Can God Be Surprised?

What follows is an edited version of a paper I submitted for a Systematic Theology seminary class on the topic, “Can God Be Surprised?” For the purposes of skimming/skipping ahead, here is an outline.

  1. Introduction
  2. “Surprising” Biblical Passages
  3. God: A Lovingly Risky Gambler?
  4. God: The Omniscient?
  5. Does God Know the Future?
  6. Middle Knowledge
  7. Can God Be Surprised — Propositionally?: Conclusion
  8. More: God’s Non-Propositional Self-Knowledge
  9. Conclusion
  10. Bibliography

Introduction

Because God knows all things perfectly, He knows no thing better than any other thing, but all things equally well. He never discovers anything, He is never surprised, never amazed. He never wonders about anything nor (except when drawing men out for their own good) does He seek information or ask questions. – A.W. Tozer [1]

Can God be surprised? Although Tozer would probably say “no,” does the Bible teach otherwise? There certainly seem to be several instances in which God apparently comes across, or seems to react to, new information.

“Surprising” Biblical Passages

In Genesis, for example, after seeing the extent of human wickedness, it appears that “it repented the LORD” that He made such sinful creatures (Gen 6:6, KJV). At this point, very early on in Scripture, “we are introduced to the idea of God repenting!”[2]

In fact, the LORD does quite a bit of “repenting” in the Bible. For most of the 38 times the verb נָחַם | nāḥam is translated “repent” in the KJV, it is in reference to God.[3] It also repented God when God saw the oppression of the Israelites in Judges (Judg 2:18), and when King Saul disobeyed the LORD in 1 Samuel (1 Sam 15:11, 35).[4] One might make the case that God is repentant – that is, regretful (Gen 6:6 NIV, ESV, HCSB) or sorry (Gen 6:6 NRSV, NASB) – because God is reacting to unexpected occurrences.

There are also several biblical occurrences in which God apparently reacts to new information not merely with respect to emotion, but action. “[H]e relents or changes his dealings with men according to his sovereign purposes.”[5] For instance, God seemingly changes His mind when Moses intercedes on behalf of his idolatrous people (Ex 32:14).

Moreover, in Hosea, after quite a bit of divine self-reflection, in which God deliberates about whether or not to punish Israel, God declares, “my heart is changed within me” (Ho 11:8, NIV).[6] Perhaps most notably, after the people of Nineveh repent and turn from their evil ways, God, in turn, repents (nāḥam) of the previously prophesied plan of destruction (Jon 3:10).[7] Such scriptural examples could be multiplied.[8]

God: A Lovingly Risky Gambler?

Multiple theologians, including “openness” theologians such as Clark Pinnock, cite passages such as these to affirm that God can, in fact, be surprised.[9] While many may rightly wonder why one could put one’s trust in a God who does not have “exhaustive foreknowledge of…all future events,”[10]

Pinnock would probably counter that such a God is more loving, “more personal, more relational and ultimately more trustworthy than an all-knowing, all pre-determining God” – for He willingly takes risks.[11] In such a view, God does not know exactly what will happen, but God can react to various happenstances and still accomplish God’s divine purposes.

One can think of God as a chess grandmaster. He knows all the possible moves one could make in any situation, and all the possible countermoves, and all the possible counters to those countermoves, and so on. But, on this view, He does not know exactly what moves will be made; God is a loving, expert guesser.[12]

While such a view of God may be, in some ways, attractive, I must disagree. For I do not believe a “surprised” God to be the most plausible interpretation of the biblical text. Though scholars caution against assuming that when God “regrets” in Scripture that it is a mere anthropopathism of an emotionless deity,[13] “when nāḥam is used of God…the expression is anthropopathic.”[14]

Also, when God “changes His mind” in the Bible, it is probably wiser to understand such passages as employing figurative language to describe events from a human point of view.[15] Thus, Moses’ intercession did not necessarily change God’s mind.[16] God’s anguish in Hosea is presented poetically as a historical analogy and metaphor.[17] And, in Jonah, as with most (if not all) “prophetic pronouncements of judgment,” such proclamations were conditional.[18]

