Free Will and Sin


#1

Someone on another message board that I go to recently posted a difficult “question”. It goes as follows:

“I always asked, if God knows everything, and he let’s us choose what we want, then he knows we are gonna do it. It’s fate. So, since he knows we are gonna do it, it can’t be a sin.”

[size=2]How do I respond to that? I looked online to see if I could find an answer, but what the things I found were long-winded (I.E. going into various historical debates). I was hoping for a more concise answer. So, can anyone explain this to me?

Thanks. :)[/size]

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#2

God gives us the graces we need at every moment to stay in a state of grace and avoid sin. We sin by rejecting that grace. We will never die, face God, and be able to say “You didn’t help me enough.”

God may have foreknowledge, but he respects our free will. He extends enough help to assist us in facing these situations.

Here’s one way to turn it around on this person:

If God forced us to love him, would it be love?


#3

If someone tells you they are going to murder someone, and then proceeds to do so, are they any less morally responsible for the act because you had foreknowledge of it? Did your foreknowledge of the event in any way cause the event?

Also bear in mind that God foreknows all of our actions because he is omniscient, yes, but also because he stands in eternity, outside of time, and has the fullness of time at his disposal.


#4

I’m not sure what the person who posted that is trying to say. Just because God knows eveything past present and future does not mean that we do not have a choice in the decisions we make. I always thought fate was when your life was planned for you and nothing you did would change the final outcome.

Just for a random example of how our decisions in life affect us: In the movie Back to the Future, The professor was murdered. When Michael J. Fox went back in time he knew(like God) what the future was. But when the professor chose to wear a buttet proof vest the second time he did not die.

I know this is a corney example but the overall point is that God can help guide our decisions and he sees the outcome in the end, but the gift of free will allows us to choose out own fate. We choose to sin by knowing the sin, being conscience at the time of sin, and giving full consent of the will. Notice that ***we ***give full consent of the will to sin. Sin is all about choice, not fate and God knowing our choice does nothing to change the fact that we made it.


#5

Put it this way.

From every sense we, as humans, are able to perceive:

  1. the future is a surprise, and
  2. we have free will.

Lemme clarify what I mean by “free” will:

Free, in that we have capability to choose. It may be life and death – blessing or curse – or it just may be 6 or half dozen where one is not clearly more moral than another. People can possibly coerce us to act or talk a certain way, but in our minds and hearts nobody can prevent us from making choices we know are wrong if we wish to do them.

Not free in that there are consequences of our choices and from a human perspective, we are “responsible” for our own individual choices.


Really the issue of free will can be argued as an issue of responsibility. If I sin, who is responsible? God, because since He knew it there was no way I could avoid it, or me, because of my sinful nature?

Put another way, am I guilty because I chose death, or am I innocent because it was destined to happen so I was unable to choose any other way? Christ actually cleansed us because of our own ignorance “they know not what they do” so we do not have to be afraid of the awesome responsibility and associated punishment involved in imperfectly exercising our free will.

Therefore, from the free will point of view, I am free to choose and possibly err. From the destiny point of view, I am simply a passenger on the fun ride of life. Either way, I don’t have to live in fear of guilt and of God’s punishment through Christ, and I can truly accept the gift of Christ’s peace without guilt-ridden anxiety.

Alan


#6

Think of it this way: God simply knows what we did tomorrow. Eternity plays by a whole different set of rules than our timeline. We will our own actions, it’s just that the future has “already happened” from the perspective of Eternity. We are responsible for our current actions just as we were responsible for our actions yesterday; just because they’ve already past us in time doesn’t mean they were “fated”.


#7

Thanks all! :slight_smile:

God bless!


#8

A new twist…

He has shifted focus a little. I mentioned that God doesn’t make us do things. I also said that he knows what we are going to do before we do it. He came back with:

“So God knows we are going to do it, but doesn’t make us do it. Then we could choose to do something different?”
[font=Arial]
[size=1]I said that God knows what we’re going to do. We can’t trip him up by somehow doing something he didn’t expect.

Now he said:

[/size][/font]"Hmm…so he knows what we are going to do no matter what. He knows what we will do before we do it, so there is no way to change our minds. We (in a way) have to do it.

Sounds a lot like fate to me."

