Tough Questions Answered

A Christian Apologetics Blog

Can God Know Our Future Free Actions?

Post Author: Darrell

I recently had a conversation with Seth over on Markcares’s blog regarding God’s foreknowledge. Seth believes that man’s freedom is incompatible with God’s foreknowledge. As a result, he believes that God cannot know the future. Here are a couple of his comments.

A being is not “free” unless capable of acting otherwise than he ultimately does act. By definition, you cannot predict such a being’s choices.

An all-powerful God is no more capable of pre-determining a free choice than he is capable of creating a rock so large he cannot lift it.

First, allow me to say that I agree with Seth’s point that a being is not “free” unless he is capable of acting otherwise than he ultimately does act. However, this begs the question whether God’s perfect foreknowledge means that man cannot act otherwise.

If two positions are logically incompatible, then there is absolutely no way that both can be true at one and the same time. Therefore, if God’s foreknowledge and man’s freedom are logically contradictory, there is no way to explain how the two can both be true at one and the same time. If there is even one way in which these two positions can coexist, then the charge that they are logically contradictory fails.

The classic Christian position is that God exists outside of time, i.e., He is eternal. As a result, He does not view time in a linear fashion of yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows. Rather He sees time in one eternal now, being eternally present to all moments of time. This position allows God to see and know the future free acts of humans while not in any way violating their free choice.

As a helpful analogy, consider how well parents know their children. As a father, on many occasions I have been able to predict precisely what one of my children will do when faced with a certain situation. Did my foreknowledge of their future actions take away their freedom of choice? Of course not!! I had knowledge of what their future free actions would be; however, they made the choices themselves. If I as a finite time bound being have been able to do this a few times, imagine what a perfect, omnipotent, and infinite being existing outside of time is able to do.

Another problem with Seth’s position is that it contradicts the fact that God has prophesied the future free acts of humans beings repeatedly in the Bible. Consider the following prophesies given hundreds and sometimes even thousands of years before they occured.

1. That Jesus would be born of a virgin (Is. 7:14) – How did God know that Mary would remain a virgin after she was told she was pregnant?

2. Jesus would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) – How did God know exactly where Mary and Joseph would go and when they would go there?

3. Jesus would be rejected by the Jewish people (Ps. 22 and Is. 53) – How did God know that an entire race of people would reject Him?

4. Jesus would have His hands and feet pierced (Ps. 22:16) – How did God know that this is how His captors would kill him?

5. Jesus would be crucified with thieves (Is. 53:12) – How did God know that thieves would be in prison at the same time as Him and that the Romans would choose to crucify them along side Him?

6. Jesus’ side would be pierced (Zech. 12:10) – How did God know that they were going to do this?

7. Jesus would be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Is. 53:9) – How did God know that a rich man would be willing to do this and that the Romans would allow it?

8. The Roman soldiers would cast lots for His garments (Ps 22:18) – How did God know that the soldiers would even want to do this much less do it?

The Bible promises us that God is all powerful and tells us that we, as Christians, are in His tender care. What a wonderful promise!! He has perfect knowledge of all, and in Him we can find rest, knowing that our future is in His all loving and all powerful hands. All praise be to our Savior!

Darrell


About The Author

Comments

  • http://www.calvaryle.org Steve Wright

    I have never been bothered by any difficulty concerning freewill and foreknowledge, for I do not see foreknowledge having to do with sovereignty (where quite a mental battle has waged over the years in my mind). God’s knowledge is such that even if alternate choices existed that did not occur, He knows what the result would be (I use the Lord’s words Matt 11:20-24 in support).

    I do recognize many do have an issue with all this, but my comment is really more of a question. Does it not seem that in the past, those who saw foreknowledge and freewill as incompatible would conclude man was really not free. Whereas, in the last several years there is the tendency to state (as above) it is God that does not know all things (i.e open theism).

    Or put another way, those with this dilemma in the past would resolve by choosing to limit man, but today, the prevailing choice seems to limit God.

  • http://smallsimple.wordpress.com/ Eric Nielson

    The problem with your position is that you fail to see that a lack of coercion is not the issue. The question is not whether or not God’s foreknowledge forceably takes away your freedom. The question is whether or not you are capable of doing anything other than what you are doing. Perfect knowledge of all future events would be sure evidence that nobody is capable of doing anything other than what they will do.

    This is no limitation on God – to say that He can’t do contradictory things.

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    Eric,

    Thanks for coming on and participating.

    I understand what you are saying; however, you are viewing God in time. If God is outside of time, He does not see events as future events. Instead, He sees them as eternally present events.

    When looking to see if things are contradictory you must look at their relation (again, they cannot both be true at one and the same time). God’s relation to future events is not the same as our relation. In fact, the word future does not even apply to Him. As a result, there is no contradiction as our events in the future can be free to us (we can change them up until the moment we actually perform them) and God can still know what our free choices will be (speaking anthropomorphically).

    Hope that helps. God Bless!

    Darrell

  • Ronnie J

    Hate to interject here but it seems Darrell that you are positing a position that God knows the future choices (foreknowledge) with no control (sovereignty) in those choices. I just want to make sure I understand you. In another words, are you saying that God perfectly knows all that will be or could be at any time strictly in the sense of knowledge, but not causative influence?

  • Bill Pratt

    A key verse which speaks to this issue is Acts 2:23, where Peter says to the crowd, “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”

    In the same verse we see that God foreknows and is sovereign, and that man is free (he put Jesus to death). The Bible teaches both concepts.

  • Ronnie J

    Agreed!

