God's Nature Vs. Man's Free Will

1915 words - 8 pages

God's Nature vs. Man's Free Will

The reconciliation of God's nature and Man's free will has long been a subject of debate for philosophers and theologians. Christianity rests upon certain ideas about the nature of God and the universe. The Bible speaks of God as eternal, all-knowing, and as the very author of reality. The concept of God as a benevolent, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent entity is rooted in thousands of years of church tradition. This tradition is so ingrained in Western culture, that, when one mentions "God", these ideas almost invariably come to mind.

The idea of Man's free will is also a well-established tradition in Christianity. The very need for Christian redemption is based upon the choices made by Adam and Eve at the very beginning of history. There is an idea that Man either chooses to sin against God, or chooses to obey Him. This ability to choose between two options allows good and evil to exist as opposites on the spectrum of morality. This in turn necessitates a need for an atonement process by which Man can be redeemed for the evils that are committed. Without this doctrine, Christianity is unnecessary. Redemption is not required for those who commit no wrong.

The above ideas seem relatively straightforward when presented as independent beliefs. A great deal of confusion does arise, however, when the ideas are brought together as a system of beliefs. Some parts of God's nature seem to disallow the possibility of free will. How can God's knowledge of all actions - past, present, and future - allow any human to make a choice of his own volition? By its very nature, omniscience is infallible, therefore it seems that one is not free to choose anything other than that which God knows. This apparent dichotomy was presented to Augustine by his disciple Evodius. In his answer, Augustine states that God knows the will of man, but does not actually cause that will to be so. He explains that,

"...although God foreknows our wills to be, it does not thereby follow that we do not will a thing by our will. [A] culpable sill, if you are going to have one, will be none the less your own will because God foreknows that it is to be so." (Augustine 260)

Evodius seems happy enough to accept this explanation, and proclaims that he says the error in his previous thinking.

Augustine's view of God's foreknowledge apparently worked for his disciple, however later philosophers were not quite so content. As the debate continued through the years, some became convinced that Augustine's explanation was lacking. Nelson Pike thought that Augustine's reasoning was flawed in that one's will to do X at a given time (T2), if foreknown by God at a previous time (T1), could not change to not do X at T2. Pike argued that the definition of omniscience would not allow God's knowledge to be changed by Man (Pike 262).

An important thing to note about Pike's argument is that he argued against the compatibility of...

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