[font=Arial][size=1]I said at the start that “fate” wasn’t a factor here, but I don’t know what to say next. I don’t know why I let myself get into these things. I’m not a good debator. :frowning:
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#9

Remind him that Eternity is not simply “an infinitely long time”, but rather a wholely different perspective on time. Eternity touches all points in time equally, so viewing the world from Eternity allows you to see what will happen tomorrow. We will do what we will (as in will to happen), not what is willed for us, so we are not bound by fate. It’s just that, from the perspective of Eternity, the future is already present. Our wills shaped this future, however.

Another thing to consider is that the past is set in stone and can’t be changed by us, but we do not say that we did not have free will in the past because of our perspective in the present. We simply acknowledge that the past is set, and that it was freely willed. In two minutes, my typing this will be in the past, but that doesn’t negate my free will now. From God’s perspective in Eternity, all things are equally “the past”, so He knows what we will do. The fact that a person twenty years from now will acknowledge that history only happened one way, and they know exactly how it happened, doesn’t limit our will in making that past.


#10

[quote=Quies_Noctum][font=Arial][size=1]
[/size][/font]"Hmm…so he knows what we are going to do no matter what. He knows what we will do before we do it, so there is no way to change our minds. We (in a way) have to do it.

Sounds a lot like fate to me."

[/quote]

It may be “fate” from the standpoint of God’s domain, but again it is free will and unknowing of the future from any senses we have, including our imagination. In a sense, we “had to do that” but the fun part is we never know precisely what it is we have to do, so life is still fun and mysterious for us.

It it like a scratch-off lottery ticket. When I scratch the ticket off, although it is predestined whether I win, I don’t know what that destiny is. Since there is a chance element, the game continues to be interesting.

It’s like telling a joke to another person. You know how it’s going to come out before you tell the punch line, but it’s only funny because the person hearing the joke experiences surprise at the punch line.

It is like an amusement park ride you go on for the first time. Much of the thrill is that you don’t know what’s going to happen next, although the ride operator has run it 4,000 times and knows pretty closely exactly what the ride is going to do.

So is life. Predestined or not is irrelevant from our human senses. Fascinating fodder for the imagination, but the entire issue is relegated to mental constructs until such time as we can accurately predict the macroscopic future.

Just think about how boring it could be to be God. Responsible for the whole universe, and no surprises at all.

Alan


#11

You know, now that I mention it, I wonder whether we truly do have free will and that God somehow experiences some form of consciousness that travels through time with us. Why? Because if God knew everything we would do in advance, what would be the point? It would be like watching the thousandth time rerun of a movie where He had all the lines memorized.

I’m tempted to hypothesize that God may not know precisely what we will do in advance. I’m saying that not because I believe it but because I’m considering the opposite view from what I previously had held. What if he created us, (and quantum theory makes this even more compelling) specifically to introduce uncertainty in His life, for His pleasure? Again, who knows the mind of God? Since God is omniscient, can He “will” to be unaware of the future?

Alan


#12

AlanFromWichita: I actually think that the Eternity idea solves the problem of God not having any suprises. God is present at all moments in time at once, and while God therefore knows all moments, God is also always experiencing them. Every “moment” that God looks upon is like the first time He’s watching it, from the Creation of the Universe to the Day of Judgement. God knows what will happen, but also experiences every moment perfectly. It’s not like God is sitting around going “Tomorrow is when such and such will happen,” but is rather literally watching it happen right now. Rather than being constantly bored, God is experiencing just the opposite, being constantly present at every “new” event. Have you heard that at every Mass we are present at the Last Supper and on Calvary, and simultaneously present at the Heavenly celebration of the Mass? That’s the mystery of Eternity, and God’s place in it; He is both present and reigning over us in Heaven, AND being crucified as a man at the same time.

This is all pretty difficult for the human mind to wrap itself around, but that’s the difficulty with contemplating God’s nature at all.


#13

Deaer Ghosty,

I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this. Of course I don’t know what it’s like to be God but your ideas go a long way toward bridging a conceptual gap between lack of surprise and boredom.

Alan


#14

Very interesting thread.

The poster on the other forum is puting human limits on God’s omniscience by placing linearity.

God doesn’t simply know what we are going to do. God is outside of time, so God knows EVERY possible action we may perform and every outcome of those actions. There are infinite possible actions we could take an infinite outcomes for our actions. Our free will will lead to any one of those infinite outcomes. God’s omnicscience is too big for us humans who are trapped within time to wrap our minds around.

