Now, since, in God, the self-existent One, essence and attributes are identical, his knowledge is of necessity tied in with his essence – his being. God IS his knowledge. So, if God is dependent upon creation for knowledge, then we have a serious theological problem.
Problems with this logic
Mr. Prussic’s case relies heavily upon conflating God’s attribute of omniscience with what His knowledge references. This line of reasoning begins to collapse in on itself when applied, for instance, to God’s attribute of love. Now the Bible plainly tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8), and that it’s because of His love for us that Christ died (Romans 5:8). But since God loves people, then that love for people necessarily requires people, clearly making God’s love for man dependent upon man. According to Mr. Prussic’s comical views of divine simplicity, this love for man would be intrinsic to God’s essence, and would inevitably lead to the conclusion that God’s being is necessarily tied to the people He loves -making man essential to God’s nature. Ironically, Tim’s view, taken to its logical conclusions, ends up being the theory that attacks God’s aseity, since God’s very essence would depend upon man!
My counter is that we shouldn’t confuse God’s attributes like love and knowledge with who or what those attributes reference. Contrary to Mr. Prussic’s misaimed remark of this making God, “less than perfect in one attribute”: God would still be loving and omniscient even if there were no such thing as man, because that is who He is; He isn’t changing His attributes by creating man, weighing his heart (Proverbs 21:2) or setting His love upon him (Deuteronomy 7:7). He would always be loving and omniscient even if He’d never created anything.
Further ridiculousness of the view Mr. Prussic espouses can be seen from a simple reductio:
If God’s knowledge is innate to Him, then everything He knows is innate to Him. My existence is one of the things God knows about. If God innately knows that I was born some time in the latter part of the last century, then that fact has eternally been an innate part of God’s knowledge; God therefore had no choice but to create me, else He would falsify His knowledge. Thus God’s omniscience is now dependent upon my existence.
This could even be taken a step further: I’m a believer in Christ, part of the elect. God has innately and eternally known that I’ll be part of the elect -that fact is part of His divine essence (according to Mr. Prussic anyway). By that logic, God not only had to create me, but to make His knowledge true, had no choice but to elect me as well (and Calvinists accuse me of being “man-centered”), else falsify His knowledge. Even the Potter doesn’t have any real freedom by such backwards thinking! We could go on and on, but suffice it to say that divine simplicity interpreted in such a way as Mr. Prussic does breaks down into complete incoherence. He goes on to ask,
If that paradigm works with God’s attribute of knowledge, why not all his other attributes? Would we be opposed to the notion that, in certain areas, God’s not all-powerful, but actual gains power from his creation? What if God, in a certain area, were not completely truthful, but gained truth from his creation?
Given the ramifications I cited above to Mr. Prussic’s position, his “truthfulness” example ends up backfiring on him: If God innately knows about my existence, then the truth of that knowledge is dependent upon my existence. God in fact would depend upon me for His intrinsic knowledge to be true. Therefore the truth of God’s knowledge must depend upon me if Tim’s logic is to be consistently applied. Tim also again fails to address the previously cited example of God’s faithfulness to His promises being dependent upon those to whom the promises were made. This was not unexpected, as inconsistent logic such as he propounds can seldom coherently deal with realistic situations.
Immutably absurd theology
The semi-thoughtful reader will already know that, in J.C.’s thought, the classic doctrine of divine immutability was tossed out the window a long time ago. For, manifestly, if God doesn’t change, his knowledge cannot increase. His knowledge would (like all his other attributes) be infinite, eternal and unchangeable. Learning is growth. Growth is change. The Bible says that God doesn’t change.
Indeed, only a semi-thoughtful reader who’s failed to think the issue through could come to such a conclusion. Divine immutability implies that God always remains who He is, not that He never experiences any kind of change in any sense. Experience or action of any kind (without which an entity is utterly static) implies some sense of change, but not necessarily in one’s essential being.
Christ, for instance, has always been divine (and thus immutable) and One with God the Father. Yet Christ experienced and became things He was not before: He was incarnated, He was killed, He is risen from the grave, He was made perfect through sufferings (Hebrews 2:10), He was tempted, and He is now the heavenly High Priest who can aid those who are likewise tempted (Hebrews 2:18, 4:15). Yet these experiences did not change who He is, for the scriptures declare that He is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
Further to the point, God’s attribute of faithfulness is absolute; He cannot be unfaithful. Nevertheless, who God can’t cease to show His covenant mercy to has changed since God made the world. God made His covenant with Abraham, and thus cannot now go back on His word, whereas He didn’t have this obligation before the covenant was made. Does this promise to the man Abraham becoming encompassed by God’s faithfulness constitute some change to God’s nature? Hardly. This is a good example of how an attribute of God remains immutably unchanged even if who/what that attribute references does change (in this case, a promise to Abraham being added to what God is faithful to). God didn’t depend upon Abraham to “make Him faithful,” He by nature has always been faithful.
God’s immutability doesn’t convey that He’s some sort of static entity, it implies that no matter what He chooses to do, He necessarily and eternally remains God.
Still more problems for the Necessitarian
Besides not dealing with the counter-example, Prussic’s attempt fails to deal with the problem of the origin of sin that I raised in my first reply. This particular problem along with the ramifications of innate knowledge shown above devastates his simplicity/immutability appeals while simultaneously tipping his “non-aseity” accusations back onto him.
If all of God’s knowledge is innate to His being, and sin is something encompassed in His knowledge, then sin itself is essential to God’s being. God has to have sin for His knowledge to be true, otherwise He isn’t omniscient. Therefore God’s being God depends upon sin (if this whole “innate knowledge” canard is to be believed anyway).
Beyond just determinism, Mr. Prussic’s unscriptural and man-made twisting of God’s divine attributes outright subjects God Himself to strict necessity, making His essence intrinsically dependent upon man and everything else He creates. So if His knowledge about my being redeemed and glorified is essential to His being, then God literally had to save me to make His knowledge true. Worse still, God goes from authoring sin (which error many Calvinists unwittingly promote by their teachings) to actuallyneeding sin to be God. Against those who accept the biblical truth of free will, Necessitarians are quite eager to level the charge of attacking God’s aseity; but the pit they dig winds up being the one they themselves fall into: for if God needs mankind and its sinfulness for His innate knowledge to hold true, as their reasoning dictates, then the omniscient God has an intrinsic need of creation.
God willing, Mr. Prussic will learn from these glaring errors and cease relying upon Calvinism’s bizarre and self-contradicting set of assumptions about God’s nature, and instead turn to scriptures to draw his understanding of who God is.
* Given the crucial distinction between God’s attributes and the objects that they reference, that God knows everything about us as His creations is an essential aspect of His Being; what He knows about us is not, as we ourselves are not essential to His Being. Thus the simplicity of God and His divine attributes isn’t threatened by free will.
* At least some of the objects which pertain to God’s attributes (e.g. what He knows about some creature, who He is faithfully in covenant with) aren’t intrinsic to His nature, but hinge upon His own sovereign choices. His immutability is not in these objects being fixed within His nature (for where we are concerned, this would imply that we are fixed in His nature), but in that whatever choices He makes, He eternally and unchangeably remains the all-knowing, all-powerful and completely faithful God.
[Link to original post and comments at the Arminian Perspectives blog. This post is part of a 14-part series that was previously posted here on our website, but is being republished. The old posts are being replaced by updated versions (though the content is the same) to bring extra attention to this excellent series.]