Edwards’ Arguments against Libertarian Free Will Based on Divine Foreknowledge

, posted by Godismyjudge

In part 2 section 12, Edwards attempts three demonstrations of the incompatibility of LFW and God’s foreknowledge: 1) based on the connection between foreknowledge and the event, 2) based on the impossibility of knowing things without evidence and 3) based on knowing a contingent event with certainty.

The Connection between Foreknowledge and the Event
Edwards’ Argument:
P1: Things in the past are now necessary
P2: In the past, God infallibly foreknew our future choices
C1: therefore, God’s foreknowledge of our future choices is now necessary
P3: if something necessary is infallibly connected with something else, that something else is also necessary
P4: God’s necessary foreknowledge is infallibly connected with our future choices
C2: therefore, our future choices are necessary

My Response
P3 is equivical. “Connection” could mean either a logical connection or a causal one. Additionally, “is” can mean either a logical or a temporal moment.

If connection is understood as a causal connection, we grant P3, but C2 doesn’t follow, because foreknowledge is connected logically (not causally) with events. Edwards admits foreknowledge doesn’t cause events. Nor do events cause foreknowledge. God’s knowledge of events is immediate; there isn’t a moment in time that an event happens and God doesn’t know about it. This implies that God’s knowledge isn’t caused, because effects temporally follow causes. God’s knowledge is unique in this regard.

If “connection” is understood as a logical connection, we must distinguish logicial necessity into simple and compound. Something is simply logically necessary if the opposite contradicts itself. (i.e. square circles) Something is compoundly logically necessary if the opposite contradicts another truth. (i.e. X = 1 contradicts X =2) Understood as simple logical necessity, we deny P3. The event isn’t necessary such that propositions about the event not happening contradict themselves. Rather they contradict statements about God’s foreknowledge.

If the connection is understood as logical and the necessity is understood as compound necessity, we must distinguish between logical and temporal moments. If “is” relates to a logical sequence, we grant P3. But the logical sequence is: the event -> true propositions about the event -> foreknowledge. That is to say, the event is the logical basis of truth of propositions about the event, which is the logical basis of foreknowledge. Understanding this, the conclusion is inverted. C2 should be: given the logical connection between the event and foreknowledge, at the logical moment of the event and the connection between the event and foreknowledge, foreknowledge is necessary. One can conclude foreknowledge is necessary based on the event, but not the other way around.

But if the sequence is understood temporally, we deny P3. Truths are omni-temporal. The proposition “on May 17th 2008 Dan is typing a post” is true at all points in time. Thus, temporally sequencing a logical connection is inappropriate.

Impossibility of Knowing Things without Evidence
Edwards argues that nothing can be known without evidence. Evidence consists of either 1) “self-evidence” or 2) “the necessity of it’s nature“. Edwards denies future contingents give self-evidence, because they have no “present existence“. Regarding option 2, Edwards also points out that if something is necessary, it isn’t contingent.

My Response
The future event is the evidence by which God foreknows the future event. Thus the event is “self-evident”, using Edwards terms. What is required to be self-evident isn’t present existence, but future existence. Otherwise God would know the event, not foreknow it. To require present existence as evidence collapses time. What God knows would no longer be the future, if it has present existence.

Even though we can say the future is the evidence supporting God’s knowledge of the future, we do not know how God knows the future. Some say it’s because God is outside of time, but I am not sure about that. But Calvinism doesn’t explain how God knows the future either (if God knows the future in Calvinism). For more, see this post, and my exchange with Steve.

Knowing Something Certainly which is Contingent
Edwards argues that God’s knowledge would be inconsistent with itself, if He knew something contingent with certainty. To Edwards, this is like saying: “he now knows a proposition to be of certain infallible truth, which he knows to be of contingent uncertain truth“.

My Response
Edwards conflates “can” and “will”. Saying an event can happen, isn’t the same as saying it will happen. “Can” relates to possibility, “will” relates to future occurrence. God knows, out of the many things that can happen, what will happen. His knowledge is certain, which means His knowledge is correct, not that the event is necessary. Only by switching “can” and “will” does Edwards get to his conclusion that God knows something both certainly and uncertainly; a move that cannot be made without relying on the two flawed arguments above.

Part of a Critique of Jonathan Edwards’ Enquire into the Will at Arminian Chronicles.