Ep16-The Attributes Of God Ch 10 - God's Contingent Knowledge

This is it folks! The moment you've been waiting for. For the last while we have been talking about how infallible foreknowledge and free will are not compatible. Well, you ask, then what does God know? We discuss how if the future doesn't yet exist then it cannot be known. We talk about the view that God knows all possibilities and the related probabilities of future events, but not which events will become actual. We discuss various objections to this view and if this is a God still worthy of worship. We then discuss the implication of this view as far as 'God's Plan' for individuals. Enjoy!

Topics Discussed:
• Is Contingent Omniscience Consistent with Scripture?
• Is Contingent Omniscience Compatible with a Spatio-Temporally Limited God?
• Does Contingent Knowledge Entail Imperfection?
• Must God Know Future Contingent Propositions?

Show Notes:


“Many philosophers have rejected the premise that it is possible to know now everything that will happen in the future. It might be impossible to know the truth of future contingents either because future contingents are not yet true or because it is not possible to know their truth. If it is not possible to know the truth of what will happen in the future, then God does not have foreknowledge. Many persons hold that if God does not have foreknowledge of future contingents then he is not really omniscient and thus not really God. However, many who reject premise (B1) that future contingents have a truth value which can be known, do not thereby purport to reject God’s omniscience. They suggest that God knows all that can be known but that future, free acts of persons cannot be infallibly foreknown.”

Is God less worthy of worship then?

“in this view God still has natural knowledge of all necessary truths and logical possibilities, middle knowledge of what free persons would probably do in the circumstances known to him and free knowledge of all things that God himself promises, plans or intends to bring about. Such knowledge includes knowledge of all things past, present and future, known as they actually are at a given moment in time.”

“God does not know precisely which future choices of free agents will be actual, although he does have a complete knowledge of the probability of such choices for any given individual.”

“Those who adopt this view almost universally maintain that: (1) the A-Theory of time is true and thus only the present is actual; the past is perfectly preserved in God’s knowledge and future contingents exist only as probable events or as present tendencies; (2) becoming is as real as being or substance; (3) God knows by experiencing, seeing or perceiving immediately all realities; (4) humans have free will in the sense that they can act otherwise consistent with all circumstances that obtain at the moment of free decision and add something genuinely new to the world by such free choices, and (5) God is in time though his relation to time may be different than our relation to time.”

“I call this view “contingent” knowledge because God’s knowledge is viewed as internally related or depending on what actually exists. God’s knowledge would be different if the objects of his knowledge were different. If the world did not exist, God would not know that the world exists. Further, what isn’t there to be experienced or deduced from presently existing circumstances cannot be known.”

How does this correspond with the standard definition of omniscience?

“If there actually is not yet in existence a determinate future, then God cannot know it as a determinate future reality. The difference between this view of omniscience and the views previously surveyed isn’t so much about what omniscience must be, but about the nature of reality, time and knowledge.”

Talk the open theist movement.

“God’s contingent omniscience (CO) can be defined as follows:
(CO) For every states of affairs SA, if SA is or has been actual, then God knows that SA; if SA is logically possible, then God knows that potentially SA and the probability of SA’s becoming actual.”

Is this definition compatible with in the mormon view?

“Is Contingent Omniscience Consistent with Scripture?”

“the views of Brigham Young and his predecessors have passed into disfavor among modern-day Mormon leaders.”

“The reasons for this about-face in doctrine are complex, but the reluctance to accept a deity who could discover new “eternal truths and natural laws” is understandable, for God could then be surprised to discover laws and truths that make it impossible for him to realize his purposes and plans. Faith certainly requires a more secure object of worship than a deity limited in knowledge of eternal truths and laws. However, this objection is based on a misunderstanding of what is entailed in the notion of contingent omniscience.”

“The view of contingent knowledge does not claim that God continually learns new eternal truths and natural laws, for he knows all eternal truths, or truths that are either logically or ontologically necessary and thus true at all temporal moments of reality. God knows such truths either through his natural knowledge or through experience of things that have always existed. If God created natural laws, then he can know such laws through his free knowledge. If he did not create natural laws, then he can know them in the same way he knows eternal truths. Thus, the concerns expressed by McConkie and the committee reviewing Roberts’s work can be met and satisfied.”

“For example, Deutero-Isaiah represents God as saying that:
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, “My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purposes.”
(Isa. 46:9–10)”

Explain the Mormon understanding vs Calvinist etc.

