thoughts on free will and God’s foreknowledge

As to this idea of predestination in Protestant circles of mental speculation, we do not buy it.

Why?

Because it negates human free will.  You cannot have both free will and predestination.

Here is how we see it.  As Boethius (died circa 521 A.D.) wrote that God exists outside of time, it follows that He sees past, present and future all in one glance so to speak.  But God’s foreknowledge (remember we are taught to believe that God is all-knowing) of what we will choose does not condition or necessitate that choice.  God knows how we will freely choose, but His advance knowledge does not make us choose what we choose.

 

 

 

There really is no need for lengthy mental gymnastics in the Thomistic tradition.

If you choose to believe in predestination in the sense that some Protestants do – that God’s foreknowledge of how we will choose conditions that choice –  then you have nullified free will, and thus robbed man of his humanity.  Of course, such a view also calls into doubt God’s justice.  If God is conditioning how we live our lives, then the damned could claim it is not their fault that they have been damned since they were not in control, not able to freely choose the lives they lived.

Perhaps goodly natured Christians will point out where I missed the mark here.  May be the nuances of their argument escaped me.

copyright 2017 – larrysmusings.com

5 thoughts on “thoughts on free will and God’s foreknowledge

  1. It’s an interesting question, Larry. As I recall, C.S. Lewis used the analogy of our lives being a book, one that God holds in His hands. The decisions that we make pursuant to free will are written on those pages, and in our time, God is going through the story page by page with us as the tale is told.

    Can He skip ahead, and does He know the whole story in His timelessness? The answer to both is, of course, yes…however, capability does not necessarily imply intent, for the first. Doing that would be a negation of free will, as you correctly pointed out, and so doing would violate the internal consistency of free will, and by implication of Creation itself.

    The second is a bit more complicated; God has ‘the book’, and does He know the whole story? If one says Yes, and thereby implies that He takes action through talking to our conscience so that bad decisions can be avoided, then predestination would seem to be negated.

    But the other option is also untenable, that He stands back dispassionately and knows that we will fall, and makes no efforts through the transcendent to intervene.That would certainly call into question both His mercy and His justice.

    But this is linear, and perhaps two-dimensional thinking applied to a multidimensional milieu. We think in terms of cause and effect leading to one outcome, but that begs the question – is predestination binay, or is it a continuum of possibility?

    Are our destinies written, or are they something of a rough draft, subject to modification by a helpful co-Author?

    My feeling is that our mission is to do what we can until our destiny is revealed. That choice is ours, and not even God will take that from us. We can rewrite what He holds in His hands, and while He holds the complete story in Eternity, it is always a work in progress while we live in the temporal.

    That would seem to allow for a linear predestination, but one whose ultimate end is rooted in something of a living Hereafter.

    And there, I think, is the flaw at the heart of the Protestant concept of predestiny, that it attempts to overlay a temporal existence onto the infinite. Like Newtonian physics, it works at the level of the grossly observed world, but at the far end of the spectrum, it breaks down, as Newtonian mechanics can’t explain events on the subatomic or cosmological scales.

    Sorry this comment was so long…but it IS an interesting question! 🙂

    • Thanks Andrew for your comment. And, there is no need to apologize for the length of your comment. You raise many good points.

      The problem that keeps resurfacing, time and again, in religion is that men foist their views of what should be on to God. (This is true in Protestant Christianity and in Catholicism.) How He should run things, what His nature is ultimately like, etc. Sadly, we think in our all too human limitations, that God is not that forgiving because we are not very forgiving creatures – either of others or of ourselves. Over the years, I have grown weary with authoritarian religion that promotes a legalistic path to salvation. Yes, we need to live moral lives, but many of the rules and prohibitions are inconsequential. Sorry to get off topic.

      • Larry, I SO agree with you!

        I’m dying of what they assume is pancreatic cancer (can’t afford the tests to verify, but I’m symptomatic, so what’s the point?). I have heard it said that God sends trials as a test, and I think this is utter rubbish.

        I am a ‘not currently deployed’ mercenary, and I am (false modesty aside) the hardest man I know. But THIS…the degree of pain is beyond anything I have ever experienced, and it doesn’t let up. I think most people would have buckled and failed under this ordeal. I have come close; I have felt the temptation to ‘curse God and die’.

        Morphine or a bullet. That;s my life, every day.

        But I don’t believe for a moment that God sends stuff like this; rather, it’s a by-product of the necessity for free will. I feel His presence, and that gives me the strength and the voice to try to keep saying that even in the middle of Hell, it’s important to remain true to decency, honour, and fair play. (Yes, I’m British-educated, and “it’s not cricket” is part of my vocabulary.

        I have the free will to despair, but also the choice to believe that though the times are dire, I can still manufacture a purpose that serves the God to whom I entrust my immortal soul.

        I believe that He weeps with me in my worst moments. And I believe that He would do anything He could do to assuage my pain, except to negate His Creation, and thereby Himself.

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