Is God’s Knowledge Like a Box of Chocolates?



(The FreeThinking Theist)


February 14, 2018


Dear Tim,

I just finished reading your “Dangerous Grounds” article and I could use a little clarification. Can you please further explain why it is that if God does not possess knowledge of creaturely freedom logically prior to his creative decree, then the only two options we are left with are open theism or “exhaustive divine determinism”? You have helped me see that it is self-refuting to affirm divine determinism and I believe we have libertarian freedom, but I just don’t see how these are the only two views that follow.

Please keep up the great work. Your articles have helped me so much, but this one left me scratching my head.

– Isaiah

Tim’s Response:

Thank you for your question, Isaiah! Many people have asked for more clarification on this topic, so take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. Let me begin to answer your question with a segment from the Dangerous Grounds: The Grounding Objection vs Divine Determinism essay you referenced:

“If an omnipotent God (who has the power to create free creatures) cannot know how free creatures would freely choose if He were to actualize them, then we seem to be left with only two options:

1- Divine Determinism

2- Open Theism

If God does not know how creatures would freely choose if He were to actualize them, then creatures are not free in a libertarian sense — EVER! Or, it means that we are free in a libertarian sense, but God simply does not know what we would freely choose if He were to actualize creatures with libertarian freedom. That is to say, if God does not possess the knowledge of how free creatures would freely choose if He were to create them, then we either lose the libertarian freedom of humans and get exhaustive divine determinism, or we lose God’s omniscient knowledge and get Open Theism.”

So, let’s break this down by considering the proposition regarding God’s knowledge of creaturely freedom in a libertarian sense:

“God does not possess knowledge of free thoughts and actions of free creatures logically prior to His creative decree.”

The question is raised: Why not? It seems to me that by examining the above proposition we are left with one of two options. Either God is ignorant of what libertarian free creatures would choose if He were to create them — OR — libertarian free creatures simply do not exist. So, if God is powerful enough to create free creatures but is not intelligent enough to possess this knowledge of free creatures logically prior to His creative decree, then we are left with a Forrest Gump kind of God who says, “Life is like a box of chocolates, ya never know what you’re gonna get!”

If the grounding objection passes and God does not know what He is “gonna get,” then God creates and learns — dare I say, becomes “surprised” — about any knowledge He gains logically posterior to His creative decree.

If logically posterior to His decree He gains simple foreknowledge of what will occur, then we are left with an Open Theism hybrid. However, if this is the case, then there seems to be zero sovereignty or intentional predestination over anything that will happen (God merely knows what will happen in the future but is not sovereign over it). That is, unless God creates and then casually determines how things go, but then libertarian freedom is gone.

Now, if the reason God does not possess knowledge of how libertarian creatures would or will freely think, act, believe, and behave logically prior to His creative decree is because creatures with libertarian freedom do not exist (or perhaps cannot exist) then it seems we are left with some form of theological determinism. In fact, I refer to this as “exhaustive divine determinism” (EDD). This seems to follow if there is nothing free in a libertarian sense about a creature — ever — and God is sovereign.

Isaiah, as a “libertarian free will guy,” I am quite sure you would not want to affirm the latter. However, if one does affirm this EDD view of God’s sovereignty, then (as I explained in the aforementioned article) they lose all rational rights to claim they have rationally inferred EDD is true.

I am willing to consider any splitting of the horns one might offer if a possible third option is placed on the table. However, to this point, every attempt I have seen ultimately boils down to one of the two options I have provided. Several have suggested that the view of “compatibilism” is a potential third option, but compatibilism entails the thesis that determinism is true. Thus, compatibilism boils down to the first of the two options I have already provided and thus runs into the rationality problem. Another friend of mine suggested that the view of “Simple Foreknowledge” would do the trick. The problem with that view, however, is that the grounding objection would negate mere foreknowledge of how free creatures would freely behave logically prior to God’s creative decree too. Moreover, if God gains His knowledge of the future logically after his creative decree, then we are back to the Open Theist’s “Forest Gump view” of God again.

It seems to me that Molinism is a much better model of reality.

Bottom line: If a determinist thinks the grounding objection is a rational refutation of Molinism, then they ought to reject determinism.

Stay reasonable (Isaiah 1:18),

Tim Stratton


About the Author



(The FreeThinking Theist)

Timothy A. Stratton (PhD, North-West University) is a professor at Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary. As a former youth pastor, he is now devoted to answering deep theological and philosophical questions he first encountered from inquisitive teens in his church youth group. Stratton is founder and president of FreeThinking Ministries, a web-based apologetics ministry. Stratton speaks on church and college campuses around the country and offers regular videos on FreeThinking Ministries’ YouTube channel.

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