Theological fatalism – Part three: Answering objections

This post is the final post in my three-part series concerning the problem of theological fatalism – namely that an omniscient being and free will are incompatible. My first post in the series explained the groundwork for the problem and the second explained the implications of the problem.

This series was started to expand on one of the arguments I presented in my “Does God Exist?” debate with Catholic philosopher Dr. Ronda Chervin (PhD, Fordham) which can be streamed via Livestream or watched on Youtube.

I may respond to new objections or further clarify in future posts. Happy reading and, as always, feel free to comment.

Objections to the problem of theological fatalism are italicized. My answers follow.

Just because God knows how one will act doesn’t mean that persons lose free will

One objection, noted on CARM.org (Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry) is that just because God knows what one will do in the future does not mean that persons have no free will. The author of a specific article on this topic writes, “Free will does not stop becoming free because God knows what will happen.” The author of the article mentions that he/she knows that his/her child will eat chocolate cake instead of eating dead mice. He then writes, “Knowing this is not taking away the freedom of my child since she is freely choosing one over another. Likewise, for God to know what a person will choose does not mean that the person has no freedom to make the choice. It simply means  that God knows what the person will choose. This is necessarily so since God knows all things.”

The author of the article misses a crucial point of contention for theological fatalism: God’s beliefs can’t be falsified because he is omniscient. Since God knows that a child will eat chocolate cake, the child’s eating of chocolate cake is unavoidable; it is impossible for the child to refrain from eating chocolate cake because God’s beliefs can’t be falsified (and God had believed that the child would eat chocolate cake).

Additionally, the analogy presented here is very faulty. While humans may be able to predict an action or even may be almost certain that one would partake in a given action, this knowledge is not that of being omniscient, but rather knowledge based on reasonable inferences, weighing alternatives, etc. For example, one can be reasonably confident that at least one student will be present in a particular college classroom at a particular time. If one were to hold this belief, it can be rendered false, but if God were to hold this belief, it can not. Omniscience is vastly different than human knowledge.

Free will is an ‘advanced recording’

One may contest that God’s knowledge is simply that of what one would have done before an action was followed through. This, though, is not compatible with omniscience because God knows the future – and therein lies the problem of theological fatalism. God holds beliefs about which actions humans will take, if he exists, and these beliefs cannot be falsified. If God’s knowledge is indeed an ‘advanced recording,’ this solidifies the problem of theological fatalism; God knows actions before humans act and these beliefs that God holds about these actions cannot be falsified.

God knows all possible actions and still allows freedom

Some, perhaps to avoid the problem of theological fatalism, will contend that God knows all possible alternatives that people may choose regarding a certain course of actions and does not know which ‘route’ persons will take. This, though, is incompatible with God’s omniscience; God, if he exists, knows exactly which actions persons will take. A statement of “God knew what would have happened if Sue were take not eat the pizza on Thursday” is nonsensical if God knew that Sue were to eat pizza on Thursday; Sue’s pizza eating was unavoidable and Sue only has one possible course of actions.

God exists outside of space and time

While it is quite unclear what ‘outside of space and time’ means and how something can exist outside of space and time, some will argue that God is outside of space and time (perhaps to avoid the problem of theological fatalism). Perhaps God doesn’t know the actions before the actions had taken place, but rather sees time much differently than humans do. Perhaps God’s beliefs have no impact on what happens on the earth.

This line of thinking goes against scripture which states that God holds beliefs about what would happen on the earth. As previously mentioned, God knows all things. If God knows all things, it must be the case that God knows what will happen in the future from a ‘human perspective.’

Did not God, according to standard Christian notions of God, create the universe? At one point in time, regardless of whether he is in time or not, God – since he is omniscient – knew (and still would know) all human actions which would occur before any humans existed.

Might past, present, and future be only human concepts that are not coherent from a ‘God point of view?’ Regardless of what the answer to this question may be, assuming that God exists, this seems not to have any bearing on the problem of theological fatalism. Regardless of how God exists or where God exists, God has beliefs about human beings that cannot be falsified.

God is omniscient and knows, exactly, if he exists, what I shall do in every second of my life; God, if he exists, knows how many essays I have written, how many essays I will write, and is privy to the contents of everything I had ever written. If God, regardless of how or where he exists, holds a belief that I will have written five hundred essays in my life, it is the case that I must write five hundred essays in my lifetime because God’s belief cannot be falsified; my future is unavoidable and must contain me writing five hundred essays.