“An analogy, first articulated by William James, suggests that God is like a master chess player involved in a game with novices.12 God does not control the moves that the challengers to the game will make, nor does he know beforehand exactly which moves will be made. However, he knows all possible moves that can be made and that he can meet any such moves and eventually win the game. God may lose some pieces during the course of the game, just as some people choose in their genuine freedom to reject God and to thwart his plans of salvation as far as they are individually concerned. Nevertheless, Mormonism is committed to the view that God has established a plan which allows such losses to permit persons to make moves that are genuinely up to them and not up to God alone.”

“These provisions seems to be required by the master chess player analogy:
1. God is omniscient: For every state of affairs SA, if SA is or has been actual, then God knows that SA; if SA is possible, then God knows that potentially SA.
2. God knows now all things, including the present probability of all possibilities.
3. God knows now what his purposes are and that he will achieve them.
4. God does not know now, in every case, precisely which contingent possibility will be chosen or become actual.
5. God knows now how he will respond to whichever contingent possibility occurs to insure the realization of his purposes.”

“These features of God’s knowledge insure that God knows all things, including all eternal truths, and events now certain given causal implication (1, 2). It also allows for free choices among genuinely open alternatives (2, 4). These provisions suggest that God knows all possible avenues of choices (2, 5) and if coupled with an idea of adequate power, entails that God’s plans and declarations of future events will be realized (3, 5). It seems to me that God’s providence is not compromised in this view. In fact, this view is clearly superior to the views of simple and timeless knowledge because God can use his knowledge of all possibilities and present probabilities to guide his decisions.”

“the scripture that asserts that all things past, present and future are continually present before the Lord (D&C 130:7), presents no problem so long as the future “things” are understood to refer to all things that are possible in the future rather than both “now actual and yet also future.”

“Moreover, it is clear that the Book of Mormon prophets all believed and understood that Christ’s mission had been prophesied in detail. Nevertheless, I do not see any problem in understanding these passages, and numerous others like them, as expressions of what God himself intends to bring about rather than what will occur through free acts of humans, for it is God himself who came down among men, according to the Book of Mormon, to bring about God’s plan.”

Problem prophecy scriptures.  Judas /Peter

“I believe that it is left up to individuals to develop a coherent understanding that is adequate to our experience. Our experience will certainly include an awareness of the scriptural data, but it will not be an uncritical acceptance of any particular passage as definitive of the question. It is true that the consensus among (present) church leaders is that God infallibly foreknows the future. But it is not as if there were no leaders who held different views or a lack of scriptures suggesting that God does not have absolute foreknowledge.”

Go over different categories of foreknowledge scriptures

“Is Contingent Omniscience Compatible with a Spatio-Temporally Limited God?”

“D&C 130:22). If God is limited to experiencing through his body as humans are, then how can he experience things not within his immediate corporeal presence?”

God is understood in Mormon thought to be omnipresent in the sense that he is the supremely related being, immediately present to but not identical with all things. Thus, he experiences all things immediately or unmediately.”

“Both God’s power and his knowledge are understood in terms of his participating immediately in all things.”

Mormon immanence explain. Light.

“even though God is confined in space-time by virtue of his “material” body, he nevertheless acts upon and experiences all realities immediately by virtue of his spirit or light which proceeds from his corporeal presence to “fill the immensity of space.” God participates immediately in every moment of becoming, analogous to the way light from the sun radiates from the presence of the sun to influence things located at a distance in space.”

“Does Contingent Knowledge Entail Imperfection?”

Thomists would think so...

“The claim is simply that if God knows things by knowing the thing rather than causing it, then God depends on the thing known for his knowledge. ”

“Is God more worthy of worship if he is perfect impassivity than if he is perfectly related to all reality?”

“It seems to me that the ancient vision which saw God as love demands a view of perfection as the “most moved mover” rather than the “unmoved mover.” Therefore, I believe that the objection has little force for those who view God as passible.”

Experiential Knowledge....Computer that knows all the facts about a rose and can even reproduce one. ... “Does the computer know what it is to smell the sweetness of the rose? How could it, for it has no olfactory sense and has never smelled anything.”

“ The point is that analyzing things in terms of their atomic propositions is inadequate as a basis for perfect knowledge.”

“The advocate of contingent omniscience will therefore assert that God knows both the things in themselves by experiencing them and all true propositions by deriving the propositions corresponding to all things experienced.”

“Must God Know Future Contingent Propositions?”

