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Christian Doctrines, Omniscience, Open Theism, philosophy, theology

Against Open Theism: The Infinite Knowledge of God

Psalm 147:5

“Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite” (KJV).

“Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” (ESV)

” גדול אדונינו ורב־כח לתבונתו אין מספר׃” (Hebrew Old Testament)

Infinite Knowledge

Within Scripture we find that God knows all things. But here, in the Psalms, we read that God’s knowledge is “infinite.” Of course, this is a translation of the Hebrew, which says “…his understanding is without number/measure.” But this can also be correctly translated simply as the KJV does, “His understanding is infinite.” Thus, within Scripture, we have a picture of God’s knowledge as infinite or without number.

The Argument

1) If God’s knowledge is infinite/without number/unable to be counted, then God’s knowledge cannot be increased (it’s infinite).

2) God’s knowledge is without number.

3) God’s knowledge cannot be increased.

4) Open Theism asserts that God’s knowledge can be increased.

5) Therefore, Open Theism is false.

Defense of Premises

Premise 1 can be defended in a similar fashion as one would argue against actual infinites in the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Basically, we cannot add up to infinite. Nor, if something is actually infinite, can we increase  or decrease its “number” in any way. We cannot add to infinity and increase it, nor can we take away one item from an infinite set and decrease it to some finite number. Therefore, if God’s knowledge is infinite, it is complete–it cannot be increased.

Premise 2 simply asserts what the Bible passage says.

Premise 3 follows from 1 and 2 deductively.

Premise 4 follows from the core of Open Theism. On Open Theism, God knows all things which have happened and are happening, but he does not necessarily know what will happen until it does happen. Therefore, God’s propositional knowledge would continually be increasing. Each day, he would learn an astounding number of truths which he did not previously know.

Premise 5 follows from 3 and 4; if 3 is true, 4 cannot be true. Yet 3 is true, so 4 cannot be true.

Therefore, Open Theism is false.

A Potential Rebuttal

Can the Open Theist get out of this argument? One way would be to challenge that the Psalm is not claiming God knows an actually infinite number of propositions, but simply that conceptually, God’s knowledge is so far beyond our own it appears to be infinite.

I would respond to this counter-argument by challenging the Open Theist to successfully read that off the Hebrew, which literally says “without number”/”infinite.” Open Theism, by definition, would have to entail God knowing only a finite number of propositions. If God did not know only a finite number of propositions, then His knowledge could not increase (it would be infinite).  Thus, on Open Theism, the number of propositions God knows would increase by the second/minute/day. So the Open Theistic reading of Psalm 147:5 would have to read it like “[God’s] knowledge is unlimited; it increases forever.” But that reading is not justified by the text.

[Edit: Note the comment section for some great discussion of this post, wherein two commentators provided a “way out” for the Open Theist regarding my argument and a denial of premise 4.]

This is part of a series I’ve written against the doctrine of Open Theism. If you’d like to read more, check out the original post for discussion and links.

SDG.

——

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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. His interests include theology, philosophy of religion--particularly the existence of God--astronomy, biology, archaeology, and sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Discussion

34 thoughts on “Against Open Theism: The Infinite Knowledge of God

  1. Hey J.W.

    Here’s my 2 cents, for what it is worth. Let me know your thoughts:

    Looking at the verse, it says God’s understanding is infinite. That does not necessarily entail a knowledge that cannot be changed. God’s understanding could be understood as his intellectual faculties, mind, or intelligence. What Open Theists argue is that God has infinite intelligence. Knowing a blueprint doesn’t entail one having great knowledge; it takes an infinite mind to know all possible outcomes of all possible decisions of all of his free creatures. On OT, God in his infinite intelligence anticipates each possibility, or series of possibilities, as perfectly as if it were fixed from all eternity.

    Furthermore, looking at the scriptures, we see God testing people to find out whether or not they will obey him in order that he may know.

    Ex. 16:4 “…in this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.”

    Deut. 8:2 “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands”

    Deut. 13:3 “The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul”

    Or the most famous passage, Gen. 22:12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

    Finally, I don’t think that most Open Theists would say that God moves from a state of ignorance to a state of knowledge. Rather, I think they’d say is that as the universe changes, so also does God’s knowledge. God knows possibilities for what they are, and as possibilities resolve into realities amid time, God keeps a perfect record of reality as it is.

