I’ve been thinking lately about God’s foreknowledge as it relates to His providence. More specifically, I’ve been thinking of an argument made by a number of philosophers (Hasker, Flint, Basinger–but most forcefully I think in Sanders’ “Why Simple Foreknowledge Offers No More Providential Control than the Openness of God,” Faith and Philosophy 1997) that God’s having simple foreknowledge (as opposed to middle knowledge) would not aid God in His providential control of the world. The basic idea is that if God has foreknowledge, then what He knows is true, and it’s thus ‘too late’ for Him to do anything to providentially control whether or not what He foreknows will happen. I think a helpful way to think of it is in terms of the following (more below the fold).
This is already shaping up to be a long post, so I’m not going to spell out everything. We can do that in the comments if we want to, but I hope that what I say here is good enough to get the discussion rolling. So here goes.
CONDITION—Simple foreknowledge will be providentially useful to God only if there is the case in which a God with simple foreknowledge could exercise a higher degree of providential control then a God with only probabilistic knowledge of the future.
According to Sanders et al., there are no cases where the antecedent of CONDITION is met (i.e., there is no case in which a God with simple foreknowledge could exercise a higher degree of providential control then a God with only probabilistic knowledge of the future). To show that the argument fails, then, all one would need to do is to describe at least one situation in which a God with simple foreknowledge could exercise any higher a degree of providence than could a God with only the kind of probabilistic knowledge that the Open Theist thinks God has. So in what follows let ‘Jove’ refer to God as the Open Theist sees him, and let ‘Zeus’ refer to God with simple foreknowledge. It seems to me that in both of these cases, Zeus is better able to exercise providence because he has more knowledge in the very same situation than does Jove. If this is true in either case, than the antecedent to CONDITION is fulfilled and Sanders’ argument fails. (Now, in these cases Zeus might not have much more providential control than would Jove, but that’s not the issue here.)