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This page is a partial answer to an extended letter on another page, Difficult Questions:  Free Will and the Problem of Evil  The reader may wish to refer to that page for a better understanding of the background of this one.  This is the ninth and final page of answers.

If God knows what will happen, can it happen any differently--and if not, where is our ability to choose?

  "I meant to say that if God is omniscient, then free will cannot exist.  Again, if God knows what we are going to do, then we MUST do that thing.  From the 'absolute' standpoint, free will cannot exist.  You mentioned a teleological scenario, where God may have simply created the universe, knowing full well what developmental course it would take, only to return on Judgement Day.  My point is that from the absolute perspective, humans are just automatons, destined by physical law to do what God has foreseen.  Even though humans 'think' they have free will, they clearly do not from the standpoint of God -- that was my core point.

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  "Another monkey wrench is thrown into the equation when you consider Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.  Because of this theory, even if humans are someday able to visualize movement of objects at a near quantum resolution, they will never be able to make predictions.  If God knows the entire universe at quantum resolution (which He clearly must), then he will have total omniscience and free will (as I have stated) cannot exist.  So free will, in my view, is a pragmatic construct utilized by society, which could clearly not function without it."

  I'm roughly following your letter, so I may be wandering.  I've already addressed the free will problem, but it comes up again.  But let me address it from another perspective.  Let us suppose that someone comes back in time from the future, and merely observes us.  Let us also suppose that whether or not we are aware of his presence, he does not impact our choices in any way.  Although he will not know everything, he will know some of the choices we have not yet made, the decisions we made, and the events which resulted.  From his perspective, those things are all in the past, already established.  From our perspective, those things are still in the future.  Do we have less free will in the matter merely because to him the results are known?  Or viewed another way, sometime after midnight last night I had to run out for a couple things, and decided, after some consideration, to buy myself an egg salad sandwich, and to eat it; I did so.  Today, that is in the past, and I cannot change it.  But just because I cannot change that choice now, does that mean that I had no freedom to choose then?  I realize that it's a difficult argument, but really, the ability of another to know what I will choose does not invalidate the freedom of my choice.

  I do recognize that if my choices are so predictable, there is a sense in which I could not choose otherwise because I would not have chosen otherwise under those exact circumstances.  I confront this matter on the Temporal Anomalies site.  But there is a metaphysical difference between being unwilling to choose differently and being unable to choose differently, even if the practical result is the same.  In short, if I am unable to do other than I do, I have no moral responsibility for my actions; but if I do what I do because being who I am I would not choose differently even though I theoretically could, I can be held accountable for that which I choose.

  But let us consider it differently.  Your problem is that God knows what we will do, and therefore we must do that.  Quite apart from the fact that the ability of another to predict our choices does not invalidate the freedom with which we choose, you make an assumption about the nature of time and foreknowledge which is not proved.  You imagine a God who lives in the present and sees the future as fixed from the past.  But those who have considered the matter of the foreknowledge of God would suggest that God exists outside time.  He sees what we will choose because from His perspective we have already made those choices, already lived our lives from beginning to end, already died; and our descendants also have all lived and died, as if on a panoramic mural across the vast walls that are the reality of time.  He doesn't know what we will choose; He already knows what we have chosen.  The choice is still in the future for us, but for Him the concept of future is no more limiting than the idea that an author cannot know how his book ends when he begins to write it.

  I think that's everything.  I look forward to your next installment--I might even get around to turning our correspondence into pages for my web site; you have provided some very challenging questions, and forced me to think.  I hope I have done the same for you.

  Thanks again.

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