Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Divine Omniscience and Human Freedom

From guest blogger, David H.

It seems there is a standstill in the discrepancy between God’s omniscience and human free will, one that is relentlessly exercised but finds little closure. My goal in this post is to put forth two points, one formal argument, as well as a second claim (more of a food for thought type of situation) that would secure an Anselmian God that is able to possess omniscient/potent/benevolent qualities, while still allowing for humans to have free will over their decision-making specifically.

My argument works as such: We will refer to the current perceived human time stream that can only move forward as "X".
p1) Humans are bound by time, space, and X and by nature associate all sense of reason and understanding through these determining bounds.
 p2) God has complete omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence.
 p3) If God is omniscient and if He is bound by time, space and X, human free will cannot coexist paradoxically because of His presence.
 p4) God is not bound by time, space, and X.
 C)  Therefore, God has complete omniscience while humans retain their free will.
The true distinction here comes in the state of which we perceive God. If He is bound to our human state, it seems the unvierse would be fully determinstic and His fully capacityy for predicting/seeing/knowing the future would directly inhibit any natural or free action for humans. They would be incapable of freely willing any decision on independently of God’s knowledge. By removing God from time and space, God would view all occurences in the universe simultaneously, thus not a lacking on His omniscience, but instead a broader persepctive of knowledge, opposed to the small scope of human perception. He would not only view/know things that are happening now in the current state of humanity, but He potentially would bare witness to all ‘past’ and ‘future’ states. From God’s perspective in His state of being, one that sees the entire existence of the universe at once, our paths might be determined, however from our human perspective in this state of being, there is no reason to assert that everything happens in a purely determinsitic fashion.

In coherence with my last argument, I would follow with another claim that help preserves God’s omniscience and omnipotence in the face of human free will. This may move forward a bit more, let’s say, “loosely theistic,” but let’s try it.

Let’s say God still exists outside of space and time. For the sake of the argument, let’s clarify that humans are stuck in a time stream of space that can only move forward, one that God is apart from, and in this time stream, any choice we make can only affect the future because of the nature of our moving forward.

Now, I would like to preserve God’s omniscience and omnipotence. If He has complete omnipotence, God does possess the power to affect our choices and pre-determine the world. However, He allows free will for humans, not because he can’t make decisions for us in His power, its that He chooses to not intervene and allow free will. Now, I forsee an objection to this being that why would God choose this course of action if He knows the best option and could avoid evils... I will return to this in a minute...

Now, God created humans, so He knows every human being so well that He knows what choices we will ultimately make... It then becomes the responsibility of the human to make their own decision, completely separate from God’s knowledge because of the separation in space and time. Because it falls on the human to make these decisions or not, it is no longer God’s responsibility because of his acceptance of human free will. We cannot hold God liable, for it is in His innate nature to not have influence in these decisions. It because of logical impossbility for God to actually interfere, thus making humans responsible for every course of action and evil that transpires. Because of His existence in a different state as well as his nature in general, humans cannot know what God wants, making them completely responsible. Theologically the trump here balances on the question of why doesn’t God interfere in the end if He sees it all. Why doesn’t He just help us avoid evil? The answer is simple. Love can only be given through free will; you can’t force anyone to love you... not even God can make this to be true. By allowing free will, God allows humans the CHOICE to love him as well. He must allow her necessary evil in order for free will to exist, because if he didn’t allow it to exist, His love would neither given nor received.

I am not even 100% sold on this philosophy, however it seems to work very flexibly and yet still preserve a rigorous perception of God and human capacity. I look forward to reading your feedback.


Anonymous said...

I've opined at length on these thought experiments. These really amount to deism; albeit, without the impulse of "something had to create all this", or "intuition suggests a prime mover". Hume's "Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion", published posthumously, by, I believe, his nephew, is the most probing enquiry I am aware of on this topic. It's a dialogue between Philo, the atheist sceptic; Demea, the deist; and Cleanthes, the theologian. Demea's input surfaces now and again in an effort to reveal three distinct dispositions from the matter.

Anonymous said...

What I think Hume's "Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion" reveals - what any dialogue is supposed to reveal - are the dispositions of the participants. All but every argument you might have thought possible is given in an engaged discussion between Philo and Cleanthes on the matter of evidence for God. Demea, with no stomach for any of this, injects a few platitudes, leaves and returns, almost as if the first and foremost thing on his mind is "what's taking the pizza so long?"