Human Free Will and Gods Foreknowledge

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 9 November 2016

Human Free Will and Gods Foreknowledge

The argument of the compatibility and incompatibility of God’s foreknowledge and human free will have been going on for hundreds of years. Concerning the definition of freedom, to get a better understanding, can be described as an act that an individual can do freely without being restrained or force. Philosophers that are well known in this subject matter are Alvin Plantiga and Nelson Pike. Pike will argue that human freedom is incompatible with God’s foreknowledge based upon facts such as God being omniscient. Whereas, Plantiga argues that Pike’s theory is based upon confusion and that human free will can coexist with God’s foreknowledge.

Let’s get in to the differences in predictability and God’s foreknowledge pertaining to free will to give a bit more understanding in the argument. Shook’s example is as follows, “What justification is available for our [predictability claim] that a wind-up toy, for example, my “Thomas the Train” toy, does not freely choose its behavior? ” (Shook 142) This is to say that we as human beings can predict that this wind-up toy will move forward after we wind it up just as God might. However, this prediction is merely based on our knowledge of the past in using this toy.

When we try to predict such an event, it has the possibility not working and we had no idea that this would happen, whereas, God would have predicted this as He is omniscient. It’s obvious in both of these arguments it is accepted that God is omniscient in all possible worlds. Pike states that “… it is part of the essence of God to be omniscient… any person who is not omniscient could not be the person we [call] God. ” (Pojman & Rea 97) He goes on to point out that if this were false, in that any person can be called “God” if one was not omniscient, then we can call anyone God.

Furthermore, this means to say that at any given time in the past, present or future an omniscient and existing God would know what would happen. This, I would argue is something that can be compatible with human freedom; In that if God believes, at a certain time (T1), that Peter will eat an orange (X) in the future T2 is necessarily true. At T2 Peter eats an apple (X2) will not go against the omniscience of God. God would have believed that at T2 it was with Peter’s free will that he will do X2.

That is to say that, according to Plantiga,“ It was within Peter’s power at T2 to do something that if he had done it,then God would not have held a belief that in fact he did hold. ” (Pojman & Rea 110) Though Peter had two choices in either eating the orange or the apple the fact that God knows that he would have eaten the latter does not take away the freedom of Peter.

Pike will argue that God will have known at a certain time (T1) that an event will be foreseen as soon as the human being is born such as T2. Pertaining to this situation Pike states, “ … if God held such a belief eighty years [T1] prior to [T2], Peter did not have the power on [T2] to do something that would have made it the case that God did not hold this belief eighty years later.

” (Pojman & Rea 99) This fact goes on to say that it is with the omniscience of God that, no matter what, His belief will not have changed in between [T1] and [T2]. The argument can still be accepted in an statement made by St. Augustine, “… it is not necessary to deny that God foreknows all things while at the same time our wills are our own. God has foreknowledge of our will, so that of which he has foreknowledge must come to pass. In other words, we shall exercise our will in the future because he has foreknowledge that we shall do so; and there can be no will or voluntary action unless it will be in our power.

” (Hopkins 112) The argument here is that, even though God foreknows that Peter will eat the apple does not require Him to limit the humans free will; It was with knowledge and not restraint that Peter made his choice. Another claim that has to deal to this argument is that which Molina says, “… it is not because God foreknows what He foreknows that men act as they do: it is because men act as they do that God foreknows what He foreknows. ” (Pojman & Rea 102) Meaning that the reason why God foresees an event is based upon the action of the humans’ free will.

This goes back to the differences in prediction and free will, however, now we are dealing with something other than an inanimate object. The differences in this claim are argued as follows by Shook, “If God possesses justified divine knowledge, his capacity for perfectly predicting future human actions is incompatible with the free will of alternative possibilities. ” (Shook 157) For reasons already explained, it is impossible for God to have made a claim based on the consistency for his omniscient knowledge gave him the belief before the event occurred.

This concept would be similar to me making a prediction of a friend who will wake up at five in the morning and take a shower every Tuesday because he is consistent in doing so. I can make this prediction, but it won’t be necessarily true. The consistency can always change, due to free will. To assume God’s cognitions to be similar is untrue. This would also be to say that if God’s beliefs are due to a humans freedom of will that, when the individual refrains from a certain action that he was going to do, that God’s belief is false.

This cannot be true as well due to the acceptance of God’s omniscience. There is also a difference in free will and necessity too. An example can be that it is necessary for one to live by breathing which is arguably our will to do so. It is our will to live, therefore, we must breathe. Augustine explains further that, “… if there is necessity there is no voluntary choice… but rather fixed and unavoidable necessity. ” (Pojman & Rea 101) This could be an argument that it is with necessary actions where God’s foreknowledge is indeed true.

It is possible for us to not breathe, thus ending our life which is a necessary truth and God would foreknow as well. Molina writes, “He would foreknow the opposite if the opposite was to happen. ” (Pojman & Rea) This argument coincides with the claim that was made above on the choices that were made by Peter. Pike is under the claim that it is incompatible for there to be human free will along with God’s foreknowledge. This is backed up by stating that God is omniscient and because of that the action by the human is not, in fact, under his will.

Due to the belief of the event occurring before the time it does occur does not allow the human any other choices. This cannot be compared to anything that is predicted as it would falsify the omniscience of God. To compare the belief of a situation occurring to the prediction a human might make of a wind-up toy or close friend is also untrue as it would then allow for anyone to be called “God” because anyone is able to make such a prediction. The previous statement would negate that only an omniscient being can be called “God” since the human that can predict is not omniscient.

The compatible claim of human free will and God’s foreknowledge is explained by Plantiga. He goes on to say that it is compatible as the person would have choices and be able to choose based on one’s own will. Explaining further that the foreknowledge of God does not require a restraint on the choice with which the human chooses. Whether or not the individual makes one choice over another God will still foresee it due to His omniscience, therefore, being an action of human free will. Though an action may be out of necessity (i. e.breathing) it is possible for us to still make another choice based on our own will. Works Cited Hopkins, Jasper.

“Augustine On Foreknowledge And Free Will. ” International Journal For Philosophy Of Religion 8. 2 (1977): 111-126. ATLA Religion Database. Web. 5 Nov. 2012. Pojman, Louis & Rea, Michael. Philosophy of Religion. Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. 2012 Shook, John. “God’s Divinely Justified Knowledge Is Incompatible With Human Free Will. “Forum Philosophicum: International Journal For Philosophy 15. 1 (2010): 141-159. Academic Search Premier. Web. 7 Nov. 2012.


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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

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