The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom
~William Lane Craig
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List price: $7.95|
Average customer rating:
4.43 out of 5
ISBN/ASIN : 0801025192
Manufacturer : Baker Publishing Group (MI)|
Release data : 01 February, 1987
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A great primer on middle knowledge
William Lane Craig is one of Christianity's brightest philosopher and apologist. In The Only Wise God, Craig tackles the confounding and apprarent contradiction between freedom and God's foreknowledge. So, if God always knew that I was going to read The Only Wise God, then I could not do otherwise since God's foreknowledge necessitated my action. Yet, Craig argues that this isn't the case. Just because God knows I will do something, doesn't make that action inevitable. Craig argues that I could have exercised my ability to refrain from reading his book, and that if I had done such a thing God would have known this. Moreover, Craig deals with the three primary objections to the idea of God's foreknowledge and shows how all three of them are inadequate or deficient. For the serious student who wants to uphold the truths taught in the Bible, one must believe in God's infallible foreknowledge of the future.
In addition, Craig also refutes logical and theological fatalism. Craig demonstrates that logical and theological fatalism have many aspects in common and the only factor that differentiates the two is that theological fatalists have thrown God into the equation. Some previous reviewers have chided Mr. Craig for interacting with D.A Carson's book, Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility because they feel Craig's arguments are inadequate. First, the book is very short in length, only 151 pages, and second the purpose is not to conduct a point by point refutation of Carson's work. The point is simply to show that in the Bible God's causation of good actions and evil actions are described differently, and that God is not directly the cause of sin. Yet, the theological fatalist must grant that if God is totally sovereign and controlling every event in history that He is equally responsible for both the good and bad, and in the exact same way. Furthermore, there is no way to get around the oft mentioned notion that God is the author of sin since He is the first cause of everything and second causes only do what the first cause impels them to do.
Finally, Craig deals with the subject of how God can possess knowledge of all true events. Craig believes that God possesses this knowledge innately and that He knows all truthful propositions simply because He is God. In the last chapter, Craig explains the idea of middle knowledge which positis that God has knowledge of all counterfactual situations. Therefore, God knows what any individual will freely choose in any set of circumstances. Craig mentions the two biblical proofs(I Kings 23:6-13, Matthew 11) examined by the Jesuit theologians to prove that God has middle knowledge. Also, Craig shows how this concept grants God a wide degree of providential control over creation while allowing creaturely freedom at the same time. To prove that God does not possess middle knowledge, but only natural and free knowledge, opponents are going to have to refute Craig's arguments and show how the biblical passages do not apply to middle knowledge but to something else. The refutations offered by the likes of Reformed Baptist, A.H. Strong, and Francois Turretin are inadequate and do not stand up to Scripture. Turretin actually says that God does not know how individuals would have reacted in different circumstances, when in Matthew 11 Jesus obviously alludes to the fact that He does know just how they would have acted given a different situation. Overall, this is a strong work and one that will not be easily refuted since Craig's argumentation is very sound.
Middle knowledge made simple
If the God of traditional theism is omniscient, then he knows what choices we'll be faced with in the future and how we'll act on them. For instance, if God has always known that I'll write a review of "The Only Wise God" on November 21st, then I cannot do otherwise -- I am "fated" to write this review! For if God has always known that I will write it and I freely choose not to, then God was ignorant of the choice I made. But God cannot be ignorant of my conditional acts, as ignorance is an imperfection. So the question still stands: if God eternally knows our conditional acts, how can true freedom exist? This is the question William Lane Craig attempts to answer.
Craig explains that God's foreknowledge and determination are two different things. For example, I know that spring will occur on March 20th, but I don't "cause" it. My knowing that flowers bloom during this season doesn't "cause" them to do so. Thus God knowing, in His omniscience, how we will respond to His grace does not determine our response. He simply knows the response we will make (being out of time) to that which was necessary for us to act either way (either accepting or rejecting His grace). So although God knew that I was going to write this review before I was born, He did not directly cause my free action. This is a very elementary distinction. If I had chosen to do otherwise, then God would have already known that. This is middle knowledge in a nutshell. Thank you William Lane Craig.
God, Knowledge, Freedom, and Counterfactuals
William Lane Craig's book, The Only Wise God, is probably the best introduction to the topic of molinism for beginners of the subject. That is not to say the book is easy reading; it is not. But his clarity and abundance of examples brings out his points nicely such that any casual reader with some intellectual capacity can comprehend his work. There are several positive and negative points of this book. I will highlight each in turn.
Positive Points: (1) The book does a great job explaining God's knowledge of future contingents. He deals with a number of objections, such as those posed by the open theists. (2) He does a nice job explaining Nelson Pike's argument, laying it out formally, and then providing and critiquing three ideas that philosophers have suggested to avoid theological fatalism. (3) In answering the problem with a more reasonable answer, he ties it to questions about precognition, Newcomb's paradox, time travel, etc. He also answers one of the traditional fatalist arguments raised through history about necessity. (4) Lastly, he offers tables to make his points more understandable and he argues his view well.
Negative points: (1) Craig, though I highly respect him, makes some disappointing moves. For instance, he interacts with D.A. Carson, who provides a number of scriptural citations to suggest that libertarian agency is not biblical after all; that is to say that LFW is not what grounds moral responsibility as Craig believes. Here's an excerpt: "Carson counters that there are many cases in the OT where human thoughts and decisions are attributed directly to God's determining (2 Sam. 24:1; Isa. 9:13-14; 37:7; Prov. 21:1; Ezra 1:1; 7:6, 27-28; Neh. 2:11-15). These references, however, are not very convincing and do not even approach a universal determinism.". This is what is called a waving of the hand. I doubt that Carson would find his reply sufficient. (2) There is often this talk about a "genuine freedom." Craig assumes that libertarian agency is genuine when compatibilists will assert that Craig's use of language is an extreme begging of the question. If we in fact do not have the type of control libertarians claim, then it is not genuine at all. (3) I also noticed a loose use of "fatalism." Anyone who apparentely denied the principle of alternative possibilities was rendered a fatalist. Calvinists such as Jonathan Edwards and Paul Helm were noted, along with even Martin Luther. But later, fatalism concerns necessity such that what we will do, we must do. In other words, my writing this review is and has always been necessary. There is no possible world in which I am not writing this review or that this state of affairs could be exemplified. But the "fatalists" mentioned above do not attribute the acts of men as necessary such as the proposition, "God is good," is thought to be necessary. Rather, they denied alternative possibilities and thus libertarian ageny (c.f. "genuine" freedom) because they believed our actions were logically posterior to God's decree and that God's knowledge of our actions were logically grounded in his foreordination. Hence, in the beginning of the book when he does note such people , he is incorrect. When he actually discusses theological fatalism later , I think Craig is on target. (4) The last main problem is that the entire book assumes the existence of libertarian agency. If libertarian agency is incoherent as some philosophers have suggested (i.e. Saul Smilansky), or if determinism (physical or even theological) is true, then the entire book would be completely out of touch with the relationship that actually exists between human beings and God. It would, however, still provide interesting work *if* we were to have libertarian agency. Thus, this book only appeals most strongly to those who already share Craig's assumption.
Though I think Craig is wrong for both philosophical and theological reasons, even if he and Alvin Plantinga state there is no cogent philosophical response (an over-stating of the case in my opinion), I think his work should be read: especially by those who disagree with him. Craig's work has been highly influential, both on the popular and academic level. Despite my vast number of negative comments, as far as I can tell, there is no better place to start than this book for understanding middle-knowledge. I highly recommend it.