If one presses biblical imagery too far, one may not only exegete a “surprised” God, but one who does not even completely know the past or the present, one who may forget things, one who gets tired, and a God who even hates certain people![19]

God: The Omniscient

In any case, in my view, it certainly appears that Scripture affirms that God knows all things. In the Old Testament, we read that God does not lack knowledge (Ps 94:10-11) and cannot be taught anything (Job 21:22, Isa 40:14b).[20] We learn that God’s knowledge is perfect (Job 37:16),[21] and His understanding is without limit (Ps 147:5).[22]

In the New Testament, the author(s) of Hebrews assert that “nothing is hidden from God’s sight” (Heb 4:13, NIV),[23] and that God “knows everything” (1 Jn 3:20).[24] Given such biblical data, I suspect that affirming that God has perfect knowledge of the past and present is not too controversial.[25]

However, when we start talking about knowledge of the future – especially foreknowledge of human actions – controversy often arises.

Does God Know The Future?

For example, Pinnock believes:

God knows everything that can be known, just as he can do whatever can be done. But he does not know what is unknowable, and cannot do what is undoable. Future choices made freely are not knowable by any being, for the simple reason that there is nothing yet to be known. Future decisions are future—they do not exist in any sense until they are made.[26]

It appears to me that much of the tension concerning divine omniscience[27] boils down to a perceived incompatibility between divine foreknowledge and human freedom.

For many scholars, the only way God would know what humans would decide in the future is if God predetermined such decisions.[28] If God knew all future events, this apparently would render human freedom a mere illusion.[29] While a form of divine determinism was the view said to be held by John Calvin,[30] in my determination, such a view is not the most plausible. For “divine foreknowledge and human freedom are not mutually exclusive.”[31]

Middle Knowledge

Between two extremes where God is either a divine dice roller – the Great Gambler – or, perhaps, the author of sin,[32] lie that of middle knowledge (scientia media). In my opinion, holding to middle knowledge, first postulated by the 16th century Jesuit theologian from Spain, Luis de Molina (1536-1600),[33] is a more reasonable theological position.

Logical Priority vs. Chronological Priority

Also called Molinism, the middle knowledge view first draws an important distinction between logical priority and chronological priority.

That is, future decisions by free human beings are logically prior to God’s foreknowledge of such actions, but God’s foreknowledge of such actions is chronologically prior to human beings’ future decisions.

For example, barring extenuating circumstances in which this paper is not graded, God knows what grade [the professor] will give this paper. God knows the grade before (chronologically) [the professor] actually grades the paper. But, God knows what grade it will be because (logically, causally) of God’s foreknowledge of [the professor]’s future free grading decision.

Though this may not sit well with many, on this view, God’s foreknowledge is, in a way, logically (i.e., causally) dependent upon the future actions of [the professor]. So, if [the professor] were to grade this paper differently in another possible world, God’s foreknowledge of that grade would have been different in that possible world.

This is no limitation of [the professor]’s freedom as a professor. [The professor] is “free either to act or to refrain, and whichever [the professor] choose[s], God will have foreknown.”[34]

Three Logical Moments in Creation

According to Molinism, perhaps most notably defended today by Dr. William Lane Craig,[35] before the creation of the world, there were three logical (not chronological!) moments of God’s knowledge.

First Logical Moment: Natural Knowledge

In the first of these three moments is God’s natural knowledge – God’s knowledge of all possibilities. In God’s natural knowledge, God knew of all the possible worlds, with all the possible people, with all the possible actions, etc. This knowledge is essential to God.[36]

Third Logical Moment: Free Knowledge

In the third of these three moments is God’s free knowledge. Free knowledge is God’s knowledge of everything in the actual world He created – past, present, and future. Out of all the possible worlds God could have created, God freely chose to create this actual world. The content of God’s free knowledge, therefore, was determined by His free choice.

