Does God’s Omniscience Eliminate Free Will? I hear this challenge often. How can Christians claim that they have free will if God already knows the outcome of the events? Wouldn’t this make the events pre-determined, and therefore out of our control? Is God just a Divine puppet master? And if we are not in making free will decisions, how can God punish us with hell?
How Does Knowledge Work?
As humans, we have knowledge in a linear way. We know what happened in the past. We don’t know what will happen in the future. God does have this knowledge, however. He can not only see past events, but future ones as well.
God’s knowledge of future events doesn’t “cause” them to happen, however. God has knowledge of what we will choose to do when presented with different options. Knowledge of what will occur isn’t the same as causing an action though.
God can tell how individuals will react to different choices they are presented with. He can then use this knowledge to further His plans. Don’t think this is possible? Let me offer an illustration to demonstrate what I’m talking about.
The Devious Husband!
Suppose I decide that I want to have a nice steak for dinner. The problem? While my wife likes steak, she may not want to have it that particular night. What to do? Well, I can call my wife from the store and have the following conversation:
Me: Hi honey, I’m at the grocery story right now.
Unsuspecting wife: Oh, really?
Me: Yes. I’m at the meat counter, and they have a sale on beef tongues.
Unsuspecting wife: Uh, what?
Me: Yep, it’s a great deal. What do you say? Do you want to give it a try?
Unsuspecting wife: Uh, no. Not really.
Me: Hmm. Well, they also have steak here.
Unsuspecting wife: I could do steak.
Me: I’ll get some and grill it up then!
Now, in the situation I just laid out, was my wife’s free will violated at any point? No, it wasn’t. She was fully in control of her decisions. I just used my knowledge of her likes and dislikes to achieve the goal I had of having steak for dinner. My knowledge of my wife’s likes and dislikes did not cause her to decide as she did. While I knew what the outcome would be, I didn’t violate her free will. She still had the freedom to make a different choice. I just knew through my relationship with which option she would choose.
God is capable of using the same strategy on a much greater level. While I know my wife very well, I still can’t predict EVERY decision she could possibly make. God knows each and every one of us so well, He knows every choice we could possibly make in every situation.
Are We Off The Hook For Our Decisions?
When we make a wrong choice, we are still accountable for that choice. Say someone is going to rob a bank. Their neighbor finds out the crime is about to occur but doesn’t call the police to stop the crime. Is the person committing the crime still responsible? Yes, they are. Even though someone knew what would happen and didn’t step in to take action, that doesn’t alleviate the guilt of the neighbor that was committing the crime.
So as you can see, free will can exist with God knowing the outcome of events. Our choices are not pre-ordained simply because they are already known. And even if God doesn’t stop a particular action, we are still morally responsible for the actions we take. Have you ever heard this objection? How did you respond?
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