Addendum to Ch 13 – Free Will Implications

Wallace (Shaun) Shaunfield Copyright 2010 

Posted April 27, 2010 


This addition to the book, My God, Your God?, should be read after you first read Chapter 13, Free Will Implication. I indicated in the first chapter, also available on this website, that some of my beliefs derived from free will were controversial. The controversy arises because my conclusions are contrary to long term Christian tradition.

In summary, Chapter 13 discusses the realization that in the Old Testament on numerous occasions, God was angry or He grieved, or He relented concerning the actions of His chosen Hebrew people. These feelings did not seem consistent with God knowing what would happen in the future. I found numerous occasions where God had these feelings because the actions of his children. Conventional Christian thinking has long held that God was omniscient, meaning He knew everything past, present and future. However, after much study and reflection I concluded that God did not know to what extent His children would follow His ways.

That being said would mean that God did not have control of the actions of humans after He gave them free will and that fits with my definition of free will. Earlier, I made the statement that when God gave us free will and gave up control of us. Actually, that is not exactly correct. Prior to humans having free will they were instinctive creatures and God did not need to control them. Their actions were the result of their instincts. My belief is that when God gave humans free will, He did not impose His control on them.

I do hold the belief that God is omniscient in all areas where He has control of the events. When God sets about to do something, He knows what it is and had the power to see His desires met.

The logic of the conclusion

This addendum is the result of a good friend disagreeing with my conclusions in chapter 13 and the exchange of ideas we each had in supporting our respective position. I stated earlier that this was expected since my conclusions were so different from tradition. As a result of this exchange I realized there was a logical argument to my position and that it may be stronger than the strictly biblical approach taken in the book. This phenomenon of increase understanding resulting from our discussion is stated in the Bible:

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

(Proverbs 27:17)

What follows is that logical argument to my conclusions of Chapter 13 which are as follows:

  1. God does not control our actions and thoughts.
  2. God does not know to what extent His children will follow His ways.

As a side note, I would like to add a few comments. I believe that God must delight in this discussion between me and my friend. God gave us to ability to think and reason and He must like being the topic of such a discussion. What topic could be more important? Even with all our powers of logic and reason, we very likely have it all wrong and I am sure many of our comments are silly and must make God laugh out loud. I do not have an expectation that we will ever agree on this subject; that is not what is important. At any rate there is a joy in believing I have learned something about My God and maybe you have done the same about Your God.

Let us first look at conclusion #1.

Does God control our actions and thoughts? I assume that what we are talking about here is our every action and thought; not just an occasional event. I do believe that God on occasion does intervene in our lives, but He typically does so by changing conditions around us so that we make a decision in line with his desires. We are still the ones in control of our own decisions – good and bad. I can see that has happened many times in my life.

Now back to the thought that God controls our every action and thought. The logic is:

  • If God controls our every action and thought.
  • Then decisions for us to sin would have been made by God.
  • We all know that could not be true, and therefore, this one statement is conclusive evidence that God does not control our every action and thought.

There is more evidence. If we are to have a true relationship with God then that requires that we are in control of the decision to love God. If God were to control that decision then it would be like God was in love with God and we humans would just be mechanical zombies in the middle. What kind of a relationship would that be?

Next let us look at conclusion #2.

Does God know our future actions? Let us assume for a moment that God knows all our future actions and thoughts. The logic steps are:

  • If God knows all our future actions and thoughts.
  • That means that all our future actions and thoughts are knowable (knowable will be discussed later).
  •  Furthermore, God by knowing them could record each one.
  •  That means that all of our future thoughts and actions are already determined; they are predetermined. This sounds like predestination, but I am not going there.
  • That being the case, we may have the illusion of having free will, but in reality do not and we could not change to an action that was not predetermined.
  •  But what about God? If we are in a relationship with God then our actions are interrelated. If I do something, that may cause God to do something in response. For example, God may answer a prayer. And if God did something, that may cause me to do something. In other words the actions of our relationship are linked.
  • If all my actions are predetermined then all actions of God in our relationship are also predetermined and God could not change His mind about any of those actions.
  • I have difficulty with this. Who is to say God can or cannot do anything? Then who was it that listed all the future, predetermined actions? Was it God Himself? Why would he lock Himself into something He could not later change? Furthermore, what purpose does it serve, for humans or God?
  • Therefore, conclusion #2 is true; God does not know to what extent His children will follow His ways.

Another argument for conclusion #2 is that if it is false then free will has no meaning. That is contrary to both secular considerations about consciousness and biblical examples such as when the Hebrew people by their own volition strayed from God’s way.

I would point out that the above argument assumes a time dimension that we humans are in. It has been suggested that God is in a different time dimension and that He can move forward and backward in time, much as we do with our spatial dimension. That being the case God could move forward in time and, therefore, could know the future as well as the past and present. However, the scripture indicates that God is moving in time just as we humans are. That is why He can be angry, grieve and be surprised at events as they occur.

Now let us look at the concept of what is knowable. There are several instances in the Bible where it is stated that God knows everything. Many have added “past, present and future”. I would instead add “that is knowable”. The difference is how the phrase, “God knows everything” is interpreted. I believe there are things happening in God’s expanding universe that could be leading to new laws of physics that are yet unknown and are not yet knowable even by God. These are the things that God will learn in the future. I believe our awesome God is a dynamic, curious, thinking and learning God. If you believe God can learn then He must not yet know everything.  I believe that God works by initiating various processes such as the evolution of the universe and then watches as the process works. Then on occasion God intervenes and redirects the process to suit His desire. God is curious about the process and learns as it progresses.

If God truly knows everything then there is nothing more to learn and God is static without these attributes I propose. It might very well be that the real topic of this debate is the question of God being a dynamic, learning God or a static, fully knowledgeable God. It is probably even more likely that God is something completely different than either of these perceptions.

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