    It’s more about the dynamic, indeterministic and open universe that God created; rather than a static, “frozen” one.

    Posted by erik | June 3, 2011, 5:53 PM
    • Erik, you wrote, “[infinite knowledge] does not necessarily entail a knowledge that cannot be changed…” I think this begs the question against the argument I presented. Turning back to the argument, we find that premise 1 establishes that God’s knowledge cannot increase. The propositional content, which is infinite, cannot be increased. And let’s look at the redefinition of omniscience inherent in your statement. You wrote, “God in his infinite intelligence anticipates each possibility, or series of possibilities, as perfectly as if it were fixed from all eternity.” But on this view, God doesn’t know things; he merely plans for them. Yet omniscience refers explicitly to God’s knowledge. It seems like you’ve conflated God’s wisdom with his knowledge. Such a move undermines the doctrine of God; by equivocating God’s wisdom and God’s knowledge, God’s knowledge is reduced to a guessing game. Sure, God knows enough to guess pretty well, but he guesses nonetheless.

      Consider this hypothetical: suppose God were to make a computer which contained all of his knowledge. This computer, moreover, was programmed to anticipate the responses of free creatures and the like so that it could try to work towards the same outcome God wishes to bring about. Now, once God has created this computer, he continues acting as normal, acting on his plans which his ‘infinite intelligence’ have strategized. The computer, meanwhile, runs its programs, striving towards the same goal, but running it as a kind of simulation (this simulation would perfectly match the real world because God would continue to update the computer with his gained knowledge). Given OT–that the future is genuinely open, so some future events are such that God does not know what will happen with certainty, but perhaps a 99.9999% chance–the computer could outdo God in his own game. The computer, taking different paths in its simulated world, switched a scenario here or there, and came out with a better outcome than God! But such an outcome seems totally ludicrous given any adequate definition of God! Surely God should not be able to be out-performed by a computer he made! Yet on OT this seems eminently possible! Sure, OT argues God is smart enough to bring his ultimategoals about, but suppose the computer simulation resulted in one more person coming to Christ, or one less innocent child victimized. I see no reason, on OT, to think this is impossible! So much the worse for OT!

      You cite these passages of God changing his mind or testing as though they prove OT. Yet this simply excludes another possibility: they are anthropomorphisms. Classical theism would hold that such passages only show that God used certain methods to bring about his ends–‘testing’ his subjects such that they would come to realize God’s way is best. My next post in this series will deal with this objection in greater detail. But I think most OTs at least acknowledge that anthropomorphism is at least a possible explanation of these passages. Yet OT has to deal with a huge amount of countervailing scriptural evidence. Leave aside the current argument, and look elsewhere in the Psalms: how about Psalm 139 (starting at vs 2): “you perceive my thoughts from afar… Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely… all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Or Isaiah 41:21ff in which God mocks the other gods for being unable to tell the things that are to come (strange mocking, if God himself cannot do so!).

      Strangely, those who support OT often insist upon a literal reading of verses like those you cited (exodus 16:4 et al) but would hardly advocate a literal reading of similar passages (again look back at Psalm 139:2- is God literally far away reading our minds? So OT cherry picks the verses it desires to take literally–namely, those which would help their case–while allowing the figurative language to stay in other passages.

      But now let’s return to my argument. Your response didn’t overcome any of my premises. I argued that:
      1) If God’s knowledge is infinite/without number/unable to be counted, then God’s knowledge cannot be increased (it’s infinite).

      2) God’s knowledge is without number.

      3) God’s knowledge cannot be increased.

      4) Open Theism asserts that God’s knowledge can be increased.

      5) Therefore, Open Theism is false.

      A denial of premise 1 would be to add to infinity, which is absurd. Premise 2 is from the verse, and 3 follows. I don’t see a denial of any of these in your response. Premise 4 asserts that OT believes God’s knowledge increases, and 5 follows from the conjunction of 3 and 4. Yet none of these have been denied.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 4, 2011, 6:26 PM
      • Hah. Well, you gave me a lot to reply to JW, but I’ll just deal with the argument and deny a premise and take #4.

