How Does Free Will Exist if God is Omniscient?


#1

How Does Free Will Exist if God is Omniscient? Since he knows all, he would have to have known and created the actions and beliefs that everyone has, right?


#2

Knowledge that something will happen is not equivalent with controlling the action,God created man with a free will. He did not create mans actions or beliefs although His law has been written on the hearts af men. This is evident by our natural moral beliefs (such as its naturally thought to be wrong to kill for no reason) regardless of our spiritual or religious beliefs or lack thereof.:slight_smile:


#3

Sorry, but knowing is not causing. Just because He knows what choice you will make, does not mean He makes you make the choice. You may be very good at predicting the behavior of someone you know well, but that doesn’t mean you caused them to do the behavior.

Peace Be With You


#4

I’m a cradle Catholic and have newly discovered a love for Catholic apologetics. However, this is a question that has always bothered me in the back of my mind. I’m sure the Church has a good answer for it, but my feeble brain has been unable to grasp it or I have simply yet to discover it. I hope some will provide good input.

If God knew ahead of time that I would turn out to be a serial rapist/murderer and cause untold heartache and then just end up in Hell, why would He bother to create me? Jesus told Judas it would have been better for him had he never been born. If God loves me, why would he create me if he knows I would end up in Hell? Would it be more loving if he left me uncreated?


#5

God created you with the capacity to choose Him, (life) or refuse Him, (death). It’s your choice, and although you must choose one or the other, He doesn’t make you choose one or the other. But He loves you so much He sent His own Son, Jesus to show you the way. Accept or reject, life or death.

The alternative or predestination on the other hand is said to be God makes some He will save, no matter what they do, good or evil, and some He will condem, again no matter what they do, good or evil. That is He makes some who are “good” and He also makes others who are “evil”, all who do what exactly and only what He made them to do. Which looks more like the God you serve?

Peace & Joy to All


#6

There is some very interesting things on this in the summa theologia from Thomas Aquinas concerning the will-the voluntary and involuntary aspects of mans will. This can be somewhat difficult to fully understand. Like most things of God we cannot fully comprehend His ways.
God Bless


#7

I forgot here is a link to the specific part of the Summa:

newadvent.org/summa/2006.htm


#8

This is also very good when looking at devine providence:

newadvent.org/summa/1022.htm

Take a look at the summa theologiae it has alot of discussion on these issues. You can browse around it online.


#9

There’s a famous quote:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” (Epicurus)

That says everything I need to say.


#10

As for the Epicureans:I answer that, Certain persons totally denied the existence of providence, as Democritus and the Epicureans, maintaining that the world was made by chance. Others taught that incorruptible things only were subject to providence and corruptible things not in their individual selves, but only according to their species; for in this respect they are incorruptible. They are represented as saying (Job 22:14): “The clouds are His covert; and He doth not consider our things; and He walketh about the poles of heaven.” Rabbi Moses, however, excluded men from the generality of things corruptible, on account of the excellence of the intellect which they possess, but in reference to all else that suffers corruption he adhered to the opinion of the others.

We must say, however, that all things are subject to divine providence, not only in general, but even in their own individual selves. This is made evident thus. For since every agent acts for an end, the ordering of effects towards that end extends as far as the causality of the first agent extends. Whence it happens that in the effects of an agent something takes place which has no reference towards the end, because the effect comes from a cause other than, and outside the intention of the agent. But the causality of God, Who is the first agent, extends to all being, not only as to constituent principles of species, but also as to the individualizing principles; not only of things incorruptible, but also of things corruptible. Hence all things that exist in whatsoever manner are necessarily directed by God towards some end; as the Apostle says: “Those things that are of God are well ordered [Vulg.‘Those powers that are, are ordained of God’: ‘Quae autem sunt, a Deo ordinatae sunt.’ St. Thomas often quotes this passage, and invariably reads: ‘Quae a Deo sunt, ordinata sunt.’]” (Romans 13:1). Since, therefore, as the providence of God is nothing less than the type of the order of things towards an end, as we have said; it necessarily follows that all things, inasmuch as they participate in existence, must likewise be subject to divine providence. It has also been shown (14, 6, 11) that God knows all things, both universal and particular. And since His knowledge may be compared to the things themselves, as the knowledge of art to the objects of art, all things must of necessity come under His ordering; as all things wrought by art are subject to the ordering of that art.


