Monday, January 11, 2010

Changing the Course

“Likewise, in 1 Kings 23:10-12 David consulted the Lord about whether Saul was going to descend upon Keilah, and the Lord responded, ‘He will descend.’ He consulted again, about whether the men of Keilah, who had received nothing but kindness from David, were going to hand him and the men with him over into the hands of Saul. And the Lord responded, ‘They will hand you over.’ Notice, God knew these two future contingents, which depended on human choice, and He revealed them to David. YET THEY NEVER HAVE EXISTED AND NEVER WILL EXIST IN REALITY, and thus they do not exist in eternity either” (Luis De Molina, “Divine Foreknowledge: Part IV of the ‘Concordia.’ Translated by Alfred J. Freddoso. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1988, page 117).

For the last two days, I’ve been reading through Luis de Molina’s Part IV of his “Concordia.” Part IV is the only portion of the Concordia that has been translated, but it’s all that’s needed. Having read over half of Part IV, I can tell you that Molina gives enough information regarding “Molinism” as a system in Part IV. He leaves no stone unturned...

Today, though, I’m back to tackle some of the evidence for middle knowledge that Molina uses in his Concordia: the story of David, Saul, and the men of Keilah.
Molina cites the passage as “1 Kings 23:10-12,” but Freddoso (translator of the Concordia) provides a footnote with these words:

“1 Sam. 23:10-12. Molina, of course, uses the Vulgate rather than Hebrew titles for the historical books of the Hebrew Scriptures. The Hebrew 1 and 2 Samuel correspond to the Vulgate 1 and 2 Kings...” (117).

For us, then, the reference will be 1 Samuel 23:10-12. The text is as follows:
“Then David said, ‘O Lord God of Israel, Your servant has certainly heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah to destroy the city for my sake.

Will the men of Keilah deliver me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as Your servant has heard? O Lord God of Israel, I pray, tell Your servant.’ And the Lord said, ‘He will come down.’

Then David said, ‘Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul?’ And the Lord said, ‘They will deliver you.’

So David and his men, about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah and went wherever they could go. Then it was told Saul that David had escaped from Keilah; so he halted the expedition” (1 Sam. 23:10-13, NKJV).

I can remember that the first time I read this passage referenced for middle knowledge was when I read Bruce Ware’s “God’s Greater Glory.” Ware argues for a compatibilist middle knowledge, incorporating middle knowledge into his Calvinistic theology. When I read the example of David escaping the hand of Saul by the knowledge the Lord provided, I realized that I had to affirm middle knowledge into my system. The knowledge God provided had to be incorporated into my system somewhere, right?

But what about the system of Molinism? Well, that’s another story. 1 Samuel 23:10-13 teaches me about God’s knowledge, but it doesn’t say anything about God actualizing one set of actions instead of another set of actions, and that God placed David into the circumstances he was in, knowing that David would choose to escape. God did know that David would escape (He foreknows all things, including those things that COULD happen---in this case, “could” involved the men of Keilah handing David over to Saul); however, this did not involve the Lord desiring that David “run for his life” or that Saul would capture David. Instead, what we find is “certainty” of events, not “necessity.”

Why is there not a trace of necessity in 1 Sam. 23:10-13? Necessity is not found in the passage because although God tells David that the men of Keilah would hand him over, it does not come to fruition: “Then it was told Saul that DAVID HAD ESCAPED from Keilah; so he halted the expedition” (1 Sam. 23:13).

What we find in the declaration of the Lord is “certainty” (it would happen), not “necessity” (it must happen, or that it would infallibly happen). Therefore, the Lord’s declaration of events to David must be considered as “counterfactuals,” knowledge that is “counter to fact” or “contrary to fact” (i.e., information of events that do not come true). Although the men of Keilah did not get the opportunity to hand David over, such knowledge from God was useful for David, who used the information to plan his next move (his escape from Keilah).

David was able to “change the course” of events in his life (and Saul’s) by utilizing the God-given knowledge of Saul’s future plans. Notice here that there is no predetermination. If this passage taught predetermination or foreordination, then David would never have escaped (seeing that God’s knowledge of the men of Keilah capturing David would come to pass). Up until the moment David escapes, what God tells David is true: Saul will certainly come for David in Keilah. However, David decides to flee, and what once was a possibility no longer is (the men of Keilah will not get to hand David over to Saul).

Let me get right to the point: does 1 Samuel 23:10-13 support Molinism? No. However, the passage does show us that humans have genuine libertarian freedom...and that this power of choice is so powerful that it can change the course of events in a given situation. It seems that, in the final analysis, God does not place individuals in certain situations to “get them to do what He desires,” but instead allows them to be self-determining and determine their own circumstances. Instead of affirming predeterminism, the passage itself affirms true libertarian freedom. And, on the theological scoreboard, this biblical evidence awards one more point to Classical Arminianism.

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