Divine Omniscience

Divine Omniscience

Articles in defense of God’s being omniscient, with a focus on His foreknowledge of future contingents and middle knowledge of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom.


Ducking Friendly Fire: Davison on the Grounding Objection

Though Scott Davison is sympathetic to a Molinist account of divine providence, the so-called Grounding Objection still gives him pause. In response to my claim that the Grounding Objection is based upon an untenable view of truth-maker theory, he therefore directs some “friendly fire” at Molinism on behalf of Grounding Objectors. Fortunately for Molinists, his key principle, I hope to show, appears merely to re-state such an untenable view. If construed as a demand for explanations which are not truth-makers, the principle is incompatible with libertarian freedom. Molinists emerge therefore unscathed from his salvo.

“Ducking Friendly Fire: Davison on the Grounding Objection.” Philosophia Christi 8 (2006): 161-6.

Middle Knowledge, Truth–Makers, and the "Grounding Objection"

The so-called "grounding objection" is the most commonly raised misgiving which philosophers have to the doctrine of divine middle knowledge: how can counterfactuals of creaturely freedom be true when there is no ground of their truth? I hope to show that the theory of truth known as Truth-Maker Theory can help to shed considerable light on this objection, revealing just how difficult it is to formulate a compelling version of the objection. For it is far from evident that counterfactuals of creaturely freedom must have truth-makers or, if they must, that appropriate candidates for their truth-makers are not available.

"Middle Knowledge, Truth-Makers, and the Grounding Objection." Faith and Philosophy 18 (2001): 337-52.

'Men Moved By The Holy Spirit Spoke From God' (2 Peter 1.21): A Middle Knowledge Perspective on Biblical Inspiration

Scriptural inspiration has traditionally been understood by Christian theologians to be plenary, verbal, and confluent. But how is the plenary, verbal inspiration of Scripture compatible with Scripture's being a truly divine-human product? How can one hold to the verbal inspiration of the whole of Scripture without lapsing into a dictation theory of inspiration which, in effect, extinguishes the human author? A theory of divine inspiration based upon God's middle knowledge is proposed, according to which God knew what the authors of Scripture would freely write when placed in certain circumstances. By arranging for the authors of Scripture to be in the appropriate circumstances, God can achieve a Scripture which is a product of human authors and also is His Word. Such a theory is compared and contrasted with similar views expressed by Lessius and Wolterstorff.

"'Men Moved By The Holy Spirit Spoke From God' (2 Peter 1.21): A Middle Knowledge Perspective on Biblical Inspiration." Philosophia Christi NS 1 (1999): 45-82.

On Hasker's Defense of Anti-Molinism

In a pair of recent articles, William Hasker has attempted to defend Robert Adams's new anti-Molinist argument. But I argue that the sense of explanatory priority operative in the argument is either equivocal or, if a univocal sense can be given to it, it is either so generic that we should have to deny its transitivity or so weak that it would not be incompatible with human freedom.

"On Hasker's Defense of Anti-Molinism." Faith and Philosophy 15 (1998): 236-239.

Hasker On Divine Knowledge

William Hasker has presented influential arguments against divine foreknowledge and middle knowledge. I argue that his objections are fallacious. With respect to divine foreknowledge, three central issues arise: temporal necessity, power entailment principles, and the nature of free will. In each case Hasker's analysis is defective. With respect to divine middle knowledge, Hasker presents four objections concerning the truth of counterfactuals of freedom. Against Hasker I argue that such propositions are grounded in states of affairs belonging to the actual world logically prior to its full instantiation and are contingently true or false.

Source: "Hasker on Divine Knowledge." Philosophical Studies 67 (1992): 57-78.

Robert Adams's New Anti-Molinist Argument

Robert Adams has presented a new argument to show the logical impossibility of divine middle knowledge of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. However, Adams's reasoning is unsound because the notion of "explanatory priority" as it plays a role in the argument is either equivocal or not demonstrably transitive. Moreover, his argument contains a false (fatalistic) premiss.

See also my related article "Adams on Actualism and Presentism".

"Robert Adams's New Anti-Molinist Argument." Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 54 (1994): 857-861.

Adams on Actualism and Presentism

Robert Adams has defended an argument against the pre-existence of singular propositions about oneself on the grounds that it would have been possible for them to have existed even if one had never existed, which is absurd. But the crucial assumption underlying this reasoning, namely, that the only histories of a world which are possible at any time are continuations of that history up to that time, is false, as shown by the illustration of time travel. Furthermore, if Adams were correct, fatalism would follow. The failure of Adams's argument has important implications for the Molinist doctrine of divine middle knowledge.

See my related article "Robert Adams's New Anti-Molinist Argument."

"Adams on Actualism and Presentism." Philosophia 25 (1997): 401-405.

Tachyons, Time Travel, and Divine Omniscience

For philosophers in either field, philosophy of science and philosophy of religion are too often viewed as mutually irrelevant disciplines. As a result, insights acquired in each field may not be appropriated by philosophers working in the other field. This is unfortunate, because sometimes the problems can be quite parallel and a consistent resolution is required. One especially intriguing case in point concerns, in philosophy of science, the possibility of tachyons and time travel and, in philosophy of religion, the relationship between divine foreknowledge and human freedom. It is rarely appreciated by discussants of these respective issues that the problems are quite parallel and that insights garnered in the resolution of the difficulty in one discipline may have provocative implications for the solution of the parallel problem in the other field.

"Tachyons, Time Travel, and Divine Omniscience." The Journal of Philosophy 85 (1988): 135-50. Reprinted in The Philosopher's Annual 11 (1988): 47-62.

Divine Foreknowledge and Newcomb's Paradox

Newcomb's Paradox provides an illuminating non-theological illustration of the problem of divine foreknowledge and human freedom. We are to imagine a being with great predictive powers and to suppose we are confronted with two boxes, B1 and B2. B1 contains $1,000; B2 contains either $1,000,000 or nothing. We may choose either B2 alone or B1 and B2 together. If the being predicts that you choose both boxes, he does not put anything in B2; if he predicts that you choose B2 only, he puts $1,000,000 in B2. What should you choose? A proper construction of the pay-off matrix for the decision vindicates the one-box choice. If this is correct, then those who claim that God's knowledge is counterfactually dependent on future contingents foreknown by Him are likewise vindicated.

Source: "Divine Foreknowledge and Newcomb's Paradox," Philosophia 17 (1987): 331-350.

Purtill on Fatalism and Truth

Richard Purtill's recent contribution to the fatalism debate does not, I think, succeed in the author's intent of proving that the omnitemporality of truth implies fatalism, nor that the past is unchangeable in a non- trivial sense, nor that the consequences of his argument are not detrimental to logic and theology.

Source: "Purtill on Fatalism and Truth." Faith and Philosophy 7 (1990): 229-234.

"Lest Anyone Should Fall": A Middle Knowledge Perspective on Perseverance and Apostolic Warnings

Apostolic warnings against apostasy pose a difficulty for the classic doctrine of perseverance of the saints because either the warnings seem superfluous or else it seems possible for the believer to fall away after all. The attempt to construe the warnings as the means by which God effects perseverance fails to distinguish the classical doctrine from a Molinist doctrine, according to which believers can fall away but in fact will not due to God's extrinsically efficacious grace. A Molinist perspective is coherent and, unlike the classical doctrine, does not render superfluous the apostolic admonitions.

"'Lest Anyone Should Fall': A Middle Knowledge Perspective on Perseverance and Apostolic Warnings." International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 29 (1991): 65-74.