God’s Consistency

You can’t get rid of free will that easily. Foreknowledge does not obviate free will. Extend the movie example. In a move there is no free will, not because there is only one outcome but because the movie follows a script written before filming and the outward dialog and actions are determined in advance for the characters. But now consider a documentary. There is only one outcome because it is a recording of events, but the people in the documentary are free to act and react as they choose during the filming - no script.

Does God’s foreknowledge imply that there is only one possible future? From the objector’s claim, from God’s vantage point there isn’t more than one possible set of events in the future to go along with the present.

I think this might be a difference in perspective. For us, our decisions and actions shape our future, based in large part on our free will. Our free will cannot change a hurricane’s path for example, but it can cause us to build a better shelter and allow us to survive said hurricane. But God, being outside of time, knows what we did/will decide and how the documentary plays out. For us, the future is malleable; for God, it will happen, is happening, and did happen all in His eternal now.

So to say there’s only one possible future that can happen, alluding to the Catholic idea of predestination (that God predestines some to heaven, but wishes all to be saved, but doesn’t predestine others to damnation). I suppose we might not have libertarian free will (that we could have done otherwise) but maybe a self-determinism, where we are the end of the chain of causality (@Wesrock explains it well).

Not quite what I meant, but not sure that I can adequately explain it.

Everything that I say in this is just my own musings and in no way official Church position. But my understanding of how it was explained to me is that we do decide and we do shape our futures, so from out point of view the future is whatever we make it. However, God already knows (and knew from the very act of creation) what our decisions would be and are. However, this is not the same as my understanding of predestination, which implies to me that God actively chooses some to be saved rather than simply knowing who will accept grace and be saved thereby. I see this as a clear difference, although I understand that some don’t.

I can agree with this. I think I need to read more about the teaching to better understand it.

As a follow-up of God’s foreknowledge/infallibility and our free will, what should I make of this?:

"One of the most common ways [to get] around the difficulty states that merely knowing what someone is going to do does not prevent them from doing it freely. For example, I may know that if you find a $100 bill on the sidewalk you will pick it up, but it doesn’t follow from that that you don’t do so freely. You could refrain from picking up the money; it’s just that I know you wouldn’t want to do so. Likewise, some claim, God’s knowledge of what you are going to do tomorrow doesn’t mean your decisions aren’t free.

It may help to make this point clearer if we compare it with knowledge of what has already occurred. Let’s say that yesterday you had pizza for dinner, and that God (of course) knows that. This doesn’t mean that you didn’t do so freely: you could have had something else. There were other possibilities as to what you might have had. However, the choice you actually made was to have pizza. Now contrast that with God’s knowledge of what you are going to have for dinner tomorrow. Again, there are different possibilities as to what you might have. However, there is only one that you will actually choose, and God knows, in spite of there being other possibilities, which one it will in fact be.

This argument may appear perfectly sensible. After all, in many cases we can predict with pretty good accuracy what someone will do (especially if we know the person well) – and yet we don’t think that someone isn’t acting freely for that reason. So why should it be any different with God’s knowledge?

But in fact it is different, and to understand why we merely need to remember one thing about God: namely, that he is supposedly infallible. That is, God cannot possibly make mistakes; by definition, he cannot be wrong. And that changes things.

As we have already seen, in order for you to be free in the sense being discussed here, it must be the case that you are free to choose from among different alternatives. Your choice of pizza yesterday was free only if it is true that you could have chosen something else instead. And this means that if tomorrow’s decisions are to be free, there have to be different possibilities as to what you will do. Maybe it is the case that you will, as it turns out, have spaghetti for dinner, but nevertheless other alternatives must exist. You aren’t free if having spaghetti is the only thing that it is even possible for you.

But now here’s the problem: if God cannot be wrong, then it is impossible for there to be alternatives to what he knows you are going to have. In other words, it’s not merely that God knows that you are in fact going to have spaghetti, while other possibilities remain. Rather, since it is impossible for God to be wrong, it is also impossible for you to have anything else. Because for there to be another possibility is for there to be the possibility of God making a mistake." (bold mine)

God knowing and having always known what you are going to choose does not change the fact that you are making the choice completely freely. I don’t get why this seems to be hard to understand.