  • Ronnie J

    In the words of Packer, an antinomy .

  • http://smallsimple.wordpress.com/ Eric Nielson

    Darrell:

    It does not matter whether God is in time or out of time. If the future is perfectly and absolutely known from any perspective then we are simply not free in the libertarian sence.

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    Eric,

    I understand what you are saying, but I believe you are using faulty logic. You are trying to relate two concepts that do not apply at one and the same time. God’s relation to time is not the same as our relation. Your statement that “If the future is perfectly and absolutely known… ” does not apply to God as there is no such thing as “future” to Him [emphasis mine]. Your very statement demonstrates that you are viewing God in time. There is no logical contradiction between our future actions being free as they relate to us and known to God in His one eternal now.

    God Bless!

    Darrell

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    Eric,

    Since you believe these two items are contradictions, which one do you believe in? Does God know the future or is man free?

    Also, given the fact that I have perfectly predicted my children’s actions in the future, does that mean that those actions were not free?

    Darrell

  • Boz

    op said: “The classic Christian position is that God exists outside of time, i.e., He is eternal. As a result, He does not view time in a linear fashion of yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows. Rather He sees time in one eternal now, being eternally present to all moments of time. This position allows God to see and know the future free acts of humans while not in any way violating their free choice.”

    this argument, along with the assertion that the christian god created humans, contradicts the existence of free will. Take for example a particular decision by a particular person – the author Darrell choosing to have beer or wine tonight. When the christian god created Darrell, it created(chose) the outcome of this beer/wine decision, and had the ability to change it. If this god didn’t like the outcome of this (or any) decision, it could change it in the creation process. Whatever the outcome of the decision, the decision was agreed to by the deity before it was chosen by Darrell.

    In this situation, Darrell is not capable of acting otherwise than he ultimately does act. So, free will cannot exist while an omnipotent omniscient creator deity also exists.

  • Boz

    Following on from eric’s comments, consider this hypothetical situation. I found a book that details every action of every person at every time, past present and future. I obtain the knowledge that the book is correct in every detail, not just the ones I check against real events. Does free will exist in this scenario?

  • Bill Pratt

    From God’s perspective, everything is known, and therefore chosen. But from our perspective we are free to choose otherwise. There is no contradiction here, as we are looking at two different relationships (God to our free actions and ourselves to our free actions).

    No traditional Christian argues that mankind is somehow completely, metaphysically, and ultimately free from all powers in existence, including God. If that is your definition of free will, then we are not arguing the same definition. We are saying that God created some things with the power to choose (humans), and some things without that power (rocks).

    Those things with the power to choose can indeed choose otherwise, as God has shared that power with us. We are clearly different from rocks. How can we choose otherwise when God knows what we will choose? Nobody knows the mechanics of how that works, but reason and revelation tell us that both are true, so we go with it. There are things we can apprehend but not comprehend, and this is one of those.

    By the way, at least Christians have a shot at resolving this dilemma. If no God exists and we are just atoms obeying the laws of nature, free will becomes a complete illusion, as we are just dancing to the tune of the laws of physics. The chemicals in our bodies determine what we say and do. We have choice in the matter.

    Every system of thought runs into this problem of free will. I have a much easier time seeing an all-powerful, all-knowing, and personal Mind somehow sharing its powers of choice with mankind, than I see a completely irrational, impersonal, material universe bequeathing free will on us. The first scenario is far more plausible, and in fact has been the default position for the vast majority of human thinkers.

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    this argument, along with the assertion that the christian god created humans, contradicts the existence of free will.

    Boz,

    First of all, thanks for joining in the conversation. I appreciate your thoughtful comments. However, I believe there are a few problems with your analysis. :)

    You said, “When the christian god created Darrell, it created(chose) the outcome of this beer/wine decision, and had the ability to change it.” It is not wholly correct to say that God chose the outcome of the situation. The correct thought is that God willed that man would freely choose. Therefore, your own assertion turns against you. Whatever an omnipotent being wills must be. God willed that man freely choose, and as a result, there is no possible way that man cannot freely choose. Your argument collapses upon you.

    In addition, the language you are using assumes that God is in time, e.g., God chose from some distance time in the past that Darrell would drink beer tonight. This implies that God is looking forward into the future and forcing that certain things will happen. However, God is eternally present to every moment in time and does not look forward or backward to anything.

    Because of this I believe your book analogy is a disanalogy (I have heard this example given in different forms). First, one cannot equate an author creating something from inside the author’s time with an eternal God seeing and experiencing everything in an instant (to use an anthropomorphism). Second, the author cannot will that his character do anything “freely” as the character does not in fact exist. The character is simply a figment of the author’s imagination and has no will, thought, feeling, etc. Third, God being outside of time is a very important point and cannot be overlooked. By being in eternity He can will that we freely choose in our future and at the same time He can be eternally present to every moment knowing what those free choices will be. IMO, these choices are not known or fixed inside of time (your book would be in time); rather, they are known and fixed in eternity because eternity is present to every moment of time.

    God Bless!

    Darrell

  • http://www.calvaryle.org Steve Wright

    It might be hepful to note that angels were also created with at least a degree of free will, as seen in the rebellion of Lucifer who even stated “I will” – there is certainly a difference between the free moral agency of mankind and the degree of choice offered to angels, but the choice existed nonetheles.

    The freewill of man, and the free choice of Lucifer and those angels joining him in rebellion are both essential truths in wrestling with other common theological debates (like why there is evil and suffering).

