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Author Topic: Can God Choose?  (Read 2167 times)


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Can God Choose?
« on: February 22, 2008, 03:00:25 PM »
But God has chosen the foolish things [many translations do not insert the word "things" in these verses] of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And the base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yes, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence
(I Cor. 1:26-29).

I submit that an omniscient God, as is claimed for the theistic God of the Bible, cannot choose to do anything. A being who knows everything will already have always, from eternity past, known every single thing it would ever do, and would always have known every single thing it would not ever do. It can therefore never choose to do anything, since it already knows what it will do. Such a God can not have free will, since it can never choose an action. So the quoted verse must be false, and God didn't choose to do those things mentioned, or God is not omniscient, in which case he isn't the God of the theists.

Here's the argument as given here:

9. The Omniscient-vs.-Free Argument
We now come to a more complicated argument, which pits property (e) against (h). One way of formulating it is presented by Dan Barker.[9] A slightly different version may be formulated as follows:

1. If God exists, then he is omniscient.
2. If God exists, then he is free.
3. An omniscient being must know exactly what actions he will and will not do in the future.
4. If one knows that he will do an action, then it is impossible for him not to do it, and if one knows that he will not do an action, then it is impossible for him to do it.
5. Thus, whatever an omniscient being does, he must do, and whatever he does not do, he cannot do (from 3 and 4).
6. To be free requires having options open, which means having the ability to act contrary to the way one actually acts.
7. So, if one is free, then he does not have to do what he actually does, and he is able to do things that he does not actually do (from 6).
8. Hence, it is impossible for an omniscient being to be free (from 5 and 7).
9. Therefore, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1, 2, and 8).

Some have denied that omniscience entails knowing all about the future. They say that omniscience only entails knowing what there is to know. But the future actions of free persons are open, and not there to be known about. Thus, not even an omniscient being could know about them. This may provide a basis for rejecting premise 3 of the argument.

This sort of objection to 3 can be attacked in many different ways. One way would be to affirm that an omniscient being would indeed need to know all about the future. All propositions about the future are either true or false, and an omniscient being, by definition, must know the truth of any proposition that is in fact true. Furthermore, theists, often following the Bible on this point, commonly attribute unrestricted knowledge of the future to God.[10] Indeed, if God does not know the future actions of any free beings, then there is very little, if any, pertaining to the future about which he can be certain. For no matter what the situation may be, there is always a chance that it will be affected by such actions.

Another way to attack the given objection is to maintain that, even if God does not know about the future actions of other free agents, he must know about his own future actions. One reason for this is that God's actions are all based on perfect justice and immutable law. There is never any caprice in them. His purposes and intentions have remained steadfast from all eternity, so anyone who totally understands God's purposes and intentions, as he himself does, would be able to infallibly predict his actions. It follows that God must know what he himself will and will not do in the future, which would establish the truth of premise 3 if it is taken to refer to God.

Premise 4 is a consequence of the definition of knowledge. If a proposition is known to be true, then it must be true and cannot be false. So, if X knows that Y will do Z, then it is impossible for Y not to do Z. And this is so even where X and Y are the same person.

Premise 6 says that a free agent can do what he doesn't do. That may sound odd at first, but when it is understood correctly, it seems correct. Suppose we identify what Y does as "act Z." Then in order for Y to be free, prior to doing Z, it must have been possible for Y to do Z and it must also have been possible for Y not to do Z. If it were not possible for Y not to do Z, then Y's doing of Z could not be regarded as a free act. Free acts are avoidable. You can't be free if you had to do the thing that you did. This seems intuitively right, though some forms of compatibilism might reject it. It is not a totally settled issue in philosophy. I leave it to the reader to ascertain whether or not premise 6 is correct. If it is, then I think the argument goes through.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2008, 03:06:14 PM by Unbeliever »
"Some say God is living there [in space]. I was looking around very attentively, but I did not see anyone there. I did not detect either angels or gods....I don't believe in God. I believe in man - his strength, his possibilities, his reason."
Gherman Titov, Soviet cosmonaut, in The Seattle Daily Ti