Any doctrine that claims that for God to be God He had to know you (the reader) from eternity past would make you too a necessary being and would undermine God Himself as a self-existent being. Therefore, any such doctrine is false. This can be called the "aseity argument" against the settled future.
Reformed philosophers reply to this aseity argument by imagining non-realities in which you, dear reader, do not exist. On the strength of those non-realities, they claim that this argument commits what is called a modal fallacy, because you don't exist in non-realities, and so you cannot be a necessary being. We have no argument with that logically consistent, though irrelevant, claim. Unlike these critics, we are talking about reality, and specifically, reality from their theological perspective. Regardless of what has happened in the past and what may happen in the future, as of the moment you were conceived your existence is forevermore part of the only reality that exists. And if for God to be God, He had to have exhaustive foreknowledge of actual reality, and hence, of you too from eternity past, then you have been an eternal necessity for God to be God and He could never have been a thoroughly self-existent being. Yet of course something must be awry, because God's existence has not eternally depended upon your (eventual) existence. So let's investigate this further.
Theologians rightly describe God, from everlasting, as the only necessary and self-existent being, whose goings forth are from of old, independent of any other being. However, by Calvin's theology (and that of Arminius too) omniscience, including exhaustive foreknowledge of other beings, is an essential divine attribute.
The Necessary Calvin? Exhaustive foreknowledge is a false doctrine for many reasons including that, if it were true, it would turn John Calvin, and Jacob Arminius for that matter, into necessary beings. God from everlasting would not be the only necessary being if He possessed an omniscience that meant He had to have eternal knowledge of every human being. It is not biblical, but manifestly a man-centered philosophical claim, that every human always had to be in God's mind, or else God could not be God. Even Augustine, in his "Confessions", admitted to interpreting the Scriptures through pagan Greek philosophy, or as he put it, by Plato's devotees, "the platonists". Thus, along with other theologians and their deference to Augustine, tragically Calvin imported humanist ideas into theology. One such idea just happens to make Calvin a necessary being. For without him, God could not be God.
The Necessary Sproul? Here's another inescapable consequence of exhaustive foreknowledge. If God from everlasting could not be God apart from knowledge of R.C. Sproul, not only does that mean Sproul is necessary, but also, that God could not be self-existent. For then His omniscient existence would depend upon Sproul, that is, upon God's knowledge of Sproul, and therefore of course, even upon Sproul himself. For based on the false teaching of exhaustive foreknowledge, without knowing of this Calvinist preacher, God's knowledge would have been incomplete and therefore He could not have been God. That is, He could not have been the Settled View God. Likewise, if from everlasting God could not be God apart from possessing exhaustive foreknowledge, which included knowledge of Sproul allies like John MacArthur and John Piper, that means that Piper and MacArthur too would be necessary beings and, by their bad doctrine, God could not be self-existent, for He would be dependent (in part) on MacArthur, Piper and Sproul.
Exhaustive Foreknowledge vs. Aseity: Over the centuries, theologians have changed the scope of the doctrine of "aseity", but it rightly includes God's absolute independence, self-sufficiency, and self-existence from eternity past. However, if exhaustive foreknowledge were a true and essential attribute, then through eternity past He could not be God apart from the knowledge of you, the reader of this article, nor apart from knowing Calvin, Arminius, Sproul, Piper, MacArthur, and everyone else, all of whom therefore would also be necessary beings. And with all these eternally necessary beings, no single Being could be absolutely independent, self-sufficient, and self-existent. Thankfully though, neither the author nor reader, nor any luminaries, or unknowns, were necessary beings, but only God, whose aseity stands as exhaustive foreknowledge falls. The settled view is the belief that the future is exhaustively foreknown and therefore settled. The Reformation broke with Rome but not with Greece. Therefore both camps, Calvinists and Arminians, are comprised of settled viewers, as are the Molinists too (after Jesuit Luis de Molina).