  • Boz

    Bill Pratt said: “From God’s perspective, everything is known, and therefore chosen. But from our perspective we are free to choose otherwise. There is no contradiction here, as we are looking at two different relationships (God to our free actions and ourselves to our free actions).”

    This is clearly a contradiction – there is 100% certainty that option A will be chosen, the person just doesn’t know it. The human chooses option A, but it was the only possible outcome. There was no alternative, and therefore no actual choice. This human just thinks that she freely chose A from a variety of options, but she is mistaken.

    Bill Pratt said: “How can we choose otherwise when God knows what we will choose? Nobody knows the mechanics of how that works, but reason and revelation tell us that both are true, so we go with it.”

    So, reason and revelation contradict each other on this issue, so instead of discovering which one is false, you ignore the inconsistency and hold both contradictory positions, brushing away annoying questions with platitues of the form: “It’s a mystery”.

    Bill Pratt said: “By the way, at least Christians have a shot at resolving this dilemma. If no God exists and we are just atoms obeying the laws of nature, free will becomes a complete illusion, as we are just dancing to the tune of the laws of physics. The chemicals in our bodies determine what we say and do. We have choice in the matter.”

    This is a false dilemma (excluded middle). With respect to free will, there are more options than either an eternal immaterial soul or scientific determinism(Laplace’s demon). Other possibilities include consciousness(and its choices) being an emergent property of the brain, or a brain-based process.

    Bill Pratt said: “Every system of thought runs into this problem of free will. I have a much easier time seeing an all-powerful, all-knowing, and personal Mind somehow sharing its powers of choice with mankind, than I see a completely irrational, impersonal, material universe bequeathing free will on us. The first scenario is far more plausible, and in fact has been the default position for the vast majority of human thinkers.”

    This is the argument from personal incredulity, followed by the argument from popularity

    http://skepticwiki.org/index.php/Argument_from_Incredulity
    http://skepticwiki.org/index.php/Argument_from_Popularity

  • Bill Pratt

    “Other possibilities include consciousness(and its choices) being an emergent property of the brain, or a brain-based process.”

    Where did the brain come from and what makes it operate?

    “This is the argument from personal incredulity, followed by the argument from popularity”

    Boz, seriously. Are we engaging in a discussion or are you trying to score points in your speech and debate class? Everything I say is not an argument. Sometimes I’m just giving you my thoughts and trying to explain myself to you without developing a full-blown and exhaustive argument. This is a blog, not a PhD dissertation. If you are going to run everything I say through a debate textbook analysis, then I will start to find you very irritating…

  • Bill Pratt

    “So, reason and revelation contradict each other on this issue, so instead of discovering which one is false, you ignore the inconsistency and hold both contradictory positions, brushing away annoying questions with platitues of the form: “It’s a mystery”.”

    No, you misunderstood. I meant that reason tells me that there exists a God who is all-knowing, and that we have free will. Likewise, revelation tells me that God is all-knowing and that we have free will. I am not pitting reason against revelation. You are doing that.

  • http://www.calvaryle.org Steve Wright

    This is clearly a contradiction – there is 100% certainty that option A will be chosen, the person just doesn’t know it. The human chooses option A, but it was the only possible outcome. There was no alternative, and therefore no actual choice.
    —————————————–
    This still speaks as if God is within the time dimension. Words like ‘certainty’ concerning a future choice still implies time. It may be helpful to note that the word for God’s foreknowledge is also used to describe man in certain contexts – again, knowing something beforehand. God’s foreknowledge is of course complete, unlike man’s.

    As an example – God, outside of time, saw that the Roman soldiers would not follow orders and instead of breaking the legs of Jesus, they pierced His side when they saw He was dead. God, knowing this detail, and acting within the time dimension, but years prior to the crucifixion, inspired the prophets to include this detail about the crucifixion (not a bone broken). Fulfilled prophecies such as these authenticate that our Bible is written by a Divine author, outside of time – as Peter makes clear (2 Ptr 1:19). There are hundreds of them.

    Of course the soldier had a choice. God knew the choice before he made it, in fact He knew the choice “before” there even was a “before” if you see what I mean.

    Boz declares Christianity is teaching that in effect the soldier did not break the legs because he was somehow ‘forced’ not to (i.e. not free), so God could make sure His prophecy came to pass. While I suppose there are theologians who would teach in this manner, it is not the necessary interpretation on the topic. I don’t know if our blog hosts agree here, but I speak for myself and in no way does this contradict God’s word on the topic.

  • Boz

    Darrell said: “The correct thought is that God willed that man would freely choose. Therefore, your own assertion turns against you. Whatever an omnipotent being wills must be. God willed that man freely choose, and as a result, there is no possible way that man cannot freely choose. ”

    How does this idea mesh with option A having a 100% probability? The Christian deity willed that man freely choose, and option A is the only possible outcome, meaning that humans do not have a choice.

    God gave it to us, but we do not have it. Suspicious.

    Darrell said: “IMO, these choices are not known or fixed inside of time (your book would be in time); rather, they are known and fixed in eternity because eternity is present to every moment of time.”

    How is this possible? We are looking at one particular instance of a decision. It cannot be both fixed and non-fixed. if it is fixed from the outside-time-perspective, and non-fixed from the inside-time-perspective, then one perspective is wrong.

    Bill Pratt said: “Boz, seriously. Are we engaging in a discussion or are you trying to score points in your speech and debate class? Everything I say is not an argument. Sometimes I’m just giving you my thoughts and trying to explain myself to you without developing a full-blown and exhaustive argument.”

