The Evangelical Universalist Forum

15y added to Hezekiah's life-problems for foreknowledge & open theism

God adds 15 years to Hezekiah’s life. He changes His mind - a problem for foreknowledge and adds precisely 15 years, a problem for open theism. The article details the problem and proposes how kenotic openness might work for this case.

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An interesting take, thanks for sharing!

I’m not a fan of kenotic explanations, as they drive a wedge between God’s attributes, leaving a bifurcated nature–in this case, between love and knowledge. I’d like to think God can act without being inconsistent with his nature. In fact, I’m not even sure if that is possible in the case of God to act against his nature, given his perfections…

I’m a fan of middle knowledge, and think it can shed some light here:

On middle knowledge, God knows what a person would do if they were in a given situation. Middle knowledge includes hypothetical situations across possible worlds, not just what a person will do in the actual world.

God knows that if he announces, “Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover”, Hezekiah will respond in prayer, committing himself to God. God is not surprised by this outcome nor changes his mind in the course of history; God always knew how Hezekiah would respond in that circumstance. With this foreknowledge of creaturely freedom, God truly responds to Hezekiah’s prayer on the basis of his response. God can take into account the free decisions of humans, while at the same time possessing foreknowledge of their actions. Had Hezekiah hardened his heart and curse God, perhaps God would not have added 15 years to his life. But that God knows Hezekiah will respond in faithfulness, he plans from the moment of creation to heal him at that moment and continue his life. God, as it were, answers prayers proactively on the basis of his foreknowledge, rather than reactively on the basis of a creature’s actions.

Some take God to be lying in v.1 if he already knows he will add 15 years to Hezekiah’s life. While it isn’t true, strictly speaking, it’s akin to a teacher telling a student: “You will fail this test.” in the hopes of stirring up sufficient urgency in the student to study enough to pass. We later find out that the statement was false, but it is understood to be a conditional statement, based on the behavior of the student. Hezekiah is told he will die in order to elicit a reaction. As opposed to the case of the teacher, via his middle knowledge, God does not have to hope the statement brings about the desired effect–God already knows how Hezekiah will respond.

Thanks, that’s an interesting idea that seems to propose a form of creaturely freedom somewhere between libertarian and compatibilist. Your explanation about God not lying but trying to provoke a response from Hezekiah could also be applied to simple foreknowledge.

If God knows what we will do in any given situation (middle knowledge) and what situation we will be in (natural knowledge), then putting the two together, He can know precisely what choices we will make. In the end, How is that different to God knowing precisely what choices we will make by simple foreknowledge? The problem remains the same - that God didn’t respond following the prayer and add 15 years to Hezekiah’s life, but already decided Hezekiah’s lifespan from the beginning of time (as that lifespan would be in God’s natural rather than middle knowledge in Molinism).

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I suppose the difference between middle knowledge and simple foreknowledge is the moment at which God possesses the foreknowledge. On middle knowledge, it is before the decision to create, while on simple foreknowledge, it is after. The advocate of middle knowledge will agree that God doesn’t respond chronologically following the prayer, but logically following the prayer. The response was from the beginning of time, but took into account the response of Hezekiah.

From the vantage of man, it is as though God is responding in real-time, as the effects are only realized in the present and man’s prayers affect God’s actions. However, from the vantage of God, everything is “baked into the cake” and God does not change his mind in the midst of time.

Simple foreknowledge trips me up, so perhaps advocates would answer the question just like an devotee of middle knowledge(?) From what I understand, God creates without yet having foreknowledge, “going in blind”, as it were. Upon creation, he has foreknowledge of what will transpire. I find it hard to understand, on this view, how God might answer prayers. His foreknowledge comes too late to affect how he might create, and reacting in time post-creation would undermine his foreknowledge gained at creation. Trying to read up on simple knowledge and understand from their vantage.

On Molinism, there are three logical moments of God’s knowledge:

  1. Natural Knowledge (knowledge of logical truths)
  2. Middle Knowledge (knowledge of counterfactuals, including of creaturely freedom)
  3. Free Knowledge (knowledge of the actual ontology of the world)

I believe you are referring to free knowledge in references to natural knowledge, above.

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