham and his descendants apparently must exist for God to remain faithful to His promises that He made to them.

So then God’s attribute of faithfulness actually does depend upon His creations (their existence in this case), provided that He has chosen to make a promise to them. This type of dependency wouldn’t attack God’s aseity, as making the promises in the first place (and thus establishing that dependence) was His decision alone. This clearly wouldn’t imply that He has some innate need of creation, but would definitely indicate that such a dependency exists according to His will.

To which we get the reply,

[Objector]: God’s faithfulness comes from His Holy nature. For example, God is faithful between the persons. Aseity is connected to the fact God is a trinitarian being. God isn’t dependant on the world to be faithful. Its seems rather obvious that God’s moral character isn’t dependant upon the world.

That is true, God is faithful regardless of whether there is a world, just as He is omniscient. Catch is, God’s faithfulness now doesn’t just exist by itself, He is not only innately faithful, but He is now faithful to people like Abraham. God being faithful to Abraham requires that there be an Abraham. Our over-eager objector is confusing God’s immutable attributes with the relational, optional specifics encompassed by those attributes. To show what I mean by comparison:

  • God is faithful (immutable attribute)
  • If God did not create the world, there would be no human persons to be faithful to, but that would not detract from His faithfulness
  • God did create the world and is faithful to His covenants with His creation
  • Said faithfulness to His creation is an optional aspect of God’s faithfulness contingent upon Him creating

I think those points are beyond dispute here, so why is it so hard to grasp:

  • God is omniscient (immutable attribute)
  • If God did not create the world, there would be no human persons to know about, but that would not detract from His omniscience
  • God did create the world and knows everything about His creation
  • Said knowledge of His creation is an optional aspect of God’s omniscience contingent upon Him creating

What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Our objector failing to understand the comparison shows that he’s not yet grasped the issue: if God knowing our free choices would make God’s attribute of omniscience “dependent on man,” then by his logic, God being faithful to people would likewise make God’s attribute of faithfulness “dependent on man!”

 

The Final Nail – God Needs us to Create us to Remain Omniscient?

When I studied the subject some years ago, it dawned on me just how nonsensical was the idea that all of God’s knowledge is innate to Him rather than some aspects of it being dependent upon things like His choice to create. It actually raises a rather awful implication:

[Me]: If God’s knowledge is innate to Him, then everything He knows is innate to Him. My existence is one of the things God knows about. If God innately knows that I was born some time in the latter part of the last century, then that fact has eternally been an innate part of God’s knowledge; God therefore had no choice but to create me, else He would falsify His knowledge. Thus God’s omniscience is now dependent upon my existence.

This could even be taken a step further: I’m a believer in Christ, part of the elect. God has innately and eternally known that I’ll be part of the elect -that fact is part of His divine essence (according to Mr. Prussic anyway). By that logic, God not only had to create me, but to make His knowledge true, had no choice but to elect me as well (and Calvinists accuse me of being “man-centered”), else falsify His knowledge. Even the Potter doesn’t have any real freedom by such backwards thinking! We could go on and on, but suffice it to say that divine simplicity interpreted in such a way as Mr. Prussic does breaks down into complete incoherence.

The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics: The Arminian View of Divine Foreknowledge Attacks God’s Simplicity and Immutability

In an ironic twist, the [high] Calvinist view actually militates against God’s aseity: If the specifics of God’s omniscience, such as His knowledge of us, are essential parts of God’s being, then God must create us for His knowledge to hold true! The idea of God having some innate compulsion and having no choice as to whether He creates or redeems people also runs afoul of another one of His attributes: maybe after a refresher on transcendence, our objector can study up on a certain attribute known as Sovereignty. I’ve heard some Calvinists believe in that too.

 

Great Quotes: Thomas Ralston on the Compatibility of Freedom and Foreknowledge With Regards to Judas Betraying Jesus

It has been said that “knowledge is power;” but it is not implied by that expression that it is a power capable of exerting itself. All that is implied is, that it directs an active agent in the manner of exerting his power. What effect, I would ask, can my knowledge of a past event have upon that event? Surely none at all. What effect can my knowledge of a future event have upon it? Considered in itself, it can have no influence at all. Is there any event, whether past, present, or future, on which the mere knowledge of man can have any influence? Certainly there is none. Knowledge is something existing in the mind. It has its seat there, and of itself it is incapable of walking abroad to act upon extraneous objects. I would therefore ask, What effect can the divine knowledge have on a past or present event? Is it not obvious that it can have none? The knowledge of God does not affect the faithfulness of Abraham, or the treachery of Judas, in the least. Those events would still continue to have occurred precisely as they did, if we could suppose all trace of them to be erased from the divine mind. And if we could suppose that God was not now looking down upon me, could any one believe that I would write with any more or less freedom on that account? Surely not. If, then, knowledge, considered in all these different aspects, is passive in its nature, how can we rationally infer that its passivity is converted into activity so soon as we view it in the aspect of the divine prescience?

