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Thread: Does an Omniscient Creator Lead to Fatalism?

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    Does an Omniscient Creator Lead to Fatalism?

    I'll start with two assumptions that I think most Christians can agree with.

    1. God is Omniscient.He is all knowing of all things through all time. He is able to see ever chain of cause and effect through to its end.
    2. God created the universe. My point doesn't depend on the mechanism of creation simply that God initiated it.

    If these two assumptions hold then prior to God creating the universe he was able to know what would happen if he were to create that universe. He has able to see every global event, and every personal event that would occur if he were to go through with creating that particular universe. He would also have been able to consider other universes that he could have created. Ones with different fundamental laws of physics, ones where DNA strands operate differently, ones where the nature of peoples hearts are different, even ones where everything is identical to the current universe except that instead of having coffee this morning you had tea. An omniscient and omnipotent God had all of these options before him and yet he chose to create the universe we live in. Seeing as how he knew exactly what would happen if he were to create the world, and he had other options for worlds he could create wouldn't that make life one big simulation.

    Doesn't this break the idea of free will. I am familiar with and am comfortable with many of the explanations of how there can be free will with an omniscient God (ie. knowing that someone will do something doesn't take away their choice to do that thing). However none of these explanations (that I can find) address the issue that if you know what someone will do if you create them, and you could also create them differently knowing what they would do in that case as well, then how does this creation have any choice in what they do. They are just the result of you picking to create that particular instance.

    I am really struggling to resolve this idea in my head, and have been praying that I will come to peace with it, but I just can't let go of it.

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    tWebber tabibito's Avatar
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    Does an omniscient creator lead to fatalism? No.

    The key to the problem lies in what is said (in scripture, that is) about God's all-knowingness. Does holy writ define omniscience as knowing everything; past, present, and future down to the last minute detail?

    Isaac Asimov explored the concept (to some extent) with psycho-history in his "Foundation" series.

    As you have noted, the standard current concepts of omniscience DO in fact lead inescapably to fatalism - so either Calvinists are right, or the current concept is wrong.
    και εκζητησατε με και ευρησετε με οτι ζητησετε με εν ολη καρδία υμων

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    Quote Originally Posted by tabibito View Post
    Does an omniscient creator lead to fatalism? No.

    The key to the problem lies in what is said (in scripture, that is) about God's all-knowingness. Does holy writ define omniscience as knowing everything; past, present, and future down to the last minute detail?
    So would you say God has no knowledge of the future (outside of that which can be inferred)? Just perfect knowledge of the past and present?

    Scriptures like psalms 139 seem to point towards God be omniscient down to the minute detail. Unless we just write this off as poetic hyperbole.

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    tWebber tabibito's Avatar
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    Perhaps omniscience simply means knowing everything that can be known - with some things being inherently unknowable. The outcomes of all possible decisions (which might be one of a hundred or more options) might be known to the nth degree. But the choice of a particular option might ultimately be unknowable until it has been made ... free will would point to that possibility, and it would explain a number of prophecies in which fulfilment is based on an "if."

    Mostly, the standard viewpoints rely on the idea that the future already exists. If it doesn't exist, it would almost certainly be unknowable - although extrapolation of available data might give certainty regarding cause-and-effect events, extrapolation from a decision that hasn't been made yet would be less certain.
    και εκζητησατε με και ευρησετε με οτι ζητησετε με εν ολη καρδία υμων

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    If you have perfect knowledge of all that exists then you should be able to extrapolated perfectly and chain these extrapolations ad infinitum. Unless God is also bound by Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and can't fully observe the state of things. I guess maybe we have some sort of metaphysical component to our decision making (call it a soul or will or whatever) that is unobservable to God. Or perhaps these things are observable but God chooses to remain ignorant to them (for what reason I don't know, maybe he likes the suspense?).

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    tWebber tabibito's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mythas View Post
    If you have perfect knowledge of all that exists then you should be able to extrapolated perfectly and chain these extrapolations ad infinitum.
    Assuming that there was only one possible outcome for each event, you would be right. However, if multiple outcomes are possible, it would come down to probability.
    Unless God is also bound by Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and can't fully observe the state of things.
    The capacity for free decision (even if it is severely limited by circumstances) would be analagous to the Heisenberg principle, I think.
    I guess maybe we have some sort of metaphysical component to our decision making (call it a soul or will or whatever) that is unobservable to God. Or perhaps these things are observable but God chooses to remain ignorant to them (for what reason I don't know, maybe he likes the suspense?).
    Unpredictable would seem a reasonable conclusion - it would take a very solid argument to make me consider the possibility of unobservable.
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    It's the old "God's omniscience versus freewill" debate.

