Thursday, August 05, 2004

An argument against classical Arminianism

I have for a while been worried that the classical view of God's foreknowledge of the future is problematic. A recent attempt at an argument on Reuben's blogg brought my objection from an unconscious to a conscious level, so here it is:

Firstly it involves two essential ideas which I call "logical dependence" and "finalisation".
Logical dependence also could be called "causal dependence" I suppose and basically if A causes B then B is logically dependent on A. It is important to separate logical dependence from TIME: Say I decide I want to be a good runner in the distant future, and because of that decision I decide to go running tommorrow (starting my training), then my going running tommorrow is logically dependent on my desire being a good runner in the future, but it actually happens first in time: I actually go running prior to becoming a good runner.

Finalisation is the logical point at which actions or decisions are finalised. At some point I decide to go running tommorow and prior to that point I had not decided this: That was the point of finalisation. Note that I am not referring to a temporal point of finalisation, but a logical point. It may very well be that all actions were finalised temporally prior to the creation of the universe. That is irrelevant. At some metaphysical logical moment, our decisions and actions have been or will be finalised (ie decided upon for certain). Of course if there is no free will and the entire metaphysical universe merely follows logical necessity, then the moment of finalisation was at the logical begining of the metaphysical universe.

Now that all sounds horribly complicated, but it's not actually very difficult (just hard to explain) and my argument should clarify it:

1) God's actions affect the future of the temporal world.
God can intervene and do stuff in human history. In doing stuff he changes what is currently happening, and thus what will happen in the future.

2) Thus the future is not finalised until God's actions are finalised.
I take if for granted that if the future is dependent upon God's actions, the future's not certain until God's actions are certain. (In general if A logically affects B, then B cannot be finalised logically prior to A being finalised.)

Now the classical, run of the mill, standard Christian view of the future holds that:
3) God has knowledge of the actual future (and only the actual future) due to his timelessness.

This seems to me to imply (I'll come back to this one later):
4) God's knowledge of the future is logically dependent upon the actual (ie final) future.

But then, by fairly simple logic, we get the following:
5) God cannot have such knowledge until logically after the future is finalised.

And thus, the rather worrying:
6) God cannot use his knowledge of the future when acting in the world, because he doesn't gain such knowledge until after he has ceased acting. (!!!)

This conclusion is super nasty. The only way I can see of escaping it is to deny (4) and rewrite (3) somewhat and thus deny that God's knowledge of the future is causally connected to the actual future. To the casual observer this looks utterly absurd: If God's knowledge of the future isn't connected to the future, then how can he possibly have accurate knowledge?

If God's knowledge is accurate but not causally connected to the truth it must be coincidentally connected to the truth. Thus consider all the possible universes God could create (there are infinitely many), and let God's beliefs in each of those universes vary as well completely independently of the contents of the world. Then in a very few (but still an infinite number) of those possible-universes all God's beliefs happen to, coincidently, be true. God's beliefs about the future, happen to, through shear luck, correspond precisely with the actual future in that possible-world. Therefore, if God in creating the universe, had a choice of possible worlds before him and was able to ensure he created one of those worlds, He would know that His beliefs about the future were coincidentally correct.

However, as I've just realised when writing this, if God is choosing from a set of all possible worlds then that is just Molinism plain and simple... thus classical foreknowledge fails anyway. The only way the classical thinker could escape Molinism would be to assert that God cannot choose among the possible worlds, but CAN ensure that the world that does get created obeys the God-accurately-believes-the-future rule. That seems unlikely in the extreme, and quite an absurd scenario anyway.


Blogger Matt said...

<sings>Just gimme dat O-pen Theism!</sings>

Anyway, it's problems like this (and the old "is God inside or outside of time?") that really bring open theism (open theology, the open view…) into its own right. The idea of a God who in some way intentionally submits to certain limitations makes a lot of sense—just look at how God chooses to interact with us in the first place. I don't think you could find a better model of self-restraint.

Blogger Andrew said...

I take it you're an open viewer too. It seems to me that it's the only way to go. I think the argument I made above is pretty much a 100% sure and certain refutation of classical foreknowledge... but I'm not sure arguments with the same level of compellingness exist against Molinism and compatibilist Calvinism.

