Contra Hasker: Why Simple Foreknowledge Is Still Useful -- By: David P. Hunt

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 52:3 (Sep 2009)
Article: Contra Hasker: Why Simple Foreknowledge Is Still Useful
Author: David P. Hunt


Contra Hasker: Why Simple Foreknowledge Is Still Useful

David P. Hunt*

* David Hunt is professor of philosophy at Whittier College, 13406 E. Philadelphia St., Whittier, CA 90608.

It is a dogma of open theism that the parts of the future the openist God does not know—namely, future contingents (including the future actions of libertarianly free agents)—would be providentially useless to God even if he did know them. It is easy to see why this dogma is important to open theists. If adding such knowledge to God’s cognitive repertoire would by itself yield no providential benefits, it is easier to resist the charge that open theism is theologically deficient in rejecting such knowledge. At least it is easier to resist the charge when leveled by fellow Arminians. Calvinists, of course, will have their own reasons for regarding open theism as theologically defective. But the only way for fellow Arminians to enhance God’s providential control, if simple foreknowledge will not do the trick, is to embrace Molinism, with its doctrine of divine middle knowledge.1 Since middle knowledge is controversial on a number of grounds, the Molinist alternative will strike many Arminians as unacceptable. Such Arminians (the explanation continues) might as well become open theists; at least they should stop thinking that there is much at stake theologically between their position and that of the openists.

So it is easy to see why open theists would like it to be true that simple foreknowledge is providentially useless. What has always been harder to see is why one should think that it is true. At best, open theists have identified some prima facie puzzles for God’s use of simple foreknowledge. But there are prima facie puzzles for many traditional theological positions. Why think that these puzzles are sufficiently serious to jeopardize commitment to simple foreknowledge?

There is even some prima facie reason to think that these puzzles are merely prima facie. After all, much of our own efforts to exercise “providential

control” over our lives is directed toward anticipating what others will do. How much food should I buy for the party? That depends on how many people will show up. If only I knew! I will add an RSVP to the invitation, but we all know how well those work.2 In the end, I will have to act in light of my best guess. But what if I do not have to guess, because I know? Would that not be better? And would not God, too, be better off if he could proceed wit...

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