    One solution to this difficulty is that God's knowledge of what would happen in the universe occurred simultaneously with his creation of the universe. That is to say that at the moment of creation, God saw the entirety of the universe's history from beginning to end, and God, being outside of the universe and its temporal constraints, is able to see every freewill decision we will ever make because, from his perspective, he's already seen us make them. It's a bit like watching a movie, and then watching it a second time -- you know what's going to happen because you've already seen it happen. Or suppose you have a time machine, and one day you observe a man slip on a banana peel, and you find it so hilarious that you travel 5-minutes into the past to watch it again. Now, does your foreknowledge predestine the man to slip on the banana peel? No, because your foreknowledge is the result and not the cause.

    However, I also believe that God is able to interact with our universe and change things as he wills, so nothing is fixed in place.
    Some may call me foolish, and some may call me odd
    But I'd rather be a fool in the eyes of man
    Than a fool in the eyes of God


    From "Fools Gold" by Petra

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mountain Man View Post
    It's the old "God's omniscience versus freewill" debate.

    One solution to this difficulty is that God's knowledge of what would happen in the universe occurred simultaneously with his creation of the universe. That is to say that at the moment of creation, God saw the entirety of the universe's history from beginning to end, and God, being outside of the universe and its temporal constraints, is able to see every freewill decision we will ever make because, from his perspective, he's already seen us make them. It's a bit like watching a movie, and then watching it a second time -- you know what's going to happen because you've already seen it happen. Or suppose you have a time machine, and one day you observe a man slip on a banana peel, and you find it so hilarious that you travel 5-minutes into the past to watch it again. Now, does your foreknowledge predestine the man to slip on the banana peel? No, because your foreknowledge is the result and not the cause.

    However, I also believe that God is able to interact with our universe and change things as he wills, so nothing is fixed in place.
    God in His omniscience absolutely foreknows all things. Foreknowing is not foreseeing nor the causing of those events. God's agent, His Son, is the means by which God has chosen to cause what He will cause (Ephesians 3:9; John 1:3). His Son in His deity with His Father has by the will of His Father chosen to limit His foreknowledge in some things (Genesis 22:12; Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7).
    . . . the Gospel of Christ, for it is [the] power of God to salvation to every [one] believing, . . . -- Romans 1:16.

    . . . that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: . . . -- 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4.

    Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: . . . -- 1 John 5:1.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mountain Man View Post
    It's a bit like watching a movie, and then watching it a second time -- you know what's going to happen because you've already seen it happen. Or suppose you have a time machine, and one day you observe a man slip on a banana peel, and you find it so hilarious that you travel 5-minutes into the past to watch it again. Now, does your foreknowledge predestine the man to slip on the banana peel? No, because your foreknowledge is the result and not the cause.
    I'm quite comfortable with this idea and don't have any issue with it. The only issue I have if you are the writer of the movie and you know the man will slip on the banana. If you choose to make that movie then you have caused the man to slip. However you address this concern with the following idea.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mountain Man View Post
    One solution to this difficulty is that God's knowledge of what would happen in the universe occurred simultaneously with his creation of the universe. That is to say that at the moment of creation, God saw the entirety of the universe's history from beginning to end, and God, being outside of the universe and its temporal constraints, is able to see every freewill decision we will ever make because, from his perspective, he's already seen us make them.
    This answer feels a bit hokie to me. It really puts a limit on both Gods power and his ability to know things. It implies that God was shocked by his own creation, that it wasn't what he expected or intended to make. It essentially makes us a bit of an accident.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mythas View Post
    I'll start with two assumptions that I think most Christians can agree with.

    1. God is Omniscient.He is all knowing of all things through all time. He is able to see ever chain of cause and effect through to its end.
    2. God created the universe. My point doesn't depend on the mechanism of creation simply that God initiated it.

    If these two assumptions hold then prior to God creating the universe he was able to know what would happen if he were to create that universe. He has able to see every global event, and every personal event that would occur if he were to go through with creating that particular universe. He would also have been able to consider other universes that he could have created. Ones with different fundamental laws of physics, ones where DNA strands operate differently, ones where the nature of peoples hearts are different, even ones where everything is identical to the current universe except that instead of having coffee this morning you had tea. An omniscient and omnipotent God had all of these options before him and yet he chose to create the universe we live in. Seeing as how he knew exactly what would happen if he were to create the world, and he had other options for worlds he could create wouldn't that make life one big simulation.

    Doesn't this break the idea of free will. I am familiar with and am comfortable with many of the explanations of how there can be free will with an omniscient God (ie. knowing that someone will do something doesn't take away their choice to do that thing). However none of these explanations (that I can find) address the issue that if you know what someone will do if you create them, and you could also create them differently knowing what they would do in that case as well, then how does this creation have any choice in what they do. They are just the result of you picking to create that particular instance.

    I am really struggling to resolve this idea in my head, and have been praying that I will come to peace with it, but I just can't let go of it.
    Foreknowledge is not causation. God's knowing what would happen does not necessarily mean He caused it.
    Last edited by seer; 12-19-2017 at 11:44 AM.
    Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

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