        It turns out that a lot more than Open Theism is false if your argument goes through. I think Dr. Craig rightly a God who cannot experience changing states of knowledge cannot know irreducibly tensed truths. To do so is a denial of omniscience. It doesn’t follow that because God’s knowledge is changing that his knowledge is increasing in the sense of moving from “less than complete” to “more complete “God’s knowledge of the world is constantly changing and invariably perfect and complete. Does God know what time it is? Does he ever have changing states of knowledge at all? That appears to denote an increase of knowledge on your take.

        Posted by erik | June 4, 2011, 6:53 PM
      • Indeed, Erik! I would be happy to accept the consequence that my argument would work against those who argue for God’s temporal nature as well. I’m not sure how you take your response as a denial of premise 4, however. It seems to me premise 4 may be the strongest premise of the 3 (3 and 5 are conclusions–I mistyped), because it seems clear that God is learning at least numerically more propositions daily, on open theism. And I do think the argument could work against divine temporality as well–something I’d be more than happy to accept. I happen to think Craig is wrong on this count.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 4, 2011, 6:56 PM
      • Isn’t there a problem with premise 1 also?

        I mean, you can add to an infinite set. Let’s take the set of all real numbers greater than two. That’s infinite. But then add all real numbers between one and two. That’s an infinite set, too. But I can combine the two sets into a new set of infinite numbers. Am I missing something here?

        Posted by erik | June 6, 2011, 7:01 AM
      • Not sure how that delineates a problem with premise 1. Premise 1 doesn’t say that you cannot add to it, only that it cannot be increased. Granted, in my defense of premise 1 I said we cannot add to it, but I was thinking there of “increasing,” which both you and Spencer seem to grant. Premise 1 only requires one agree that “we cannot increase infinity.” Once that is established, the argument goes through.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 6, 2011, 10:34 AM
      • Erik, that’s just what I’m trying to get at! Thanks for putting it so succinctly!

        I still think that there is something to the a distinction between “adding to” and “increasing” — or whatever terms we choose to define. Many of our ordinary notions of arithmetic dissolve when talking about infinity, but let me see if I can convey what I mean. It is clear from thought experiments like Hilbert’s Hotel or from the examples we provided about sets of real numbers that there is at least one sense in which infinity can be “added to”. However, it is wrong to think of infinity getting bigger through that addition, which is what we always think of in ordinary mathematics.

        I think that the best way to delineate these two is to say that “increasing” is an intrinsically quantitative concept — if something has increased, it strongly implies that it is/was measurable, which is how we can compare before and after and say it was “increased”. It also conveys a fairly inescapable connotation of growth. Both growth and measurability are improper concepts to apply to infinity. I think that “added to” avoids these linguistic parameters, or at least it does not necessitate such hidden meaning.

        If this holds true, then I would say that the premise to deny is #4. Open theists do not say that God’s knowledge can be increased — they say it can be added to. But only if this is the proper way to separate “added to” and “increased”

        Posted by Spencer | June 6, 2011, 9:46 AM
      • Spencer, note my response to Erik on this one. I also wanted to point out that rewording my premise to make it say “added to” and then knocking down the modified premise is a straw man. The premise itself (ignoring my misworded defense) only states infinity cannot be increased–which it seems you grant. Now, I think you should be commended for realizing that because of this you must deny premise 4 (1-3 works as long as it is taken as “increase”). But Premise 4, I maintain, is even stronger than 1-3. For the Open Theist would have to deny that God’s knowledge would increase upon learning things. Take Bob. On day x, Bob has decision to make (say, whether to convert to Christianity or not–granting all kinds of theological premises here for the sake of argument). God does not know on day x what decision Bob will make. Yet on day x+1, Bob makes his decision. But on OT, that would mean God has learned what Bob’s decision is! If that’s the case, then it would seem one would have to agree that God’s knowledge increased! God did know x number of propositions, and now he knows x+1.

        Of course, the OT would object, the denial of 4 entails that x is really infinite, so it isn’t increasing. But in that case, the OT is holding that despite the fact that God has come to know another proposition, his knowledge has not increased. And that leads to the kind of paradox to which I referred–despite the fact you are adding things, you aren’t increasing God’s knowledge. This absurdity in the actual world would give strong reason to suppose OT is false.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 6, 2011, 10:39 AM
      • J.W., I appreciate your willingness to respond! I hope that I am not a bother or seeming obtuse; I also hope that God is glorified even in our disagreement. The fruits of the Spirit are always far more important than being right.