“A final objection to contingent omniscience suggests that if contingent omniscience is correct, then there cannot be a maximally perfect being because such knowledge imputes unacceptable limitations to God. Those who maintain the view of contingent omniscience maintain that it is not a limitation on God’s knowledge if he doesn’t know future contingents because it just isn’t possible to know them and therefore God knows all that can be known. ”

Richard Swinburne:
“Theologians such as Aquinas, have been careful to explain omnipotence, not as the ability to do anything, but (roughly) as the ability to do anything logically possible. . . . It would be natural to develop an account of omniscience along similar lines, not as knowledge of everything true, but (very roughly) as knowledge of everything true which it is logically possible to know. I therefore suggest the following understanding of omniscience. A person P is omniscient at a time t if and only if he knows of every true proposition about t or an earlier time that t is true and also he knows of every true proposition about a time later than t, such that what it reports is physically necessitated by some cause at t or earlier, that t is true.”

Future contingents are true or false but are....probable in varying degrees

“ The second issue is an epistemological one. Is it possible to know the truth of a thing before it exists?”

God knows all that can be known.

Jonathan Kvanvig's oppositions

“Kvanvig’s argument makes two crucial assumptions which are open to question: (K1) all propositions are now either true or false and are therefore coherent descriptions of what will be; and (K2) if a proposition is coherent, then the view that it cannot now be accessed entails a limitation in the knower rather than incoherence in the thing known.”

Geach's preventing what was going to be the case.  “it is not possible to prevent what actually occurs”

“If the A-Theory of time is true, then there is no correspondence between future contingent propositions and what is real until the state of affairs referred to is present. ”

“Hartshorne has developed a semantics for future tensed statements that resolves the apparent paradox without rejecting the law of the excluded middle. The law of the excluded middle asserts that for any proposition, either its affirmation or its denial is true. Thus, if it is true that Rock will rob at t1 then it must be false that Rock will not rob at t1. However, if Rob is free, then it must be true that Rob may not rob at t1 must also be true. ”

“future tense statements correspond to three categories of set logic: all/some/none. Thus, either (a) Rob will rob t1 (all causal possibilities include Rock robbing at t1); (b) Rock will not rob (no causal possibilities include that Rock robs at t1); or (c) Rock may or may not rob at t1 (some causal possibilities include and others exclude Rob robbing at t1). Hartshorne’s logic does not require the rejection of the law of the excluded middle because the truth of one of the propositions in the triad entails the falsity of the other two.”

“ I think that even if a proposition about future contingents has a truth value, it may not be possible for any being, even an omniscient one, to now know the truth value of future contingents.”

“Consider the following argument:
(G1b) A statement can be known to be true only if those states of affairs corresponding to the statement can be accessed;
(G2b) States of affairs corresponding to true statements can be accessed only if they now exist;
(G3b) If the A-Theory of time is true, then there is no such thing as a future state of affairs which now exists (ex hypothesi);
(G4b) The A-Theory of time is true (assumption);
(G5b) There is no such thing as a future state of affairs which now exists (from G3b and G4b);
(G6b) Therefore, the truth of future-tense statements cannot be accessed (from G2b and G5b);
(G7b) Therefore, future-tense statements cannot be known to be true (from G2b and G6b).

This argument presupposes that the A-Theory of time is true, which is certainly controversial. Nevertheless, if the A-Theory of time is true, it seems to follow that there is not yet anything there for God to see, nothing yet in existence which can cause God to have knowledge of its existence, and in short just nothing yet there which can be known. ”

“(CO*) It is impossible that God should at any time believe what is false, or fail to know any propositions such that knowing that proposition at that time is logically possible.

I do not consider (CO*) to be a sufficient condition of omniscience because it does not necessarily include experiential and perspectival knowledge, but only knowledge of the truth value of propositions. Nevertheless, any being having maximal knowledge must satisfy (CO*) which thus turns out to be a necessary condition of omniscience.”

Talk about Zagzebski and her contradictions

“ I have suggested that it is reasonable to give up the notion that God has infallible foreknowledge. We can still adopt the position that God has eternal knowledge of all possibilities and knows all things that exist. Such knowledge is sufficient for faith because it provides God with the necessary attributes to exist and to be the supreme being who is unsurpassable by no other.”

“freedom exposes God himself to genuine risks in a joint venture in which he trusts we will choose to enter into relationships with him. From the Mormon perspective, an open future is what the war in heaven was all about. It is a battle we already fought and won. It is amazing that so many want to rush back to a world guaranteed by God when the Mormon view of the purpose of life consists precisely in confronting an open future with real risks and guarantees that God will not let us down if we follow his plan.”


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