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So in the comments of this answer: How do non-Open-Theists reason a basis for "Free will"?

The question:

"Why must it be that a choice that is known by God in advance is not your own? [...]" – Dark Malthorp

was raised.

My position in general is that through God's exhaustive foreknowledge, the possible options one can choose will be reduced to one. To my knowledge (correct me if I am wrong with this assumption) this position corresponds with the position of Open-Theism.

Therefore, I was wondering if there is an Open-Theist argumentation or explanation that can demonstrate this correlation between omniscience and determinism more precisely and concisely than my attempt in the comments.

God's foreknowledge: God's knowledge of the future. It can logically be viewed as exhaustive (God knows absolutely everything, which is how I would define omniscience in regards to future), limited (God knows something/a lot but not everything), or non-existent (God knows nothing about the future.

predetermination: This is the view that every action/decision of humans is already determined, meaning unchangeable regardless of the "illusion" or choice. This could also result in Fatalism.

accountability: Is the possibility that humans can be justifiably punished for their actions.

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  • Properly, foreknowledge, predetermination, and accountability should be distinguished. All Christians will agree that people are accountable for their actions, regardless of their opinions on the other two issues. Arminians would affirm foreknowledge without preterminism, while Calvinists would affirm both Commented Jun 6 at 1:56
  • @DarkMalthorp "All Christians will agree" True, because if they don't their faith will be unstable at best or non-existent at worst.
    – telion
    Commented Jun 6 at 7:33
  • @DarkMalthorp I hope I was able to convey the distinction, through my last edit.
    – telion
    Commented Jun 6 at 7:42
  • Are you asking for a refutation of compatibilism? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compatibilism Commented Jun 6 at 15:50

3 Answers 3

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As an Open Theist, I firstly reject the Omni- titles ascribed to God, such as omniscience, which are not biblical but are borrowed from Greek philosophy. The traditional view of God, such as in Catholicism, where God is utterly unmoving and unchangeable is simply not taught by the scriptures - where we see an emotional God who listens and responds to the prayers and actions of his people. For example: when God relents of his rage and allows Moses to handle judging the Israelite's in the desert after the Golden Calf incident.

In the OT especially, God is said to come down to earth to confirm reports of things such as the great sin in Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:20-21). Why do that if he already knows everything?

And why come down if he is already everywhere? Scripture doesn't teach that - but instead that God resides in an unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16).

Nor does it teach that God is all powerful. After all, God desires that all be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) - and yet we know they aren't.

So then, in debating this matter I would first address the falseness of the omni- titles. And in the second place, I fully agree with and would present the position you did: if all of our actions are exhaustively foreknown, then we can't choose to do other than what has been foreknown - and thus there is really no freewill.

However, while the scriptures may not use the term "freewill", they certainly teach the concept. One of my favorite passages being Deuteronomy 30:11-20:

11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

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Both Open Theists and Calvinists see an apparent incompatibility between foreknowledge or divine sovereignty and man's free will. This is why Open Theists reject the former, while Calvinists reject the latter.

Both of them have a weak philosophical understanding as they view foreknowledge to be a threat to the indeterminate freewill, that it will entail determinism where they think inevitability of a choice dismisses volition and spontaneity. To them, freewill and foreknowledge are incompatible, because of their assumption that foreknowledge or inevitability results in determinism. This is why they reject either one to compromise with their world-view.

They confuse God's foreknowledge (or predestination) and inevitability to be the determining factor, hence conflicting with freewill. Such as the view that the barometer is determining the weather rather than simply indicating it.

This dilemma between predestination and freewill is solved by Luis de Molina in the 16th century. In this framework, God does not determine or coerce the free choices of humans in a direct causal sense. Instead, he knows how every possible creature would freely choose in any circumstance (middle knowledge), and he chooses to actualize a world where his purposes are fulfilled through these free choices.

Under Molinism, despite being the sovereign contributor to human free choices by creating a world of his choice, God is not the determiner of human freewill. Thus, we cannot say that this is determinism where God determines humans like programming toys. God's foreknowledge or predestination is logically prior to the actual free choices. The hypothetical middle knowledge is called middle, because it is contingent upon the parameter of free creatures. Since God is an indirect contributor of the free choices of men, he cannot be called the determiner, as man is truly a free agent. Man alone is the determiner of their actions.

