@SeanO I haven’t really thought about that – such is certainly possible, but it isn’t clear to me in the least how it might work if tomorrow has no essence in the sense that it has no comparable traits.
@handres And why does tomorrow have to have comparable traits for God to know about it? Isn’t that assuming that God is doing some type of algorithmic search of all of the possible realities in which He must run comparisons of one against the other until finding the right one? What is the rationale behind tomorrow needing comparable traits?
I don’t think we know the mechanism by which God knows the future, so I think perhaps the assumption about comparable traits is assuming something about how God knows that we do not know.
But what is a truth claim? You are appealing to something objective outside of yourself. There is nothing outside the physical universe with naturalism. Truth does not exist, things just are.
Does God appeal to a ‘higher truth claim’ outside of Himself for truth claims about morality? No, He is truth (as Jesus said I am the way, the truth and the life).
I suppose that I came to the term object through reading some Aquinas, some philosophy (particularly divine conceptualism).
Most importantly, however, I am a mathematician by training; I always ponder things which are well defined – some sort of “object” that is well-defined so that one may talk about it rigorously. That certainly has a large bias on the way I think about things like this.
@matthew.western How would you define a truth claim?
@handres Feel free to join our book discussion. Lennox’s book may address some of your questions.
YES! Tomorrow does exist. This must be true because God exists outside of time. He was there at the beginning, and he will be there at the end. He knows how both will work out because He planned it. He holds the entirety of space and time in His hands. How can this not be true if he created it? He can be at all locations at all times so yesterday today and tomorrow, therefore, must all exist. In His infinite wisdom, He still gave us free will to make choices. Also, He gave us the Holy Spirit to make good choices. Thanks, be to God! His grace and mercy pour forth on us that we may know Him in our time.
I think the analogy of a Chess game works well for this discussion. Before they had computers the Soviets were obsessed with being the best chess players in the world. Of course, the US was too, but the Soviets created “The Book” on chess. Every game that was ever played was in the book. It was more like a library. When a Soviet chess master was scheduled to play a match he would study his opponent’s games and know exactly how this opponent is likely to play the game. When a player made a previously unrecorded move he was said to be playing “outside the book”. With the advent of the computer, programs were created that could predict the outcome of a game within a few moves.
Now if we imagine playing a game of chess with God we can be certain God knows exactly what we are going to do. He doesn’t decide for us He just knows. Because of His knowledge, He can play in a way that extends grace to us so that we will move where He wants us to move. If His grace is withheld the outcome is not as good for us. Romans 9:15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” At the end of the game if we choose life He will say well done my good and faithful servant.
I am sure that some will think this a cruel God that He will withhold grace and mercy to some but it is His game. He created every minute of every day, and it is not that grace is beyond anyone’s reach, Jesus died once for ALL. It is just that some make bad choices and harden their hearts.
Good question, you have made me think more, which is good.
I guess we’d better stick to the dictionary definition.
A truth claim is a proposition or statement that a particular person or belief system holds to be true.
I would suggest that atheistic naturalism, being a completely physical only universe, doesn’t allow for beliefs or knowledge which are non-physical things.
The irony that Scott Smith points out is that it is the worldview of atheism, naturalism, that is incompatible with reason and knowledge. He explains it here. He argues that features of beliefs and knowledge are intrinsically non-physical, and naturalism cannot account for these. Knowledge requires mental states, but naturalism denies the existence of mental states and minds. Naturalism leaves us without knowledge, only interpretations. This is a fatal flaw for a worldview that claims to explain the world in purely physical terms and claim to be true and knowable.
https://str.typepad.com/weblog/2012/08/can-naturalists-know-anything.html (excuse the source, the discussion is not new)
In terms of thinking about your original question; I think both man is 100% free, and God is 100% sovereign. Why could not an infinite God create a ‘completely free finite space’ in which man can make completely free moral choices for which they are held accountable.
Is it possible we are having this discussion, because we are inside this universe, not in an alternate physical only universe?
Anyway, I think you have thought about this a lot more deeply than me, and my brain is starting to hurt, and I’ve not done any formal philosophy education. Hehe. I’m also joining in the book discussion Sean’s mentioned about John Lennox ‘Determined to believe’… very interesting topic.
