Wednesday, March 08, 2006

On Foreknowledge - Gordon Clark

"Some people argue that knowledge or foreknowledge does not necessitate anything. Even a man may know that an event will occur tomorrow, but this does not mean that he causes it to happen. Perhaps so. But if he does not cause it to happen, there must be some other cause which does, for unless it were certain, he could not know it. Now, then, since omniscience shows that all events are certain, it follows that if God does not cause them, there must be a cause external to and independent of God. In other words, God has ceased to be God. Toplady recognizes this in his paragraph: “God’s foreknowledge, taken abstractly, is not the sole cause of beings and events; but his will and determinate counsel and foreknowledge act in concert, the latter resulting from and being founded on the former.” Note that foreknowledge is dependent on determinate counsel. This is not true of a man. For example, I know that Christ will return. The event is determined, certain, and necessary. But I did not determine it.

"Gordon Clark. The Atonement - page 135


At Thursday, March 09, 2006 6:39:00 AM, Blogger jazzycat said...

Great points. I think the Westminster Confessions in section 5 also says it well especially sections 2 & 3

5:2 Although, in relation to the fore-knowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly (Acts 2:23): yet, by the same providence, He ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently (Gen 8:22; Ex 21:13; Deut 19:5; 1 Kin 22:28, 34; Isa 10:6, 7; Jer 31:35).

5:3 God in His ordinary providence maketh use of means (Isa 55:10, 11; Hos 2:21, 22; Acts 27:31, 44), yet is free to work without (Job 34:10; Hos 1:7; Matt 4:4), above (Rom 4:19-21), and against them at His pleasure (2 Kin 6:6; Dan 3:27).

At Thursday, March 09, 2006 7:19:00 AM, Blogger Doug E. said...


Thanks for adding that. My quote only deals with primary causes, but yours adds some clarity with the idea of secondary causes.

God bless,


At Thursday, March 09, 2006 3:59:00 PM, Blogger Puritan Belief said...

Thought 1:
"God knew who would choose him by their free will in his foreknowledge and therefore he chooses them."

Thought 2:
"God knows who he will choose in his foreknowledge and he will make it happen this way"

Mr Gordon Clark of course in his statement has backed up Thought 2. equating it to a concert. Thought 1 is the start of a very slippery slope.

At Thursday, March 09, 2006 5:40:00 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

Hey Doug,

Have you read The Only Wise God by William Lane Craig? I highly recommend it even if you don't end up agreeing with it.

This argument is based on an essay by Nelson Pike that looks pretty good at first glance, but it has major problems when we take a second look at it.

At Thursday, March 09, 2006 5:57:00 PM, Blogger Doug E. said...

Hey Daniel,

I've not read it with the seriousness it deserves but I have read portions. I personally don't think the Molinist position can be found in scripture, but Craig is a very smart man who I wouldn't want to tangle with in a debate. :-)

Just last night I was reading him on the Newcomb's Paradox. My head was hurting by the end. It's not light reading. :-)


At Thursday, March 09, 2006 7:37:00 PM, Blogger philosapologist said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Thursday, March 09, 2006 7:38:00 PM, Blogger philosapologist said...

I am not familiar with Gordon Clark or his book, but the quoted paragraph is vague. I'm not sure what the quote is designed to accomplish. Based on the quote, it seems he means to deny the validity of the principle of bivalence for future contingent propositions. Aristotle sought this solution as well. He held that propositions about future contingents are neither true nor false. This would be compatible with divine omniscience, since God knows all truths but there just aren't any truths to be known about future contingents. This solution, however, is not available to the church because of the biblical doctrine that God has knowledge of future contingents; we call it foreknowledge.

In any case, Clark at least implicitly states that God only knows truths that obtain in the actual world. But this is a truncated view of omniscience. For if he created no world at all, would he then not know the truth of propositions like "no world exists" or "there are no human beings"? Clearly God's knowledge cannot be founded on his determination as Clark suggests.

One box strategy vindicated!

At Friday, March 10, 2006 9:58:00 AM, Blogger Doug E. said...

Hey Philosapologist,

I don't claim to be much of a philosopher so please excuse my ignorance, but I didn't fully understand your comment because I'm not familiar with some of the things you are dealing with. Sounds like I could learn a lot from you, but you'll have to put the cookies on the lower shelf.

I think Clark's main argument could be stated like this.

-If an event is not certain, it can’t be known.

-God foreknows so it is certain.

-If it is certain, it must be caused

-If God did not cause it, something else did. (this is speaking of primary not secondary causes)

-If something else caused it, God ceases to be God

-God cannot cease to be God

-THEREFORE – God caused every action, event, and even human choice that is going to take place.

I too struggle a bit with Clark's statement about which came first the knowledge or the determined will, but I'm not sure we can separate them completely, Even though they are distinct from each other.

Thanks for stopping by,


At Saturday, March 11, 2006 4:30:00 AM, Blogger Michael Pendleton said...

I found my way here from Fridays Top Post over at Puritans sight.

Puritan thinks my idea of foreknowledge is a "crystal ball" method. I think I just don't explain myself very well.

This was an interesting post. I wish there was more to it.

At Saturday, March 11, 2006 6:18:00 PM, Blogger Doug E. said...

Hey Michael,

I agree it is a bit of a vague quote, now that I look back at it,

It's a tough issue to hammer out, and I don't claim omniscience about it. :-)



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