#11

Or try this out: Whether God is omnipotent?
Objection 1. It seems that God is not omnipotent. For movement and passiveness belong to everything. But this is impossible with God, for He is immovable, as was said above (2, 3). Therefore He is not omnipotent.

Objection 2. Further, sin is an act of some kind. But God cannot sin, nor “deny Himself” as it is said in 2 Tim. 2:13. Therefore He is not omnipotent.

Objection 3. Further, it is said of God that He manifests His omnipotence “especially by sparing and having mercy” [Collect, 10th Sunday after Pentecost]. Therefore the greatest act possible to the divine power is to spare and have mercy. There are things much greater, however, than sparing and having mercy; for example, to create another world, and the like. Therefore God is not omnipotent.

Objection 4. Further, upon the text, “God hath made foolish the wisdom of this world” (1 Corinthians 1:20), a gloss says: “God hath made the wisdom of this world foolish [Vulg.: ‘Hath not God’, etc.] by showing those things to be possible which it judges to be impossible.” Whence it would seem that nothing is to be judged possible or impossible in reference to inferior causes, as the wisdom of this world judges them; but in reference to the divine power. If God, then, were omnipotent, all things would be possible; nothing, therefore impossible. But if we take away the impossible, then we destroy also the necessary; for what necessarily exists is impossible not to exist. Therefore there would be nothing at all that is necessary in things if God were omnipotent. But this is an impossibility. Therefore God is not omnipotent.

On the contrary, It is said: “No word shall be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

…continued


#12

continued…
I answer that, All confess that God is omnipotent; but it seems difficult to explain in what His omnipotence precisely consists: for there may be doubt as to the precise meaning of the word ‘all’ when we say that God can do all things. If, however, we consider the matter aright, since power is said in reference to possible things, this phrase, “God can do all things,” is rightly understood to mean that God can do all things that are possible; and for this reason He is said to be omnipotent. Now according to the Philosopher (Metaph. v, 17), a thing is said to be possible in two ways.

First in relation to some power, thus whatever is subject to human power is said to be possible to man.

Secondly absolutely, on account of the relation in which the very terms stand to each other. Now God cannot be said to be omnipotent through being able to do all things that are possible to created nature; for the divine power extends farther than that. If, however, we were to say that God is omnipotent because He can do all things that are possible to His power, there would be a vicious circle in explaining the nature of His power. For this would be saying nothing else but that God is omnipotent, because He can do all that He is able to do.

It remains therefore, that God is called omnipotent because He can do all things that are possible absolutely; which is the second way of saying a thing is possible. For a thing is said to be possible or impossible absolutely, according to the relation in which the very terms stand to one another, possible if the predicate is not incompatible with the subject, as that Socrates sits; and absolutely impossible when the predicate is altogether incompatible with the subject, as, for instance, that a man is a donkey.

It must, however, be remembered that since every agent produces an effect like itself, to each active power there corresponds a thing possible as its proper object according to the nature of that act on which its active power is founded; for instance, the power of giving warmth is related as to its proper object to the being capable of being warmed. The divine existence, however, upon which the nature of power in God is founded, is infinite, and is not limited to any genus of being; but possesses within itself the perfection of all being. Whence, whatsoever has or can have the nature of being, is numbered among the absolutely possible things, in respect of which God is called omnipotent. Now nothing is opposed to the idea of being except non-being. Therefore, that which implies being and non-being at the same time is repugnant to the idea of an absolutely possible thing, within the scope of the divine omnipotence. For such cannot come under the divine omnipotence, not because of any defect in the power of God, but because it has not the nature of a feasible or possible thing. Therefore, everything that does not imply a contradiction in terms, is numbered amongst those possible things, in respect of which God is called omnipotent: whereas whatever implies contradiction does not come within the scope of divine omnipotence, because it cannot have the aspect of possibility. Hence it is better to say that such things cannot be done, than that God cannot do them. Nor is this contrary to the word of the angel, saying: “No word shall be impossible with God.” For whatever implies a contradiction cannot be a word, because no intellect can possibly conceive such a thing.