I was thinking about Molinism today and confusing myself. I think it radically misunderstands libertarian free will (LFW), but I'm not quite sure how to prove it. I seem to have lots of beliefs about the nature of LFW, but I'm not sure how exactly they are connected and which are the axioms and which are beliefs developed from them, and whether I'd be ever able to convince a Molinist of any of them. The main assertion I want to make that would kill Molinism is that a LFW decision cannot actually be made in the absence of an actually existing entity to make it (and thus that the Molinist idea of a plethora of possible worlds containing non-actual people making non-actual decisions is totally absurd), but I'm not sure whether that itself is an axiom, or something I believe as a result of other things. Obviously I'd never be able to convince a Molinist of that idea unless I could prove it as a result of obvious truths.

Disproving a compatibilist version of Molinism though seems rather difficult... not that anyone seems to want to advocate one. I just don't like compatibilism, but it's hard to identify why exactly. I think it's the lack of connection between the doer and the point of logical finalisation that irks me... I want to assert something along the lines of: if you don't finalise something you're not responsible for it.

Blogger Philotas said...

*rises to a standing position to address his fellow philosophisers*

you make a very convincing agument there, and im not sure that i entirely disagree.
But i still have a few issues with the Open View again
Although, i am changing my original views based on these arguments. Let me throw some ideas out, and see what you think.

You wrote:
"The only way the classical thinker could escape Molinism would be to assert that God cannot choose among the possible worlds, but CAN ensure that the world that does get created obeys the God-accurately-believes-the-future rule. That seems unlikely in the extreme, and quite an absurd scenario anyway."

Why Unlikely? and why is it absurd? the other way of thinking is also equally unlikely and absurd, as is potentially any other theory there could be, each is as unlikely and absurd as the next.

God Choosing between different worlds? that would imply a foreknowledge of their futures. either he lets time run its course on them (and through this knows their future, as you suggest) and then culls the timelines off, ending the existence of untold trillions, or he knows how they will turn out in his mind, without having to create them, which would seem to indicate the Classical view of promoting the timelessness and Omiscience of God.

Thinking over the situation again, i think i am altering my thoughts on this issue:

1) God's actions do affect our temporal world. But he knows the definate results of his actions before he puts them into motion. (all knowing)

2) I think that God is (at present - for lack of better terminology!) moving in time as well, humbling himself as he did in the case of Jesus. But at the same time, he could also exist outside of time if he so chose. (maybe the New Heaven and New Earth exist out of time.. that would make sense i think, also implying that Earth and Heaven now exist only in time)

3) Through the Bible, its pretty obvious that God's mind can be changed. this may suggest that God cannot know the future because it is not finalised, but id still say, that since he is all knowing, that he accurately KNOWS, not GUESSES at the results of his actions. it is a certainty, and he doesnt need for it to happen to know it.

I guess what the main difference here between my comment and your post, is that i have rewritten number three to say: 3) God has knowledge of the future due to his Omniscience. not timelessness, and not limited to actual future. he knows the results of his actions, should he choose to do them. and also knows what might have happened, had he chosen not to.

What do you think? I dont think its a classical view, but i dont think its an open view either! :) thoughts?

Blogger Andrew said...

Sam you seem to be a Molinist. While I think Molinism is wrong, my argument wasn't targeted at Molinism, just classical Arminianistic foreknowledge. There are 4 views on foreknowledge:
1) Open View
2) Classical Arminianism
3) Molinism
4) Calvinism

My argument seems to decimate position 2. I hold to position 1, and you hold position 3. The only way (it seems to me) that anyone holding position 2 could escape the conclusion, would be to hold a very very wierd version of position 3 such that it is effectively position 2. I doubt anyone wants to do that.

Actually, I firmly believe position 3 should be separated into (3a) LFW Molinism, and (3b) Compatibilist Molinism... but I seem to be the only one in the world who wants to make this distinction.

My complaint against Molinism is that I think this is impossible: "either he lets time run its course on them (and through this knows their future, as you suggest) and then culls the timelines off, ending the existence of untold trillions, or he knows how they will turn out in his mind, without having to create them"I don't think culling timelines off works, because if they existed then the people would have actually existed and had experiences in them... how could we know, for example, that at the end of our universe God won't decide "gee, I didn't like how that world went" and cull US? Similarly, I don't think you CAN just "foreknow" free action without the free agents existing, because the whole point of freewill is that it is actually the free agents who generate the action. Thus without any free agents actually existing there seems nothing to know about their actions.