But it will doubtless be argued that although the foreknowledge of God may not render future events necessary, yet it proves that they are so. To this we reply, that it proves that they are certain, but cannot prove that they are necessary. But still, it will be asked, where is the difference? If they are certain, must they not therefore be necessary?

That we may illustrate the distinction between certainty and necessity, we will refer to the crime of Judas in betraying the Saviour. Here we would say it was a matter certain in the divine mind, from all eternity, that Judas would commit this crime. God foreknew it. Although it was also foretold, yet it was not rendered any the more certain by that circumstance; for prediction is only knowledge recorded or made manifest; but knowledge is equally certain, whether secret or revealed. The pointed question now is, Could Judas possibly have avoided that crime? Was he still a free agent? and might he have acted differently? or was he impelled by absolute necessity? We answer, he could have avoided the crime. He was still a free agent, and might have acted differently.

Here it will no doubt be argued that if he had avoided the crime, the foreknowledge of God would have been defeated, and the Scriptures broken. To fairly solve this difficulty, and draw the line between certainty and necessity, we answer, that if Judas, in the exercise of the power of free agency with which he was endued, had proved faithful, and avoided the crime in question, neither would the foreknowledge of God have been frustrated, nor the Scriptures broken. In that case, the foreknowledge of God would have been different, accordingly as the subject varied upon which it was exercised. God could not then have foreknown his treachery; and had it not been foreknown, it never could have been predicted. A free agent may falsify a proposition supposed to announce foreknowledge, but cannot falsify foreknowledge; for if the agent should falsify the proposition, that proposition never could have been the announcement of foreknowledge.

The truth is, the prediction depends on the foreknowledge, and the foreknowledge on the event itself. The error of the necessitarians on this subject is, they put the effect for the cause, and the cause for the effect. They make the foreknowledge the cause of the event, whereas the event is the cause of the foreknowledge. No event ever took place merely because God foreknew it; on the contrary, the taking place of the event is the cause of his having foreknown it. Let this distinction be kept in mind, that, in the order of nature, the event does not depend on the knowledge of it, but the knowledge on the event, and we may readily see a distinction between certainty and necessity. It is certain with God who will be saved, and who will not; yet it is likewise certain that salvation is made possible to many who, according to the certain prescience of God, never will embrace it. God has made some things necessary, and some things contingent. Necessary events he foreknew as necessary – that is, he foreknew that they could not possibly take place otherwise. Contingent events he foreknew as contingent – that is, he foreknew that they might take place otherwise. And thus, we think, foreknowledge and free agency may be harmonized, human responsibility maintained, and the divine government successfully vindicated. (Elements of Divinity, pp. 199-203, Wesleyan Heritage Collection CD)

You can read the full section here: Thomas Ralston on Freedom of the Will Part 8: Can Free Agency be Harmonized With Divine Foreknowledge?

Related:

Calvinist Sleight of Hand: A Brief Interaction With Wayne Grudem’s Arguments Against the Compatibility of Foreknowledge and Conditional Election

Robert Picirilli: Foreknowledge, Freedom, And The Future

Daniel Whedon: The Freedom of the Will as a Basis of Human Responsibility and Divine Government (esp. pages 267-293)

Calvinist Sleight of Hand: A Brief Arminian Interaction With Wayne Grudem’s Arguments Against the Compatibility of Foreknowledge And Conditional Election

A while back someone on the SEA discussion board referenced the following comments by Calvinist Theologian Wayne Grudem arguing against the compatibility of foreknowledge and conditional election.  Below is my brief interaction with this quoted material.