        This is the bottom line, using a modified version of Erik’s example: The set of whole numbers greater than or equal to 2 is infinite. I add the whole number 1 to that set and now the set includes all whole numbers greater than or equal to 1. That set is also infinite. Infinity is equal to infinity. An infinite set has been added to, yet has not increased.

        Now the question is: is this state of affairs is true? If it is, then this illustrates the principle by which Premise 4 can be logically rejected, despite our common-sense notions. If it is false, then the unanimous opinion of mathematicians is as well. Keep in mind that paradox and absurdity are not the same thing. A paradox may seem illogical yet still be logical; an absurdity both seems and is illogical. Rejecting Premise 4 seems absurd, but as the above example demonstrates it is merely paradoxical.

        Thank you for your discussion! I’ll stop bugging you now and let you have the last word. 🙂

        Posted by Spencer | June 7, 2011, 8:28 PM
      • Spencer, thanks once more for your thoughtful insight on this topic. I realize where you’re coming from, but again I would point out that these are conceptual infinities you’re referencing as opposed to actual infinities. Of course, you could be realist about numbers and argue that they represent an actual infinite. For my part, I am a realist and believe numbers (and other necessarily existent things) draw their necessity from God’s essence–for he ponders them eternally. But I don’t want to get too far afield. My main point is that the number analogy would be different from a property of God.

        For God’s knowledge, if it is (actually infinite) could be added to. Yet it would not increase. I think we both agree here. Where we disagree is whether that entails absurdity or not. You wrote that it could be a paradox as opposed to an absurdity. The reason I would say it leads to an absurdity is because, unlike the numbers example, we’re discussing a property of a person. Unlike conceptual infinities with numbers, with a person we are talking about an actual, ontological infinite. Thus, when God learns a new proposition, it is, I believe, absurd to say that His knowledge has not increased. Perhaps I am only relying upon common sense here, but I do think there is a difference between the concept of adding infinite to infinity without increasing the “number”; and having a person learn new propositions without increasing in the amount of knowledge they have.

        Despite my reservations, however, I think that you and Erik have provided a “way out” for the Open Theist on this issue. It’s not a way out I would embrace, but it provides an out, nonetheless. I’ll make a note at the end of the post to point out the great discussion you two have brought forth. I hope you’ll visit again when I put up my next post on the topic (pending… it will probably be the post after the next)!

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 8, 2011, 10:25 AM
  2. I would deny premise #3. Infinity is not a static point which is “reached” like we do when we count to 100, after which adding any new numbers creates a new numerical reality. Infinity is not even a real number — its mathematical (i.e., irrational) properties are such that (-)infinity < X < infinity. Ask a mathematician what infinity + 1 is, and they will tell you: Infinity. In the world of real and rational numbers, we cannot get outside of "addition equals increase". Infinity plays by different rules. It is an unreal and irrational concept, and adding to infinity still gets you infinity. This is not me trying to be fancy with facts; it's a mathematical reality.

    The open theist, then, asserts at time T1 "God's knowledge is infinite", then asserts that at time T2 God's knowledge included that which it did not at T1: a true fact about what a free agent is doing at T2. She then acknowledges that God's knowledge is being added to, but denies that it is increasing. And she has perfectly reasonable grounds to do so.

    Think of it in terms of quantity and quality. Infinity is not a quantitative concept, like "ten" is. Infinity is a qualitative concept — it conveys an unquantifiable idea: endlessness. This meets the criteria you set out for God's knowledge: unable to be counted. In fact, that is the very definition of "unquantifiable." God's knowledge is infinite, and yet it can still be added to and remain infinite.

    Posted by Spencer | June 4, 2011, 9:30 AM
    • Premise 3 is the conclusion of a deductively valid argument, so to deny it entails a denial of logic. You could deny 1 or 2, but not 3. The argument was presented in modus ponens: (if x, then y; x; therefore, y) form, so denying the outcome (y) requires a denial of one of the previous premises.

      But that misunderstanding aside, I think your argument clearly works in my favor. The very point of my argument was that Open Theism holds that God’s knowledge is increasing daily (the number of propositions God knows increases each day–my free choices, for example, which are different each day, become God’s knowledge once they happen). Yet God’s knowledge is infinite, so it cannot increase.

