One apparent ramification of holding to both libertarian free will and God’s omniscience is that God (apparently) derives His knowledge of our choices from us, since our choices ultimately come from us. A while back I had a run-in with a Mr. Tim Prussic, who employed an argument I’ve seen before: Calvinists who hold to exhaustive determinism will often argue that God having knowledge that is in some way based upon human will undermines His aseity.
Aseity is defined as, “existence originating from and having no source other than itself.” God, according to all branches of orthodox Christian theology, is the only Being who is self-existent. The issue at hand, briefly, is that if God has endowed His creations with a measure of free will, then the creatures’ own actions come from themselves (i.e. from their own self-determination) and hence the transcendent God’s knowledge of what they will do apparently is also rooted in that self-determination. Determinists such as Mr. Prussic contend that God’s knowledge being rooted in anything men will or do somehow attacks His aseity, since this would imply a dependency relationship, viz. God being dependent upon man for knowledge (of what that man will choose, specifically).
Problems with this logic
For starters, God clearly isn’t dependent upon man for His existence. God having freedom of His own will entails that He didn’t have to create mankind at all. Clearly, knowledge derived from what created men do is no threat to His self-existence. The only objection the determinist could offer here would be a knowledge dependency -God using men to be omniscient concerning men’s wills. Would that be tantamount to saying that one of God’s attributes (His omniscience) comes from man? Not at all: such a scenario would imply that God had to create man to become omniscient, but this clearly isn’t the case, since God would have been all-knowing even if He had never created man at all.
The only dependency upon man (i.e. God knowing what a man will choose due to the man himself) is itself rooted in God’s will to create man in the first place, so no such dependency can exist apart from God’s being willing that it exist. Asserting that God entering into such a dependency relationship somehow attacks His self-existence apparently doesn’t follow from any sound argumentation.
Unimpeded by minor obstacles such as their argument lacking coherence, determinists like Mr. Prussic continue to press the issue, claiming that God is made “less than God,” since He’s now created a dependency upon man, the implication being that any kind of dependency relationship destroys God’s aseity. Does this novel definition of “aseity” hold any water in light of scripture?
Let’s look at another one of God’s attributes: faithfulness. God is indeed called “faithful and true” (Revelation 19:11, see also Deuteronomy 7:9, Isaiah 49:7, 1 Corinthians 10:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:24, 2 Thessalonians 3:3). Knowing this, I ask, has God ever made a promise or oath to anyone? He certainly has. His covenant with Abraham and his descendants is a prominent example (Genesis 22:16-18). Second question: for God to remain faithful to what He has promised, does the one(s) to whom He made such promises have to exist? I would think so: Abraham and his descendents apparently must exist for God to remain faithful to His promises that He made to them.
So then God’s attribute of faithfulness actually does depend upon His creations (their existence in this case), provided that He has chosen to make a promise to them. This type of dependency wouldn’t attack God’s aseity, as making the promises in the first place (and thus establishing that dependence) was His decision alone. This clearly wouldn’t imply that He has some innate need of creation, but would definitely indicate that such a dependency exists according to His will.
If God’s faithfulness to His promises in relation to people is dependent upon the existence of the people He made promises to, then why is it suddenly an attack on His aseity if His knowledge in relation to people’s choices is similarly dependent upon them? If God needs to have people to be faithful to His promises made to those He created, then why is it any difficulty for Him to need people to know the choices of those He has created? The Calvinist charge amounts to a form of rather lame special pleading that simply doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.
Even bigger problems
Ironically, a much larger problem lies with the determinist view of God where the origins of sin are concerned. If all of God’s knowledge necessarily comes from Himself, then everything He has knowledge of must also arise from within Himself -that includes sin. Such a view inevitably ends up making God the author of sin and the source of every lie, evil motive and abominable thought. This stands in complete contrast with the apostle John, who declares,
This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)
The Calvinist case here is a rather strained attempt to save a very contrived redefinition of God’s aseity. Their accusation is in fact so impotent that when I confronted Mr. Prussic with the counter-example cited above, his only recourse was to pronounce that I was “guilty” without even offering the slightest interaction with the evidence presented. God being self-existent and having need of nothing doesn’t imply that He can’t establish some sort of dependency, it simply means that God innately has no need of anything external to Himself. God allowing some sort of dependency to exist because of His interactions with man doesn’t undermine His aseity, since no such dependency is innate to God, they can only exist according to His will. The exhaustive determinist position only saves its own self-serving and unworkable definition of aseity, while at the same time abominably making God into the origin of all sin.
[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.]