The Free Will Problem

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Jordan_Francis

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I recently found myself in a discusson with two agnostic friends who seem to think that if God knows everything we will do then our actions are pre-determined. We argued for hours really, but I couldn’t seem to convince them.

Essentially, my main point was that knowledge is separate from causation and the knowledge of something is contingent on the truth (or reality) of a given thing.

Basically, knowledge, by itself, has never caused or determined anything in history, nor will it.

I am not philosophically trained. Would anyone mind helping me understand why God’s omniscience does not pre-determine our actions, or that his knowing of what we will do does not indicate that there is “fate”.

Thanks.
 
I recently found myself in a discusson with two agnostic friends who seem to think that if God knows everything we will do then our actions are pre-determined. We argued for hours really, but I couldn’t seem to convince them.

Essentially, my main point was that knowledge is separate from causation and the knowledge of something is contingent on the truth (or reality) of a given thing.

Basically, knowledge, by itself, has never caused or determined anything in history, nor will it.

I am not philosophically trained. Would anyone mind helping me understand why God’s omniscience does not pre-determine our actions, or that his knowing of what we will do does not indicate that there is “fate”.

Thanks.
To be brief, “As if watching someone do a thing were to make him do it.”
 
I just spoke with a friend of mine yesterday about this very issue. Here’s the way that I explained it. God is omniscient, and so he knows everything that we will ever do in our lives. He knows the choices we will make and how these choices will effect our lives.

But, knowing this does not mean that he controls us. We are still making our decisions, and unless we ask for his help in something, or give something up completely to him, he isn’t able to make us do what is right.

It’s like a parent with their grown - up child. The parent may see that the child is taking wrong turns everywhere the go, but the parent cannot really do anything because the child is grown up and living on their own.

One last thought to illustrate my point. There is a Christian musical group called “Far from home” and one of their songs talks about driving as a way to explain our relationship with God. The song says that at first, the person was in the driver’s seat, until they realized the mistakes that they were making and asked God to drive, while they rode more as a passenger.

This is just how our lives are. Because of free will, we are in the driver’s seat and God has to sit in the passenger’s side and cringe as we make mistakes. But when we ask him to, (still out of our own free will) he is more than willing to help us steer through life.

The main point is that God doesn’t determine our actions just by knowing what they will be. Since he gave us free will, he can only help, or interfere with our lives when we ask him to, and then at any point, we can push him away.

Sorry this post is so long, but I hope that what I’m saying is clear and that this helps.
 
The point of problem is the word “to know” something. It means to have information about something. It is nonsensical to say that one can have information about something that does not exist.

The “present” exists - therefore it is knowable. That “past” existed - so it was knowable, and if one has perfect memory, we can sensibly say that the past is still knowable. The “future”, however, does not exist - in any sense of the word.

So to say that the future is “knowable” is only sensible if the future is fully deterministic. To say that God knows what we shall do in the future implictly assumes that our actions are predetermined - or that the future already “exists” - and that is nonsensical.
 
So to say that the future is “knowable” is only sensible if the future is fully deterministic. To say that God knows what we shall do in the future implictly assumes that our actions are predetermined - or that the future already “exists” - and that is nonsensical.
Only if one is constrained by time. God is not.
 
I continue to be unable to grasp how God knowing what we will do is a “problem” for our free will.

A thought just came to me. God also knows what he will do. Does that mean God doesn’t have free will either?
 
The point of problem is the word “to know” something. It means to have information about something. It is nonsensical to say that one can have information about something that does not exist.

The “present” exists - therefore it is knowable. That “past” existed - so it was knowable, and if one has perfect memory, we can sensibly say that the past is still knowable. The “future”, however, does not exist - in any sense of the word.

So to say that the future is “knowable” is only sensible if the future is fully deterministic. To say that God knows what we shall do in the future implictly assumes that our actions are predetermined - or that the future already “exists” - and that is nonsensical.
An entity that only perceives a single point within the fourth dimension, cannot grasp the perceptions of an entity that perceives all ten dimensions, in their totality, at once.

But I notice atheists tend to be weak on Relativity.
 
Hope this helps. This is how God vs free will was explained to me and my classmates when we were small children. It makes sense still.

Imagine God as a “regular person” sitting on a moutain range. Across the way is another mountain range and he can see that two cars speeding toward the same narrow curve from opposite directions will soon and inevitably hit each other. God, now as a regular person, can/will do nothing to prevent the crash although he knows it will occur.

That’s free will; the drivers have set their own course.
 
Only if one is constrained by time. God is not.
I did not assume that God is constrained by time. The future does not “exist” in any sense of the word, so there can be no information about it.

An analogy: You sit in a movie theater and watch the story unfold. You are not constrained by the time-flow of the movie. Still you cannot know the ending until it actually happens. (Making educated gusses is all you can do, but that is not same as knowldge.)
 
Hope this helps. This is how God vs free will was explained to me and my classmates when we were small children. It makes sense still.

Imagine God as a “regular person” sitting on a moutain range. Across the way is another mountain range and he can see that two cars speeding toward the same narrow curve from opposite directions will soon and inevitably hit each other. God, now as a regular person, can/will do nothing to prevent the crash although he knows it will occur.

That’s free will; the drivers have set their own course.
The example illustrates quite well that the future can only be known when it is inevitable, when the freedom to choose has disappeared. If those two drivers are still miles apart, you cannot “know” that they will keep their present speed and “inevitably” will collide.
 
