Andrew Lobb, “Why Knowledge Is Just Knowledge”

, posted by AndrewLobb

Let’s do a thought experiment. Imagine, if you will, you have a pretty sweet computer. Maybe one the size of a couple of solar systems – very powerful, lots of memory. Now, an important figure, say Donald Trump, was in a closed room last week. Imagine we used our computer to simulate everything in the room, down to the last quantum state. Our computer now “knows” everything about the room. Everything is certain.

Now, I don’t like Donald Trump. So I log into a console and delete him from the simulated room.

Question time: Does the real Donald Trump vanish from the room in the past? Why?

Remember, we’re absolutely certain about the room, and everything in it. We know precisely and perfectly what will happen in that room for as long as we can run the simulation.

Now, let’s imagine God condescends to help us in our experiment. He comes down and reprograms the computer to show us a similar room, with say, Theresa May in it, this time in the future. I also decide to delete Theresa May. Does Theresa May vanish from the real room? If not, why not?

The level of certainty we posses about an event is not causative, so in neither case will a world leader abruptly vanish from a locked room (ah, but for the way knowledge works, we could commit a crime even Sherlock Holmes could not solve!) Absolute certainty about an event does not make the event necessary, or else we could manipulate an event by modifying our certainty about it. Knowledge and information are just that, knowledge and information. Nothing magical or mystical about it.

Now, there are two theories about how God’s omnipotence and omniscience work. One suggests that God knows because he decrees (read causes), and the other says that God’s knowledge is not causative – He knows all (how, but not what is somewhat mysterious) because he created and sustains the universe. God knows how I will sin tomorrow, not because He caused me to sin (James 1:13), but because I will sin. The source of his knowledge need not be an eternal decree, but can be the event itself.

The common argument by a determinist (or a compatibilist) who does not get the distinction between certainty and necessity is that Arminians face the same conundrum as they do – Arminians affirm God knows the future perfectly – thus, they think God’s certainty about the future renders it necessary. This is an extraordinary claim. As our thought experiment above suggests, knowledge does not operate like this.

I anticipate the objection here – that God’s knowledge is not like our (or for that matter our imaginary computer’s) knowledge. This is true. But the leap from God’s knowledge making all things certain for God, to God’s knowledge rendering all things necessary has to be supported, and so far I have not heard a good scriptural (or logical, for that matter) reason for this. It does not come from Scripture, it is a philosophical argument, and a rather bad one at that. The burden of proof rests on the one who claims that certainty and necessity are always the same thing. It is an extraordinary claim. And thus we would require some evidence for it. Or at the very least some reasoning, normally it comes out as a pure unsupported assertion.

Feel free to provide yours below [ed: see original blog post below], if you have such.

Note, that nowhere here do we deny God’s sovereignty, or power. Nothing happens without His knowledge, allowance or plan in it. What we do deny is that God is a causative agent in sin. God certainly is active in creation, causing good things.

The original post, with comments can be found here: