logue of etion wanderments

Omniscience and free-will

I. An omniscient being cannot have free-will! To prove this, consider the following axioms and definitions:

1. Having free-will means, at the least, having a choice at one point in time.
2. A choice is always exercised in the present and if so desired, can always be changed at the last moment – at the moment of exercising it, no matter what the person with a choice had decided in the past.
3. Choices have consequences … taking a different choice usually leads to different consequences in the future.

Hypothesis: Omniscient God has free will.

By #1 God has a choice to be exercised by him. But being omniscient God also knows the future as it is going to happen.
By #3 we get that at any given moment God is bound by the known future to make choices that lead to it.
This means that god knows what choice he will exercise at any “choice making moment” beforehand and for all such moments, violating #2 and hence giving a contradiction.

Conclusion: The hypothesis is wrong.

The usual argument to evade this is that God probably doesn’t exist on a timeline (unlike its creations).

II.     We now come to an original argument recently made by an atheist on a discussion forum:

1. God gave men free-will because god wanted something interesting.
2. Men with free will, to be interesting to god, must have some unpredictable part, even for god.
3. If some part, some decisions of men are not known to men than god is not omniscient.

Conclusion: An omniscient god could not have granted free will to men.

III. Interpretation and inferences: While first proof effectively proves god (as championed by say, the Bible) doesn’t exist, this chain of thought is never pursued by theists. Theists have often struggled for years to reconcile their views with logic. Indeed many Christian sects have a rich apologetical history for spending generations on researching arguments to defend their particular theological assumptions to other sects! [Contrast this with many of today’s Christians that engage atheists in a debate and claim outright that they do not have any responsibility or any burden of proof when it is they who make the ontologically positive claim!] The Muslim theory of God is riddled with many more contradictions.

The second proof, a recent development, is independent of God’s timelessness. It shows that human free-will can not exist if God is omniscient from a fresh line of thought. It remains to be seen what its effects will be in the longer run.


9 responses to “Omniscience and free-will

  1. J.W. Wartick January 20, 2011 at 21:28

    There are many responses to this dilemma. One fast and easy one is to deny that God is in time. If God is timeless, then all moments are equally present to him in a nontemporal sense. Therefore, God’s knowledge of the “future” isn’t prior to His actions in that temporal future, for God’s “timeline” (using the term loosely) occurs all at once. See Brian Leftow, “Time and Eternity” for an outline of this view.

    • etioquaesitor January 21, 2011 at 00:11

      Yes, this is the traditional response to the first argument (as duly noted below the first conclusion).
      My reply to this (omitted above) is that the choices god has to exercise are to be exercised in time … otherwise they won’t have any observable consequences for humans as humans do not exist outside time (well, at least till they are alive).

      {My apologies, i have appended my blog entry after you posted your comment.}

      • J.W. Wartick January 21, 2011 at 02:44

        Right, but the traditional view also has built in that God’s actions occur all at once. If God is timeless, then our time does not operate on the same time as God (because He is timeless). So the choices God makes are not exercised in time from God’s perspective, which is the important one in your argument.

        • etio July 2, 2011 at 08:21

          Traditional view in Christianity has it that it took God 6 days to build the world. The sequence of creation is described … there cannot exist a sequence in absence of time.
          Second, you can not use the assumption that God is timeless to prove the same.

  2. J.W. Wartick January 21, 2011 at 04:32

    Further, I see no reason to accept Premise 1. or 2. of argument II. I don’t think God created men with free will because he wanted something interesting. Possibly, God created mankind with free will because it is good to do so. Second, premise 2 is nonsensical. I’m curious as to how this atheist purports to know the mind of God to the extent that he assumes that God went about creating just for His own amusement.

    Therefore, I think the entirety of Argument II is false in every possible way. Unless you have some substantive arguments to back up your claims, the argument fails.

    • etioquaesitor January 21, 2011 at 18:02

      “God created mankind with free will because it is good to do so.”

      This quotable quote runs straight into contradiction:
      Good for whom (or what) ? Good or evil can only be for sentient beings. Before creation, there were no other sentient beings then god. Thus the creation was for the good of God. But God is supposed to be a perfect being with no dependency on any other being. Thus, good of God can not come from things affecting anyone else.

      This purport of God (to be good!) is logically much weaker then what is presented above. Hence, it is ruled out. If you have a better hypothesis for the motives of God please do share.

  3. J.W. Wartick January 21, 2011 at 04:35

    And again, even argument one fails miserably because it argues that:
    “1. Having free-will means, at the least, having a choice at one point in time.”

    This begs the question because the (Thomistic) theist explicitly denies that free will entails choices at points in time.

    • etioquaesitor January 21, 2011 at 18:00

      Being instantaneous doesn’t make an an act of god to go away from the timeline.
      God’s choices affect humans (who are bound to time) so it has to interact with the timeline (even Thomistic approach is silent on how does a timeless God interact with time bound humans).
      Illustration: We celebrate Birthday of Christ every year on 25th December. His birth is an event on the timeline and was also the result of a choice that god had obviously deliberated upon (even if instantaneously) … “What is the right time or the right era for Christ to be born ?”

      Conclusion: Time might not affect God, but it (time) does affect God’s choices, (which is all that is needed for the argument presented here).

  4. Casque Dre October 7, 2011 at 01:09

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