Apologetics Thursday – Platonic Knowledge

From the article Why I Reject Open Theism:

Open theism is the belief that God does not know the future because he has given man the freedom to choose. One web site gave the following definition: Though omniscient, God does not know what we will freely do in the future.

This is not true, for the Bible is full of references of God declaring future events long before they happened and the outcome of the choices made by individuals long before those individuals were born.

The above is an example of the shoddy debate framing by modern Open Theists and their critics. Sloppy definitions of words are used, and this creates shifting definitions within statements.

Most normal people are said to “know” the future in some sense. I know Walmart will be open if I go right now, and they will accept my money in exchange for candy. This is a certainty. No one would say I do not “know” this will happen.

Queue the theologians. They tend to speak in very different ways. Although they use the same language, it is given a new definition to meet philosophical objectives. In Classical Theism, God’s know is object-based. The knowledge is of real things to be known. God cannot have non-object based knowledge, like experiential knowledge. God is only called omniscient if He has all knowledge, the knowledge cannot change, God’s total knowledge cannot be modified, and God does not receive His knowledge from outside sources (the knowledge is identical to His essence). This is a Platonic idea of knowledge and has nothing to do with the Bible.

So when Open Theists frame the debate in the same idiosyncratic and non-intuitive terms that their critics use, this creates scenarios where these definitions are imposed onto the Bible. Instead of God knowing what will happen in the way that I know Walmart would facilitate my purchase, instead they claim that when the Bible talks about God’s knowledge of the future it meets and entirely different standard. This standard is modern, and alien to the Bible. It leads to people like the author of the quoted article, rejecting Open Theism on grounds he honestly believes are Biblical.

2 comments

  1. From the article: “In Classical Theism, God’s know is object-based. The knowledge is of real things to be known. God cannot have non-object based knowledge, like experiential knowledge. God is only called omniscient if He has all knowledge, the knowledge cannot change, God’s total knowledge cannot be modified, and God does not receive His knowledge from outside sources (the knowledge is identical to His essence). This is a Platonic idea of knowledge and has nothing to do with the Bible.”

  2. I agree with the author here very much – that language is a key component in these deliberations. And sloppy language is misleading language.
    It behooves all who are serious, sincere, and want to approach these things with honesty, to be as precise with language as possible.

    I am currently reading “Does God Know the Future” by Michael Saia.
    Open Theism is new for me. And I must admit Saia uses language in his book that I have little frame of reference to understand. For example – quote “Free will requires the ability of a person to **TURN** possible courses of action into actual actions.” Perhaps this is a reference to PAP (Principle of Alternative Possibilities) but the author doesn’t make that clear.

    I get the impression that Michael Saia knows what me means with many of his statements but has little awareness that his language is going to be confusing to those positioned outside of his conceptual bubble.

    So I’m wondering if an unnecessary part of the conflict Open Theists experience with outsiders is a language barrier that they are not cognizant of. They share a common semantic with one another and that can engender a bond between them. But that doesn’t help the outsider who finds the language confusing.

    Thanks and Blessings! :-]

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