You Should Have Seen this Coming- Refuting the Moderate View

November 2, 2008

This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” -Acts 2.23

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:May grace and peace be multiplied to you.” -1 Peter 1.1-2

In interacting with the moderate view of predetermination versus foreknowledge I will most readily be interacting with the views of Norman Geisler’s “moderate Calvinism” (or as I feel is the more appropriate name given by James R. White, “inconsistent Arminianism”) from his book Chosen but Free.

As stated previously, we find that the moderate view of the relationship between God’s predetermination and his foreknowledge is “that God’s election is neither based on his foreknowledge of man’s free choices nor exercised independent of it” (Norman Geisler, Chosen but Free, p.53). Moreover, “whatever God forechooses cannot be based on what he foreknows. Nor can what he foreknows be based on what he forechose. Both must be simultaneous, eternal, and coordinate acts of God” (p.53), or, as put elsewhere by Geisler, “He had to predetermine in accordance with his foreknowledge. And He must have foreknown in accordance with his predetermination.”

This, if not interesting, is at least a very cumbersome viewpoint to try and digest. The basic idea is that the Arminian view cannot work because it causes God’s sovereignty to be dependent on something else (as I agreed in the previous post), and that the Calvinist view cannot work because it does not regard the choices of free moral agents in God’s plan (which I will explain why it is not a problem later). Yet, at the end of the day, this amalgamation of predetermination and foreknowledge, which seems so “moderate” and “balanced,” I believe is not quite balanced itself.

Geisler states that God “had to predetermine in accordance with his foreknowledge.” That is exactly Arminianism and has exactly the same problem as the Arminian position with the fact that God becomes a dependent being as pertains to his will be done. Yet, for some reason, Geisler assumes that this problem just goes away when he says that God “must have foreknown in accordance with his predetermination.” How? If this position is unfeasible then it must be unfeasible no matter what else it is paired with.

Beyond that, I take issue with the idea that we can conceive of predetermination and foreknowledge as simultaneous, eternal, and coordinate acts of God. My reasoning brings into it an idea from the theory of time travel. Geisler agrees with what I believe is the general consensus God’s knowledge, that being that God knows everything that will ever happen all at once because God is not bound by a temporal nature. However, where I break from Geisler is that he obviously believes that God’s knowing all of this is not a result of his predetermination of how it would go, but is simply that God knows how man will freely choose. What I think Geisler fails to take into account is that, in light of the fact that God’s knowledge is not temporal, man’s free choices are, and necessarily man’s free choices at one point are influenced by everything that has occurred prior to the time of the making of that decision.

So, if God knows what will happen and predetermines what will happen, and then makes what he has predetermined known (as in prophecy or divine revelation), then his making his predetermination known has to occur some place in time, and thus it can influence the choices or free moral agents at a later date, which in turn changes his foreknowledge, which is not possible. Therefore, if God knows everything that is going to happen all at once then this necessarily seals him from being able to make his predeterminations known. (This is the equivalent of what is known as the Grandfather paradox in the philosophy of time travel, which basically asks the question, Is it possible to travel back in time and kill your grandfather before he meets your grandmother?, and is a problem since if you did then you would be preventing yourself from being born, which means you couldn’t travel back and kill him, which means you would be born, etc.) But, God does make his predeterminations known! Therefore, by way of contrapositive, if God makes his predeterminations known, then God does not know everything that is going to happen all at once. Uh-oh! That’s open theism (which I’m not even going to humor with arguing against here).

(Note: some may ask for an example of predetermination influencing foreknowledge, and to that end I think the most accessible instance would be the view that, when Christ was on the cross and he spoke “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27.46), the reason he did this was not just an act of his own free will, but it was in accord with the prophecy in Psalm 22.1, a prophecy Christ certainly would have known was speaking of him (Luke 24.27, 44). One might also think to Moses who would have certainly been influenced by God’s revelation of Pharaohs future stubbornness as he was being instructed to go and seek the deliverence of God’s people (Exodus 4.21-23).)

Thus, there must be something wrong with the moderate view, and judging off of what has been shown already, that problem must lie in the idea of predetermination occurring in accordance with foreknowledge, which leaves only foreknowledge occurring in accordance with predetermination, which is the Calvinist view and is what we will defend next.

[P.S.- There also appears to be a problem in Geisler's view where God's predetermination comes out to be more of a skilled prognosticating than a powerful decree. This is because he seems to put predetermination out on an island where it is neither accurate because it is based on foreknowledge (Arminianism) nor accurate because foreknowledge is based on it (roughly Calvinism), and so it is simply some impotent act which God is in no way capable of making sure comes to pass, which I believe removes God's sovereignty altogether.]