February 6, 2011

Divine Omniscience and Probabilistic Events

I submitted a question to William Lane Craig (http://www.reasonablefaith.org):

Dear Dr. Craig,

I'm a trinitarian and assume Molinist divine omniscience (middle knowledge [MK]) and exhaustive definite foreknowledge [EDF]). My Molinist assumption recently included that EDF in a universe (spacetime continuum plus possible hyper-dimensions for the heavenly realms and perhaps gravity) with probabilistic mechanics is possible for an omniscient deity when the deity creates the universe with static time, but EDF is not possible when the deity creates the universe with dynamic time. For example, I suppose that God could foreknow the outcome of a fair coin toss only if the fair coin toss occurred in static time. Moreover, if God doesn't know the outcome of probabilistic events such as a fair coin toss, then God doesn't know what circumstances his free will creatures would face unless God actually determines the outcome of most probabilistic events. Additionally, I assume that there is no middle ground between EDF and open theism. Given these assumptions, I felt surprised when I read your God, Time, and Eternity (2002) speech and saw that you're a Molinist who holds to a dynamic theory of time. Could you help to explain how God knows the outcome of probabilistic events in a universe with dynamic time?

I will clarify that I hope to find a better answer than saying that the Bible clearly teaches that God knows all truth about the future while philosophical evidence points to a dynamic theory of time. Perhaps somebody might argue that God knowing all truth about future events doesn't necessitate EDF, but I would need an explanation of that. I will also clarify that until I recently reread your 2002 article, I supposed that a dynamic theory of time necessitated open theism while a static theory of time necessitated closed theism, while Molinist closed theism appears to me as the best description of divine omniscience. However, I agree that there are major problems with static time according to your critique and the critiques of others. Likewise, I will try to humbly broaden my imagination of divine omniscience and time.

I suppose that I would reject Molinism if it insisted that most apparently probabilistic events are actually determined. (Hey, I made a counter factual prediction about myself.:) For example, Molinism implies that that God knows the truth about all future probabilistic events. Perhaps we should merely accept this mystery, but I suppose that the cat is out of the bag and the paradox needs an attempt of an explanation.

On my part, I'm contemplating a model that combines MK, EDF, and a dynamic theory of time. I also suppose that since the creation decision, God exists both transcendent to and immanent in the universe. I additionally suppose that God's decision to create the universe included foreordination of all divine intervention during the literal endless temporal progression of the creation that endures. Furthermore, this decision occurred in an instant, while decision making of an omniscient deity in regards to a universe with a literal endless temporal progression would never take longer than an instant. For example, no amount of time and temporal experience could ever help an omniscient deity make a better decision. Given these assumptions, perhaps in some way the creation is in quasi-static time only in the perspective of God's transcendence while the creation is in dynamic time in the perspective of God's imminence. Granted that I need a lot of work on this, but at least I have a thesis statement. Anyway, as I asked above, Could you help to explain how God knows the outcome of probabilistic events in a universe with dynamic time?

Thank you for your consideration.


James Goetz

1 comment:

Dale A. Brueggemann said...

This is all so speculative, a tendency that I don't warm up to from either side of a debate like this. I would rather do what I could to do justice to all that the Scriptures teach, and then live with whatever tension I can't resolve myself. I'm comfortable in doing this with the doctrine of the trinity (one and the many in the godhead), and in the relation between total divine sovereignty and human responsibility.

Coining categories of thought such as "middle knowledge," "Molinism," etc. doesn't much catch my fancy.