Is God Omniscient ? If so, do we have free will?

If God exists, He is all knowing!

That means that in advance he knows what we will do. If He knew yesterday that today I will do the laundry – am I free to NOT do the laundry today?

There is a contradiction between our assumption that we have free will, and God’s all knowing nature (as seen by Christian and Muslim theologians).

Let’s debate it!

Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite. (Psalm 147:5)

So, what do you think… is God all knowing?

Does God know all, everything, the future, the past, your innermost thoughts?

Yes, of course. Being omniscient is one of the divine attributes of God

I think of it this way – God knows all possible outcomes of the decisions WE have to make. The choices are still ours, so therefore freewill is valid. The Bible is filled with people who seemingly were destined to do the things they accomplished, but if we look at it in reverse, those things would have been accomplished by SOMEONE. We are told the stories with the names as we know them, but had Noah not been a good man, God would not have chosen him. The hero of the flood and Ark story would simply have another name attached to it. Same thing with Moses, Samsom, Daniel, etc. etc. etc.

We do have free will but not like most people understand it to be. God gives everyone the free will to believe in Him or not to believe in Him that is the only thing that is considered free will by God. We as humans distort most of Gods teachings. All other free will thinking is choice so don’t be fooled into making God out to be manipulating you in all you do. Satan however is the manipulator and the liar that although it is our choice to make, he knowing our weaknesses sets the stage for us to do his will. The only thing God has done is taken some people like Moses, David and John etc. is to have given them special gifts so we would know and see who really created the heavens the earth and all that in them is. For this purpose although God wishes that none should perish He has set aside a few for destruction in order to fulfill His purpose.

Romans 9:21 “Does not the potter have the right to make out of that same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use.” (it grieves Him greatly because only those few selected for destruction (DO NOT HAVE FREE WILL ) but the rest of us have free will to believe in Him or not….Do not be fooled by Satan putting thoughts on what truly is the bible meaning of free will. God knows what choices you will make in all circumstances, the difference is that if you believe in God you will make choices that bring you closer to Him!!!!!!!!!!

He created evil, knowing evil will come to be. He created us all, and those who are made by him to be evil, will be sent to the hell, which he created, to be tortured for all eternity.. If God really is omniscient, there must be a really ugly side to him. He must enjoy watching his own creations suffer.

“This man I am making, oh my is he going to be evil! I can see him now, being sent to hell, by me, to be tortured for all eternity, and nothing he can do will stop it!”

No, who can be all-knowing?

Is this seriously that hard to figure out?
If god is omniscient, then he knows everything that was, is, and will always be….
Therefore, by definition, man cannot have free will, because any “free will” choice you make, he will have already known about!
Things like the Holocaust, 9/11, WW II, Hitler… all predetermined?
So your choice is god is all knowing, and created Hitler with the intention of killing 6 million Jews, or there basically is no god.
To say Hitler had a choice by the very definition deems a god non-omniscient!
My Christian friends, you can’t have both on this one!
Nor does “because god said so” apply!

If there is a god that knows the future, no one can disappoint this god since this god knew what you were going to do before you were born. And if god knew what you were going to do throughout your whole life before you were born, why would there be a judgment day to get into heaven?

Being all knowing would mean that god, or whatever being you choose to stick with this, would know everything. think about that.. everything. if its happened, is happening, or will happen, he knows. if its been thought, is being thought, etc… he knows.
If someone already knows everything that will ever happen, that brings destiny to the table. for anything else to happen would violate this idea.

Free Will and omniscience directly conflict with each other.

With this in mind, a god who created all of these people, knowing full well that he was going to send the vast majority straight to hell so they could cook for eternity, is cruel.
If he created them and gave them the free will to choose anything at all (this includes the argument that he only gave free will to choose him or not) automatically invalidates omniscience.

The most hardcore thumpers of their bibles will likely scream “supernatural” or simply that my feeble human brain isn’t complex enough to understand god.. which very well could be true, and i don’t particularly believe a god even exists, but if one did, i would hope he’d be better than the Christian version..

Logical fatalism, a definition

The subject of this page is really fatalism: is our future set?

Logical fatalism is the idea that because we can say something about tomorrow that might turn out to be true, the future is already determined today.

Theological Fatalism

Theological fatalism is like logical fatalism, with a twist. Instead of just anybody being able to say anything, and someone might turn out to be right – it’s God that says something.

Theological fatalism is the idea that an All knowing omniscient God knows today what will happen tomorrow – and so the future is set. Because the future is determined in advance, we as individuals can’t do anything about it.

God knows us – solution no.1: Middle Knowledge / Molinism

One solution is that God is all knowing to such an extent that He knows what I will do, because he knows me so well. So although I do have free will, that doesn’t stop him from knowing what I will do.

This leaves my laundry up to the certainty that I will be doing them – even if I didn’t know I would in advance. It means that it has been determined in advance what I will do – and that means my free will is effectively an illusion.

God outside of time – solution no.2 Boethian Solution (Boethius and Acquinas)

I started out writing that the problem is that God knows in advance what we will be doing – him being omniscient and everything.

