God’s Foreknowledge vs. Free will. Is There a Problem?



“But for God, we have no free will. He knows already every influence, past, present and future on our lives. He knows how we behave – and will behave – in every situation. He knows whether we will worship or abandon him. It makes no difference what we do, whether we pray and worship or sin and blaspheme; God knows, even before we are born whether we will enter Heaven or Hell after we die. Our free will is an illusion; our lives are forever fixed in the amber of God’s mind.” (A post from an atheist website)

Many disbeliever agree with the above argument and commonly claim that God’s omniscience is a contradiction. How can God know everything and still allow free will? Their argument usually goes something like this:

1. God know every choice that you and I will make.
2. Since God’s knowledge is infallible, everything that God knows will happen necessarily.
3. Therefore, free will is an illusion.

As another atheist page stated, “If a god knows who will win the next presidential election, then it isn’t possible for anyone else to win.” Is this true? Does God’s omniscience (I’ll use this term interchangeably with foreknowledge; though they are technically different) negate our choice? As you will learn in the rebuttal, premise (2) does not lead to the conclusion.

A Rebuttal:
I’ll make this short and sweet: God’s omniscience does not compel future events to occur; i.e. omniscience does not necessitate you choosing A over B.

There are two necessities in the world — one basic, for example, chimpanzees are mammals; the other being conditional, for example, if you know someone is breathing, he must necessarily be taking in air. Therefore, if God foreknows Bob will walk at 9:14 AM, Bob will walk at 9:14 AM, because that’s the whole point of foreknowing something; it can’t be anything but what you foreknow. Doesn’t this raise a problem though, namely, does Bob walk at 9:14 AM because God foreknew it — or does Bob walk at 9:14 AM because Bob willed it?

Bob freely chooses to walk because there is no necessity that compels Bob, who is voluntarily walking, to choose to go forward; although it is necessary for him to go forward at the moment of walking (just as it is necessary to take in a breath when breathing). In the same way, if God sees anything in the future, that something must necessarily be, although it is bound by no necessity of nature (unlike the sun rising).

Let’s say that the sun was rising when Bob started walking at 9:14 AM. The sun rising and Bob walking at the moment of occurrence could not but be taking place (conditional necessity);  yet one of them before it took place was necessarily obliged to be, while the other freely chosen. Likewise, the things which to God are foreknown certainly exist, but some of them come from necessity of nature, while the others from the power of the agent.

I'm So Creative

Conclusion:
Just because God foreknows that we will choose A over B, it doesn’t necessitate that we will choose it; it’s still up to us to choose. And honestly, I think we all know this inside; freedom of will seems to be a very basic and intuitional concept to mankind.

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  1. #1 by billover70 on November 10, 2011 - 12:42 am

    Good post to stimulate thought…..if the vewer is so inclined.

    We folk who are convinced of belief in an omnificent, omniscient omnipresence that transcends time and space are continually attempting to place that entity in a box whose walls are constructed of our limited intellectual capacity. To present a complete explanation of God’s (if you will) purposes, motives and methods would quite likely be an exercise in futility.

    Many thinkers have addressed the topic of the post. They are (or were) all smart. They do not (or did not) all agree.

    Wups!….billover70 sees that this is about to become way too lengthy for a comment.

    Be that as it may, please suffer a quote that may be applicable:
    “To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.” (Nicolaus Copernicus)

  2. #2 by studentsforchristianity on November 10, 2011 - 8:59 pm

    Thanks for reading!

    We do have a tendancy for keeping God in the limitations of our human mind. I guess it’s a human tendancy to anthropomorphise everything.

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  4. #4 by Virginia on July 22, 2017 - 2:58 pm

    I must disagree. It is not about cause and effect at all. If god has infinite knowledge, he knows the future. No one disagrees with that. Him knowing the future means that the future is set in stone, because if it wasn’t, he would not be able to know it. But, because he has infinite knowledge, he knows the future for certain, so the future can not be changed. This removes both gods free will and ours, because whatever choice we choose, or god chooses, will result in the future that god sees. The only way for free will to exist is for the future to be changeable, because if my future actions are already determined, I have no choice as to whether I do or don’t do those actions.

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