900.13c Divine Foreknowledge (pps.136-138)

hard cover page 137

Accordingly, just as there is a problem how God’s foreknowledge may be reconciled with human freedom, so also there is a problem how human freedom may be reconciled with God’s providence.533

Therefore, either God cannot know what I shall do tomorrow, or else whatever I shall do tomorrow will not be done freely.
-Kenny on Aquinas534

The prophet said of Him: “He will be silent in His love” (Zephaniah 3:17). The very silence of God in history is due to His concern with man.

However, the problem with total a priori Divine omniscience is not, as is widely posited, that it a priori proscribes human free choice by virtue of the fact that the knowledge of God is immutable. For one can posit that it is theoretically possible, given complete data, including knowledge of thought patterns, for a Deity to know a contingent future. The fact that the Deity knows I will choose to jump off a cliff does not force me to jump off the cliff. If I do not jump off the cliff, the Deity’s foreknowledge would simply be different.

The problem with foreknowledge is rather that a merciful and omnipotent Deity would be compelled to tamper with history to ameliorate evil at a given threshold. The possibility of intercession by the Deity thus (1) throws off the initial calculation of foreknowledge-since it is conditional on God’s nonintervention; (2) limits man’s freedom to commit evil; (3) increases man’s dependence; and (4) lowers man’s potential. Freedom to act only within the framework of non-gross evil limits man’s freedom. Yet gross evil does exist, implying significantly delimited Divine foreknowledge of particulars, if we are to simultaneously preserve the concepts of man’s freedom and God’s omnipotence.

Thus, while we might concede foreknowledge of a general ultimate denouement, somewhat in parallel to Saadia Gaon,536 we are certainly averse to the concept of a willed foreknowledge of anything more particular.

——————- NOTES ——————-

533 Kenny, Aquinas: A Collection of Critical Essays, p. 256

534 Ibid.. p. 257.
Cf. Aquinas, Summa Tfzeologiae, la 14, 3, 3. “Aquinas’ statement of the difficulty is as follows: ‘Whatever is known by God must be; for whatever is known by us must be, and God’s knowledge is more certain than ours. But nothing which is future and contingent must be. Therefore, nothing which is future and contingent is known by God.’ ” Cited in Kenny, Aquinas, p. 258.

535 Berkovits, God, Man and History, p. 146.

536 See also Saadia Gaon, Opinions and Beliefs 4:4. “What God foreknows is the final denouement of man’s activity after it turns out after all his planning, anticipation, and delays.”


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