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    It isn’t clear to me, based on your brief explanation here, that middle knowledge solves the problem you outline in your opening paragraphs. It appears that God’s choice of actual world still creates a deterministic system wherein all choices made by “free” creatures are precisely those choices God was prescient of and chose to actualize. What am I missing here? Commented Jun 16 at 15:29
  • God is not the determiner by creating his choice of world. Creating a particular world is not same as determining it; it is a world where free creatures determines their own choices, hence it's not determinism. Determining something means directly causing something. God's choice of the world is an indirect cause to the freewill actual cause of the actions of man .
    – Michael16
    Commented Jun 16 at 15:58
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    @Michael16 I think you need to defend the notion that "Determining something means directly causing something." I do not think most people would agree with that notion; I certainly don't. Whether it be viewed as direct or indirect, the fact remains that God would be deciding what choices creatures make. Commented Jun 17 at 21:50
  • God is responsible but not a decider of the free choices of men; men are co responsible for their choices . Otherwise it will be determinism and not freewill. I understand theres a need to properly define terms like predestination. But determination is well defined. Predestinationation shouldn't be same as predeterminisation. Here Calvin's just refuse to accept the Molinist model. God's predestination doesn't negate genuine freedom of man.
    – Michael16
    Commented Jun 18 at 8:31
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Calvinism/reformed is a belief that God predestined everything; the debate is mostly over individual salvation. Calvinism maintains that men preexisted creation in some form or other and were individually chosen to be saved helter-skelter, without rhyme or reason. Hence, Christ’s atonement is limited to only the elect.

Arminianism is derived from disagreeing with Calvinism's method of election. It objects to God just choosing the elect without rhyme or reason. Hence, the invention of “Prevenient Faith”. Arminianism tests each of these preexisting souls with prevenient faith, that is, each is given just enough faith to see whether they lean toward or against believing God, see which way the wind blows so to speak. Those who lean toward God get elected to salvation. This would also contradict limited atonement in that all are tested giving them a choice to lean toward God or not, hence salvation would be open to all. Further, since some lean toward God, all are not totally depraved. However, men are still individually predestined.

Somewhere along the line, it became the belief that Arminianism did not hold to individual predestination. People started saying they were Arminian just to say they did not believe in Calvinistic predestination. I call this modern or Neo-Arminianism.

Neo-Arminianism believes God just knows who will and will not be saved, not that he predetermined it, that it was a free will choice., God, as this belief surmises, is looking at the past, present, and future, all at once to see what happened to happen. Hence, he can not lay claim to being the causation of anything. No explanation is given as to where this past, present, and future came from that God did not know about and must look to see what happened. When pressed, they say God created it. This is tantamount to Calvinistic predestination.

Open Theology believes that everything is happening in real time and God is simply dealing with men as they come into existence naturally. Hence, there is no need of supplemental fabrications: preexisting souls, a history for God to see. Certain things are predestined such as the plan of salvation, the cross, final judgment, etc.; in between is room for free will, time and chance, and most importantly God’s judgments upon men and nations. Most of the course of history has been due to God's judgments upon the evil of men in real time.

Ecclesiastes 9:11 KJV I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

There is one more, Universalism, which is the flip side of Calvinism. Neither could reconcile how Christ could have died for all and all not be saved. They cannot see the dual nature of eternal salvation. In consequence, Calvinism threw out salvation for all and introduced a limited atonement, just for the elect. Universalism went the other way and threw out eternal damnation and has all being saved eventually. They failed to see that Christ's death paid for the sins of the world and opened the door of salvation to all men, but each individual has to have their personal sins forgiven. The payment for sins was accomplished en masse, while forgiveness is done on an individual basis.

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  • I think you made a decent answer but for a different question. Since it is a good question I simply created it for you: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/101991/… Maybe you can migrate your answer there. This question here specifically is about the Open Theist position and its reasoning for the correlation between exhaustive infallible foreknowledge and predeterminism.
    – telion
    Commented Jun 6 at 7:30
  • “were individually chosen to be saved helter-skelter, without rhyme or reason.” Be aware that every Reformed or Calvinist reader will immediately identify this statement as an extremely weak straw man. This claim is simply incompatible with what the Reformed and Calvinists believe and teach. Commented Jun 16 at 15:31
  • Explain how God chooses from a Calvinistic/Reformed perspective. Commented Jun 18 at 14:34

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