If Exhaustive Foreknowledge is False, Who Needs Molinism? This aseity argument demonstrates one of the theological proofs falsifying exhaustive foreknowledge. So then, advocates of Molinism, including William Lane Craig, have no reason to posit their "middle knowledge" claim that knowing what all creatures would do in any circumstance is the key to explaining God's foreknowledge. Of course, like other theologians including Matt Slick, Craig himself cannot be an eternally necessary creature. This aseity challenge apparently pushed the reformed founder of Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry, the popular CARM theologian Matt Slick, into a corner. For he argued in the Q&A of his debate with Will Duffy that eternal omniscience is not an essential divine attribute. That's actually an open theism position which of course undermines reformed theology. Slick's answer though demonstrates the power of this challenge. Craig likewise shows how twisted up settled view theologians become when he tries to thread a needle with his Molinism claiming that "God could lack" the knowledge of this actual future "and still be God", but that Him having "knowledge of all possible worlds" is "essential" to Him being God. Yet of course, since these "possible worlds" include Craig, he's thus made William Lane Craig "essential" to God being God. Craig passively concedes this argument unless he can come out and say, "God could be God without having had eternal knowledge of me." But if he did make that statement, we open theists would respond, "Welcome aboard!" For without the requirement of God needing to have such exhaustive foreknowledge, the need crumbles for the fundamental distinctives of both Molinism and Calvinism, as compared, say, to Arminianism. For if you removed exhaustive foreknowledge from Arminianism, it could come out as though that doctrine were an add-on or a plug-in, and leave most of the rest of their program intact. For the other distinctives of the Arminians stand or fall based on considerations other than foreknowledge. (For example, without the settled future, which was merely left over from the Greeks anyway, Arminians could recover the true purpose of prayer, acknowledge that God could change the timing of the Second Coming, etc., and still remain Arminians. The primary change that would happen to their theology is the loss of exhaustive foreknowledge itself.) Contrast that though with Molinism and Calvinism. The settled future plays a vastly greater and more central role in what is distinctive about these systems. If exhaustive foreknowledge is false, then on that alone, there can be no Molinism and there can be no Calvinism. Again though, if Craig or anyone were to admit that "God could be God without having eternal knowledge of me", then he has realized there is no need for the settled view, for Molinism, or Calvinism.
God Became the God of Abraham: If man were eternal, then God the Son eternally could have been the "Son of Man". If Abraham were eternal then God could always have been "the God of Abraham". Related to the false teaching of exhaustive foreknowledge, for most theologians, is the false teaching that God cannot "become" anything. However, He became the Savior as God says, "I became your Savior" (Isa. 63:8). Though eternally He was not, He became Man. He became the Creator by creating. Unless one claims the heretical belief that the creation has eternally existed, God, including the Son and the Spirit, became Sovereign by creating something to be sovereign over. The Son "became obedient to the point of death" (Phil. 2:8) and became eternally embodied as now the possessor of a "glorious body" (Phil. 3:21). If God were timeless, but entered time at the Incarnation (as is commonly claimed), then He could never have known an actual timeless existence. Paradoxically then, a truly timeless existence would necessitate Him having always been "in time". Likewise as purported, if God exists in an atemporal way, entirely instantaneously, and has known you from eternity past, that too would mean that He has never known existence apart from you. Therefore to God, if all that classical nonsense were true, He would only exist co-existing with you. This is all ludicrous of course. So it is simple to refute exhaustive foreknowledge. And while we're at it, we remember that God the Son, in order to become the author of eternal salvation, first became "the last Adam" (1 Cor. 15:45) and then He "became a curse for us" (Gal. 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:21), for Adam, for Abraham, adding to the long list of things God became.
The Hypostatic Union: When God became flesh, He became the Son of Man. Theologians call this the hypostatic union. God the Son, fully God, by the Incarnation also became fully Man. The hypostatic union however was not eternal. Just as Calvin was not eternally needed in God's mind for God to be God, the Son of God was not eternally the Son of Man. He had even disclaimed being a "son of man" (Num. 23:19). God did not have to create man, and therefore God did not eternally have a human nature joined to His divine nature. It wasn't until the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary that the hypostatic union was born. And nine months later, Jesus was born. So just as God has enjoyed referring to Himself as "the God of Abraham" for the last 4,000 years, the Son began preferring the title "Son of Man", His favorite, only 2,000 years ago. For, eternally, He had been God the Son. But now being the Son of Man was new to Him, for He had never before been a Man.
