Friday, February 27, 2009

Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom VI

King Saul and David
(Image from Wikipedia)

An intriguing instance of a counterfactual seems implicit in 1 Samuel 23:9-13, where David is hiding in the city Keilah but hears that Saul is plotting to attack:
9 When David learned that Saul was plotting against him, he said to Abiathar the priest, "Bring the ephod." 10 David said, "O Lord, God of Israel, your servant has heard definitely that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the town on account of me. 11 Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me to him? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O Lord, God of Israel, tell your servant." And the Lord said, "He will." 12 Again David asked, "Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?" And the Lord said, "They will." 13 So David and his men, about six hundred in number, left Keilah and kept moving from place to place. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he did not go there. ("1 Samuel 23 - New International Version," Blue Letter Bible, 1996-2009)
As we see from this example, David uses the ephod (something like divine dice) to ask God to reveal what the future holds, and God tells him what the future holds: Saul will come down to Keilah, whose citizens will surrender David.

David therefore leaves Keilah, and the events foretold by God do not occur.

The counterfactual that I understand is this: God foretells what will happen -- on the assumption that David should choose to remain in Keilah. Left unstated is what will happen if David should choose to leave Keilah, but David chooses to leave and escapes unharmed.

I don't have a sophisticated argument here, but this passage seems to make more sense if one reads it in light of libertarian freedom than divine determinism. The passage seems to presuppose a true counterfactual in this world (rather than some other, possible world): if David remains, then Saul will capture him, but he leaves, so Saul does not capture him.

Assuming that David has libertarian free will, then David's choice could make either outcome true (though God, being omniscient, knows what David will choose).

By contrast, if David lacks libertarian free will, and God divinely determines every event, then God's statement of the foretold events would seem to me to be false, for God knows that he has determined David to choose to escape. If we assume divine determinism, God would seem to be making a false statement.

I don't pretend that I've made a rigorous argument that libertarian free will is implicit in 1 Samuel 23:9-13, but it seems intuitively more likely to me.

Other interesting passages to consider are Jeremiah 38:17-18, Matthew 17:27 and 26:24, and John 18:36.

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