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.