      Now I see the kind of point you’re trying to make: you’ve granted my argument and then argued that even if God’s knowledge is infinite, it can be added to. So let me turn this point about back on the open theist: this entails all kinds of absurdities which would be parallels to the absurdities of an infinite past. See Hilbert’s hotel for an example. My point is that the open theist cannot hold that this is happening, because it would be absurd to say one can add to infinite knowledge. The “number” of things known would not increase, no matter how many things were made known, yet this is absurd, because on open theism, God would continue to learn new things! So on open theism, God continually learns new things, but the amount of things he knows never increases! On open theism, God will learn (let’s say) 80 billion new propositions today, but his knowledge hasn’t increased! This is exactly the point I was trying to make: open theism entails absurdities.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 4, 2011, 6:33 PM
      • Thanks for responding!

        You are right about my denial of Premise 3; not quite sure what I was thinking there! 🙂 I’ll discuss a little bit, and then see from that if I can hone in on where the problem lies.

        You noted the HIlbert’s Hotel thought experiment and referenced it as an “absurdity”, but note the following quote from the link you provided: “These cases demonstrate the ‘paradox’, by which we mean not that it is contradictory, but rather that a counter-intuitive result is provably true: The situations “there is a guest to every room” and “no more guests can be accommodated” are not equivalent when there are infinitely many rooms.” Hilbert’s Hotel is, in fact, not an “absurdity”. It is a paradox — a counter-intuitive but (on other grounds) true state of affairs. So in fact, it seems that this is more in favor of my argument regarding the nature of infinite sets and is not proof that “open theism entails absurdities”

        The point of Hilbert’s Hotel (and any similar thought exercises) is that infinity does not work like a “bounded” set does — the hotel can be full and yet still add guests. Here is a great way to see this counter-intuitive paradox about infinity in action (I credit someone else for coming up with this idea): How large is the set of real numbers? Infinite. How large is the set of odd numbers? Also infinite. Yet, the set of odd numbers is a subset of the set of real numbers. How is it possible that a subset which only holds half of the parent set is still the same size as the parent set? This is the kind of mind-bending events which occur with infinity — not contradictions or absurdities, but paradoxes.

        So what does this mean for open theism and your premises above? I want to look closely at the distinction between “being added to” and “increasing”, which is a vital part of the language of your argument. Premise 1 states that “If God’s knowledge is infinite, it cannot be increased.” From our ealier discussion of the paradoxical nature of infinity, there is at least one sense in which that is false: (infinity) + 1 = (infinity). Open theism does indeed assert that the (infinite) set of God’s knowledge at T2 does in fact contain something which it did not at T1 –knowledge of a T2-present free choice. But this does not lead to an absurdity, since an infinite set can remain infinite while being… well, what word would you see as approprate? Added to? Increased? I’m not sure how to delineate them; I will need some more clarification from you regarding how you incorporate Premise 1 into the realities of infinite sets.

        The point is that infinite sets can be [added to/increased/other synonym] without entailing logical contradiction.

        Posted by Spencer | June 5, 2011, 7:39 AM
  3. The problem with your argument is in failing to recognize that the set of all knowable things is not infinite. Therefore the concept of infinite knowledge is nonsense. I affirm God’s omniscience. God has an infinite capacity for knowledge. God knows everything that can be known.

    Posted by David Lloyd | June 11, 2011, 4:52 AM
  4. A similar statement can be made about God’s knowledge of the future. God created time. Modern physics has demonstrated mathematically and experimentally that time is a set of dimensions of our universe. Therefore, God’s omnipresence applies to time. God knows the future with the same certainty that He knows the past. However, God interacts with His creation. Another of God’s attributes is wisdom, which involves logical sequences, but does not require time. God interacts with His creation. God gives warnings for men to repent. He answers prayer. As God interacts with creation, creation responds and interacts with God. Although God knows every response “before” (in a logical sense) we do, He takes calculated risks every time He interacts with creation. The future changes.