God doesn’t know the future

Giving up omniscience or otherwise trying to limit God’s omniscience might be the final solution for the theist to escape the problem of theological fatalism. This, though, would force the theist to relinquish one of the ‘omni-terms’ usually attributed to God; God is believed to be omnipotent, omniscient, and omni-benevolent. If the theist is willing to give up omniscience, so be it.

Justin Vacula

Justin Vacula hosts the Stoic Philosophy Podcast; serves as co-organizer and spokesperson for the Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) Freethought Society; and has hosted monthly Stoic Philosophy discussion groups for the Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia. He has appeared on and hosted various radio shows and podcasts; participated in formal debates and discussions; was a guest speaker for college-level courses; was featured in local, national, and international news; and has been invited to speak at various national, local, and statewide events. Vacula received bachelor's degrees in Philosophy and Psychology, a minor in Professional Writing, and the distinguished W.A. Kilburn Memorial Award for Philosophy from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He is currently living in the Scranton, PA area attending Marywood University's graduate-level Mental Health Counseling program and has worked with the Arc of Luzerne County's Transition to Community Employment program as a teacher's assistant and job coach alongside adult learners with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He also plays poker; volunteers as a member of the website and media team for the Greyhawk Reborn Dungeons & Dragons campaign while playing at events in the Eastern United States; and enjoys metal music.

  • On the beyond space and time question, the best explanation I’ve seen for it goes something like this: God is omnipresent, he exists in all places and at all times simultaneously. Therefore, God has seen every decision you will make in your lifetime because he watched you make them. The fact that he exists simultaneously in all times though means he has that knowledge of what he saw you do at all points in the timeline. He never forced you to do anything, he just watched what you did and recorded it, like a history book.

    The biggest problem with all of this philosophical masturbation is it ignores the only question that really matters, where is the evidence that God actually exists in the first place?

    • Most of this was addressed above.If God does not know actions until they are made, it doesn’t seem to be the case that he is omniscient.

      If he exists at all points in the timeline, wouldn’t this also solidify the problem because this means the future exists and God, in the past, knows what will happen in the future?

      • Just to play devil’s advocate, God certainly could be defined as omniscient in the above example because he would know everything, he just wouldn’t find things out until you actually performed the action.

        Let’s try this: Say someone video taped everything you did today, every breath you took, every decision you made, everything you said. Then they time-travelled back to yesterday with the data. They now have absolute knowledge of everything you are going to do today, a day before you do it. Do you now have no free will? Or do they just have information on what you did, prior to when you did it?

        And yes, I do think that on some level, having that information does eliminate your free will, I’m just explaining how the religious view it.

        • “because he would know everything, he just wouldn’t find things out until you actually performed the action.”

          Then he does not know everything.

          The video tape analogy doesn’t work and seems to misunderstand the problem. God, with his beliefs which can not be falsified, is much different than a person watching a video tape who has advance knowledge.

          • Yet clearly, God must know everything if he knows everything at every point in history, regardless of when it takes place. On day one, he has every bit of knowledge that happens during the entirety of existence because he’s observed the entirety of existence as it unfolded. That’s the handy thing about inventing an imaginary friend with omni powers. You can define him into doing anything you want.

            Of course, God has no evidence whatsoever to back him up, so the debate is really pointless.

          • BenYachov

            No the analogy is rather deadly to your omniscience=no free will argument.

            If I have video tapes from the future that 100% predict your actions it doesn’t logically follow the tapes themselves are causing the actions you will take as opposed to you freely causing those actions you will take. Knowing is not the same as causation.

            Boetheus pointed out God is outside of time & sees all evens in an eternal present. If I witness Socrates sitting it does not follow my witness is causing Socrates to sit. God foreseeing what you will do in the future in His eternal present does not equate him causing you to do it.

            Socrates sitting still retains the power to stand even if he never exercises it. You retain the power to choose B or have chosen B even if you never choose B but choose A.

          • The problem isn’t one of causation. The problem is that beliefs of an omniscient being can’t be falsified. God, being eternal — on many accounts of Christian theology — has every true belief possible. Since God’s beliefs can’t be falsified, humans only have one possible course of action.

            If God only knows the present, it should be clear that he is not omniscient. Adherents of open theism, as I noted earlier, have a view similar to this – and that’s fine. You can’t, though, say that God is both omniscient and only knows the present.

