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If God's Omniscient, Do We Really Have Free-Will?

This week Dorian F. writes: "If God is omniscient, that is, has unbounded knowledge, then He knows all aspects of an person's life before that person is born. If God is love, then He wants only peace and happiness for that person. Suppose that person is an atheist for his entire life. Upon death the person must go to Hell for eternity, punished by the very same God that created him. It is not reasonable that an all-knowing, all-loving God would create beings knowing that He would torture them. Saying that the person went to Hell of his own free will presupposes that God is not all-knowing."

In past columns I've dealt with the issue of God "sending" people to hell, the reality-or not-of hell as a place of eternal punishment, and God's desire for peace, love, and harmony for humanity. This week we look at omniscience and freewill as well as the reasonableness of God.

Omniscience means that God knows everything there is to know, both past, present, and future, knows our thoughts, motivations, what we've done, are doing, and will do. Omniscience literally means all-knowing. Although the word omniscience never appears in the Bible, the concepts that God knows everything are well documented. Hebrews 4.13 reads: "And before [God] no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account." And Psalm 139 reads: "O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely" (139.1-4). Clearly, according to scripture, God knows it all.

So, if God knows it all, why doesn't God intervene? Because foreknowledge means neither predestination nor does it imply intervention.

Though there are no good parallel examples that we can use for a better understanding, but a poor attempt will have to suffice. Meteorologists have the capability to predict rather accurately the path of a hurricane. Of course there is room for error, but if a storm is barreling down on the Louisiana shoreline there is plenty of time to warn the residents there. However, every time a hurricane is ready to make landfall, there are some residents who, although they have been warned, still choose to remain to "weather" the storm. The governor can call for an evacuation of the town, the National Guard can try to enforce it, but there are always some who do not comply.

When God created humanity we were given the greatest gift a god could bestow - pure freewill. Humans have the ability to choose good or evil, right or wrong, and to embrace or reject their creator. That's a powerful gift. Certainly God could have created little automatons to bow in reverent obeisance, but what's the point of that? Instead, God chose to give each of us the ability to choose. And the fact that God "allows" folks to be born who will choose otherwise doesn't mean that God isn't love-it means that God chooses to allow freewill, period.

"But that isn't reasonable," say some. My question to those who ask is this: Who are we to determine what is reasonable? A thousand years ago it wasn't reasonable to assume the earth wasn't the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago it wasn't reasonable to think the earth was round. There were those as few as 150 years ago who said it wasn't reasonable for any ethnicity other than Caucasian to really be human and to have a soul. And somehow we still think it's reasonable to put to punish by death someone for killing someone else.

The reality is that we are human and we aren't particularly reasonable. True reason is of God and since God makes the rules it really isn't for us to carte blanche decide God is unreasonable. Our understanding of God might be, but God, if God is anything, is reasonable. Even if we don't "get it."

Freewill, however, is one of those things we can understand if we choose to. Personally, Dorian, I'm glad God didn't choose to make me one of God's marionettes. I make a bunch of dumb choices, but at least I know they're all mine.

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