Blogger Nathan said...

I think I agree with your argument against Arminiansim. Wohoo!

Blogger incognito said...

Andrew, an interesting post. But I think you are being rather presumptuous when you say, "I think the argument I made above is pretty much a 100% sure and certain refutation of classical foreknowledge", due to the following argument which I have just thought of.

Your last point (6) is ambugious in that it can either be taken in a temporal or logical sense of "after".

Firstly assuming a temporal sense... You state that God "cannot use" His knowledge of the future to act at a given POINT IN TIME because the future has not been finalised at the temporal point. However, back in point 3 you say that God is timeless, and therefore HE KNOWS THE ACTUAL COURSE OF HISTORY AT ALL POINTS IN TIME. So clearly your argument is self-defeating if point 6 refers to finalisation occuring temporally "after" God's actions.

Thus, let's consider a logical sense of "after"... You are basing this statement (6) on the premise that while God is not limited to the progression of time, He IS limited to the progression of logic in our world - referred to hereafter as THE ASSUMPTION. While the ASSUMPTION sounds reasonable, I will attempt to show why I believe it to be false.

Let us define an event as an action performed in the world at a given moment, which is in a given state. (I believe this is a reasonable definition). Let us first assume THE PREMISE - of consequences can only affect the world at both a later temporal and logical state. You could draw a plot, with t=time on the x-axis and and l=logic on the y-axis to illustrate.

Now let us assume God performs action 'A' at t=0, l=0 (0,0). 'A' has consequence 'B', at t=1, l=1. Now, let's say just as we are limited to temporal progression in our world, God is limited by the logical progression in our world, such that God must 'logically wait' to see event 'B' (in keeping with the ASSUMPTION). Having seen even 'B', God can then act as a result of seeing 'B'. Now let us use THE PRINCIPLE that God is not constrained to time, and can therefore act at any point in time as a result of seeing 'B'.

So, let us assume He performs action 'C' at point t=-1, l=2; which is to His Logic AFTER seeing 'B', but temporally before it. Can action 'C' affect the world at point 'A', and thus the choice of action 'A'? In order for the PREMISE to hold, the answer to this question must be no. However, this implies that event 'C' cannot in fact affect the world AT ALL - because such effects would influence the world at 'A'. Clearly, it is known FACT that the state of the world IS influenced by prior events - it is the known logical progression in this world. Thus, in order for this FACT to hold, event 'C' cannot in happen at all - thus voilating the PRINCIPLE that God is not contrained to time.

Thus, if God is not constrained by the progression of time, God is not constrained by the progression of logic. So, in order for your whole argument to hold, the PRINCIPLE that God is not constrained by time must be false, which is assumed Open View proponents, leading naturally to the conclusion that the Open View is correct.

However, if the PRINCIPLE is true, and God is not constrained to time, it follows that the ASSUMPTION that God is constrained to a progression of logic must therefore be false. If this ASSUMPTION is false, your argument no longer is valid.

I believe that being the Creator, God is not limited by the progression of time in our world, and therefore that God is also not constrained to the progression of logic in our world. Such a theory ties in nicely with my theory outlined in my blog - where I will also post this argument.

I argue that the PRINCIPLE is true, and therefore your argument is invalid. God CAN perform action 'C', and when He chose action 'A', the effects of action 'C' had already occured. In our progression of logic, it is a paradox - the world-state at 'A' is so BECAUSE of action 'C', which occured BECAUSE of action 'A'. Yet, there is no paradox from God's perspective - God had influenced the world-state at 'A' prior to 'A', and it does not matter WHEN He gained the knowledge about how to influence it. But, His knowledge is based on the actual course of history. This is why I keep saying it is useless using terms like 'before' and 'after' in reference to God. God can have a normal progression of logic - but this progression of logic is different in very essence to the logical progression of logic observed in our world. Just as His ways are higher than our ways, so are His thoughts higher than our thoughts.

Blogger incognito said...

Sorry, I've just realised that we may have been confusing abstract logic with cause and effect. In our universe, the progression of cause and effect and the progression of time are inseperable. Either God also limited to this inseperable progression or He is not - but this progression is not necessarily related to the logical order of thoughts in God's head, because God is the Creator, not the Creation.

The Open View holds that God is constrained by this progression of time/cause and effect. I believe He is not, but that does not mean there is not a logical order of thoughts in His mind.