          • BenYachov

            >The problem isn’t one of causation. The problem is that beliefs of an omniscient being can’t be falsified.

            God (in the Classic Sense) is not an individual being who exists alongside other beings thus He can’t have “beliefs” unequivocally compared to how a regular being has beliefs. God cannot be tested empirically he can only be explored philosophically.

            >God, being eternal — on many accounts of Christian theology — has every true belief possible.

            God has no “beliefs” that is a category mistake. God has Actual Knowledge of actual events and of potential events. God has actual knowledge of all potential events that become actual & actual knowledge of all potential events that do not become actual.

            A belief dictionary definition.

            1. an opinion or conviction: a belief that the earth is flat.
            2. confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof: a statement unworthy of belief.
            3. confidence; faith; trust: a child’s belief in his parents.
            4. a religious tenet or tenets; religious creed or faith: the Christian belief.

            You are equivocating having certain knowledge vs having a mere belief.

            Plus I suspect you have a Positivist/scientism warrant in your arguments.

            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/03/scientism-roundup.html

            >If God only knows the present, it should be clear that he is not omniscient.

            I didn’t say that. I used the analogy of Boetheus that God precieves all things(past present & future) as a great eternal present.

            I’m sorry but that is not the same thing.

            Again you would benefit learning the difference between the false anthropomorphic “god” of Swimburne vs the True God of Abraham and Aquinas.

            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/07/classical-theism-roundup.html

          • BenYachov

            additionally:

            >Since God’s beliefs can’t be falsified, humans only have one possible course of action.

            A Theistic Personalist God may have beliefs & even then not all Theistic Personalist might agree with that.

            I don’t see how a Classic Theistic view of God can have beliefs? Actual Knowledge yes but beliefs no.

            I can know in the past I choose to join the US Navy and at the time I had the potential to choose not too.
            I can’t go back in time and choose differently so does that mean I had only one possible course of action?

            You would have only one course of action if you can show you are compelled(by God or Nature) to choose A & have no true potential to choose B. Since you always retain the potential to choose B you have free will even if it is infallibly known you will choose A.

          • Gandolf

            “God cannot be tested empirically he can only be explored philosophically.”

            Then the same thing could be said about a number of other human ideas too. That can be explored philosophically by human minds. But what real value? does it ever hold. Until it can find a way to also become something more than just being something philosophical. And how much time limit should the human mind, be prepared to continue to give value, to certain things that over mega amount of time continue to remain purely philosophical, while locked up within a “Classic” view .

            Such ideas seem to hold a type of ground, that seem pretty much endless. But still ,what real value to they hold.

            Classic Theistic view, almost sometime seems like a kind of, “get out of jail free” , card. Like is often used within a monopoly game.

            Maybe this classic type view, can also be used to help predict evidence for ghosts , and maybe goblins even.

            This is not to 100% disprove such things may still even yet exist. But for how long ? should the real-value of such predictions, be expect to remain so very relevant.

            That’s one of the biggest questions about some of these “classic” type views , isn’t it ?.

          • BenYachov

            Gandolf your argument beyond God is with the value of philosophy itself and by what means may we obtain true natural knowledge.

            I say you need both Philosophy and Science for natural knowledge. I would believe this even if I deny God tomorrow since the Positivism/Scientism view is at best trivial at worst incoherent.

            BLINDED BY SCIENTISM
            http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1174

            Recovering Sight after Scientism
            http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1184

          • In my three posts, I talked about God — being omniscient — having only true beliefs which can’t be falsified. This may as well be considered knowledge as the propositions are not (and cannot be) false. They are indeed not ‘just beliefs’ or ‘opinions’ as you might hear a la ‘street talk.’

          • BenYachov

            >They are indeed not ‘just beliefs’ or ‘opinions’ as you might hear a la ‘street talk.’

            I understand you have to dumb it down. We have to start simple till our ideas mature and become more complex.

            But when called on you need to smart it up since the dumb down explanation can lead to confusion.

          • If I say an omniscient being has beliefs which cannot be falsified, and because of omniscience, the beliefs are true, why is there any confusion?

          • BenYachov

            >If I say an omniscient being has beliefs which cannot be falsified, and because of omniscience, the beliefs are true, why is there any confusion?