continued…


#13

the rest…
Reply to Objection 1. God is said to be omnipotent in respect to His active power, not to passive power, as was shown above (1). Whence the fact that He is immovable or impassible is not repugnant to His omnipotence.

Reply to Objection 2. To sin is to fall short of a perfect action; hence to be able to sin is to be able to fall short in action, which is repugnant to omnipotence. Therefore it is that God cannot sin, because of His omnipotence. Nevertheless, the Philosopher says (Topic. iv, 3) that God can deliberately do what is evil. But this must be understood either on a condition, the antecedent of which is impossible–as, for instance, if we were to say that God can do evil things if He will. For there is no reason why a conditional proposition should not be true, though both the antecedent and consequent are impossible: as if one were to say: “If man is a donkey, he has four feet.” Or he may be understood to mean that God can do some things which now seem to be evil: which, however, if He did them, would then be good. Or he is, perhaps, speaking after the common manner of the heathen, who thought that men became gods, like Jupiter or Mercury.

Reply to Objection 3. God’s omnipotence is particularly shown in sparing and having mercy, because in this is it made manifest that God has supreme power, that He freely forgives sins. For it is not for one who is bound by laws of a superior to forgive sins of his own free will. Or, because by sparing and having mercy upon men, He leads them on to the participation of an infinite good; which is the ultimate effect of the divine power. Or because, as was said above (21, 4), the effect of the divine mercy is the foundation of all the divine works. For nothing is due to anyone, except on account of something already given him gratuitously by God. In this way the divine omnipotence is particularly made manifest, because to it pertains the first foundation of all good things.

Reply to Objection 4. The absolute possible is not so called in reference either to higher causes, or to inferior causes, but in reference to itself. But the possible in reference to some power is named possible in reference to its proximate cause. Hence those things which it belongs to God alone to do immediately–as, for example, to create, to justify, and the like–are said to be possible in reference to a higher cause. Those things, however, which are of such kind as to be done by inferior causes are said to be possible in reference to those inferior causes. For it is according to the condition of the proximate cause that the effect has contingency or necessity, as was shown above (14, 1, ad 2). Thus is it that the wisdom of the world is deemed foolish, because what is impossible to nature, it judges to be impossible to God. So it is clear that the omnipotence of God does not take away from things their impossibility and necessity.


#14

Imagine that I am God.
I can create a maze.
I can create mouse food to go at one end of the maze.
I can create a mouse.
I can put the mouse at the other end of the maze.
I can know that the mouse will make its way from one end of the maze to the other.
I can know precisely how long it will take and which route the mouse will use.

None of this is equivalent to MAKING the mouse go via that particular route or take that particular time to do it.


#15

About God:
God has no beginning and no end, but is the beginning and end of everything else. “I am the Alpha and the Omega.”

To say that God created Himself would be to say that a situation existed when God did not exist.

God is unchanging. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.”

God is self-generating. God is the source of everything else. God is greater than everything else.

About Time:
God is greater than time. God created time. God existed when and where time did not exist.

To say that time existed before God would be to say that time is greater than God. Time would be the source of everything else, and God as we know Him would be something less.

To say that time existed simultaneously with God would be to say that something which is not God would be equal to God and would be binding upon God. Once again, God as we know Him would be something less.

“Before, during, and after” are words that make sense only within Linear Time.

