I’m continually frustrated when the concept of freedom of the will comes up among people, even in Christian circles, because it seems that inevitably people start to deny that freedom of the will is incompatible with the God of Classical Theism. I am a firm believer in human freedom of the will and I believe it is fully compatible with omniscience. (Though I do not deny that our human will is corrupted by the fall into sin and that salvation is the act of God, not a work of man… These things are most certainly true.)
Generally the objection is something like this: If God knows everything and is all-powerful, then everything is pre-determined.
I still have not seen any solid argument for why this should be the case whatsoever. The key, as I understand it, is the connection between foreknowledge and causation.
I don’t see any reason to believe that if a being that is omnipotent and omniscient knows that x will happen, that being somehow causes or determines that x must happen. Why should this be the case? Simply knowing with certainty what will happen in the future does not somehow mean that this being has somehow made a causal link between its knowledge and the future, rather, it just means that this being knows what any other being is going to do.
What connection is there between knowledge of an event in the future and determining it? I’d like any kind of analytic argument to try to deny that human freedom and omniscience are compatible.
I’ve argued elsewhere that these concepts are compatible, and I’d like to make this point more clear now.
Take “P” to mean “God [in Classical Theism–i.e. omniscient, omnipotent, etc.] knows in advance that some event, x, will happen”
Take “Q” to mean “some event, x, will happen”
3. Therefore, Q
I wanted to draw it in symbolic logic to make my point as clear as possible. It is necessarily true that if God knows x will happen, then x will happen. But then if one takes these terms, God knowing x will happen only means that x will happen, not that x will happen necessarily. Certainly, God’s foreknowledge of an event means that that event will happen, but it does not mean that the event could not have happened otherwise. If an event happens necessarily, that means the event could not have happened otherwise, but God’s foreknowledge of an event doesn’t somehow transfer necessity to the event, it only means that the event will happen. It could have been otherwise, in which case, God’s knowledge would have been different. The problem many people make is that they try to make the syllogism:
3. Therefore, □Q
This is actually an invalid argument. The only thing that follows from □(P⊃Q) is that, “necessarily, if P then Q,” not “if P, then, necessarily Q.”
It is true that “necessarily, if God knows that some event, x, will happen, then some event, x, will happen”… but then it doesn’t follow from this that some event, x, happens necessarily. Thus, the event x is not predetermined simply by God’s foreknowledge of an event.
The objection is sometimes simply put forward as: Necessarily, God cannot error in his knowledge. If God knows some event x, will happen, then x will happen. Therefore, necessarily, x will happen.
Take P and Q as above
Take R to be “God cannot error in his knowledge”
Again, this simply is an unsound and invalid argument. Simply stating that □R doesn’t show that for every event x that God knows, □x. It simply means that □R. R does not have a causal link to x (or Q above). It is true that □R on Classical Theism, but this does not mean that □Q or □P. There must be some argument to make P or Q necessary in order for there to be some kind of predetermined future, and I have no idea how an argument like that might go.There are ways that I can think of to formulate it, but it involves simply assuming that □R means that □P or □Q, so it would then be question-begging.
Perhaps I could take an example. Let’s say that I’m going to go to classes tomorrow (and I do hope I will, I don’t like missing classes!). God knows in advance that I’m going to go to classes tomorrow. His knowledge of this event means that it will happen, but it doesn’t mean that I couldn’t choose to stay in and sleep for a while, or play my new copy of Final Fantasy XIII, or do something more useless with my time. If I chose to, say, play Final Fantasy XIII (a strong temptation!), then God simply would have known that I would play FFXIII. His knowledge does not determine the outcome, His knowledge is simply of the outcome.
I’m open to hearing any analytic argument that manages to show how necessity can be transferred to events simply by God’s knowledge of them, but I’m skeptical as to the prospects of whether it can be done.
This argument can be seen in William Lane Craig’s writings like The Only Wise God and also in his podcast episodes on the doctrine of God.
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