            Because I might understand the definition of belief like the one I cited from an online dictionary which obviously can’t be coherently applied to God in the Classical sense.

            How can God for example have confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof? Let us assume there are no flying unicorns. Then God doesn’t dis-believe in flying unicorns. He knows he never made any.

            Maybe it’s Tomato vs Toemato but it is important.

          • If God knows the eternal present — and only the eternal present — how is it the case that one can maintain that he is omniscient? Can you further explain?

            What does it mean to perceive the future as the present? If God knows the future, this solidifies the problem, anyway.

          • BenYachov

            >If God knows the eternal present — and only the eternal present — how is it the case that one can maintain that he is omniscient?

            Your first mistake is you are equivocating between you and I knowing what is going on now in the present with God knowing all of Time, past, present & future, timelessly in his Eternal Present. If God knows everything in His Eternal Now then how can he not be omniscient?

            >What does it mean to perceive the future as the present?

            Much better question. Good job! How is the concept coherent? Well it can’t be known unequivocally but only like God by way of analogy. God is like a point in the center of the circle and the circle represents time. He sits timelessly in the center and everything in time is a Big Now to him. Since the present point that is Him is connected all the other points in Time and He experiences them all at once.

            >If God knows the future, this solidifies the problem, anyway.

            I don’t see how unless the future can somehow cause the present? But the present can cause the future.

            One other problem if we return to the Tape analogy. If I show you the Tape you might choose to act differently then what you see in the tape. But if you do then the events on the tape would not have happened. Thus they could not be recorded and I couldn’t take it back in time to show you so you may choose different. GrandFather paradox.

            God could let you know if you will write 500 essays but then you could choose to do that or change it. But of course God would know what or if you would choose differently from all eternity.

          • Gandolf

            Ben said…”I say you need both Philosophy and Science for natural knowledge”

            Yes i can even fully agree with that Ben, we sure do need (both) philosophy and science.

            But my question was about what value the philosophy part should continue to have , if it doesn’t ever get to also have the scientific part, also part backing it up.

            IE : Philosophy – the science evidence = what exactly?

            People philosophize about so many things in life. Some people may even philosophize about ideas for the existence of ghosts or unicorns and more. While this is indeed still some philosophy. It still does little, to help prove how it is also of any great belief-value , does it. For it sill lacks in the scientific part. The scientific part, of what makes up the full-belief-equation, remains part-empty.

            The classic theism, is kind of the philosophy part speaking. But still, what great value? does it actually have to it , without also finding/having the science part, to help back it up ?.

            While the links you posted are very important and valid. I really don’t feel they even belong in this little discussion happening here between you and i . For i’m not blinded by scientism , simply because i see that philosophy ,without also having the science, has far less value. Me seeing that, doesn’t suggest a form of blindness.

            More to the point , i could say, maybe its you that have been “slightly” blinded , by faith belief and theism . For it seem to me, you may feel we human can afford to rely 100% ,upon just having some sort of philosophy .

            If you think philosophy hold a whole lot of belief-value, forever, and ever . Without need for finding the scientific part at some stage too. I would tend to say , it would even really start seem a little like, maybe you have been blinded a little by something.

            For people could claim almost anything exists in life , and outside of life too ,simply by adopting that philosophical type of thought process. We could even have people here on planet earth , living with some pretty positive belief forms,saying with 100% thought processes, that they feel there are indeed some real Oompa-Loompas existing. But that there just couldn’t be some scientific evidence part ,ever found of them , is all that’s wrong with their belief decision.

            But i ask, how much ? value would/should this kind of belief-process continue to have , specially if it existed for thousands upon thousands of years . Generation after generation . Yet still never ever finds any of the scientific type evidence part, to help back up the philosophy part.

            In time, surely the philosophy part of a belief, at some stage must also start to lose some of its truth-value too. Us just saying , but such belief is in the “classic” philosophy sense . Still doesn’t do a whole lot, to offer it any more “real” value , does it ?. This is why i say, when i hear use of classic theism, as a form of defence of continued belief in Gods. It tend to also remind me a little, of the “get out of jail free” card , people will also choose to use when involved in the “game” monopoly. And in my opinion , it almost tends to turn this form of classical belief in Gods, into almost being like people involved in playing a theist-game

  • Copyleft

    One argument I’ve seen advanced to defend free will in the face of godly omniscience is “but humans don’t KNOW the answer that God already knows, so they still think they’re choosing freely.” In other words, free will depends on our ignorance.