If God had created a world in which there was no [seminary I attend], there would be nothing really to know about this non-existent institution. Thus, God’s free knowledge about [the seminary] would be different in that possible world than it is in this actual world. God would have this free knowledge in any possible world, but the content of this knowledge could plausibly be very different. Hence, according to Craig, the content of this knowledge is not essential to God.[37]

The Second Logical Moment: Middle Knowledge

Between God’s essential natural knowledge and non-essential free knowledge lie God’s middle knowledge. Through middle knowledge, God is able to determine which possible worlds can be made actual.[38]

In this second logical moment, “God knows what every possible creature would do (not just could do) in any possible set of circumstances.”[39]

For example, God knows how this paper would have turned out if I had not banked on writing much of it during a shift at the [seminary’s Front Desk] – a shift which turned out to consist of manual labor. He also knows what I would be doing if I was not hired to work the Front Desk at all. And God knows what I would be doing if I decided not to apply to [the seminary] last Fall.

As mentioned earlier, this knowledge is logically posterior and dependent on what I would freely do in those circumstances (even though God would foreknow those free actions chronologically prior to the actions themselves). Therefore, though God would have middle knowledge in any possible world, the content of such middle knowledge could be different. Hence, the content of this knowledge is not essential to God.[40]

Three Logical Moments in Creation: Conclusion

God’s natural and middle knowledge are logically prior to God’s decision to create the actual world. And, since God’s free knowledge concerns that of the actual world, it is logically posterior to the creation of the actual world. Again, the three logical moments of God’s knowledge are not three successive temporal events. Nevertheless, it can be helpful to conceptualize such logical moments since “each type of knowledge logically presupposes the preceding type(s).”[41]

Is There Biblical Evidence for Middle Knowledge?

As confusing as Molinism may appear, does support for it appear in Scripture? Scholars often (though, perhaps unknowingly) affirm that God exhibited middle knowledge when he tells David what would have happened if he stayed in Keilah (i.e., the men of Keilah would turn him over to Saul) (1 Sam 23:6).[42]

Another common example is Jesus’ claim that the towns of Tyre and Sidon would have repented long ago if they had witnessed the signs and wonders that were done in Chorazin and Bethsaida (Mt 11:20-24).[43]

In addition, Elisha tells King Joash that he would have completely destroyed Aram if he had struck the ground five or six times instead of only three (2 Ki 13:19).[44] Molinism seems to be biblically defensible view.

Don’t We Already Affirm Divine Middle Knowledge?

*[Addition] I might add, As Craig mentions, do we not already presuppose God’s middle knowledge when we pray for guidance?1 That is, when we ask God for help when making decisions, do we not trust that God knows what would happen if we decided to do one thing over another? And that He knows what decision would result in the best outcome?2

If God has middle knowledge, He knows if someone does A, then B and C would happen. If they do X, then He knows Y and Z would happen. Since God would know if B and C were better than Y and Z, God could help guide the person to make the decision that would have the best result.

For example, someone might ask God for guidance when deciding between a higher-paying job across the country or a lower-paying job close to home. If God has middle knowledge, God would know what the person would do in either set of circumstances, and what would ultimately be the result of their decisions. He would know everything about their potential job performance, job security, compatibility with co-workers, family life, safety, level of health, level of happiness, level of holiness, etc. Thus, God could help point them towards the (overall) better path.

If God lacks middle knowledge, however, He would not necessarily know what would happen in both sets of circumstances. He would only know what the person will choose and what will happen (future knowledge). This would not be much help.

Not to mention, if God lacks future knowledge, as well, such a God would be even more unhelpful. He would not know what would happen nor what will happen — only what could happen.

If/when you pray, are you implicitly presupposing divine middle knowledge?

Is There Biblical Evidence For God’s Knowledge of the Future?

It also resonates well with passages in Scripture which plausibly assert that God, in fact, does have knowledge of all future events – including human thoughts and actions.

God declares new things before they happen (Isa 42:9).[45] God knows what we are going to say before we utter a word (Ps 139:1-6).[46] God knows our thoughts (Ps 94:11) and the secrets of our hearts (Ps 44:21).[47] God knows what we need even before we pray (Mt 6:8; Lk 12:30).[48]

Middle Knowledge and Predestination

One can argue that God knows everything because “he has decreed the end from the beginning and ‘works all things according to the counsel of his will’ (Eph. 1:11).”[49]

A Molinist could claim that such a decree entails the free act of God choosing to create this actual world – out of all the possible worlds that could be made actual. Such a decree could predestine a particular set of circumstances in which certain free creatures make certain free decisions in accordance with certain purposes.