I continue to be unable to grasp how God knowing what we will do is a “problem” for our free will.

A thought just came to me. God also knows what he will do. Does that mean God doesn’t have free will either?
I have asked the same question before, and the answer was that God does not change - being outside of time - and as such there is no past or present or future for God, so “choice” (free or not) is not applicable.
 
I did not assume that God is constrained by time. The future does not “exist” in any sense of the word, so there can be no information about it.

An analogy: You sit in a movie theater and watch the story unfold. You are not constrained by the time-flow of the movie. Still you cannot know the ending until it actually happens. (Making educated gusses is all you can do, but that is not same as knowldge.)
I think your example does not support your claim. There are at least two groups of people who do know the ending. 1) the creators and editors of the film, and 2 ) others who have already watched the whole film. Here is perfect example how the “future” in fact actually exists, eventhough in your personal “time-flow” it doesn’t.
 
I think your example does not support your claim. There are at least two groups of people who do know the ending. 1) the creators and editors of the film, and 2 ) others who have already watched the whole film. Here is perfect example how the “future” in fact actually exists, eventhough in your personal “time-flow” it doesn’t.
My friend… it was only an analogy and as such - imperfect. This world is not “scripted” or “edited” and it is not “watched” over and over again. It is a one time occurrence.

Edited: I also have to point out that even the creators (directors, etc.) could not have known the ending until it was actually shot. They had an expectation of how it should end, but until the final editing was accomplished, they did not know how it will pan out.

My point is that the future cannot have happened already and did not yet happen. This would be a clear logical contradiction. It would be illogical to say that the future already happened - from God’s point of “view” and it did not yet happen - from out point of view. The existence of something - is not contingent on the vantage point of observence.
 
My point is that the future cannot have happened already and did not yet happen. This would be a clear logical contradiction. It would be illogical to say that the future already happened - from God’s point of “view” and it did not yet happen - from out point of view. The existence of something - is not contingent on the vantage point of observence.
But, it is only a contradiction from our temporal pint of view. God has revealed that there is another of view, that of the eternal.
 
The example illustrates quite well that the future can only be known when it is inevitable, when the freedom to choose has disappeared. If those two drivers are still miles apart, you cannot “know” that they will keep their present speed and “inevitably” will collide.
Two drivers, two cars. Both drivers choose high rate of speed. Perhaps that’s even their habit. Approaching the curve, it’s the veritable “too late” to slow down - yet either could have driven differently prior to that point. The drivers chose to speed. The witness can know the pending outcome but is unable to stop these two offensive drivers who prefer thrills to safety.
 
But, it is only a contradiction from our temporal pint of view. God has revealed that there is another of view, that of the eternal.
No, it is a contradiction regardless of the view. Something cannot “exist” and “not exist” at the same time in the same respect. The vantage point being different has no bearing on it.

Using the example of those two cars on a collison course, the inevitability of the crash does not mean that the two cars have already crashed.
 
Two drivers, two cars. Both drivers choose high rate of speed. Perhaps that’s even their habit. Approaching the curve, it’s the veritable “too late” to slow down - yet either could have driven differently prior to that point. The drivers chose to speed. The witness can know the pending outcome but is unable to stop these two offensive drivers who prefer thrills to safety.
I don’t know what your point is. During those few seconds when it is obvious to the observer that the crash will occur, the drivers have no choice any more. Their fate is sealed, their freedom to act has vanished. That is why the observer can extrapolate and know with reasonable certainty that a crash will happen.

However, this is still not “true knowledge” only a highly probable “educated guess”. One of the drivers may lose control over his vehicle, and fall down the cliff. Presto! No collision.

Suppose the two cars have cell phones in them. You, the observer can see them when they are still miles away from the collision. You use your mental powers and deduct that if they continue at their current speed, they will collide. You can call them and give them advice if you so choose.
 
The existence of something - is not contingent on the vantage point of observence.
What is existence? Movement through time? And what is time but the ability of things to change.

If you drop a pebble into a deep well with smooth walls, can I not say before it has hit the water that I know it to be true?

Consider a closed environment with two atoms that when they hit will bond forever. The closed box they are in is so small that it will only take 2 or 3 minutes before they will hit each other. I know this will happen, but I did not cause it to happen, and my knowledge of the future was without existence being present.

Add in a third atom and the chance of all three hitting each other together to become permanently bonded is much less that the two, but with the right tools, and knowing the initial trajectory of the molecules, one could know if it would happen or not.

The infinite possibilities that face the world are not so infinite to God, who sees them as you or I see the two molecules. Yes, He may know how they are going to interact, but He does not cause the interaction through His knowledge.

In Jesus Christ,
 
If you drop a pebble into a deep well with smooth walls, can I not say before it has hit the water that I know it to be true?
No, you cannot “know” it, it is merely a very probable educated guess. The water may be gone and the pebble will hit “rock bottom”.

But that is not the point. Knowledge of the future is only possible if the future is totally determined, if there is no freedom of choice.

It is not the knowledge that takes away the freedom of choice, it is the lack of freedom which makes knowledge possible.
 
No, it is a contradiction regardless of the view. Something cannot “exist” and “not exist” at the same time in the same respect. The vantage point being different has no bearing on it.

Using the example of those two cars on a collison course, the inevitability of the crash does not mean that the two cars have already crashed.
You are using timed expressions to discuss the functioning of something that does not experience time.

Please oh please don’t say there’s no such thing; you’d have to deny the existence of black holes.

Tell me, do you know anything about General Relativity?
 
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