    It’s tail-chasing nonsense, but I suppose it can be a fun mental exercise.

    • That’s misunderstanding the problem. It’s not about what humans know or do not know, but rather what God knows.

      • Ultimately, it all depends on things like information theory, temporal paradoxes and how people define free will in the first place. Time travel, which is essentially what God is defined as doing, messes up everything.

        • BenYachov

          Good points there Cephus.

          I just Atheist arguments by a very high standard. I like to imagine there is no God & ask if there is no God would this argument still be valid?

          So far I see weak sauce.

          >Time travel, which is essentially what God is defined as doing, messes up everything.

          Time travel is only possible if you are in Time in the first place. I can’t travel by Sea if I am on the land. How can God travel in Time if He is outside of Time? Also if Time travel is not even possible or even coherently possible for those of us in time then this is nothing more than a lame “Can God make a Rock so heavy etc” or “Can God make 2+2=5?” argument.

          Some advice Justin. Learn some Thomism.

          • The problem is, there really is no such thing as being “outside of time”. So much of what Christians do with regard to God is just make up a bunch of ridiculous mumbo-jumbo, but it sounds good to people who aren’t very critical about their beliefs in the first place. All of this “debate” really means about as much as arguing over how things work in the Harry Potter universe. It’s academic but ultimately pointless.

            There’s still no evidence or logical reason to think any of it is actually true.

          • BenYachov

            >The problem is, there really is no such thing as being “outside of time”.

            Says who? It seems Stephen Hawking postulates before there was “time” there was Imaginary time. Which is some form of Time that is governed by imaginary numbers.

            I don’t have to believe in God to understand or believe that concept.

  • BenYachov

    There are other problems. What does theological fatalism have do with the existence of God? Under reductionist materialism I don’t have any real free will either. In a godless universe governed by quantum super-determinism it is even more so.

    Also a Thomist would insist you can’t by definition compare God unequivocally to creatures. You can only compare them analogously. Are all these arguments you are giving based on an unequivocal comparison between creatures or not? Because if the former they are by definition non-starter objections. They at best refute a subset of general Theistic beliefs but not all of them.

    • Theological fatalism isn’t about the existence of god, but rather a problem which seems to occur regarding the incompatibility of omniscience and free will.

      “Under reductionist materialism I don’t have any real free will either. In a godless universe governed by quantum super-determinism it is even more so.”

      I’m not talking about any of these things. Anyway, I am agnostic on the matter of free will if you care to know.

      I am not comparing God to creatures, but rather — according to standard theistic accountings for omniscience — am talking about this property/quality/attribute in relation to the plausibility of free will.

      • BenYachov

        >I am not comparing God to creatures, but rather — according to standard theistic accountings for omniscience

        You have to deal with specifics otherwise your arguments don’t mean much even if God does not exist. How Aquinas understands God to “know” is not the same as let us say Plantinga’s understanding.

        >— am talking about this property/quality/attribute in relation to the plausibility of free will.

        What kind of “free will”? Lockian Volunteerism or Aquinas view that the Intellect Moves the will? This might be important.

        >I am not comparing God to creatures,

        You pretty much are doing that it is impossible to do otherwise. Are you imagining God as an essentially human mind only without our limitations that would be an unequivocally comparison.

        God can only be known analogously. Go study up on the Thomistic doctrine of analogy then we can talk.

        • BenYachov

          >Theological fatalism isn’t about the existence of god, but rather a problem which seems to occur regarding the incompatibility of omniscience and free will.

          If you challenge me to a debate on the existence of God and you bring up Theological fatalism then I walk out. Why? Because I have no problem whatsoever accepting a debate on Theological Fatalism then I can study up on the topic and prepare an argument. But it seems to be to be a bait and switch to make the topic of your debate “Does God exist” and not debate that proposition.

          Since an evil fatalistic God could be imagined to exist. But if such a God exists then Atheism is wrong.

          • If your definition of God included omniscience and you believed God granted people free will, the argument of theological fatalism is appropriate. A “Does God Exist?” debate isn’t about all types of God, but rather the type of God my opponent argues for.

          • BenYachov

            >If your definition of God included omniscience and you believed God granted people free will, the argument of theological fatalism is appropriate.