About Free Will:
In order for man to have Free Will, to be able to choose freely whether he will be with God or apart from God, man needs two things. First, man must know the difference between I was there, I am here, and I will be somewhere else. Second, man must be able to both choose his position between here and there, and move between those positions.

Through His great love, God, who exists outside of time and is unchanging, created time so that man could choose and change. He created time so that whoever joins Him in heaven will be there voluntarily.

What a glorious genius God is to conceive of time, a situation which is completely different from his basic unchanging nature, and bring it into being so as to magnify His love through us.

Nan


#16

For God to “prevent evil” it would have been necessary for Him to suppress all free will. I suppose making us all mindless robots would have been more “compassionate” in your estimation?

I can just imagine seeing the same bunch of snooty atheists reading stories of a “God” like that… THEN instead the complaints would go something like this:

“No compassionate ‘God’ would be such an oppressive dictator! If this ‘God’ is so powerful then why does he have to force people to think whatever he wants them to? Hmph!”

That’s the problem… People like that just can’t seem to see the big picture. As I’ve said before, most of the really hardcore atheists are about the spiritual equivalent of a spoiled child who can only focus on immediate self-interests.


#17

Imagine that I am God.
I can create a maze.
I can create mouse food to go at one end of the maze.
I can create a mouse.
I can put the mouse at the other end of the maze.
I can know that the mouse will make its way from one end of the maze to the other.
I can know precisely how long it will take and which route the mouse will use.

None of this is equivalent to MAKING the mouse go via that particular route or take that particular time to do it.

Thats the essential argument I see when people argue against my statement, but there is a problem I can’t come across when people state such things. If God simply puts us on the path, and we must walk it and it is our decision as to where we go, then the factor of chance must exist. He creates people capable of sinning, so some people do sin and others do not. But the fact that some people go to heaven and others to hell means (I state again) that chance must exist. Now I believe that if God exists it wouldn’t make any sense for him not to create free will, but even the existence of free will does not make sense.


#18

Suppose when God started creating people, he noticed “I am giving all these freewill, but that one over there will use the free will in a way I don’t like. I’m going to skip creating him!” So then all the created people would follow God’s will. Would we still have free-will or not?

God made us with the ability to make choices. He dosn’t choose for us. I know that in two minutes my 5 year old is going to come ask me for a chip with cheese dip on it. No one is telling her to do that… she just will notice that I have some and want it. My knowing she’s gonna do it dosen’t mean I MADE her do it. I also have the power to reduce the possibility of her asking. I could put them away before she sees them or tell her no before she asks. Still she could think of it on her own.

Another point is, choice is important to the value of love. My daughter has a fancy doll. It can talk, understand certian things we tell it, respond to us, make facial expressions, play games etc. It calls my daughter “Mommy” and often tells her it loves her. Does it really love? Can it remove it’s love? I’d say the love of the doll is not very valuable. My 5 year old agrees, she found the constant demands of the doll tiresome (feed me mommy, NO! I wanted pizza, not cereal!) and would rather leave the thing off then turn it on to hear it say, “Mommy, I love you” along with it’s demands. Why would God want followers that were programmed “dolls” unable to choose?


#19

Do you also, in creating the maze, deliberately set it up so that rather just giving the mouse the options of a variety of paths that lead to the desired end, there is an option for the mouse to exit the maze and go to another area (which you created) that you designate as undesirable by your standards?

Do you place mouse food also in that undesirable location, knowing that there is a very high probability that the mouse you created will go after that food, since you made that food attractive and desirable to the mouse and the opening to that part of the maze easy for the mouse to find?

Do you decide that if the mouse goes that way rather than in the regular maze you will give him to your lab assistant (whom you also created) with instructions to torment the mouse for eternity if he wants to do so because the mouse used his “free will” to not follow the part of the maze that you wanted him to follow?


#20

Does the Catholic Church teach that the snake also had free will or that it was doing what it was put in the Garden to do?


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