    A famous dead man once said “the greatest gift one person can give another is to show that he is wrong”. Following on from this quote, I must confess that the reason that I read and comment here is partially selfish – to try and extract this gift from you, or someone else. I genuinely want to know if my opinion is wrong on any particular issue. This is why I seek out and discuss opposing opinions.

    If I said “I decided to be muslim because 99% of my countrymen are”, or “Windsor castle is the largest castle in the world – I cannot imagine that it could be possible to build one larger”; I would want to know that my rationalisations are false, even though it may cause me mental anguish to discover that my opinions have no rational basis.

    This is why I sometimes point out fallacies. I assume that (like me) you would want to know if you are wrong. Is this a fair assumption?

    Bill Pratt said: “No, you misunderstood. I meant that reason tells me that there exists a God who is all-knowing, and that we have free will.”

    Thanks for the clarification. Reason/logic tells me that these two things cannot both be true. Can you show me if I am wrong?

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    How does this idea mesh with option A having a 100% probability? The Christian deity willed that man freely choose, and option A is the only possible outcome, meaning that humans do not have a choice.

    God gave it to us, but we do not have it. Suspicious.

    How is this possible? We are looking at one particular instance of a decision. It cannot be both fixed and non-fixed. if it is fixed from the outside-time-perspective, and non-fixed from the inside-time-perspective, then one perspective is wrong.

    Your reasoning is a fallacy because you are assuming that two things contradict one another when their relations are completely different. God’s relation to the decision and our relation are not one and the same. His is eternal and our’s is temporal.

    In addition, God necessarily wills that we freely choose, but He contingently wills our decisions. God can know what the resulting free choices will be, but since they are willed contingently it does not interfere with our free will.

    Do you have kids? If you do, I assume that you, like every other parent I have known, have been able to predict with 100% accuracy what you kids will do from time to time. Does the fact that you were 100% accurate change the fact that your kids freely made the decision? Of course not.

    This scenario is analagous to an omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal God. He “knows” us so well that He “knows” from eternity what we will do with 100% accuracy (much like we know our kids). Just as our knowledge of our kids does not interfere with their free will, there is no contradiction with us having free will even though we are known perfectly by our Creator.

    Darrell

  • Bill Pratt

    Hi Boz,
    You said,”This is a false dilemma (excluded middle). With respect to free will, there are more options than either an eternal immaterial soul or scientific determinism(Laplace’s demon). Other possibilities include consciousness(and its choices) being an emergent property of the brain, or a brain-based process.”

    I realize that there are many options to explain free will. In fact, there are an infinite number of options! I was taking the two most popular worldviews in western civilization right now (theism and materialism) and explaining that materialists are in just as much a pickle with regards to free will as theists are. I then argued that given the two worldviews, theism offers a more reasonable explanation. Why? Because free will is a property of mind, and theism says that the source of the human mind is a divine mind. So we have mind coming from mind.

    The materialist must posit mind coming from matter, if the materialist agrees that there is a mind at all. If the materialist denies that there is any such thing as a human mind, then his explanation of free will weakens considerably, because we’re back to the laws of physics and chemistry controlling us. Free will is then an illusion, a cruel joke that our sophisticated brains are playing on us.

    Let’s say free will is an emergent property of the brain. What does than mean? Is consciousness untethered from matter (from the brain)? Is consciousness transcendent over the physical laws of nature? Does it exist outside of the control of physics and chemistry? If you answer “Yes” then you are no longer a materialist, because you have admitted that something non-material (consciousness) really exists outside of the material world. You can go that route, but now we’re left wondering where this non-material consciousness came from. How did matter create non-matter?

    You can see where this leads, I think. If you have another solution to the problem of free will than what I’ve described above, lay it on me.

    Thanks,
    BP

  • Bill Pratt

    Hi Boz,
    You said, “This is why I sometimes point out fallacies. I assume that (like me) you would want to know if you are wrong. Is this a fair assumption?”

    Yes, this is a fair assumption. I very much enjoy learning from people who disagree with me, even you :) , but I don’t think naming fallacies is very helpful. I am well aware that claiming a view is popular or claiming that one view makes more sense to me than another are not deductive arguments. That is obvious. So when you point this out to me, it comes across as patronizing.

    When I make statements like I made, my goal is to give you insight into some of my thinking on a subject. I realize that claiming that most of mankind has held that an all-knowing God is compatible with human free will does not deductively settle the matter. Sometimes majorities are wrong. However, this is not an issue that can be proven one way or another because we do not have enough information to approach a certain conclusion to the matter. In situations like this, it is instructive to know what the majority view is, and to hold it in some esteem as the wisdom of our ancestors. They may be wrong, but we should at least take their view seriously.

    Ironically, the pro-evolution folks use the argument from popularity all the time. They say, “Evolution is the dominant position of the scientific world, therefore it deserves great respect and should be the only theory of origins taught in public school science classes.” I assume whenever you hear this statement, you jump on the person and claim it’s the fallacious argument from popularity. :)

    Thanks,
    Bill

  • Boz

    Darrell, I had partially written a response when I realised that I was just rephrasing what had been said earlier. And that you had done the same in your last post. I’ll try something different.

    Do you agree that for any particular decision, there is a 100% probability that option A will be chosen? If so, it logically follows that humans do not have the ability to choose.

    Bill Pratt, on the issue of free will:

    Firstly, I read into your post that you are roughly saying “I’m not really sure how to explain free will. But I’m going to stick with this explanation until I can find a better one”. Is that a fair representation? If so, this inappropriately shields your opinion from sound arguments which demonstrate that your opinion is wrong, but do not offer an alternative. This takes away the option of “I don’t know”, which can sometimes be the most appropriate position.