            Of course it is but it is still a bait and switch to call it a debate on the existence of God when you should call it a “Does Omniscience & Foreknowledge negate Free Will” debate.

            Sorry no getting around that. Not that I am in anyway accusing you of being willfully deceptive. I am not. You seem an honest enough guy. But in the future. Do yourself a favor. Remedy that.

            >A “Does God Exist?” debate isn’t about all types of God, but rather the type of God my opponent argues for.

            Then one should use Kenny’s criticisms of Aquinas’ third way and Fifth Way. As for the type of god I’m still not convinced you know the difference between Classic Theism vs Theistic Personalism.

            Beside Omniscience & Foreknowledge means something different as apllied to each concept.

  • BenYachov

    Some other points I have.

    >While it is quite unclear what ‘outside of space and time’ means and how something can exist outside of space and time, some will argue that God is outside of space and time (perhaps to avoid the problem of theological fatalism).

    Justin it is an infallible dogma of the Catholic Church that God is timeless. I believe it was defined by Lateran IV and it was believed by all the Church fathers. It’s part of Christian tradition not some clever device to answer Atheists. If you don’t understand the concept then you can’t formulate a coherent response to it.

    >Did not God, according to standard Christian notions of God, create the universe? At one point in time, regardless of whether he is in time or not,

    No God created time with the rest of creation. There was no time before God created it. Nor is the creation of Time separate from His creating the rest of creation.

    I find your responses very weak here since you don’t bother to take on any of the analogies used by eternalists classic or modern. You merely dismiss the eternalist answer & or profess ignorance of it and don’t really interact with it IMHO.

    >Might past, present, and future be only human concepts that are not coherent from a ‘God point of view?’ Regardless of what the answer to this question may be, assuming that God exists, this seems not to have any bearing on the problem of theological fatalism.

    That doesn’t make sense. If you are postulating a human with infallible human knowledge of future events then your argument holds. But if God is not human and doesn’t know like a human and we can’t compare God’s knowing unequivocally with human knowing then your argument is a category mistake.

    It’s similar to the problems in Nagel’s “What’s it like to be a Bat” essay.

    >Regardless of how God exists or where God exists, God has beliefs about human beings that cannot be falsified.

    Rather God has Actual Knowledge of actual events. He doesn’t believe He knows. But it doesn’t logically follow the way he knows it causes the events.

    >If God, regardless of how or where he exists, holds a belief that I will have written five hundred essays in my life, it is the case that I must write five hundred essays in my lifetime because God’s belief cannot be falsified; my future is unavoidable and must contain me writing five hundred essays.

    Analogously speaking from God’s Eternal perspective each choice you made to write each essay is being viewed by God in an Eternally Present Now outside of Time. Not at some point in time that can look forward to a future it infallibly knows. Since knowledge of the present does not conflict with free choice then God’s eternally present knowledge of all actual events can’t either.

    True you can’t change directly what God knows just as you can’t directly change choices you made in the past. But in either case free will is not effected. There is no causal connection between seeing Socrates sit vs causing Socrates to sit.

    It is impossible for you to know what only God can know and it is impossible for you to know what God knows the way God knows it. Just as you can’t know what it is to be a bat. But it is possible for you to freely choose to write 500 essays or not. Knowing what you will do in the future does not cause the choice.

  • BenYachov

    This paper by Norman Swartz is interesting.

    QUOTE”In this article, various ways of trying to solve the problem—for example, by putting constraints on the truth-conditions for statements, or by “tightening” the conditions necessary for knowledge—are examined and shown not to work. Ultimately the alleged incompatibility of foreknowledge and free will is shown to rest on a subtle logical error. When the error, a modal fallacy, is recognized and remedied, the problem evaporates.END QUOTE

    see the whole thing here.

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/foreknow/

  • BenYachov

    If you want a professional explaination of what Cephas and I have been talking about in regards to how Divine Foreknowledge & free will are reconciled in that God sees all Time in an eternal Now.

    Read this paper by K A Rogers and Green

    Time foreknowledge and alternative possibilities

  • Max

    Wow. I had all my notes ready to go and BenYachov seems to have beaten me to the chase. I guess I could offer ‘something’ to move this discussion forward.

    If an atheist says there is a contradiction between human free will and God’s omniscience, then he is assuming some hidden premises. With Justin, we see at least one:

    “Since God’s beliefs can’t be falsified, humans only have one possible course of action.”

