Omniscience vs. Free Will

In a recent atheist podcast that I subscribe to, the hosts were discussing the idea of the omniscience of God and how this somehow¬†contradicts the idea of free will. Their argument was basically that, if God already knows what you’re going to do and the things you or I will choose before you do so, then you and I have not choice but to make that choice.

Normally, I am quite pleased and even pleasantly surprised at the fact that these hosts are very intellectually careful about what they say and how they present arguments. Granted, I obviously don’t always agree with their conclusions, but I respect their diligence for truth. In this case, however, I was quite surprised at this argument and the conclusion they came to. Not because of a simple disagreement, but because the argument simply wasn’t sound to begin with.

In no way is prior knowledge of an event necessarily causally related to that event. In other words, just because I know someone is going to do something before they do it, that has no connection to the idea that I somehow caused them to do it. There is simply no logical substantiation for such a claim.

As much as many atheists don’t seem to like Dr. William Lane Craig, I do like his analogy for this particular fallacy. He makes the comparison of the fact that a barometer, while it may tell us something about what the weather is about to do, it does not cause the weather to happen. This is a classic case of mistaking something that is descriptive with something that is prescriptive.

Whenever we are addressing these types of arguments, we need to be very careful that we’re not coming to conclusions that simply do not follow from the premises. It seems to me that in any other area of our lives, we would never assume that prior knowledge of anything is the cause for that thing. I’m not entirely sure why, in this case, reason was abandoned. Unless it was just for the purposes of mud-slinging or intellectual laziness.

Whatever the case, foreknowledge is not causality. It can lead to almost any number of false conclusions in many areas, not just theological. Let’s be careful to think carefully about these types of things.

Grace, love and peace.

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2 Comments

  1. @Duke,

    Hmmm. Interesting points. Though, I’m not seeing how knowledge of a choice that you will make (even certain knowledge) eliminates choice. I don’t see how that conclusion follows.

    The idea here is, just because God may know you’re going to choose something, it’s still your choice. You could choose otherwise. Just because He knows you will make the choice you will does not impinge upon free will at all.

    I just don’t see how that follows from foreknowledge.

    Grace, love and peace.

  2. Haha, I know I’m about a month off on this one, but
    I’ve been interested in this topic lately and wanted to comment. Omniscience and free will (in the sense that I can choose between alternatives) Cannot be compatible, in the sense that God knows the future. You, like MANY others make the mistake of misinterpreting the argument. It’s not, God knows what I will do, so this causes me to do something, again, no intelligent person is arguing that.

    God is not even the important part of this. The idea that it’s POSSIBLE to KNOW the future is important. If its possible to know the future with absolute certainty then the future is set. If the future is set, I cannot change it, therefore I am powerless to make a choice. It may seem like you’re making a choice, but in reality, it would have been impossible for you to choose any differenlty then you did, negating free will. (this would be determinism)

    Any other conclusion, and you are talking about a different meaning of free will or omniscience.

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