The idea that God’s predestination of some to believe is based on foreknowledge of their faith encounters still another problem: upon reflection, this system turns out to give no real freedom to man either. For if God can look into the future and see that person A will come to faith in Christ, and that person B will not come to faith in Christ, then those facts are already fixed they are already determined. If we assume that God’s knowledge of the future is true (which it must be), then it is absolutely certain that person A will believe and person B will not. There is no way that their lives could turn out any differently than this. Therefore it is fair to say that their destinies are still determined for they could not be otherwise. But by what are these destinies determined? If they are determined by God himself, then we no longer have election based ultimately on foreknowledge of faith, but rather on God’s sovereign will. But if these destinies are not determined by God, then who or what determines them? Certainly no Christian would say that there is some powerful being other than God controlling people’s destinies. Therefore it seems that the only other possible solution is to say they are determined by some impersonal force, some kind of fate, operative in the universe, making things turn out as they do. But what kind of benefit is this? We have then sacrificed election in love by a personal God for a kind of determinism by an impersonal force and God is no longer to be given the ultimate credit for our salvation. (Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: An introduction to biblical doctrine  p.589)

Grudem’s argument employs the usual Calvinist sleight of hand in an attempt to make foreknowledge causative in nature. He makes a subtle and unjustified shift from will be to cannot be otherwise. That is false. What will happen is not the same as what must happen, or what cannot be otherwise. It is just the same old conflation of certainty (what will be) with necessity (what must be) that has been refuted for ages. Here is how I would specifically respond to Grudem’s argument:

Grudem: “The idea that God’s predestination of some to believe is based on foreknowledge of their faith encounters still another problem: upon reflection, this system turns out to give no real freedom to man either. For if God can look into the future and see that person A will come to faith in Christ, and that person B will not come to faith in Christ, then those facts are already fixed they are already determined.”

Response: Actually, they are not already fixed, but they will be fixed and God foreknows how they will be fixed. The crucial question is who will fix them? The proper answer is that the agent will fix his choice when he makes it, and freely so. Foreknowledge doesn’t change that at all. 

Just think about it. Suppose there was no foreknowledge. There would still be one future choice (in this case) and not another. So how does adding foreknowledge change anything? It doesn’t. The future will follow one particular course of events regardless of whether anyone has foreknowledge of those events or not. That tells us nothing of the nature of future choices, whether they will be free or not.

And adding God’s foreknowledge, which simply mirrors that single course of future events, doesn’t tell us anything about the nature of those choices either. They can still be made by the agent with full power to do otherwise, even if God foreknows how the choice will go.

Grudem: “If we assume that God’s knowledge of the future is true (which it must be), then it is absolutely certain that person A will believe and person B will not.”

Response: Yes, absolutely certain (will be), but not necessary (must be).  This is where that distinction between certainty and necessity is crucial. Notice how he makes the subtle shift from certainty to necessity below, with no logical warrant for the shift, and no argument. He essentially just asserts that if something will be a certain way, then it must be a certain way. But that is just an assertion, nothing more; and this assertion assumes the very point in contention (and so is question begging)

Grudem: “There is no way that their lives could turn out any differently than this.”

Response: There it is, the unwarranted and subtle shift from certainly to necessity. What he should have said was “there is no way that their lives will turn out any differently…” And why is that? Because of the choices that they will certainly make. But they can certainly make free choices just as well as predetermined choices. Whether a choice is free or predetermined, it will still eventually happen. If they were to make different free will choices in the future then God’s foreknowledge would simply mirror that course of events instead.

Again, just adding foreknowledge to the way things will be doesn’t change anything. It tells us nothing with regards to whether or not there is any real freedom in the choices that will be made. It does not magically change will be to must be. Calvinists like Grudem just assume and assert that it does change it, but they have no real proof or argument, just an assertion.

Grudem: “Therefore it is fair to say that their destinies are still determined for they could not be otherwise.”

Response: Again, notice the wholesale shift now from certainty to necessity. All he is saying is that because it will be a certain way it must be a certain way (could not be otherwise). That’s it. And again, that is nothing more than an assertion. Grudem just switched cards when nobody was looking and hoped nobody would notice.  I will just counter assert that the certainty of a future act does not make it a necessity. That was easy.  And notice how just tweaking his sentence changes everything:

“Therefore it is fair to say that their destinies are still determined [yes, but by who?] for they [will not] be otherwise.”

Just change “could not” to “will not” and there is no problem. Why? Because “will not” does not necessarily imply “could not”. And I can agree that their destinies are determined, but they are determined based on the free choices that they will certainly make, with full power to do otherwise (and God’s free response to those choices).

