I started reading an article this morning entitled “Why Simple Foreknowledge Is Still Useless (in Spite of David Hunt and Alex Pruss)” by William Hasker (JESTS 52/3). It is a part of an ongoing discussion about determinism and the foreknowledge of God. Hasker claims that simple foreknowledge is useless to God. He explains the views:
“Simple foreknowledge is ‘simple’ in that it affirms merely that God knows the future, but not that he predetermines it as is held by theological determinism (Calvinism)” (537).
One way in which some claim simple foreknowledge is “useful” is that God can “prearrange events and circumstances in the light of a foreknown future occurrence, so as better to achieve God’s purposes in the world” (537). Hasker goes on to argue clearly that God cannot make decisions based on what he knows is going to happen because “if God’s decisions are included in God’s foreknowledge . . . , those decisions cannot be made on the basis of his foreknowledge” (540).
Good point. However, Hasker seems to believe that if he can prove that God’s simple foreknowledge is not “useful” then God’s foreknowledge must work in a different way (presumably as determinism). I do not see a need to prove its providential usefulness. Hasker writes in a footnote,
“It is, of course, possible to hold that God possesses simple foreknowledge even if it offers no providential advantage. I judge, however, that only a comparatively small minority of philosophers and theologians would be satisfied with such a view” (538).
That most would not be satisfied with such a view is, of course, not an argument against it. If we accept Hasker’s argument against the usefulness of simple foreknowledge, and yet still reject determinism, then we must conclude that God does not make his decisions based on what he knows will happen.
How, then, does he make his decisions? There are some decisions that he has predetermined. These are things that God will do regardless of what happens. The definition of simple foreknowledge should be modified to include that God predetermines some things.
If we allow that God has also sovereignly predetermined that humans have free will, then there are some decisions that God makes based on what actually happens. This seems to make good sense of God’s ability to determine what he wishes to determine, know and thus prophecy concerning the future, and respond in reality to human choice. We may claim, then, that simple foreknowledge is at least useful in that God often proves himself and confirms his word by telling what will happen before it happens.
It is unnecessary for God to use his foreknowledge for making decisions in order for him to be a sovereign God or for that foreknowledge to be useful. In addition to all this, it seems problematic to argue about the nature of God based on whether we can figure out whether certain qualities are useful or not.