I don’t know if you remember those old “ChooseYour Own Adventure” books from back in grade school (gamebooks.org/cyoalist.htm)). Basically you read the story and when you got to a page, it had various actions you could take, once you chose your action you would then turn to the proper page in the book for what you chose, and based on how you chose in the book, you would end up with a different ending. Our lives would be as if we multiplied all those choices and endings by infinity and God knows them all.


#15

[quote=Quies_Noctum]A new twist…

He has shifted focus a little. I mentioned that God doesn’t make us do things. I also said that he knows what we are going to do before we do it. He came back with:

“So God knows we are going to do it, but doesn’t make us do it. Then we could choose to do something different?”
[font=Arial]
[size=1]I said that God knows what we’re going to do. We can’t trip him up by somehow doing something he didn’t expect.

Now he said:

[/size][/font]"Hmm…so he knows what we are going to do no matter what. He knows what we will do before we do it, so there is no way to change our minds. We (in a way) have to do it.
[/quote]

You also may want to point out that if God did not know what we will choose, before we choose it, it would mean that God was not all knowing - it would show a defect in God.

I sometimes use this example. I say this: "Let’s say that “time” is a ruler that has 12 inches. The first inch is the time of Adam and Eve. A little further on (maybe the 3rd inch), we have the time of Noah, then around the 6th inch, the time of Moses; then Jesus’s day around the 9th inch. We are near the end of the ruler. For those in living in “time” (on the ruler), the previous inches were the past, whereas the inches that have not yet been reached are the future; but for God He sees it all at once, as we would when viewing a ruler from above. God is outside of time. IF we make a resolution to do one thing, then later change our mind, God knew all along what our final choice would be since he is outside of time and all knowling - we cannot trick God by chaning our mind. God gave us free will, and told us how we are to use it. Since He is all knowing, he knows what our choices will be, but he never forces us to choose either way. That is why it is called free-will.

Don’t be surprised if the person you are talking to doesn’t get it. A lot of people have fallen into error over free will, predestination, fate, etc. If you get a little confused, come back here for help. There are a lot of good people here who will be able to help you.


#16

God is not subject to His own creation–Time. We His creatures are. To God, time is past, present and future–all at once (the eternal Now), but we experience time one moment after the next–in a linier fashion–and we make choices one moment after the next–determining the course of our own lives. God sees all our choices at once in the eternal Now–but we experience it differently and therefore can choose our ultimate destiny without God “influencing” or “controlling” or “deciding” for us. Though God does know what we choose, He does not know it “before” we do it–because He has no “before” --that would make Him subject to time–He knows it Now.

I was trying to be succinct–but…it’s such a huge thing to get your brain around!


#17

[quote=Quies_Noctum]Someone on another message board that I go to recently posted a difficult “question”. It goes as follows:

[font=Verdana][size=1]“I always asked, if God knows everything, and he let’s us choose what we want, then he knows we are gonna do it. It’s fate. So, since he knows we are gonna do it, it can’t be a sin.”[/size]

How do I respond to that? I looked online to see if I could find an answer, but what the things I found were long-winded (I.E. going into various historical debates). I was hoping for a more concise answer. So, can anyone explain this to me?

Thanks. :slight_smile:
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[/quote]

I don’t understand the logic for the following statement. “So, since he knows we are gonna do it, it can’t be a sin.” The best answer I can come up with is It is sin. Just because God knows we are going to do it doesn’t change the fact that we went against his commandments and disobeyed him. The way I understand free will and predestination is that we do the good things through God and he gets the credit but when we do evil we do it of our own accord and take the blame. I hope that answers the question.


#18

Thanks all. :slight_smile:


#19

I like the ruler example, that is very practical.

Can you help me answer this: Why do it? Why did God make our reality knowing it would fail? And how can a sinless and holy God create something perfect knowing it would/will/did sin? If God is all knowing He must have planned sin and its redemption and I find that a difficult paradox.


#20

[quote="gravel, post:19, topic:18352"]
Can you help me answer this: Why do it? Why did God make our reality knowing it would fail? And how can a sinless and holy God create something perfect knowing it would/will/did sin? If God is all knowing He must have planned sin and its redemption and I find that a difficult paradox.

[/quote]

Maybe free will and the possibility/actuality of choosing to love is a greater good than any sin that may possiblity be brought about by the exercise of that will.

-steve


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