    Secondly, materialism. There has never been anything that has been observed/detected that does not fall into the category of “matter”. So my position is that it is probable that nothing immaterial exists. Of course, there may be some undetectable immaterial realm that we cannot currently see, but no-one can accurately say anything about it.

    Thirdly, free will. From my experiences, I perceive that I have free will. I also perceive(by looking) that the earth is basically flat with a few bumps, and that the sun goes around the earth. My perception is wrong on both of these examples, and many others. So, the fact that I perceive that I have free will says nothing about whether it actually exists.

    If I had to guess, I would suggest that consciousness and the perception of free will both occur due to matter-only processes in the brain, though I hold this opinion very weakly.

    I agree that I am in a pickle in regards to free will. I have no idea how to explain it, or even if it exists at all! This does not make me uncomfortable. I can accept not-knowing.

    Bill Pratt said: “Ironically, the pro-evolution folks use the argument from popularity all the time. They say, “Evolution is the dominant position of the scientific world, therefore it deserves great respect and should be the only theory of origins taught in public school science classes.” I assume whenever you hear this statement, you jump on the person and claim it’s the fallacious argument from popularity”

    That is an argument from popularity and authority. It is the same as saying “special and general relativity should be taught in schools because it is the almost unanimous position of physicists.”

    Further, consider the question “how does the theory of evolution gain its truth/accuracy/status as a scientific theory?” Not because of its popular support, but because of its explanatory and predictive power when it comes to real world observations.

    When I look more closely at that statement, I see it as a shorter way of saying “The theory of evolution (or special and general relativity) is almost certainly true because of evidence(1), evidence(2), (3), (4), … (10,000) … “

  • http://www.calvaryle.org Steve Wright

    Time exists and is not matter. Thanks to Hawking there is a scientific consensus that real time had a beginning which corresponds to the Big Bang (or as I would say, the creation of matter).

    Time of course is relative and is affected by mass, acceleraton and gravity. Hawking also proposes something known as imaginary time that has no beginning or end and to which all moments in real time reference. This imaginary time is indistinguishable from space.

    Frankly, all the Christian is doing is plugging in the Personal Creator Omniscient, Omnipresent God into the mix.

    And also, frankly, all these scientists are doing is repeating (albeit in greater detail) what the Bible teaches. Time having a beginning is not a 20th century discovery, but is as old as Scripture.

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    Do you agree that for any particular decision, there is a 100% probability that option A will be chosen? If so, it logically follows that humans do not have the ability to choose.

    Your argument is not sound because you are improperly conflating someone knowing something is going to occur, e.g., God knowing what will happen or a parent knowing what their child will do, with one being forced to do it, e.g., Darrell not being free to answer or not answer Boz’s question. This does not follow. Knowledge of what ones decision will ultimately be does not automatically equate to lack of freedom to make the decision.

    My example of knowing my kids perfectly illustates my point. In the past, I have perfectly predicted choices my kids would make, yet in no way did I remove their freedom to make those choices.

    Do you think my foreknowledge took away my kid’s freedom?

    Darrell

  • http://smallsimple.wordpress.com/ Eric Nielson

    If God knows all events absolutely (past present and future in some goofy eternal now), and always has, then everything is by definition static from God’s perspective. And there is absolutely nothing that God nor man can do to change anything. In this case neither God nor man are free, for all acts are absolutely known and always have been. There is nothing else to do or say. Petitionary prayer would be meaningless because there is nothing at all that can change.

    You can flatly deny this if you wish, but there is ultimately no excaping this.

    In answer to you question above, I believe that many of the absolute descriptions of God from the creeds are not logical nor possible. So my view of God is less absolute than these creedal descriptions (which I feel is a good thing).

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    Eric,

    You can flatly deny this if you wish, but there is ultimately no excaping this.

    Sure there is… because your logic is conflating knowledge of what one is going to do with one being forced to do it, and you have yet to demonstrate how this follows.

    In addition, I have a counter example which disproves your argument… our children. Many parents have perfectly predicted their children’s future free decisions, yet the children remained perfectly free in their choices.

    In addition, how do you explain a God who does not know the future predicting perfectly all of the items I listed in this post?

    Darrell

  • http://smallsimple.wordpress.com/ Eric Nielson

    This is nonsense.

    The question is not coercion. A lack of coercion does not necessarily equate to free will. This is the fundamental lack of understanding you have. Just because there is a lack of coercion does not mean that you can do anything other than what you are doing. If all you can do is what God already knows you are going to do then you simply are not free. It is not that difficult.

    You can not perfectly predict all future actions of all your children. To say you can is complete nonsense. In addition, this is based on prediction, not on being in an actual fixed future. Completely different.

    God can predict the future quite well. He can also influence events quite well. This is a far cry from residing in an absolute eternal now, and absolutely knowing eternally every single event that will ever happen.

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    Eric,

    You can not perfectly predict all future actions of all your children. To say you can is complete nonsense. In addition, this is based on prediction, not on being in an actual fixed future. Completely different.

    Your assertion is that if a being has knowledge of what my future action will be then I am not free. As my example regarding my children demonstates, this does not follow. I have known in advance specific actions that my children would make, yet they still remained free in those actions.

    Contrary to your claim, whether or not my knowledge applies to ALL my children’s actions is irrelevant. My point is I have known in advance specific actions they would make, and your reasoning equates knowledge of future actions with lack of freedom in those actions. Therefore, based upon your reasoning, my children were not free in those specific actions that I knew in advance they would make. This counter example proves that your conflating of knowledge and lack of freedom simply does not follow.