For your choice to be free it only needs to be your choice. Contrast that with you being a puppet with no agency. Your will is free of external coercion. Instead it follows from intrinsic principles to the agent. That’s the traditional concept of free will. Most Catholic viewpoints are compatibilist anyway, which allows for both determination and free will. In fact, if I repeated the same scenario a dozen times in the exact same circumstances and saw a man choose differently in each one, I’d find that to be an argument against free will. If all his wants and desires and appetites and knowledge are the same, why would we see different results? The only explanation is that there is something else external to him (and not him himself) that makes the choice for him.

Anyway, even all that aside, the above arguments all seem to again consider God to have a past, present, and future and don’t grasp what it means to be eternal. God isn’t progressing parallel to us.

I can conceive of the existence of a situation where the combined wants, desires, and appetites applied to a given set of choices don’t definitively favor one choice over another, so that different outcomes to the same scenario run more than once are reasonable. Sometimes the choice is to choose randomly.

Choices aren’t truly random, and a “random” choice isn’t a choice at all. The same knowledge and appetites in the same situation would lead to the same “random” (in a colloquial sense) choice every time.

The two biggest explanations of free will in Catholicism are that (1) God either premoves your will to certain dispositions or (2) he already knows what you would choose (without premotion) in any given circumstance and sets the stage for things to play out as he wants. Clearly Catholics have a different conception of what it means for a choice to be free than this author.

If the balance of influences is exactly equal between two or more options, such that there is not a clear choice based on those influences, then what drives the choice? I won’t get into how it is essentially impossible in reality for us as humans to set up a repeating scenario where all influences are exactly the same each time, and accept the premise for the sake of discussion.

The person makes the choice. I don’t think there is a situation in which all things are truly, absolutely equal.

Now you are letting reality intrude into the nice clean hypothetical. And if reality intrudes then we have to get into the implausibility of the repeating scenario with exactly equivalent starting conditions. Can’t have one without the other.

Is your view similar to say Dennett’s compatibilism (I don’t want to misunderstand you)? Would we be “re-defining” the definition of free will, or just be calling it our will (free in the sense of external coercion)? Is the claim that Christianity depends on libertarian free will coherent (I could have done otherwise)?

What should we make of the Sorites Paradox in free will: “where you draw an arbitrary line to cut off causality where you want it… [Example] What killed Jim when Harry shot him with a shotgun? Who was responsible for this? In legal terms, Harry; but we shall see that this is problematic.

Let’s take this back step by step (though I am missing almost infinite steps out for simplicity’s sake):

  • The lack of neural stimuli to the organs
  • The lack of oxygen to the brain
  • The pellets hitting vital areas of the brain
  • The impact of the pellets on the skin
  • The pellets flying through the air
  • The explosion from the gun’s mechanism
  • The pulling of the trigger by Harry’s finger
  • The neural stimuli from H’s brain
  • The decision to pull the trigger
  • The triggering angry outburst from Jim just previous to this
  • Jim having an affair with H’s wife
  • H’s wife deciding NOT to phone to ask him to calm down and come back
  • H having some gene variants predisposing his to angry outbursts
  • H’s wife being promiscuous
  • Etc. etc.
  • H’s parents and grandparents and ancestors getting together to eventually produce H, and his genetic makeup and existence
  • Homo sapiens evolving
  • The Big Bang

Each of these are necessary, contributing factors to the eventual outcome. Remove just one, it doesn’t happen. So what is responsible for the death? Well, you would seem, I guess, to want to cut that whole list not off proximally, at the nearest cause, but back a little at the first agent: the pulling of that trigger, perhaps. But this is arbitrary, since all those events conspired to bring the final event about.”

Oh dear.

Scandinavia is generally taken to mean Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

All three have lower suicide rates than the US.
Of the three, only Denmark has higher alcohol consumption rates than the US (although I don’t see why this is relevant)
All three have lower abortion rates than the US (although again, I don’t see why this is relevant)
More online porn is watched in the US than in any other country. (although yet again, I don’t see why this is relevant)

It’s always worth checking your “facts” before basing your argument on them. Also worth checking whether your “facts” have any objective bearing on the argument you’re making.

That part is easy. Harry is responsible because he made the decision to kill and acted to put his decision into effect.

No. For example, even if Harry’s wife had called and asked him to calm down and come back, there is no guarantee that he would, or it might have even made him more angry.

No maybe you ought to think first before picking a fight. I referred to Scandanavia because the original post mentioned Scandanavia. I even quoted that part. I didn’t compare Scandanavia to the US. So go burn your strawmen somewhere else.

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