Simply put, middle knowledge is a plausible [means] by which God can providentially order future events without infringing upon human freedom. Since God knows what all people will freely choose to do in any set of circumstances, by bringing about a particular set of circumstances, God can accomplish God’s purposes via people’s free choices.

Conclusion: Can God Be Surprised — Propositionally?

Can God be surprised? Not in my view. For “if [God] were ever to learn something new, he would not have been omniscient beforehand.”[50] – at least the way I define omniscience.[51] And, in my view, God is omniscient.

In God’s natural, middle, and free knowledge, God knows all things past, present, and future, actual, possible, and counterfactual.[52] More specifically, one can say that God has accurate and exhaustive propositional knowledge. That is, God knows the truth or falsehood of any proposition[53] (proposition meaning: “an expression in language or signs of something that can be believed, doubted, or denied or is either true or false.”3

For example, On November 27, 2017, [the professor] lectured on theological anthropology (past tense). Danny is currently thirty years old (present tense). [The professor] will move into a new office this week (future tense). [The professor] would have packed up his books earlier – if he had enough moving boxes (hypothetical, counterfactual), etc.).

Yet, God’s knowledge does not entail “merely ‘knowing everything’”[54] — propositionally.

More: God’s Non-Propositional Self Knowledge

For not all knowledge is propositional. If my arm was broken in a failed dunk attempt, the statement “Danny broke his arm” would be a true proposition. My mother might tell a co-worker, “My son broke his arm.” [My classmate] might say, “my classmate broke his arm.” I would say, I broke my arm. It appears that the propositional content of each statement is virtually identical; each person has the same propositional knowledge. But each person would probably react differently to this propositional knowledge.

My mother might rush to meet me at an emergency room. [My classmate] might pray for me from a distance. I might say, “Ow!” For we have different self-knowledge – “non-propositional self-knowledge” that “is essential to action.”[55]

For instance, if I did not have appropriate self-knowledge, I could be told and affirm that the proposition “Danny broke his arm” was true, but I may not be motivated to do anything about such propositional knowledge unless I knew that, I, in fact, was Danny![56]

Furthermore, if it were possible for a super-computer to be programmed with all true propositional knowledge, one could argue that it would still lack appropriate self-knowledge.[57]

While this may seem to be an unnecessary addition or qualification of God’s omniscience to some, affirming God’s appropriate self-knowledge (1 Cor 2:10-11)[58] is an appropriate response to atheists who may try to trip Christians up by asking: if God “knows everything,” does God know, firsthand, what it is like to torture a baby?[59] This would certainly not seem to be something of which God has appropriate self-knowledge.

Conclusion

All things considered, in my view, God knows all things. God cannot be surprised; God is omniscient. God knows the truth or falsehood of any and all propositions in the actual world – past, present, and future (free knowledge).

Moreover, God has perfect and exhaustive propositional knowledge of any possible world (natural knowledge), and knowledge of any proposition concerning the decision of any free creature in any circumstance (middle knowledge).

I maintain that God is not a mere chess grandmaster or a really good gambler. Nor is God the deterministic author of every instance of evil and suffering.[60] Rather, through God’s middle knowledge, it is plausible to believe that God can providentially order circumstances in which God’s purposes are accomplished through the free decisions of human beings – a view that relieves unnecessary tension between divine foreknowledge and human free will.

Finally, God is more than [propositionally] omniscient. For God has non-propositional, appropriate self-knowledge – full comprehension of an incomprehensible being! This is the mighty God I serve! This is the God in whom I put my trust! God’s knowledge is “too wonderful for me” (Ps 139:6, NRSV)!

When faced with inexplicable circumstances in life, we invariably take refuge and find solace in the omniscience of God. Not only does He know what actually happened, but He knows what might have happened. He always knows what ultimate good and glory will come from events we cannot understand. – A.W. Tozer [61]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bloesch, Donald G. God, the Almighty: Power, Wisdom, Holiness, Love. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006.

Craig, William Lane. The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2000.