Just like to add a question here and maybe someone has a thought. Just because God foreknows a choice that a person is going to make does that mean He is making them do it?
@Kevin_Hurst No, otherwise God could not reasonably hold anyone accountable for their actions. We’re beginning to get into these topics in our book discussion. Feel free to join in
An essential part of what it means to be mature human beings (so discounting here both infants and the severely mentally ill) is the freedom to choose between A and not-A, such that we are morally responsible and hence accountable for our actions.
Secondly, if one is going to behave morally, one must not only be aware of the difference between moral good and moral evil; one must have sufficient freedom of will in order freely to choose to do good or to do evil.
Thank you Sean. I should have waited but I have actually just about finished that book myself but I would love to hear others thoughts on it. Looking forward to it.
May I offer a thought @handres?
I’m in a study group on this topic with a group of computer science folk, mathematicians and physicians. With prayer, research and time, I offer these thoughts:
There is significant difference between naturalistic determinism and the determinism discussed in Christianity. Here’s a shot at that.
CS Lewis came to Christ rejecting naturalism/determinism as a possibility. If naturalism is “the way things are”, as C.S. Lewis’ mentor Barrow posed to him, and our thoughts are nothing more than “a collection of atoms colliding in the skull” - which is to say in Richard Dawkins’ words “mindless, pitiless chance” - then naturalistic determinism is chemicals, DNA, stuff and time all sloshing toward entropy. No free will exists. You must “dance to your DNA”. And worse, your thoughts are not logic, they are static electricity passing through brain gas, randomly.
Sovereignty and determinism often get twisted round: That God is “up there playing dice with people’s eternities” (no free will of man, God determining each person’s destiny).
So, here’s a Sovereignty mind bender from the Reformation…
We, each, freely choose, beginning with Adam, to rebel against God. Then we each, individually, predestined, chose, determined, elected ourselves to live in enmity with God. This results in what Paul illustrates as us freely choosing to be dead to God. We hate, we lobotomize our minds toward God, we are dead spiritually and we die physically eventually. We chose that course freely, not God. That is determinism, but writ large on the human. We determined our own destiny.
Sovereignty established a creation where math, orbits, electrons and logic function intentionally, not randomly.
Sovereignty allows men to freely choose, and unfortunately, our free will (I will be god, God cannot be God) always breaks bad, freely.
God’s determinism is that Jesus Christ has overcome what we did to ourselves, if we believe in Him.
God’s determinism is we are told to go as God’s “modality” - his objects, to use your word broadly, to place the gospel before people who are rebelled, lobotomized, dead to God’s grace. And God expects us to tell them the news.
People wake up from deadness, and see clearly what is before them in eternity with God and, well, the deal is just “irresistable”.
Is this answering your very deep question?
Hi there! I feel everyone added wonderfully, so I won’t add too much on.
Knowing something doesn’t cause something. Like @Kevin_Hurst mentioned.
If you are on a mountain, sitting in your car, enjoying the views, and in the distance you see a car driving full speed in one direction and another car in the other direction, you know there is going to be an accident. It doesn’t mean you are the one who caused it.
I believe it is in this sense God knows the future. We are free because God isn’t making us do anything.
If I say I know you are going to reply to this, that doesn’t mean I’ve made that an object now, and you have no free will to respond. You either can, or you don’t.
I think the question you posed mainly deals with God’s knowing and how we can have free will within that, if at all.
The idea of discerning truth can only be there if that faculty was bestowed upon us by God. If it was just naturalism and natural processes, there’s no reason to believe it produces truth. It produces survival. In fact, if all you are is atoms and molecules swishing around, just neurons firing, you’d have no reason to believe in truth. And if there’s no reason to believe in truth, there’s no reason to believe you are even made of atoms molecules and neurons. You see the flaw with naturalism? And this isn’t even taking into account determinism. Truth has to do with more than that.
@handres, great question! It’s always encouraging to see someone working through these issues carefully, and coming up with what can always be better, more articulate answers to theologically hard problems.