    God can predict the future quite well. He can also influence events quite well. This is a far cry from residing in an absolute eternal now, and absolutely knowing eternally every single event that will ever happen.

    Yes, you are right, we are talking about very different concepts of God. I believe that many of our differences are the result of holding different concepts on the nature of God, i.e., God and man are same vs. different nature.

    In my view, the ultimate end of your understanding of God is that He is just really good at predicting the future, but we can’t know (and even He doesn’t know) for sure if He is right. As a result, God is just trying really hard and hoping that He wins and satan loses. We are essentially in a terrestrial Vegas and are playing the odds – luckily the house is not stacked against us since God is “really good” at what He does.

    In reality, this is a far cry from the God of the Bible. His view of the future is spoken of as perfect, and He prophesied things in amazing detail. Again, see my post. I have asked you several times to address how God prophesied so many things in such detail without knowledge of future free actions. The soldiers stabbing His side? The soldiers casting lots for His garments? Please, explain how your God could have done this.

    Darrell

  • http://www.calvaryle.org Steve Wright

    Eric wrote, “The question is not coercion. A lack of coercion does not necessarily equate to free will. This is the fundamental lack of understanding you have.”

    A couple definitions to free will from various online dictionaries.

    the ability to make a choice without coercion – thefreedictionary.com

    the freedom of the will to choose a course of action without external coercion – yourdictionary.com (Webster’s New World College)

  • http://smallsimple.wordpress.com/ Eric Nielson

    The point is with the children predicting is that sometimes you are wrong in your predictions. You do not know absolutely. You could be wrong, and occasionally will be. This is not absolute knowledge. You are stating that God does know absolutely. Huge difference.

    I did explain God’s prophesying. Predictive knowledge and powerful influence.

    free will
    n.
    1. The ability or discretion to choose; free choice: chose to remain behind of my own free will.
    2. The power of making free choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances or by an agency such as fate or divine will.

    The primary definition of free will is the ability or discretion to choose. An absolutely known future is evidence of a lack of ability to choose between real alternatives.

    There is a very good wikipedia page on free will here.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_will

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    Eric,

    The point is with the children predicting is that sometimes you are wrong in your predictions.

    But I am not always wrong. In fact, as a parent who knows his children very well, I am often correct. Consequently, the times I am correct, I am absolutely correct. Therefore, using your reasoning, is those cases when I am absolutely correct, it is absolutely true that my children do not have free will.

    The primary definition of free will is the ability or discretion to choose.

    No problems there.

    An absolutely known future is evidence of a lack of ability to choose between real alternatives.

    This does not follow. Eric, you are simply stating the same thing over and over again, yet you have failed to establish that knowledge of the future is a sufficient cause for lack of freedom to choose.

    I did explain God’s prophesying. Predictive knowledge and powerful influence.

    Your view is actually incoherent with a God being able to predict the future at all, for if He knows the future at all then the creatures don’t have any freedom in those things He knows.

    For example, using your understanding of free will, God could not possibly know thousands of years ahead of time that a rich man would bury Jesus in a tomb and that man still have freedom to not do it. In addition, God could not know thousands of years ahead of time that the Roman soldiers would not break His legs unless those soldiers did not have the freedom not to do it. Sounds like your God is up there playing games with mankind… giving some creatures freedom and not giving others freedom. In your view, Judas did not have the option NOT to betray Him and the Jews did not have the option NOT to cry crucify Him.

    Darrell

  • http://smallsimple.wordpress.com/ Eric Nielson

    A person could make nothing more than random guesses about human behavior and be right sometimes.

    The point is, this analogy is completely irrelevant and inadaquate. Guessing human behavior sometimes is not equivalent to a God who knows every single detail of all actions forever because He is timeless and actually sees every single event and always has. Your assesment of my reasoning is so off it is absurd. The claim is not that guessing right sometimes takes away freewill. Random guessing will be right sometimes. The claim is that knowing every single detail of all future events by virtue of being timeless would be evidence of no real free will. Guessing a few actions does not do that in the least.

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    Eric,

    I think you and I may not be on the same page with the word “know”. Depending on how you are defining the word “know” your view is either internally incoherent or not biblically sound.

    First, the way you are viewing free-will eliminates the possiblity of God truly knowing any future free actions. You keep harping on the idea of God not being able to know every action, but what you are failing to see is that even if God only knows some future events, given your view of free will, God’s knowledge of those events eliminates the possiblity of them being free events. As a result, you are left with a God who gives freedom to some people in some actions, but denies it to others in other actions. This is somewhat ironic, for while you claim my view to be incoherent (even though it isn’t), your definition of free will makes your own systematic view internally incoherent.

    However, if your definition of God “knowing” the future is that God just guesses the future really well, then we have another problem: it does not match what the Bible teaches and is therefore, not biblically sound. There are numerous passages of scripture which speak of God’s knowledge. When referring to His understanding of the future it is spoken of as “knowledge” not “really good guessing”. In addition, it is spoken of as being perfect, yet your view would have it be simply “really good” – sometimes wrong, sometimes right, but nonetheless better than a crap shoot. This simply does not line up with the God of the Bible.

    Gotta get back to work.

    Have a great day!!

    Darrell

  • Brad

    Eric, earlier you said: If all you can do is what God already knows you are going to do then you simply are not free. It is not that difficult.

    I agree, it’s not that difficult. Which is why I, and others on here, are wondering why you’re having a hard time with it.

