Friday, April 29, 2016

Free Will, Predestination and Necessity

God foresees that certain events will happen or Jehovah knows that He will bring about certain occurrences in history. He therefore announces these events in His Word, the Bible, thereby binding Himself to the fulfillment of these prophesied events (Isa 55:10-11). If God has foreseen the future acts of volitional agents, then they may necessarily happen, but these acts take place within the parameters of creaturely freedom. We cannot righly infer that God necessarily causes that which He foresees. God does not cause the rebels mentioned in Rev 20:8 to rebel--yet they will exercise their free volition and rebel against God according to the prophecy.

Boethius provides a way out of this apparent dilemma by employing Aristotle's distinction between simple and conditional (hypothetical) necessity. De Consolatione Philosophiae (Book V) uses the example: "Necessarily, all men are mortal." This proposition is an example of simple necessity. This kind of necessity issues from a thing ut natura. But knowing that if S is walking, then it is necessary that S is walking, is an example of hypothetical necessity. We could also say: "If Socrates is sitting, then it is necessary that he is sitting." But it would not be correct to infer from this proposition: "Necessarily, Socrates is sitting." See Aristotle, Physics 2.9.

Applying this example to Cyrus, we can say that there is a difference between the proposition: "It is necessary that Cyrus the Great will overthrow Babylon" and "If Cyrus overthrows Babylon, then he will necessarily overthrow Babylon."

Boethius writes: "Without doubt, then, all things which God foreknows do come to pass, but certain of them proceed from free will."

I obviously disagree with Boethius in a number of ways, but the Aristotelian distinction between simple and hypothetical necessity might be helpful for understanding how events necessarily happen without implying fatalism.


Duncan said...

Just looking at jonah 3:1,2 lxx. What exactly was the proclamation and where was it made?

V 10 κακία η ελάλησε του ποιήσαι αυτοίς

Edgar Foster said...

Jonah was originally called by Jehovah in 1:1-2, I think. The message was not initially specific, but the implication was that Jonah should let the people of Nineveh know that their ways were not pleasing to God (1:2). After Jonah was cast upon dry land by the great fish, he was told to speak the former message, but we are not told specifically what that entailed. 3:3 states that he arose "and went to Nineveh" as Jehovah had commanded him to do. See also 3:4-5.

Duncan said...

It,s just that the lxx of 3:2 gives the impression that the objectives were stated at the outset. If this is an addition of the translator then it seems a little odd.

Duncan said...

4Q76, ... Frg. 22 is closer to the idea of LXX, but not
identical to it.

4Q76 reads:
the proclamation *like* the one that I spoke

Edgar Foster said...

See also