Grudem: “But by what are these destinies determined? If they are determined by God himself, then we no longer have election based ultimately on foreknowledge of faith, but rather on God’s sovereign will. But if these destinies are not determined by God, then who or what determines them?”

Response: This is all based on a false dilemma that Grudem has created by deliberately conflating certainty with necessity. There is no such problem with those who understand that crucial distinction between what will be (certainty) and what must be (necessity). And, as I said before, the future is determined by both God and people. People will make free will choices (many of which are direct interactions with God), and foreknowledge does not change that.

So we determine our destinies, though God foreknows those choices (and the end results of those choices). But God also foreknows his very real interactions with us that are yet future as well. He foreknows His own actions and responses, just as He does ours. But His foreknowledge of His future free actions does not mean He has no power to choose otherwise or no freedom to do so. It is just the same with us.

Grudem: “Certainly no Christian would say that there is some powerful being other than God controlling people’s destinies. Therefore it seems that the only other possible solution is to say they are determined by some impersonal force, some kind of fate, operative in the universe, making things turn out as they do.”

Response: Of course, this does not follow at all if one does not conflate certainty with necessity. We control our destinies based on the choices we make and the way we respond to God and His actions and interventions in our lives. God’s prior knowledge of that doesn’t change that truth at all.

Grudem: “But what kind of benefit is this? We have then sacrificed election in love by a personal God for a kind of determinism by an impersonal force and God is no longer to be given the ultimate credit for our salvation.” (p.589)

Response: Another huge leap in logic. There is no “impersonal force” necessary, only choices made by real persons. And if God has determined to make salvation conditional, then He is still the one who determines who gets saved and who doesn’t. Those who believe will be saved and those who do not will not be saved. That condition and His response to that condition was His choice, not ours.

The only choice we make is if we will meet the God ordained condition for receiving His salvation, but it is still God alone who saves, and for that reason God still gets all the credit for salvation. It is exactly because we cannot save ourselves that we need to trust in Christ to save us. If we could save ourselves, we wouldn’t need to trust in Christ to save us, now would we?

So the condition of faith (the fact that we need to trust in Christ to be saved) is what makes salvation all of God and all of grace, and it is why faith is the perfect condition for receiving salvation which by its very nature excludes boasting:

“What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.  (Romans 4:3-5, emphasis mine)

“Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace.” (Romans 4:16, emphasis mine)

So conditional salvation/election and God’s foreknowledge of who will be saved are fully compatible.  Despite Grudem’s assertions, it does not follow that such a view (when properly understood) leads to a fate like controlling impersonal force behind God, and it doesn’t lead to the idea that we or any such non-existent force gets the credit for salvation rather than God.  Grudem’s argument is riddled with unwarranted assumptions, nonsequiturs and question begging, and for that reason is hardly persuasive.

_________________________

Related:

Dr. Robert Picirilli: Foreknowledge, Freedom and the Future

Thomas Ralston on Freedom of the Will Part 8: Can Free Agency be Harmonized With Divine Foreknowledge?

Calvinism on the Horns: The Problem of Divine Foreknowledge in Calvinism and Why You Should Be An Arminian

 

Calvinism And The Fall: The Problem Ignored Again

Just saw this post called “Man’s Will: Before And After the Fall” which opens with these words:

Augustine and the Calvinistic tradition in general define the will’s freedom, or lack thereof, in relation to sin. Why? Because this is how the Bible defines it. Jesus declared “everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. … So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36) Augustine understood that before the fall, Adam was “able to sin and able not to sin“, that he, as representative of the human race, was in a probationary state, not sealed in righteousness (like the glorified saints). Likewise regarding man’s condition after the fall he said we are in the sad condition of being “not able not to sin” So Augustine understood the Bible to be teaching that Adam (pre-fall) was free in regards to sin’s bondage but his willful act rendered his post-fall descendants to be in bondage to corruption; to have a will that is no longer free at all (apart from grace) to make God-pleasing redemptive choices. It is worthwhile to remember this in your discussions about free will, because the historical debate about free will refers to man’s condition in sin after the fall (emphasis mine).

As usual, while this Calvinist refers to Augustine to describe the difference between pre-fall and post-fall abilities, the problematic implications of Augustine’s view for traditional Calvinist views on sovereignty (defined as determinism in Calvinism), free will and foreknowledge are conveniently ignored.  Sorry, but you just can’t have your cake and eat it too.