Thus, He can change His mind and act differently etc etc, but still know the future and influence it in full knowledge of it, while considering 'what could have been'.

Blogger incognito said...

Hmmm... well, I think my first argument is somehow deficient in the logic. Perhaps you have already seen it... In order for God to decide to do 'C', 'B' must actually have happened, and therefore action 'C' cannot change the world at 'A' AND 'B' and therefore 'C' cannot actually occur.

Just goes to show how useless some of these conversations are.

I think my previous comment though, where I distinguish between logical progression and cause and effect may hold some truth. I'm not sure how.

All this is making me think the following:

1) Regardless of which theory you hold, God's actions do not 'change the future' - they are simply part of everyday history just as our choices are. An alternate future never exists, it is merely possibility.

2) God chooses and acts perfectly. He is the best guide and councellor, and regardless of exactly what He knows, He knows a great deal more than we do. If God makes an action that He later sees had undesirable consequences, it is not His mistake, it is ours. This is an unfounded criticism which has been levelled at the OV.

3) God is all powerful. He obviously limits that power according to our free-will, but nevertheless He can influence us just as a friend can in ways that we may not realise.

4) God is a person. He has a mind, and thoughts, and emotions - for we are poor reflections of Himself. Regardless of wheather or not God knows the future - for all intents and purposes it suffices to say that He relates to us in the present.

5) We choose how we react to circumstances, others, and God, and our choices do have eternal consequences. If I did not believe this, and thought, "God is controlling it all", I would have no cause to serve Him in this world.

6) God is faithful. If God says He'll do something, He'll do it, for he is all-powerful and entirely capable of doing that - even while not impinging on human free-will.

7) God knows 'all things', but not 'all things that are not.' He knows all things that are knowable, but that does not necessarily include the exact consequences of all decisions made in the universe. If He had such knowledge, He would decide the fate of every person.

Blogger Andrew said...

Premise 6 had a logical sense.

Well, Reuben the point of the argument was that what you call the "ASSUMPTION" is not an assumption at all and is based on ideas so simple and obviously true that they can be taken as absolutely axiomatic. Whereas the "PREMISE" is pure assumption and speculation. Thus, given there is a conflict, we should be throwing out the "PREMISE" not the "ASSUMPTION". Thus we should be concluding that the idea of God being outside of time has serious problems. It seems to me you have the choice of throwing out everything that is intuitively obvious about cause-effect systems, or of throwing out God's timelessness.

Of course you could retain both by being a Molinist, but you don't seem to like Molinism.

Blogger Philotas said...

To Quote Shaft:
"Never make Assumptions. cause you make an Ass out of U and umption!"

You know, im kinda irked in that we must be classified into particular viewpoints. can we not just say that we believe this, which is SIMILAR but not exactly the same as previous theories?

damn these metaphorical boxes we are forced into! :P

Blogger incognito said...

Andrew... I refuse to be limited by logic =)

Of course I see your point of view, and I am largely in agreement with it. Prophesy is the only thing I dislike with the Open View. How did Jesus know who would betray him and that he'd deny him 3 times before the rooster sounded? That's pretty specific. Of course I can guess at what your arguments will be... but I'd like to hear them.

I think I was suggesting before that what is logical for God may not appear logical to us, because our understanding is constrained by the progression of time. Thus I was indeed asserting that the ASSUMPTION was in fact an ASSUMPTION based on the idea that our limited minds can fully grasp the logic of God (which may or may not be very accurate).

But I think it's best to not worry about my previous comments on the matter here... I doubt they are at all useful.

I am beginning to more and more adopt the Open View, but I like to think of it slightly differently I think. I don't believe it for the same reasons as most of its proponents apparently, after a brief study of it via the Net. There is much we will learn in heaven, and I'm sure this will be one of the many things.

Blogger Andrew said...

At risk of argument by link, I'll do exactly that:
Peter and the Open View.

I, myself, would add that it is entirely possible God knew this as a likely future: ie that things didn't have to turn out as they did, that Peter did have a real choice, but that the chances -given Peter's character etc which were well known to God- were good that Peter would deny Jesus once he was isolated from Him.

Blogger incognito said...

Thanks for the link Andrew, it's a good OV site. After attempting to explain my own theory I think I will just adopt the OV and leave my mindbending aside.


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