    There is a difference between these 2 statements:
    1) If all you can do is what God already KNOWS you are going to do, then you simply are not free.
    2) If all you can do is what God already HAS DETERMINED you WILL do, then you simply are not free.

    Now I would agree with #2 – if what we WILL do has already been determined by God, then we’re just role players in a pre-determined play, with no “real” choice (though it may seem we have an “apparent” choice, in our time).

    But #1 doesn’t, in any way, take away our free will. We still have the ability to choose as we wish, yet God, in His infinite, perfect knowledge, knows exactly WHAT we will decide (of our own free will).

    Like you say, not that difficult. Which is it that you believe?

  • Boz

    Brad said:
    “But #1 [1) If all you can do is what God already KNOWS you are going to do, then you simply are not free.]
    doesn’t, in any way, take away our free will. We still have the ability to choose as we wish…”

    how do we have the ability to choose as we wish, when there is only one possible outcome?

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    Boz,

    how do we have the ability to choose as we wish, when there is only one possible outcome?

    There is only one outcome… the one you choose. There cannot by nature be more than one outcome, i.e., you cannot make more than one choice for any particular decision. God knows what your choice will ultimately be, but that is not sufficient to make that choice be the result of something other than your free will.

    I knew decisions my children were going to make before they made them, but their decisions were still made freely.

    Darrell

  • http://www.calvaryle.org Steve Wright

    This discussion is like when I deal with people who say ‘How can a loving God send people to hell’ – no matter how one explains the Biblical teaching on the topic, the problem lies with the person who has insisted on a definition of ‘loving God’ that is quite narrow and incomplete compared to how God has revealed Himself in Scripture. No matter how one explains the issue, they keep coming back to ‘It is ridiculous to say a loving God can send someone to hell’ – as if repeating the statement is enough to make it true.

    I posted in comment 25 some words about time, which seems to be the major problem here. The rebuttals continue to place God within the same time spectrum as we are – yet somehow years ‘before’ (noting that ‘before’ itself implies time).

    Given that astrophysicists today are still wrestling with defining time and understanding its relativity to our universe, it seems doubtful that anyone here has it down cold. However, as long as one insists on THEIR definition of time (like the loving God argument) no progress can be made.

    There is no doubt that the Bible teaches both that man has free moral agency, and that God is eternal, not subject to time, and all-knowing. These facts do not contradict what we know of time today thanks to Hawking and others. If someone insists on a definition of ‘free will’ that even defies the dictionary (and rests in saying, well, its not the primary definition), it really is hard to move the ball in the discussion.

    Eric, I am curious as to the conclusion of your argument though. Are you denying that man has free will? Or are you denying that God knows everything (i.e. open theism).

  • Brad

    Boz,

    As Eric does, you confuse the issue. You operate under the assumption that b/c God KNOWS the future (which, by definition, would include all future choices that people make), that He has DETERMINED the future.

    Just curious – what makes you arrive at this conclusion? B/c it’s what your argument is based on. Problem is – it’s not what I, or Darrell, or Steve, or Bill, have been saying!

    Let’s talk about tomorrow. Let’s say you have a decision about where to go for lunch – either McDonald’s, Taco Bell or Subway. The decision is yours alone. Nobody is going to lunch with you, so nobody else decides where you go. You’re driving in your own car, so nobody will be taking you to a place you DON’T want to go, since you’re in control of where you drive your car. The choice is totally and completely up to you. Where do you go?

    Now, what I would say (and I’m sure others on here, though I won’t speak specifically for them) is that regardless of which place you choose to eat tomorrow, God already KNOWS – at this very moment – which place you will choose to eat in the future (tomorrow). What I would further say is that God did NOT choose that place for you – the decision of where to eat will be entirely up to you tomorrow, when you make your choice.

    The argument you seem to make (correct me if you think I mistake your position), is that since God KNOWS where you are going to eat, that you didn’t have a CHOICE (e.g. “free will”) as to where to eat.

    If that’s what you believe, please show how God’s knowledge of the outcome of your choice meant that you didn’t “really” have a choice at all.

  • Dylan

    Darrell,

    First, I’d like to point out that its quite possible for both positions to be wrong. God might not exist and free will could be an illusion; all action really just the inevitable reaction to a chain of events set into motion (or that has always been in motion).

    But that’s besides the point. Discussion for another day maybe.

    What I’d really like to address is your parent/child metaphor and how it is inherently flawed. Sure you may have “perfectly predicted” some events but that doesn’t make you a perfect predictor.

    But lets pretend for a second that you are a perfect predictor of your children. This would mean that you already know every future decision they’ll make. If, by free-will, they were to choose something other than what you had predicted you would cease to be perfect. Its just logically impossible to perfectly predict something that doesn’t end up how you foresaw it.

    Now lets extend this to God. I agree with you that to absolutely know all events is to transcend time. But it still defies logic that he can absolutely know outcomes yet give us the ability to change these outcomes at the same time.

    Anyway, I’m loving this blog. You’ve done great work with it. And its so nice to have these discussions with other smart, civilized individuals. I’m bookmarking it now.

  • http://www.calvaryle.org Steve Wright

    Dylan, you wrote 2 sentences in post 11 above “I agree with you that to absolutely know all events is to transcend time. But it still defies logic that he can absolutely know outcomes yet give us the ability to change these outcomes at the same time.”

    Not to sound like a broken record but you need to stop at your first sentence. God transcends time. As a result he knows all.