    This is false. God’s ‘beliefs’ about the world, including human actions, do not determine the truth value of the proposition in question. This might be true if God says, “X must be so” or “I determine that X”. Rather, the state of affairs themselves, if true, determines God’s ‘belief’., for God knows all true propositions.

    So God’s ‘belief’ doesn’t determine the truth value, God believes it because it is true. Therefore, this hidden assumption doesn’t provide a contradiction for the theist. This has a similar taste to the Euthryphro dilemma:

    Is something true because God believes it’s true, or does God believe it is true because it is true?

    The theist is inclined to adopt the latter, not the former. So it remains dubious how the atheist can maintain that there is a contradiction between human free will and God’s omniscience. What, in the following premises, contradicts human free will?

    1.) At time t, Max will cut the grass.
    2.) It is time t.
    3.) Therefore, Max is cutting the grass.
    A*) God knows that premise (1) is true.
    A**) Max has free will.

    • BenYachov

      Even thought it seems to be popular on both sides among many who debate Foreknowledge and Free Will I don’t like the praise “God has beliefs”.

      God simply knows. If there is really no such thing as an Invisible Pink Unicorn God does not disbelieve in it rather He knows he never made one. If Evolution is true then God doesn’t have a belief in Evolution. He simply knows that is how He freely chose to create diversity among living thing threw His Divine Providence.

      “Belief” is too weak a term vs “Know”.

      • Max

        That’s why I often have the word belief written with markers (‘belief’) to emphasize that I’m using it loosely. Knowledge is a type of belief, a warranted true belief. So one isn’t technically wrong when he says that God has beliefs. But to avoid thinking that God has opinions, or educated guesses, I suppose one should clarify this before hand.

        • BenYachov

          Which is why the whole “God has beliefs you can’t falsify” meme is bogus. How do you falsify God’s & my “belief” that 2+2=4?

          As Swartz shows above Justin’s argument may prove too much. If I have a correct belief prior too 2008 Obama will win the 2008 Election does that equate fatalism? Does that negate free will?

          Since there is an argument that any correct belief about the future can negate Free will and mandate fatalism.

          Go read that link Max.

          • Max

            I agree that the Euthyphro dilemma is a false dilemma. The only people I hear using it against theism these days are those in entry level philosophy classes who think they are clever by relating Plato’s dialogue to theism. But thanks for providing me that link. I’ll check out Edward’s other blogs. It’s always nice to converse with fellow philosophers.

            And I also agree: Having a correct belief prior to some event has no causal influence to bring that event into existence, or into a state of ‘truth’. That event is true if and only if the conditions of the proposition hold, not whether one has a prior true belief. Once one sees this, then it’s easy to see why the atheist comes up empty handed when trying to explain the alleged contradiction.

            There might be another hidden assumption in Justin’s argument. It might presuppose that in order to have free will, one must have the possibility to do otherwise. But I think this is false. Imagine that an evil scientist puts a small device in my brain such that out of choices A and B, if I choose A, he leaves me alone, but if I choose B, he pushes the button and forces me to choose A. Now imagine that I choose A. Didn’t I do so freely even if I didn’t have the option to choose B? What would be the difference here if I chose A with or without this brain implant? There wouldn’t be a difference, for I freely chose A in both cases. Now if God knows we will do something, it’s irrelevant whether we ‘could have done otherwise’. Therefore, not being able to falsify God’s ‘belief’ (knowing that P) really says nothing against free will.

  • BenYachov

    God, obligation, and the Euthyphro dilemma

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/10/god-obligation-and-euthyphro-dilemma.html

    The above link might give you some insight.

    It will also help you when Justin brings up the so called “Evil God” challenge.

  • BenYachov

    >it is the case that I must write five hundred essays in my lifetime because God’s belief cannot be falsified; my future is unavoidable and must contain me writing five hundred essays.

    If in the present at T Justin chooses to write 500 essays (no more no less) he must choose to write 500 essays at T and he can’t choose not too at T write. Yet he still has free will and still freely choose at T to write them.

    So I don’t buy this foreknowledge negates Free will nonsense. As even Cephes the Atheist points out this whole argument involves explaining what is free will. Time travel, and information theory.

    It’s no more a silver bullet for Atheist then the can God make a rock so heavy blah blah nonsense.

    You take over here Max. I might be back in the near future.

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