Craig, William Lane. “Doctrine of God, Part 13.” Defenders Podcast: Series 2 (Transcript). ReasonableFaith.org. May 16, 2010. https://www.reasonablefaith.org/podcasts/defenders-podcast-series-2/s2-doctrine-of-god-attributes-of-god/doctrine-of-god-part-13/

Craig, William Lane. “Doctrine of God, Part 15.” Defenders Podcast: Series 2 (Transcript). ReasonableFaith.org. June 13, 2010. https://www.reasonablefaith.org/podcasts/defenders-podcast-series-2/s2-doctrine-of-god-attributes-of-god/doctrine-of-god-part-15/

Ciampa, Roy E., and Brian S. Rosner. The First Letter to the Corinthians. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.

Cole, R. Alan. Exodus: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 2. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973.

Dearman, J. Andrew. The Book of Hosea. The New International Commentary on the Old and New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013.

Garrett, James Leo, Jr. Systematic Theology: Biblical, Historical, and Evangelical. Fourth Edition. Vol. 1. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2014.

Gray, Tony. “‘God Does Not Play Dice.’” Themelios 24, no. 2 (1999).

Grudem, Wayne A. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004.

Hamilton, Victor P. The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990.

Harris, R. Laird, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, eds. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Chicago: Moody Press, 1999.

Migliore, Daniel L. Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology. Third Edition. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014.

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999.

Soanes, Catherine, and Angus Stevenson, eds. Concise Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Stuart, Douglas K. Exodus. Vol. 2. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006.

Treier, Daniel J., and Walter A. Elwell, eds. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic: A Division of Baker Publishing Group, 2017.

Wiseman, Donald J., T. Desmond Alexander, and Bruce K. Waltke. Obadiah, Jonah and Micah: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 26. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988.

[1] A. W. Tozer quoted in Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 47.

[2] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), 274.

[3] “(Gen 6:6–7: Ex 32:14; Jud 2:18; I Sam 15:11 et al.)” Marvin R. Wilson, “1344 נָחַם,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 571.

[4] Ibid.

[5] TWOT, 571.

[6] Tony Gray, “‘God Does Not Play Dice,’” Themelios 24, no. 2 (1999): 24

[7]“…Nineveh repents, Jonah is upset, God is pleased, and so in Jonah 3:10 God changed his mind. It seems that God did not know what was to happen…” Gray, 24

[8] “I Chr 21:15; Jer 18:8; 26:3, 19; Amos 7:3, 6” TWOT, 571.

[9] Gray, 24.

[10] Clark Pinnock, “Systematic Theology,” in Pinnock, Richard Rice, John Sanders, William Hasker, and David Basinger, The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press; Carlisle, U.K.: Paternoster Press, 1994), p. 123 as quoted in James Leo Garrett Jr., Systematic Theology: Biblical, Historical, and Evangelical, Fourth Edition, vol. 1 (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2014), 256.

[11] Gray, 25

[12] Gray, 23. Twentieth century process theologian Charles Hartshorne claimed that God has “a comprehensive scope on possibilities for the future” but not an actual and exhaustive knowledge of the future. Gregory A. Boyd (1955–), Trinity and Process: A Critical Evaluation and Reconstruction of Hartshorne’s Di-Polar Theism towards a Trinitarian Metaphysics, American University Studies, series 7, Theology and Religion, vol. 119 (New York: Peter Lang, 1992), p. 315 as quoted in Garrett, 256. I suspect Daniel Day Williams would agree. He held that divine knowledge “does not encompass all the specific aspects of future free decisions” but only “all possible outcomes.” Daniel Day Williams, The Spirit and the Forms of Love (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), p. 128 as quoted in Donald G. Bloesch, God, the Almighty: Power, Wisdom, Holiness, Love (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 117. Process theologian John Cobb claims that “God does not know what the result will be.” John B. Cobb Jr. and David Ray Griffin, Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976), p. 57 as quoted in Bloesch, 117.

[13] “It is easy, of course, to dismiss such allusions as anthropopathisms, and to feel that they can tell us nothing about the essential nature of God. But verses like this remind us that the God of the OT is not beyond the capability of feeling pain, chagrin, and remorse.” Hamilton, 274 (Gen 6:6).

[14] TWOT, 571.