    Because when using a word like ‘outcomes’ in relation to God is to again place God in the realm of time – there is no such thing as an ‘outcome’ from God’s perspective. An outcome speaks to a conclusion, result etc. in other words there is a time sequence implied. It is a human ‘time’ term and this is why it seems illogical to you.

    What is wrong with stopping at sentence one?

  • mike_b

    God is Omniscient. His omniscience lies in that he knows all future possibilities. He could, being Omni-powerful select a future possibility to be actual or real. when it is important to his plan, That is what he does. For the most part he interferes with human choice as little as possible. What God knows “absolutely” is what he actualizes and becomes real.

    The model of time that I espouse is not of a single line from ages passed to ages to come, Again if that were the case, where would the definition of choice be ? No the future spreads out from the present as a myriad of contingent branches. When we make choices a branch becomes real, and myriad others cease to exist (no longer possible). Time is the “actualizing” , becoming real of a branch. And in fact is the only dimension where choice is possible. Cause and effect. That is the very reason we are here is to make choices.

    When it comes to salvation and his created beings making moral choices, God has limited his sovereignty (chooses not to know). What people do not realize is the future is not predetermined, God, where its important, “Brings it to pass”. Individual free will is given to man except in a very few cases, where for his own purposes and to fulfill his choice(he has them too), there is a limitation of choice for his creation. This is not unfair though. Because his free will choices are no worse that when our choices limit the actions of our fellow man. If I buy a car off of a lot just before someone else, I have limited his choice, but it was not unfair, I exercised my right before him. So sometimes God does limit human choice in order to bring about his purposes but it is far from the rule, and he does so I believe on the same “plain” as any other “free actor” involved.

    What most don’t realize is that when he gave man in the garden dominion, that meant he chose to limit his own sovereignty, if that is not the case then no dominion was given. and since all dominion was his originally, then something changed when he gave man dominion, That something was some of his sovereignty. Examples; He came to see what Adam would call the animals, he said of Abraham “now I know” that you love me, after he was about to sacrifice him . At the tower of Babel, Genesis 18:21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. There are many, many other examples. After the flood, the scriptures say God repented(changed his mind) that he had made man.

    That is not possible if God had chosen to know absolutely. It is obvious to me that what God knew is the possibility of evil. And knowing that he prepared a contingency plan. If God knew absolutely all future choices, then it is hard to escape that some could then accuse God of being unjust and life on earth little more than a game being played by an arbitrary deity. But by definition I believe God to be the most rational of any being, and his creation and history and purpose would seem extremely irrational if in his absolute knowledge he continued to allow this game to be played.

    There is no paradox, God chooses not to know( or in reality chooses not to choose) in the majority of cases so as to allow us the true choice of actualising a possibilty where we freely choose to love and serve him. That was so important to him that it led him to allow the possibility of evil so that there could be the real possibility of us freely choosing him.

    This by the way is the reason that Satan continues to fight. He is not stupid, would we fight God ?. No the reason is because until all the future possibilities are eliminated where he can do damage, although not actual they in a sense “exist”. These branches are eliminated by choice ours and Gods.

    And where the choice was too great, he came himself and “choose” to go to the cross. Jesus said “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth”. (cause and effect, the effect was to elimnate any possibilty of Satan destroying the entire human race, now all he can do is take as many as have not made good choices)

    One last example David( 1 Samuel 23 :10-12) was running away from Saul and hiding in a city. He asked God if I stay in the city will they betray me to Saul ?. God tells him yes they will betray you. So David leaves and does not get betrayed. What I believe this shows is that God knew the result of both choices(counterfactual), he left it up to David which one became real. I could elaborate my argument in more detail if someone wants, but for now I hope this gives food for thought.

  • http://pablosorigins.blogspot.com Pablo

    Can I act differently than what God “thinks” I will act? If the answer to this question is “no”, then I don’t have free will. Using your analogy, I may be quite sure what my child would do, but there is the possibility that he might act otherwise. Maybe I’m sure how he’ll act, but there is the possibility that he may act otherwise. That is free will.

    So, this article didn’t convince me.

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    Pablo,

    You have complete freedom to do what you want, and God knows what you will freely choose. You are leaving out the fact that God knows what you will ultimately freely choose. God having knowledge of what our decisions will ultimately be is not sufficient to make those decisions the result of anything other than our free choice. Thus, your conclusion does not follow.

    Darrell

  • Phil

    “But lets pretend for a second that you are a perfect predictor of your children. This would mean that you already know every future decision they’ll make. If, by free-will, they were to choose something other than what you had predicted you would cease to be perfect. Its just logically impossible to perfectly predict something that doesn’t end up how you foresaw it.”

    This got me thinking, perhaps this could explain why an infinite being who would grant free agency does not speak.
    He could know every action, but then by not telling us this he makes no prediction, leaving free will intact.

    But then again I’m not so convinced any infinite substance is possible, but like you said, that is a topic for another day (actually I’m discussing it with people in “Can God create a rock so heavy he cannot lift” blog).

  • Jim Roane

    Where in the world did you
    come up with the proposition “That Jesus would be born of a virgin (Is. 7:14) –
    How did God know that Mary would remain a virgin after she was told she was
    pregnant?” This is not Baptist doctrine. That’s for sure. Her virginity was
    only assured until after she conceived Christ. I know that the so-called Orthodox
    and Catholic Churches teach otherwise; but this belief from tradition, not
    Scripture. Jimroane@gmail.com

  • Layne

    On the subject of god and foreknowledge, it is my opinion that he would simply be able to see every possible path that could result from a man’s choices, thus allowing for free will and foreknowledge simultaneously.

SEO Powered by Platinum SEO from Techblissonline