    Posted by David Lloyd | June 11, 2011, 5:18 AM
    • I think that your response actually undermines your objection. You wrote that “the set of all knowable things is not infinite” and you affirm that “God knows the future with the same certainty that He knows the past.” Now, granting that we will live with God forever in the New Creation, that means there is an infinite future, which would mean that there would be an infinite amount of propositions to know–because the future is infinite. Therefore, your objection doesn’t work given your own beliefs. Unless you deny that the future is infinite or you deny that God knows the future, then on your view God does know an infinite amount of propositions, because He knows all that occurs in the infinite future.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 11, 2011, 8:13 AM
      • Of course, Open Theists deny that God knows (all) the future with certainty, so my counter won’t work for them, but it does work against your argument.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 11, 2011, 8:15 AM
  5. I think you missed my point. Your comment implies the future is static and therefore knowable. I believe God sees the future, but the future is dynamic, and therefore not knowable in any way that would make sense to us. I believe God is sovereign, but I also believe free will is real. I believe the future changes, like clay on a potter’s wheel. Most open theists disagree with my perspective, but I consider myself an open theist because I believe God takes risks as He uses the character of the clay to shape the future, responding to men as men respond to God.

    Posted by David Lloyd | June 12, 2011, 8:23 PM
    • Thanks again for your thoughtful comments!

      You wrote, “Your comment implies the future is static and therefore knowable.”

      This must be established by argument. I deny the implication that if the future is knowable, it is static. It commits the modal error of de res as opposed to de dicto necessity. So I deny your summing up of my comment. As a molinist, I agree that the future is “dynamic”; humans have libertarian free will. However, I deny the tenants of Open Theism that imply the future free actions of beings other than God are unknowable and that knowledge of the future would entail a static future. Open Theism, because it holds that knowledge of the future = determinism; is merely fatalism dressed up in a different form.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 13, 2011, 9:20 AM
  6. I can see that my last comment will look like nonsense. I’ll dig myself a little deeper and try to make my comment understandable. I assume God is working from a perspective outside of time, but which still has logical sequence that allows the potter’s analogy. The risks God takes exist outside of time, allowing God to be “logically” surprised by the choices of men while knowing the end from the beginning.

    Posted by David Lloyd | June 12, 2011, 8:34 PM
    • I admit I am totally confused by your position. It seem(ed) you hold that the future is knowable; yet now it seems you think God would be surprised even though he knows what events occur. Not sure how to respond.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 13, 2011, 9:21 AM
  7. Wow there’s a lot to sift through here. Three different arguments, all attacking different pieces of the initial post. Although I disagree with J.W. on Mollinism (which we don’t need to get into here), I agree with his argument against Open Theism. I think there is an issue with each argument.

    Erik’s argument – The fatal flaw here is in what the meaning of “understanding” is in the Hebrew. Note that the same Hebrew word is used in 1 Kings 4:29 when speaking of Solomon’s “discernment” and in Job 32:11 when it talks about “reasonings.” Both words as we use them today imply more than intelligence–discernment and reason both necessitate a working knowledge, as in being able to move through processes rather than just being aware of information. The two are separate, and when you break down the passage that way, it’s easy to see that “understanding” and “intelligence” are not synonymous in this sense.

    Spencer’s argument – I think he actually points out his own problem. Using terms like “numbers between one and two” and “odd numbers” is referencing them in quantitative terminology, while “infinity” is qualitative and merely conceptual. Trying to “add to” God makes no sense for a number of reasons; adding to God would amount to complexity, and God at His essence is a simple being with no parts. Adding quantitatively undermines this fact, and makes God subject to the natural laws of this universe. And so you get to finite godism, rather than Open Theism. The whole worldview of theism is instantly removed on this view, and thus denotes a bad framework for interpreting infinity.

    David’s argument – God’s ability to be “surprised” clearly undermines the attributes of infinity and eternity God possesses, as well as the characteristic of omniscience. Infinity (as Dave has claimed the future is infinite) cannot be static, for stasis is a natural and/or physical property. Since infinity is conceptual and not bound to the natural properties of the universe, this means that an infinite future cannot be static, and as a result infinite knowledge is possible for an infinite Being, either on Mollinism or Moderate Calvinism. But to say the number of knowable events is finite is looking at only from a natural perspective, not a supernatural one.