I’m no philosopher of time, but I’ll try and break down a few things you’ve said and let’s see if we can make some headway. But before that, here are two book recommendations that can help you wade into some deeper philosophical waters:
So, your original question is this:
As I think someone already pointed out, I am not sure that a future conditional state of affairs is properly called an ‘object.’ It doesn’t exist in any ontological sense. However, if God can know conditional states of affairs (e.g. God knows what Anthony would do in situation X in possible world, W) then it seems that God can know things that are not real, but potentially real. God can know counterfactual truths.
If God can know counterfactual truths, then we might say in a fairly coherent manner that God knows what you would do tomorrow if you were put into situation “X” in this actual world “Y”. Thus God knows what Hunter will do tomorrow since he knows what the state of affairs, X, Hunter will be in tomorrow in this actual world, (Y) he created, but that doesn’t equate to God coercing your will to do action “Z”.
Now, I think there is an objection to this view of Middle Knowledge, namely, that God has created this actual world Y in which the state of affairs X obtains and you are inevitably going to find yourself in X. Therefore, one might say that in creating the actual world, Y, God determined what you would do, since He could have created a different world W in which you did otherwise.
But, I believe if we think even more carefully about this we can see that regardless of whether God creates Y, or another possible world, W, in which you choose otherwise, that there is not an equivalence here since in both worlds, Y or W, it is exactly the case that you do Z freely in relation to X (the state of affairs in Y) or X* (the state of affairs in W). God knows what you would choose in Y or in W when presented with X or X*, but He does not generate your actual choice to do Z. Thus, if something like Molinism (Middle Knowledge) is true, one might say that God creates a world in which the maximum number of people when presented with a set of conditions, S, that is conducive to coming into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, freely choose S. What God has done then is provided the right states of affairs (X1-Xn) in Y for the greatest number of free human agents to chooses S.
With regard to naturalism you say this:
I’m not entirely sure what you mean here. Maybe you could explain a bit more what you mean by the notion of free will being “equivalent” on naturalism? Also, we might want to be more specific about the term ‘naturalism.’ Do you mean a view where there is only physical stuff (e.g. mass-energy). If yes, then I think free will does become something like an illusion, since it is incredibly hard to even know what consciousness is on a physicalist view of reality. Without real conscious experience, I have no idea what we would make of “free will.”
Hope this helps. Again, great question.
It can be frustrating to dialogue over several days or weeks, I plan answer as my schedule permits
I now better understand your stance since your background is in math, which is very helpful for logic, and you are dabbling in philosophy.
Currently you are asking if the God’s foreknowledge of our future decision, makes them an object, and if this is the same type of object that is created by time + matter + chance in nature.
The really short answer is no.
I will plan to lay out the full answer later
This is such a fascinating topic! I have often pondered this idea of God’s fore knowledge and our free will.
I’m a simple man and I try to understand some of these most profound and deep subjects in concepts that I can grasp.
My understanding is that time is linear. It flows from a beginning towards an ultimate destination. God, who is creator of all things, also created time and He is outside of His creation. So, from His advantage point, He can see the beginning and the end. There is no past, or future; there is only present. In order for me to attempt to grasp this, I use the freight train, or parade analogy. I know this isn’t a perfect concept, but I think it comes close. So, in these analogies our perspective is that from being on the ground seeing only what is in front of us as it goes by. God’s perspective is one from high up. He’s able to see the locomotive and the caboose at the same time, or if you like a parade, He sees the first float and marching band to the last float and marching band. In like manner, God sees from the beginning of all things to the end of all things. So, God knows what we will do before we do it, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a choice.
Incidentally, I also believe that our future events are something tangible, or has essence. The future is the present to God, so I would think the future would have to have essence. This probably an over simplification, but I think it is close enough to help me grasp this fantastic concept as well as I can.
Hi there @handres ,
I love discussions like this, because ultimately it points to the glory of God. Let’s try and do that.
Your first proposition I agree with, but I do not agree with your argument - the “how can the future then be known” part. I believe possibilities are essentially different and can be distinguished . I can know and distinguish between them, and they can be measured, for example potential energy in science. So in essence, all the possibilities exist without instantiation. Instantiation occurs essentially within time, foreknowledge occurs outside of and independently from time.
So yes, free will exists, God knows all the possibilities, but ultimately they don’t suprise Him, and He knows how to bring about His intended ultimate purpose in every variation. Each variation existing potentially, but only one version will become instantiated through time.
