Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Simple logical refutation of the Arminian theory of simple foreknowledge.

Thanks to Daniel Chew for putting the following up at his webpage. I thought it was rather good, but most Arminians will not even begin to refute the logic of it, sadly.
If they ever did, there goes their Arminianism, aka Non Calvinism!



The open theist William Hasker has presented a masterful logical argument that shows the incoherence of Arminian simple foreknowledge with its belief in libertarian free will. This argument can be found in the book The Openness of God by Clark H. Pinnock et. al. (1994), p. 148, which I have reviewed here. Since Hasker has done such a masterful job of showing the incoherence of the Arminian position, I would like to share his argument here.

Suppose that there is a person known as Clarence who is addicted to cheese omelets. Will Clarence have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow morning, or won't he? The argument proceeds as follows:

1. It is now true that Clarence will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow. (Premise)

2. It is impossible that God should at any time believe what is false, or fail to believe anything that is true (Premise: divine omniscience)

3. God has always believe that Clarence will have a cheese omelet tomorrow (From 1, 2)

4, If God has always believed a certain thing, it is not in anyone's power to bring it about that God has not always believed that thing. (Premise: the unalterability of the past)

5. Therefore, it is not in Clarence's power to bring it about that God has not always believed that he would have a cheese omelet for breakfast (From 3,4)

6. It is not possible for it to be true both that God has always believed that Clarence would have a cheese omelet for breakfast, and that he does not in fact have one (From 2)

7. Therefore, it is not in Clarence's power to refrain from having a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow. (From 5,6). So Clarence's eating the omelet tomorrow is not an act of free choice (From the definition of [libertarian] free will)

What this argument shows is that it is logically impossible that God should have foreknowledge of a genuinely free action. It follows from this that if there are actions that are free in the libertarian sense, it is logically impossible for God to know in advance how such actions will turn out.

Hasker then continues by stating that the best evasion from this argument that he has seen so far states that God's knowledge of what Clarence will do does not cause Clarence to eat the omelet (Openness, p. 149). However, he similarly states that althought this may be true, it is irrelevant to the argument as presented, which does not make any claim to the effect that God's beliefs are the cause of human actions, which I concur. The main point of this argument is to show that human actions according to the simple foreknowledge scheme cannot be made by libertarian free will, which undercuts the entire focus of the Arminian belief system. This logical refutal of Arminian simple foreknowledge is thus valid and sound, and thus Arminianism is rendered philosophically incoherent.


Anonymous said...

Hello Mark,

I am afraid that Mr. Tasker's argument in no way refutes simple foreknowledge. A simple understanding of the difference between certainty and necessity relieves any perceived difficulty as Picirilli well points out here.

God Bless,

Tartanarmy said...

Thank you, and welcome to my wee place. I will interact with your link, but on first reading, I see no rebuttal of what Hasker has presented.
In fact, it appears that we might be speaking past each other. I will respond soon and try and interact with his argument, but if one really wants to hold to
"libertarian" freewill, one will ultimately end up with an illogical position.


Tartanarmy said...

It is beginning to be clear to me that Molinism is largely presupposed by most Arminians.

This is especially pronounced in their reactions to the Open View's critique of Simple Foreknowledge.

Yet, it seems that many Arminians are denying any import of Molinism in their own thought. Many question whether or not Molinism is of any use to their own thought.

As an example of this, I will quote sections from Robert E. Picirilli's book Grace Faith Free Will

First, I shall start with Picirilli's position on Molinism (as defined by William Lane Craig):

No doubt there is some truth there, although [Molinism's] significance for the [conflict between Free Will and Divine Assent] is questionable.

If it has any usefulness, that will be found in contributing to our understanding just how, at times, God is able to bring about the doing of His will freely by His creatures without in any sense acting on their will causally. [...] But this will not do as a whole explanation of the problem. Nor does it seem to me that this "middle knowledge," as thus explained [by Craig in [i]The Only Wise God], is any advancement on traditionally conceived foreknowledge or omniscience.

However, my problem lies in the fact that Picirilli assume large portions of the Molinist outlook when he explains what he means by "traditionally conceived foreknowledge or omniscience":

Before any creating act, God considered all possibilities and chose from them the very set He put in motion by His creating acts.

Thus, from before the beginning, He saw all that would follow if he created Adam and Eve in the very set of circumstances He chose for them. Seeing all, He said "Let that be," and by that creating word set in motion the chain of events that certainly would encompass all that ever occurs.

In that sense, He "ordained" everything that is. But that ordination does not cause the free acts to be necessary ones, and it certainly does not cause evil.

It seems overly clear to me that if Arminians hold this as their basis for foreknowledge (and not merely precognition -- Simple Foreknowledge) then Arminians are really Molinists who just don't like the name.

Picirilli doesn't make the disconnect between necessary and contingent facts in God's own knowledge.

However, he is more than willing to make plain the difference between necessary and contingent facts when explaining that mere knowledge doesn't overrule Libertarian Free Will.

SO, the questions are as follows:

1) As an Arminian, do you agree with Picirilli's definition of God's foreknowledge?

2) Do you believe that Picirilli's definition can be properly titled "Simple Foreknowledge"?

3) Do you agree with Picirilli that Molinism offers little to the Arminian perspective?

4) What (if any) objections do you hold to Molinism?

Tartanarmy said...

Fuller response below.

PuritanReformed said...

Hello Mark:

thanks for the link. I agree with you that Molism is 'largely presupposed' by these Ariminians. After all, isn't the existance of "contingencies" in God's foreknowledge a direct concession to a form of middle knowledge aka Molinism? If something is contingent, then it is not definitely known which way would be taken, but it is certain that one of these ways would be taken. So they have already conceded to the Open theists to a certain extent already. What remains to be debated between them is which facts are contingent and which facts are necesssary. After all, 'conservative' open theism believe that almost ALL facts are known to God as contingencies (besides the few prophecies I guess).

Tartanarmy said...

Exactamundo. I just wish they would believe, really really believe the Scriptures.

"The LORD hath prepared His Throne In the heavens;
and His Kingdom ruleth over all" (Psa. 103:19).

"He spake and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast."

"He sendeth forth His commandment upon earth: His word runneth very swiftly. He giveth snow like wool: He scattereth the hoar frost like ashes. He casteth forth His ice like morsels: who can stand before His cold? He sendeth out His word, and melteth them: He causeth His wind to blow, and the waters flow" (Psa. 147:15-18).

"Behold, the hand of the LORD is upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain. And the LORD shall sever between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt: and there shall nothing die of all that is the children's of Israel. And the LORD appointed a set time, saying, Tomorrow the LORD shall do this thing in the land. And the LORD did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one" (Exo. 9:3-6).

"In Him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28).

"The disposings of the heart, and the answer of the tongue is from the LORD" (Prov. 16:1).

"A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps" (Prov. 16:9).

"There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand" (Prov. 19:21).

"The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will (Prov. 21:1).

"But He is one mind, and who can turn Him? and what His soul desireth, even that He doeth" (Job 23:13).

"The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of His heart to all generations" (Psa. 33:11).

"There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD" (Prov. 21:30).

"For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? And His hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?" (Isa. 14:27).

"Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else! I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure" (Isa. 46:9, 10).

Two alternatives confront us, and between them we are obliged to choose: either God governs, or He is governed; either God rules, or He is ruled; either God has His way, or men have theirs.