But some philosophers say: God doesn’t know in advance, because he isn’t in time. He just knows – looking at our path from outside of time. He sees where we were and where we are going all in one glance – as if from a mountain top.

In philosophy every solution creates its own problems. In this case:

  • If God is outside of time, can He interfere with us at a certain time?
  • If God is outside of time, does he know what time it is?

God gives up some omniscience so we can have free will – solution no. 3

I like this solution, but I do think it’s a bit strange.

Some modern theologians say that God is in time, just like us. And because He wants us to have free will, God freely gave up his omniscience so that we could have free will.

This leaves God in the position to have a relationship to each of us, answer prayers, and act WITHIN TIME.

And if God is omniscient, does that mean we don’t have free will?

Omniscience implies the future is set. Does this mean we don’t have free will? If God knows all, does that mean our actions are determined in advance and we don’t have free will?

Yes, our free will is an illusion.

HECK YES – and that just makes us SLAVES!!!!

The idea of free will boils down to a choice. If an omniscient being knows that tomorrow I’m going to make a left turn instead of a right then I’m not going to be able to make a right turn tomorrow while maintaining that being’s omniscience. A choice has to be made at a specific instant in time. Until that instant there has to be the option go either way otherwise there isn’t a choice being made. The idea that an omniscient being’s knowledge of an event doesn’t cause it to occur but for that being to be truly omniscient it has to occur. If I have to make a choice the way God thinks I’ll make it for Him to maintain his omniscience then it’s not really a choice.

I don’t think we have free will. In order for will to be truly free, we would have to have access to all the available choices that choice would entail and that never happens. My financial circumstances, education, upbringing etc. would have the ultimate decision in my will. Which would make it anything but, free.

No, God knows what we will be doing. We still have free will.

No it doesn’t mean we don’t have free will.. we do.. but that doesn’t take away from God’s omniscience. Do you not think that our Creator can’t know us well enough to know what we will do?

If God is omniscient and can move into the future as easily as we can slide our finger along a ruler, then does he only really participate with us in the now or is he sharing/listening/supporting our future self just as we hope he is supporting our current self.

Knowing vs. Causing : how the hinge on the door moves (causing) is different than our knowledge (knowing) of the hinge’s’ movement. Free Will (and determination) concerns the ‘hinge,’ and Omniscience, concerns someone’s knowledge of the ‘hinge’s’ movements. We sometimes have knowledge of what our good friends will freely choose, if in a certain context; here our knowledge of what our friend would choose, does not cause their choice – Knowing vs. Causing.

Do we have free will?

  • Yes, God just knows what we will do.   (52%)
  • Yes, I don’t believe in God anyhow.   (5%)
  • No, God knows what we will do and we just do it.   (9%)
  • No, our circumstances and brain chemistry determine what we do – not the conscious I.   (11%)
  • Yes, We have free will up to a point.   (21%)

Total Votes: 119

Terminology

I have tried to keep philosophical terminology to a minimum. Still, I have to learn it, so here are the terms I feel are necessary for me to talk about this subject at the level expected at university.

Counter-factuals of freedom

The premise that in a certain circumstance each being will freely do what God knows they would do. If something else were to be done by a being – God would have known that too (counterfactually true).
God choose to create that creation in which the total result of laws of nature plus choices of beings is the best of all possible creations. That must be the creation we are in – apparently God cannot choose a better creation than the one we are in. Free will combines with evil directly, apparently (if there is a loving, all powerful God in the first place).
[Zagzebski, p. 116]

Fatalism versus Determinism

Terminology

I have tried to keep philosophical terminology to a minimum. Still, I have to learn it, so here are the terms I feel are necessary for me to talk about this subject at the level expected at university.

Counter-factuals of freedom
The premise that in a certain circumstance each being will freely do what God knows they would do. If something else were to be done by a being – God would have known that too (counterfactually true).

God choose to create that creation in which the total result of laws of nature plus choices of beings is the best of all possible creations. That must be the creation we are in – apparently God cannot choose a better creation than the one we are in. Free will combines with evil directly, apparently (if there is a loving, all powerful God in the first place).
[Zagzebski, p. 116]

Fatalism versus Determinism

Fatalism is the idea that it doesn’t matter what we do, what’s meant to happen will happen anyhow.

Determinism is the idea that there is no freedom from the law of cause and effect: the future is determined by the past and the present or other causes (like God or Gods).

Fatalism is a common attitude amongst those who don’t feel they can influence their life. It’s a case of self-fulfilling prophecy: if we don’t think we can change our lives, our lives are obviously not going to change.

Determinism can easily become fatalism. If you think that drinking problems are caused by genes, for instance, you are more likely to just give up trying to fight alcoholism.

It’s another story if determinism includes the choices we make, and the impact those choices have on our options. After all: working hard leads to results – there is a law to that as well.

Related reading

The Philosophy of Religion: An Historical Introduction, Linda Zagzebski

This is the book that started me on this page. We read it in our ‘philosophy of religion’ class at Leiden University – and this subject is one of the ones Linda Zagzebski tackles very well.

Philosophy books are never easy, this one isn’t either. Still, it is very interesting.

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