Isn’t God amazing, the “multi-verse” existing in His mind!? Wow. At least, that’s how I understand it. Hope it helps. God bless.
Thank you so much for your insightful responses! I was very busy yesterday, so I was unable to reply then.
Your responses have allowed me to refine my statement and perhaps answer my own question. What are your thoughts on this?
My original statement was questioning whether the future is determined since God foreknows what we will choose in the future.
I typically like to think of the past, present, and future of the universe to be the same universe – that is, the geometry of the universe is spacetime, and the temporal component plays a vital role in understanding the geometry of our universe. This is a result of my dabbling in Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity as well as string theory. Thus, the entirety of the physical universe becomes a 4-dimensional manifold, or space, in which time is a real geometric dimension (though not necessarily spatial).
When someone like me is somewhat biased towards such a view, the past, present, and future must be well-defined objects in the sense that they are definite – or, from our perspective, determined.
One could think of “what I will do tomorrow” in one’s own mind as a mental object which has no causality and merely exists in my mind. However, God’s foreknowledge and perfect knowledge of the current world’s conditions mandate that the future is determined (however, this does not necessarily infringe on free will, for God only foreknows what I will choose – I still choose and hence still have free will). As such, the mental objects of God’s foreknowledge are in an entirely different class of mental objects, for they will exist physically in the future. However, if one views the universe as already determined, then what real danger is there in considering God’s mental objects dealing with the future of our universe physical (i.e. instantiated)? They may not exist at this point in time, but they do exist in another point in time. Perhaps this is really clunky and weird to do, as most of philosophy seems to consider an object’s existence subject to time. I, however, am proposing that if the future is determined already, in spacetime, the future already exists in a way so similar to instantiation that the only difference between the future and the computer I am typing on is that the future exists at future point in time, and the computer exists right now – yet both have a definite existence at a definite point of time. We just can’t see the future yet, because we don’t have access to the correct time. Perhaps I am advocating for a bird’s eye view of objects and their instantiations, instead of an observer’s view – which is subject to time. Such an idea probably has some no-so-great consequences… haha
My central question was thus: what is the difference between the determinism of naturalism and the determinism in Christianity? How can I have access to truth statements within the Christian worldview but not in the naturalistic one? (naturalism = materialism + assuming that materials are well-behaved – that physical laws hold).
My initial reasoning:
- Although on the surface, it does not seem like naturalism allows for free will, if one considers that the self is completely encapsulated by the materials in one’s own brain – thus in harmony with naturalism – then the self still has free will in the sense that they physical self still chooses option A or option B.
- Since the “self” of naturalism has free will, what then keeps the naturalistic self from making truth statements?
Here is where I think I went wrong:
- If we reframe the self in terms of naturalism – that the self is entirely physical – we completely strip the self of being able to cause things. The self becomes merely an effect of the initial physical conditions of the beginning of the universe.
- For this reason alone, the self ceases to exist in the normal philosophical sense. The self cannot make truth statements – not because it is determined (for the Christian self is also determined), but because the naturalistic self no longer exists. The self is no longer an outside observer of the universe. It can cause nothing, and its thoughts and abstractions are just the effect of brain chemistry.
- Moreover, objective truth cannot exist, because the only truth which physically exists is the truth in our own brains – which disagree about what is true and what isn’t. Hence, only subjective truth can exist under naturalism.
- Thus, as Ravi Zacharias concluded, the naturalistic observer is not free to ask questions, because they aren’t truly an observer. They are a product the very universe they try to observe.
Does not naturalism then become self-contradictory? That it claims to be a truth yet then concludes that only subjective truth exists?
What happens if one allows the existence of abstract (in the platonic sense) objects within a material universe? Does this make no difference since the naturalistic observer still has no access to the abstract objects?
Wow, great stuff. Again, what a good discussion to have here on Connect. I’ll try and answer with some more of my own thoughts later, but I would strongly recommend taking in this video debate from a few years ago on exactly this topic. You’ll see here that William Lane Craig and Peter van Inwagen (two of the top Christian philosophers in the world) simply disagree on the existence of Abstract Objects. This might help you clarify some of your thoughts, hope it helps:
I have nothing to add this discussion except for this video on Alvin Plantinga’s view on this topic that makes sense to me: