By Jon Cogburn
In “The Providential Advantage of Divine Foreknowledge” (in Kevin Timpe, ed., Arguing About Religion, Routledge, 2009) David P. Hunt motivates his claim that God's knowledge of all future contingencies is not inconsistent with God's ability to intervene in nature by presenting a simple schema. Where "E" is some event, K(E) is God knowing that the event obtains, and A is God acting, and T1, T2, and T3 are three successive moments in time, we have:
The temporal order, then, is this: K(E) at T1, A at T2, E at T1, where T1,T2,T3. In contrast, the logical or explanatory order, as outlined two paragraphs earlier, is this: E at T3, K(E) at T1, A at T2 (p. 376).
Hunt's example of something instantiating his schema concerns God using her foreknowledge to beat Satan at paper-rock-scissors:
Then E = Satan’s declaring rock, K(E) = God’s foreknowing that Stan will declare rock, and A = God’s (mentally) declaring paper. The explanatory order is the one just given, while the temporal order is God’s foreknowing at T1 that Satan will declare rock, God’s (mentally) declaring paper at T2 and Satan’s declaring rock at T3. O [God’s objective] = God’s winning the game. K(E) is providentially useful because God’s chances of achieving O, given K(E), are 100%, whereas his chances without it are no better than 50% (p. 376). . .
[I have real worries about the way explanatory and temporal priority are divorced in these kinds of thought experiments, but we can set these aside. If we let the "explanatory" order just be a separate time line where God is time-traveling, and move to a model of Incremental Simple Foreknowledge, things probably work out. For now let's just accept that it's kosher to use temporal language to describe an explanatory order outside of time.]
Here's an interesting extension of Hunt's game. What if God's decision about what to play was not hidden from Satan? If Satan had free will, then she could decide to change her play. Once God decides to pick paper, Satan changes her choice to scissors. Of course God could then (outside of time?) change her choice to rock, but Satan would know that and change her choice to paper, etc. etc. etc.
What's happening here? Satan's free will and knowledge of God's intentions result in God becoming stuck. So it follows that unless God's intentions are hidden, free creatures who chose to rebel against God do place substantial limitations on God's ability to intervene. As long as we decide to do something inconsistent with what God foresees us doing, we can stymie God.
I'm sure there must be some kind of paradox of the oracle that is equivalent to what we have presented, and would not be surprised if someone has applied such an argument in the religious context. In the philosophy of religion context it presents a quick argument for the view that a providential God who created free creatures must be be hidden. God's ability to intervene providentially is predicated on the rebellious not knowing what God knows the rebellious will do. God must keep her knowledge hidden.
I don't know if this helps with versions of the argument from evil that trade on God's hiddenness. It might not, because one can always admit that some evil (here hiddenness) is necessary for free will without admitting that this much evil is. In any case, I think that the extension of Hunt's gedankenexperiment is also interesting in its own right.