Friday, February 19, 2010

Free Will

In the last several months, I've entered conversations with many about free will and how I reconcile it with my faith.

I tried my best to explain my position over and over again, but that only led me to be accused of talking in circles, changing subjects and suffering from mental gymnastics. I still feel that I did none of that. But on this post, I'm going to try one last time to clarify my position and my position only.

The Bible mentions in it's own way many times over where we have free will. It mentions where we can decide and we can choose what we want and where we want to go. This obviously means to me that our choices are free. We can alter our course in life and change directions. We are not obligated or pre-ordained to go down only one path. We have the ability to move from one path to the other.

Now, how do I reconcile this with an all knowing, all powerful God? Because if our choices are free, then an all knowing God isn't all knowing. But this is where my reconciliation begins, not ends.

I believe that God saw me make every choice. And saw where those choices led before they were made. When I make my choice, it cancels out that domino path. The knowledge God has of the choice I didn't make goes away and he continues to see further down the road pertaining to the path I'm on, and so on and so on.

Does he know the choice I make at the time I make it. No, he witnesses it. But to his Knowledge which is not our knowledge, he saw for certainty me making both choices. He saw for certainty both realities and both lives unfold.

People that disagree with me want to paint God as a human. They want him to have some sort of motivation for doing this. They want this to somehow limit Him. According to them, He has no prediction powers then. He sees no certainty.

I argue this is false. He sees multiple certainties. God and us the individual are a personal relationship and that's the way it's intended. God has left the Holy Spirit here to guide us and help us if we so choose. Since God knows every choice we will face for certain, every multiple choice we make for certain and the results of all the choices made for certain, the Holy Spirit can be exact with us. He can tell us everything we need to know about what faces us, what we should do, and what will happen if we listen to Him.

That is your prediction power. And through this system He has created, he has given us, by His decision, free will. But, He can help us with our decisions because He knows everything. And that knowledge He does know cannot be comprehended totally. Because you try to imagine knowing multiple realities and all these little decisions and affect of all the little decisions made, and you can't think it through. You get stuck. It seems illogical and unreasonable. Well, we're not God. We can't ever comprehend the kind of knowledge the Supreme Being has.

And that's all I will say about this.


Michael Lockridge said...

The problem people have in this issue seems to arise from failing to recognize the limits of our human perspective.

Our experience tells us we make real decisions with an apparent liberty. I don't care for the term "free will" because it is too large. We are finite in time and space, and though our liberty in making choices is real in the course of our experience it is defined and limited by our finite state.

On the other side of this coin we try to understand God's perspective. We simply cannot. Humans are not equipped to see the same picture of our own experience from God's perspective. We speculate, experience conceptual conflicts, become confused and frustrated.

Our understanding of the nature of God is incomplete. The finite cannot comprehend the infinite. Making guesses based on our limited vision of God simply muddies the water.


Anonymous said...

Botts; "but that only led me to be accused of...mental gymnastics."

Awwww, thanks for the shout out.

I'll digest this a little later and offer my usual objections :)

mac said...

"I tried my best to explain my position over and over again, but that only led me to be accused of talking in circles, changing subjects and suffering from mental gymnastics."

I don't think you suffer from them Botts. I think they serve you well ;-)

Even if your supposition is true as you describe, we are still left with terrible consequences if we don't accept God.
Where's the Free in that?

Anonymous said...

Botts; "Because you try to imagine knowing multiple realities and all these little decisions and affect of all the little decisions made, and you can't think it through. You get stuck. It seems illogical and unreasonable."

I don't think this is our problem at all (well, Brian has fixated on this, but not me).

God has infinite power and knows all, so see no problem with him knowing all possible outcomes based on all past data. He's all powerful and all knowing after all. But that still leaves us with him either 1) not knowing the exact choice we are going to make or 2) us not having free will.

The problem is yours, you HAVE to reconcile this conflict because you believe it was the holy ghost that was responsible for ensuring these conflicting ideas got included in a series of loosly related booklets written over the course of 1200 years.

So why don't you HAVE to reconcile how it's possible for plants to exist before the sun or why bats are not birds? Or why evolution is true when animals can only procreate within their own "kind".

The answer is you discard parts of the bible as outdated cultural artefacts, but for some reason insist on keeping other conflicting parts.

Why does god need to be all powerful or all knowing and we do we need to have free will (since it's clear we don't, not 100%)?

Anonymous said...

should read "...why do we need to have free will..."

Harvey said...


I believe that I have been able to understand your personal reconciliation for the the problem of an all-knowing God vs "free will" for some time now. I have followed the repeated debates between you and several of our frequent blogmates who are not believers as you so clearly are. I think that your present post clearly states that this is how YOU have been able to reconcile this conundrum. To me, the reason that you still have not satisfied Brian, Jerry, and Mac (let alone Observant, for entirely different reasons) is because each of them is seeking a different response from you. For the most part, this debate is part of a larger issue of the Bible, itself. To some of us, we see this as a means of attacking your belief that the Bible is not evil, in and of itself (although to Observant it is that you do not accept the Bible as literally the word of God, innerant and complete), to others, your belief that you have had a personal experience with the Holy Spirit, and yet others that you are "avoiding" the questions they think they have asked of you. In all of this, it seems to me, most of us have failed to hear that this is how YOU reconcile these issues for YOURSELF. Such reconciliation does not have to meet each of our personal criteria, only yours. Although as a non-believer I do not agree with most of your theology, I think you have made it abundantly clear. I do find it necessary to say that if I were a Christian (or thinking of becoming one) I believe your "approach" to Scripture and life in general would come very close to what I perceive as the true message that Scripture tells us Jesus tried to impart.

pboyfloyd said...

Come on Botts, God is either supposed to be 'living' outside of time and space, or HE isn't, right?

Your mental gymnastics has HIM living your life along with you 'seeing all possibilities' with some kind of super-clarity and allowing the Holy Spirit to give you some kind of hints.

But omniscient doesn't MEAN that,it means that HE supposedly knows what you WILL do, how you WILL choose etc. although I'm quite sure it also implies that he knows what you might have done, might have chosen.

You seem to be hinting that HE could 'well know' everything but decides not to peek, giving the Holy Spirit reason to 'hint'.

Also it seems to me that this is kind of a viscious circle of an argument because, as a devout Christian, worshipper of God and Jesus, the more the Holy Spirit 'guides you', the more your choices are MADE FOR YOU, really, in effect taking bad choices out of your way for you, right?

Plus, this idea of yours seems to work very well for harking back and seeing with 20/20 precision where, when things fell apart, when things didn't work out, well, you just didn't listen to the guidance that was being given, you MUSTN'T have, right, 'cos things didn't 'go right'???