[15] “These are probably best understood as depictions of God as being like a human (anthropomorphisms and anthropopathisms), rather than literal descriptions.” Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 246.

[16] “Another ‘anthropomorphism’ (more properly an ‘anthropopathism’) by which God’s activity is explained, by analogy, in strictly human terms.” R. Alan Cole, Exodus: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 227. Although “Opposition to ‘open theism’ need not lead to a rejection of God’s flexibility and responsiveness as if he cannot change direction in accord with his own purposes.” Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, vol. 2, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006).

[17] “YHWH’s self-directed questions receive a personal reply (from the heart), but…the reply is intended for the hearer and reader. J. Andrew Dearman, The Book of Hosea, The New International Commentary on the Old and New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 287.

[18] “The English verb ‘relent’ (JB, cf. NIV) conveys better the meaning of the Hebrew. Furthermore, as Jeremiah 18:7–8 makes clear, prophetic pronouncements of judgment were not absolute, but conditional: ‘If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.” Donald J. Wiseman, T. Desmond Alexander, and Bruce K. Waltke, Obadiah, Jonah and Micah: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 26, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 137.

[19] “…he is also seen as not knowing all of the past (Gen. 3:11) [God asks Adam and Eve who told them, previously, that they were naked] or the present (Gen. 3:9) [God asks where Adam and Eve are], as being forgetful (Gen. 9:12–16) [apparently the rainbow will remind God of the Noahic covenant], fatigued (Exod. 20:11) [God seemingly needed rest on the seventh day], and even hateful (Mal. 1:3; Rom. 9:13) [God “hated” Esau].” Erickson, 246. Several more examples of anthropomorphisms and anthropopathisms could be cited.

[20] Garrett, 254.

[21] I don’t cite Grudem as gospel; I examine and refer to the Scriptures he cites. Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 190.

[22] Erickson, 245.

[23] Garret, 254.

[24] Garrett, 254, Grudem, 190.

[25] “Openness, and most explicitly the theology of Pinnock, claims that God has only past and present knowledge.” Gray, 23. Cf. “Christian theologians and philosophers have commonly affirmed the omniscience of God, or that God knows all things, future as well as past and present.” Garrett, 255.

[26] Clark Pinnock in Basinger and Basinger (eds.), Predestination and Free Will (Downers Grove: IVP, 1986) as quoted in Gray, 24.

[27] Not to mention doctrines concerning biblical inspiration, predestination, salvation, etc.

[28] Gray, 23.

[29] Pinnock, “Systematic Theology” as cited in Garrett, 256.

[30] “This was the view held by John Calvin, who defended it in reply to the objection that divine election takes away human guilt and responsibility and in the context of declaring that there is no ‘distinction between God’s will and God’s permission’” Garrett, 255 citing and quoting John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (1559 ed.), 3:23, 6–8.

[31] William Lane Craig, The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2000), 74.

[32] “Thus, for Calvin, God foreknew and predestined both the fall of Adam and Eve and the damnation of all the non-elect, and here the Genevan Reformer comes perilously close to ascribing sin to God.” Garrett, 255.

[33] Garrett, 255.

[34] Craig, 74. Information in this paragraph is from Chapter 5: ‘Theological Fatalism Rejected’ (67-74). Dr. Craig sees theological fatalism as logically fallacious. It seems that many believe that God’s foreknowledge of certain events somehow entails the necessity of those events. This may be the case if the content of God’s foreknowledge was necessary, but, at least in Dr. Craig’s view, this knowledge is actually contingent upon and logically posterior to the future actions of free creatures. “From the fact that God foreknows X will happen, you can be sure that X will happen. But it doesn’t follow that it will happen necessarily. It could fail to happen, but it won’t. If it were to fail to happen, then God wouldn’t have foreknown X.” Emphasis added. William Lane Craig, “Doctrine of God, Part 15,” Defenders Podcast: Series 2 (Transcript), ReasonableFaith.org, June 13, 2010, https://www.reasonablefaith.org/podcasts/defenders-podcast-series-2/s2-doctrine-of-god-attributes-of-god/doctrine-of-god-part-15/

[35] Craig is cited by Garrett, 255 and Gray (“Craig, W. Lane, The Only Wise God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987)”), Gray 31. Looks like Craig may have used two different publishers.

