Many have wondered how, if God knows everything we will do in the future, can we be said to have free will?  After all, if we freely chose to do something other than what God foreknew, God would be wrong in what He foreknew; but since God cannot be mistaken we must do all that He foreknew we would do.  Doesn’t this reduce us to mere actors, playing out the parts written for us by God?  Are we puppets who have no control over our own actions?  Darwinist, Robert Eberle, encapsulates this supposedly intractable problem of free agency in light of an omniscient God nicely:

Aside from his simple declarations without any foundation that he believes certain biblical stories and miracles are true, he runs into major problems. One is the claim that God knows what was, is and will be. Collins asserts that there is still free will, but fails to explain his logic for arriving at this extraordinary conclusion. Either what will be is known and fixed or it is not. An infallible god that knows what is going to happen is in conflict with the idea that there is free choice and thus a responsibility for one’s actions.[1]

While it is true that the future is fixed because God perfectly knows all that will happen and cannot be mistaken, this does not mean He fixes the future.  It does not follow that God’s foreknowledge of our future acts causes us to choose those acts anymore than my knowledge of your past actions would make me the cause of your acts.  As William Lane Craig has argued, we do not do what God foreknows, but rather God foreknows what we will do.  In other words, God’s foreknowledge is not the cause of our actions; our actions are the cause of God’s foreknowledge.  While God’s knowledge of all future contingent acts may be chronologically prior to those acts, the acts themselves are logically prior to God’s knowledge.  This makes sense.  Knowledge has no causal powers.  It cannot cause anything, so therefore God’s knowledge of the future cannot be the cause of our acts.

While God knows for certain what will happen in the future, our free choices inform the foreknowledge of which He is certain.  His foreknowledge does not necessitate/determine our choices.  If we would have freely chosen to do X rather than Y, God would know X for certain rather than Y.  But in God’s foreknowledge He knows we will freely choose Y, and thus is certain that we will choose Y.

For more reading see my article titled “Does God’s Perfect Knowledge of the Future Render Free Will and Human Responsibility Meaningless?


[1]Robert K. Eberle, “The Language of God: If God Could Talk What Would he Say?”  Review of Francis Collins’ book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.  Contained in an eSkeptic newsletter dated 02 October 2006.