    Posted by sabepashubbo | June 29, 2011, 11:00 AM
  8. How is your argument not begging the question? You are assuming in premise #1 that God’s knowledge is infinite to conclude that God’s knowledge is infinite. Not only can you not claim to know that something is infinite (including knowledge itself), but the very concept of infinite knowledge is incoherent. What the Biblical authors are doing is trying put “God” outside of rational criticism… to impart a sense to their deity that no matter how incredible the claim, it is possible for their God to pull it off. What they have done, unwittingly, is undermine the notion of a God.

    Posted by Dan Courtney | September 5, 2012, 8:48 AM
    • It doesn’t beg the question. Show me formally how you think it does. Here it is:

      1) If A, then B
      2) A
      3) Therefore B
      4) X Posits ~B
      5) Therefore, ~X

      I don’t see how this begs the question at all. 1-3 are modus ponens. And because B follows from 1 and 2, then that which asserts ~B is false given 1-3. It’s a pretty basic deductive argument, and it is deductively valid.

      Furthermore, saying “You are assuming in premise #1 that God’s knowledge is infinite to conclude that God’s knowledge is infinite.” betrays that you didn’t undertsand the argument. Look at the conclusion. The conclusion of that part of the argument is actually 3). But then because OT negates 3, it is false, following this argument.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 6, 2012, 12:45 AM
      • My apologies, you are correct… I misread the conclusion. While the form of the argument is valid, I still disagree with the first premise. Infinite knowledge is an arbitrary assertion.

        Posted by Dan Courtney | September 6, 2012, 8:35 PM
      • What is arbitrary about it?

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 6, 2012, 8:39 PM
      • If you grant that, at a minimum, knowledge requires justification, then how would you propose to provide justification for infinite knowledge? I would suggest that the very nature of “infinite” would preclude justification.

        A simple example may be the best way to understand the problem. A five year-old asks her Mother a series of questions, all of which the Mother answers. The five year-old says “wow Mom, you must know everything.” To which she replies, “Yes, I do.” The problem for the five year-old is that they don’t have the experience or the means to determine what the limits of their Mother’s knowledge is. So from the five year-old’s perspective they are justified in saying that their Mother knows a lot, and they may even conclude that their Mother knows everything. But the conclusion that their Mother is omniscient, no matter how many questions they were to ask, is not justified. Without justification knowledge is reduced to assertion. And without justification what is claimed as knowledge is simply belief. You may choose to believe that God is omniscient, but without justification you have no rational basis to conclude that He is. Choosing something without justification is the definition of arbitrary.

        Posted by Dan Courtney | September 6, 2012, 9:37 PM
      • Let me put it this way: the Bible states very clearly that God’s knowledge is without limit/infinite. Are you denying this fact?

        [I had a longer response, having to do with actual infinites but I’m not sure that that is 100% germane here. I could just go with the “without limit” definition and still make the argument follow the same steps.]

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 6, 2012, 10:21 PM
      • [And in this case the defense of premise 1 would be amended to say that because God’s knowledge is without limit, it seems that such a pool would not be able to be increased, given the use of the Hebrew term there: “not number”–without number. How can something numberless be increased?]

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 6, 2012, 10:26 PM
      • Ah, I see your confusion. I agree that the Bible claims that God has infinite knowledge. My point is that you, or the Biblical authors, or anyone else, cannot rationally justify such a claim.

        Posted by Dan Courtney | September 7, 2012, 8:36 PM
      • That’s where I was thinking you were coming from.

        However, once you grant that, you’ve granted the argument works to those who do trust the authority of Scripture. The matter of infinite knowledge is something else entirely. I know I argued from an actual infinite in this post, but I’m hesitant to think that the text itself entails an actual infinite. What I think is closer to the Hebrew is “without number.” So while I think the text implies omniscience to the extent that open theism cannot contain, I don’t think it entails an actual infinite number of propositions in God’s mind, if indeed God’s knowledge is propositional, which is also up for debate.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | September 7, 2012, 8:49 PM
      • “…you’ve granted the argument works to those who do trust the authority of Scripture.”

        Agreed.

        As you drill down into issues like omniscience, I think you’ll end up concluding that God can be understood to be a metaphor for reality, but anything more is simply speculation.

        Posted by Dan Courtney | September 7, 2012, 9:33 PM

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Against Open Theism: Definitions « J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason" - June 3, 2011

  2. Pingback: Articles. « Loftier Musings - July 3, 2011

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