[36] Craig, ‘The Only Wise God,’128.

[37] Craig, 130.

[38] I suspect this also doesn’t sit well with many. Isn’t God powerful enough to make any possible world actual? Well, we can imagine that it is possible for there to be a world in which all men are named either Donald or Danny and they only talk about theology all day. This seems far-fetched but it also seems like a bona fide possibility; there is no logical contradiction. But perhaps, in a world of free creatures, this may never be the case. Only God knows. I am just trying to provide a rather light-hearted example.

[39] Craig, 130.

[40] Craig, 130-31.

[41] Craig, 131.

[42] Craig, 131. Grudem, 190. Michael Horton, “God,” ed. Daniel J. Treier and Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic: A Division of Baker Publishing Group, 2017), 346.

[43] Craig, 132. Grudem, 190. Horton, 346.

[44] Grudem, 190. Horton, 346. Also, the LORD apparently tells Ezekiel that if God had sent Ezekiel to other certain other peoples, they would have believed (Ezek 3:6). Furthermore, Jeremiah told Zedekiah what would happen if he surrendered to Babylon or not (Jer 38:17-20). Horton, 346.

[45] Horton, 346. Grudem, 190. “This theme is repeated several times in Isaiah 42–48. It was the test of a genuine prophet: if what he foretold did not come to pass, it was not from God, because [YHWH] and he alone knows the future.” Erickson, 246.

[46] Garrett, 254. Grudem, 190. Horton, 346.

[47] Garrett, 254. Cf. Jesus apparently knows people’s thoughts “John 2:23–25; Matt. 9:4, par. Luke 6:8; Matt. 12:25, par. Luke 11:17.” Ibid..

[48] Garrett, 254. Cf. Jesus apparently knows people’s future actions “John 6:64b; 13:11; 18:4; 19:35.” Ibid.

[49] Horton, 346.

[50] Grudem, 191-92.

[51] “a term derived from the Scholastics.” Garret, 254. Yet, the origin of a word or a concept does not, logically, have any bearing of the validity of the concept or propriety of the word (genetic fallacy).

[52] “…a counterfactual conditional statement (e.g. If kangaroos had no tails, they would topple over).” Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, eds., Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

[53] William Lane Craig, “Doctrine of God, Part 13,” Defenders Podcast: Series 2 (Transcript), ReasonableFaith.org, May 16, 2010, https://www.reasonablefaith.org/podcasts/defenders-podcast-series-2/s2-doctrine-of-god-attributes-of-god/doctrine-of-god-part-13/

[54] It also involves “an infinitely deep wisdom that is exercised with gracious patience,” though I pivot in a different direction. Daniel L. Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology, Third Edition (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014), 89.

[55] Craig, “Doctrine of God (Part 13)”. Dr. Craig uses an example of him being chased up a tree by a moose – a proposition to which he and a nearby friend would, of course, have different reactions.

[56] If that sounds too far-fetched, one can imagine where a company-wide email blast conveys the propositional knowledge that all assembly line workers will be replaced by machines in two weeks. Everyone who reads the email may have the same propositional knowledge, but one’s reaction will be probably vary dramatically depending on one’s self-knowledge – that is, if one knows that one is an assembly line worker or not.

[57] Ibid. Unless Tony Stark sets in motion a chain of events that, with the help of an Infinity Stone, result in a self-aware robot.

[58] “Of course, only he who is infinite can fully know himself in every detail. This fact is implied by Paul when he says, “For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what person knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:10–11).” Grudem, 190. “The Spirit has free and full access to this knowledge…” Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 129.

[59] Craig, “Doctrine of God (Part 13).”

[60] Though, this is a topic for another paper. And, of course, these are not the only alternatives.

[61] A. W. Tozer quoted in Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 47–48.

Sources

  1. Craig, ‘The Only Wise God,’ 137
  2. Ibid.
  3. Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).
About @DannyScottonJr 141 Articles
Imperfect servant striving to be an unapologetically apologetic ambassador for Jesus the Christ. Princeton University Alum | Palmer Theological Seminary Student