Thursday, February 26, 2009

Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom V

William Lane Craig
(Image from Reasonable Faith)

In a comment left on my first post in this series, Dominic Bnonn Tennant noted the following point about an omniscient being (in the context of interpreting Matthew 11:23):
Moreover, how does Jesus know what Sodom would have done? That is, what grounds his knowledge? The Calvinist says that counterfactuals are grounded in God's knowledge of what he would have caused to occur in some other possible world. Hence, Jesus can know certainly what Sodom would have done in the possible world where he performed such signs in it. But if you are making an argument for libertarian free will -- specifically an argument which presupposes as necessary the principle of alternative possibility [PAP] -- then what grounds exist for this knowledge? Was Jesus just guessing? If PAP obtains, then in principle Jesus could not possibly know (that is, he could have no certainty) that Sodom would have repented. There just doesn't seem to be any way for him to know this, given that it didn't actually happen. Furthermore, even if some account for the grounds of his knowledge can be given, the problem remains as to how God can have knowledge grounded in anything but himself. How can he be genuinely omniscient if some of his knowledge is contingent upon his own creation? This would seem to destroy both his simplicity, and his status as the ontological grounds of knowledge itself (see John's use of the term logos).
As Bnonn's comment shows, this is a complex issue. Even setting aside the problem of how Jesus would know things available only to an omniscient being (given Jesus's presumed kenosis), as Bnonn suggests, there remains the question as to how God could be "genuinely omniscient if some of his knowledge is contingent upon his own creation."

Perhaps I've misunderstood, but Bnonn seems to be distinguishing between two sorts of omniscience: authentic and inauthentic:
Authentic omniscience: God's omniscience is grounded solely in divine determinism.

Inauthentic omniscience: God's omniscience is grounded in more than divine determinism, e.g., also upon contingencies of creaturely freedom.
By "divine determinism" is meant that God causes to occur or could cause to occur. If I understand Bnonn's point, then God's omniscience would be inauthentic if it were partly dependent upon the free acts of created beings. Why? Well, perhaps Bnonn means because God would then not know what would have happened if a created being had acted differently.

If that is the case, then would God's omniscience exclude knowledge about possible worlds that entail creaturely freedom? Would this mean -- to 'misquote' Robert Browning -- that God's "reach must exceed his grasp"? God's omnipotence, which includes his power to actualize possible worlds in which creaturely freedom is actualized, exceeds his grasp to know what would result in such possible worlds?

If so, then "authentic omniscience" would seem to exclude knowledge of some possible worlds.

Perhaps William Lane Craig's explication of middle knowledge (scientia media) offers a way of understanding how God could have knowledge of all possible worlds. Here is a long passage from his article "No Other Name":
Largely the product of the creative genius of the Spanish Jesuit of the Counter-Reformation Luis Molina (1535-1600), the doctrine of middle knowledge proposes to furnish an analysis of divine knowledge in terms of three logical moments. Although whatever God knows, He has known from eternity, so that there is no temporal succession in God's knowledge, nonetheless there does exist a sort of logical succession in God's knowledge in that His knowledge of certain propositions is conditionally or explanatorily prior to His knowledge of certain other propositions. That is to say, God's knowledge of a particular set of propositions depends asymmetrically on His knowledge of a certain other set of propositions and is in this sense posterior to it. In the first, unconditioned moment God knows all possibilia, not only all individual essences, but also all possible worlds. Molina calls such knowledge "natural knowledge" because the content of such knowledge is essential to God and in no way depends on the free decisions of His will. By means of His natural knowledge, then, God has knowledge of every contingent state of affairs which could possibly obtain and of what the exemplification of the individual essence of any free creature could freely choose to do in any such state of affairs that should be actual.

In the second moment, God possesses knowledge of all true counterfactual propositions, including counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. That is to say, He knows what contingent states of affairs would obtain if certain antecedent states of affairs were to obtain; whereas by His natural knowledge God knew what any free creature could do in any set of circumstances, now in this second moment God knows what any free creature would do in any set of circumstances. This is not because the circumstances causally determine the creature's choice, but simply because this is how the creature would freely choose. God thus knows that were He to actualize certain states of affairs, then certain other contingent states of affairs would obtain. Molina calls this counterfactual knowledge "middle knowledge" because it stands in between the first and third moment in divine knowledge. Middle knowledge is like natural knowledge in that such knowledge does not depend on any decision of the divine will; God does not determine which counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are true or false. Thus, if it is true that
If some agent S were placed in circumstances C, then he would freely perform action a,
then even God in His omnipotence cannot bring it about that S would refrain from a if he were placed in C. On the other hand, middle knowledge is unlike natural knowledge in that the content of His middle knowledge is not essential to God. True counterfactuals of freedom are contingently true; S could freely decide to refrain from a in C, so that different counterfactuals could be true and be known by God than those that are. Hence, although it is essential to God that He have middle knowledge, it is not essential to Him to have middle knowledge of those particular propositions which He does in fact know.

Intervening between the second and third moments of divine knowledge stands God's free decree to actualize a world known by Him to be realizable on the basis of His middle knowledge. By His natural knowledge, God knows what is the entire range of logically possible worlds; by His middle knowledge He knows, in effect, what is the proper subset of those worlds which it is feasible for Him to actualize. By a free decision, God decrees to actualize one of those worlds known to Him through His middle knowledge. According to Molina, this decision is the result of a complete and unlimited deliberation by means of which God considers and weighs every possible circumstance and its ramifications and decides to settle on the particular world He desires. Hence, logically prior, if not chronologically prior, to God's creation of the world is the divine deliberation concerning which world to actualize.

Given God's free decision to actualize a world, in the third and final moment God possesses knowledge of all remaining propositions that are in fact true in the actual world. Such knowledge is denominated "free knowledge" by Molina because it is logically posterior to the decision of the divine will to actualize a world. The content of such knowledge is clearly not essential to God, since He could have decreed to actualize a different world. Had He done so, the content of His free knowledge would be different.
The difficulty in this system of middle knowledge lies in understanding how God could know what free agents would freely do. Yet, an account of this would seem to be necessary if God's knowledge about the details of all possible worlds is not to be incomplete. Molina saw this problem and attempted to deal with it, perhaps unsuccessfully, but his suggestion led to further theological reflections:
Molina (Concordia, pp. 290, 303) transferred the medium of God's infallible knowledge to the supercomprehensio cordis (kardiognosia, the searching of hearts). In virtue of this supercomprehension, God knows the most secret inclinations and penetrates the most hidden recesses of man's heart, and is thus enabled to foresee with mathematical certainty the free resolves latent in man's will. This unsatisfactory explanation, however, met with the natural objection that the mathematically certain foreknowledge of an effect from its cause is nothing more or less than the knowledge of a necessary effect; consequently the will would no longer be free (cf. Kleutgen, "De Deo Uno", Rome, 1881, pp. 322 sqq.). Therefore, the opinion, gradually adopted since the time of Francisco Suárez (but repudiated in Molina's work), maintains that, by the scientia media, God sees the conditioned future acts in themselves, i.e. in their own (formal or objective) truth. For, since every free act must be absolutely determined in its being, even before it becomes actual or at least conditionally possible, it is from all eternity a definite truth (determinata veritas), and must consequently be knowable as such by the omniscient God with metaphysical certainty. (Joseph Pohle, "Molinism," The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 10 (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911))
I freely admit that I don't understand all of this, for I haven't read enough and perhaps also lack sufficient metaphysical insight, but this series of posts is, after all, merely an investigation.

But I am out of time for today.

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