What the Son Didn't Know: Jesus is, and of course was when walking on earth, fully God and fully man. "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9). So God the Son through the Incarnation did not diminish His divinity. Yet He readily admitted that He did not have exhaustive foreknowledge. "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (Mark 13:32; Mat. 24:36). Further, as Jesus says, "only the Father", why would that include the Holy Spirit? Philosophical arguments may claim that the Spirit has this knowledge but that seems to contradict the explicit biblical language. God is not a mathematical expression but personal and the members of the Godhead are not equations but Persons, each with a will such that they can know everything knowable that each may want to know. Regarding the day and hour of the Second Coming, that particular timing "the Father has put in His own authority" (Acts 1:7), explaining why "only the Father" would know.
What Else Didn't the Son Know? Consider two implications of "the Son" not knowing the timing of His own return. First, exhaustive foreknowledge cannot be a necessary attribute of deity, quite aside from Calvin and Arminius, because here, "the Son" still fully God, lacked this particular knowledge. And also, this could not be just a single missing detail. For by not knowing the timing of the Second Coming, the Son would have to lack a vast amount of knowledge. One could not possess full knowledge of the 20th Century without knowing when WWII ended. Multitudes of human beings either would not be conceived, or would be conceived, if the war continued for another year, or not. Likewise for "the Son" to not know when this age will end, this necessarily entails innumerable unknowns. Worldwide, more than 360,000 human beings are conceived each day. Thus if this stage of human history persists, prior to the Lord's return, for another thousand years, or not, or for another year or not, or another day or not, means that multitudes of human beings will exist, or not, unknowable (certainly, at least for the Son) until the matter is past. Yet that lack of knowledge did not negate the Son's divinity.
Recognize the Hierarchy: Some commentators miss or give insufficient weight to the importance of the hierarchy that Christ used when listing those who do not know when that day and hour will come. No one. That is, no man. No man, no angel, nor the Son, but only the Father, knew. God the Son Himself freely admitted not knowing something, and therefore, not knowing a lot. For regarding omniscience, the amount of information as suggested by this philosophical quantitative attribute (i.e., how much knowledge) is not essential to deity. However the five biblical qualitative attributes are essential, namely, that our eternal God is living, personal, relational, good, and loving. Therefore countless human beings may or may not be conceived, depending upon the timing of the Lord's Day. For "of His coming" if "all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation" (2 Pet. 3:4) this would include conceptions. And to compound this, with the Apostles believing in His potentially imminent return, the hastening of His return makes knowing who may or may not be conceived, and so, who the Lord's death may or may not cover, impossible. Yes, God's ways are higher than our ways. But they're not lower. And He did not mislead us, through the plot of the entire Bible, revealing to believers that even the Father views the timing of the Son's return as alterable. As He said, "I, the LORD, will hasten it in its time" (Isa. 60:22). And Peter wrote that believers too should set about, "hastening the coming of the day of God" (2 Pet. 3:12). For as Jesus Himself said, "those days will be shortened" (Mat. 24:22).
Timelessness vs. Foreknowledge: By the unbiblical claim that God is timeless, Calvinists and others deny that He can perform, experience, or know anything in sequence. Such theologians view predestination and foreknowledge as figures of speech. They claim that only from man's perspective does God know or plan something before something else, for to Him, they claim, everything is simultaneous. As with many related passages however, Acts 2:23 describes the "foreknowledge of God". Ironically, it is open theists who affirm that God HIMSELF actually has foreknowledge, that is, that He knows some things in advance. And we believe that God Himself actually predestines some things, that is, that HE plans things before He brings them to pass. Settled view theologians relegate dozens of repent verses to mere figures of speech. Likewise, again, whereas they claim that foreknowledge and predestination are only true from our human perspective, we open theists insist such biblical accounts are literally true of God.
Thankfully, neither you nor me, Piper, Sproul, nor MacArthur, Augustine, Molina, Arminius, nor even Calvin, none of us, are necessary beings. The Lord always and forever had to have knowledge of Himself, in order to be the God of the Bible, but He did not need knowledge of us. For by His aseity, and with exhaustive foreknowledge being false, God's absolute independence, noncontingent self-sufficiency, and self-existence means that He was from eternity past the only Necessary Being.
[Hear this article discussed on a Denver radio series at kgov.com/aseity.]
- Pastor Bob Enyart
Denver Bible Church
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