Why would Free Will and an Omniscient God be mutually exclusive?

Someone quoted the objection from an Atheist site that if God knows everything that is going to happen in the future, we can't really have Free Will.

I'm wondering why.

I set a child down to do his homework and give him math questions.

He is free to answer them as he wishes.

I know this kid and I'm quite sure he will do a sloppy job and guess at half of it.

He makes the predictable mistakes and is forced to do all the work again.

He had Free Will. I, as the parent, knew what he would do on the first go-around, so in a human example, I was Omniscient. How did my certainty that he would act in this way diminish his Free Will?

Does anyone know why God's Omniscience and the human's Free Will would be mutually exclusive?

Why would knowing what will happen diminish freedom?

21 Answers

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago
    Best Answer

    I don't see how simply knowing all of the possible choices hinders free will in any way.

    If someone jumps out of an airplane I know with 110% certainty that they are going to hit the ground.

    This does not hinder their ability to chose to deploy the parachute, flap their arms frantically or just do a swan dive.

    Love and blessings don

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    Your attempted "analogy" doesn't work, because you are not "omniscient." Being "quite sure" is just an educated guess, not absolute knowledge -- that's what "omniscience" is.

    This is simple: if your claimed god is omniscient, then it absolutely knows everything everyone will ever do or choose. Simply put, you as a human CANNOT choose something that your god doesn't already know you'll choose. You MUST choose as he knows you will -- so in effect you have no choice. It is not possible for you to do anything that he doesn't already know you will do. Therefore there is no such thing as "free will," though you might think you have it, it's only an illusion -- since you cannot actually choose, you MUST do as this god knows you will do.

    On the other hand, if you CAN choose something this god does not know you will choose -- if you can "surprise" this god -- then the god is not omniscient. It didn't know what you would choose, negating omniscience.

    That's why. Omniscience negates actual "free will," and actual "free will" negates omniscience. The two cannot both be facts.


  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    Omniscience is not the same as predicting, or making a guess based on past experience, darling. It's knowledge, and brings with it the expectation of the infallibility of that knowledge.

    Your child can surprise you, but an omniscient being cannot be surprised by anything because omniscience requires that, out of the billions of possible outcomes for any situation or action, the omniscient being knows exactly what will happen, well in advance. In the face of omniscience, we are not free beings but actors with a script, carrying out an already-known drama.

    If everything we do, and the outcome of every decision we make are known in advance, we aren't really choosing anything - we are playing a part, cogs in a machine.

    At least that's how it seems to me. It's not an argument on which I base any opinion relating to the existence of god, but it is something that, in my opinion, argues against the idea of an omniscient god that many hold.


  • someg
    Lv 6
    9 years ago

    The whole free will thing is nonsense. It is the inadequate answer that comes out of the first and most obvious question that comes to mind: "Why doesn't god just show herself/himself?" If Abrahamic God can show himself to the great prophets such as Mohammed, Paul, Jesus, Elijah, Moses, etc., why not do a little magic appearing act for the rest of us? Then there is the power to stop evil and the notion of creating a being knowing the being is condemned to eternal suffering. If god is omniscient, she/he is not real bright.

    None of it adds up. If there is a single god, it needs a better excuse than that.

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  • 9 years ago

    Had you given him no math, he wouldn't have done the math. Or would he? But in giving him something to do, knowing what he would do with it, as you claim you did, you guided him to doing that thing. Just as if you put math in front of him which he could not yet do, he would fail. I know that doesn't fully illustrate, since the example doesn't either.

    But on the bigger scale, omniscience suggests that every single detail of the universe was known before hand. That every action we take and why are known before hand. So the problem with free will and omniscience is that it says we're free to choose, but that we are designed specifically to make certain choices. That He created the sins and not only designed us specifically to desire sin, but knowing who would and would not resist which temptations.

    If he makes me, and makes sin, and designs me to commit sin, and knows I will sin, and knows I will go to hell, then you can say he created me to go to hell, and that I had no choice in the matter from the time I was born. To say that I do requires changing what He knew.

    Source(s): A lot of people keep trying to answer this by saying that you can still choose. You can say that He simply knows the possibilities of what you can choose, but omniscience is knowing the choice that is made as well. You can say that he simply knows what choices you will freely choose, but the fact still remains that if I willfully choose to go to hell by my own actions, it's based on my design, and He designs and creates me knowing ahead of time that I'm going to hell. It makes more sense to suggest that He's not actually omniscient by this definition, then to try to argue that He gives us a real chance to choose and alter our paths to or from righteousness, knowing before we're born whether or not we're damned.
  • 9 years ago

    Your example is flawed, as you cannot see all the way into the future, and know absolutely everything about the child's life. A truly omniscient god would know every single choice made by every single person in the world, including their faith. Thus, a god would already know who's going to hell or not.

  • 9 years ago

    And there we have it. Trap door's answer shows the common thinking of many on this. They argue that God's omniscience is God controlling, not God merely knowing what will be. And so by that logic it follows that there is noe free will.

    However the premise that God having omniscience means he is controlling everyone is false.

    Omniscience means he knows all things and everything that will happen. it does not mean he is controlling it all.

    So the logic falls down.

  • 9 years ago

    That's VERY easy to answer, Sara. Yes, you MAY be able to predict MOST of the time what the child will do. But every once in a while, for reasons that you have no idea about, that same child may just surprise the crap out of you and do a fantastic job of it. He or she may just decide on a whim to do things the right way, even if ONLY that one time. In the same way, God, by giving humans free will, opens US up to having that ability to surprise HIM, by choosing to do something that opposes what he(she?) has had the "vision" to anticipate. Actually, Free Will was Deity's GREATEST gift to itself more than being a gift to us. It give US that wonderful opportunity to FREELY choose to surprise him/her by freely offering our love and comradeship even though our past history would indicate the total opposite likelihood. By giving us Free Will, Deity willingly abdicated his/her omniscience in favor of receiving the BEST gift of all, the gift of love offered freely and without regard to any intent of reception of a reward for doing so. Just because!

    Brightest Blessings,

    Raji The Green Witch

  • 9 years ago

    God does not exist in time as we do. And we do not have to abide in time either. We do so only because that is the only state of being in which to experience the enticing pleasures of the ego/mind and its seemingly unending tug on our attention, the ever distracting desires of the flesh.

    God does not know the future but only the Now which is Eternal. The play of Creation is already fulfilled, finished, done, completed and only awaits our embracing It for us to experience It as It Is.

    That experience is Bliss, the experience that every being is striving for but looking without where it is not to be found instead of looking within where it abides forever awaiting out discovery.


  • Sd Sd
    Lv 5
    9 years ago

    it depends on the Definition of Omniscient, or rather, how he knows that he knows. We can predict things that will happen to a certain degree so it`s possible that if a God existed that he can predict all things perfectly and thus knows everything that will happen without the knowledge being decided or embedded within him.

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