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Free Will

  1. Jun 12, 2007 #1
    If there is an omnipotent god, how can we have free will? An omnipotent being would know the future, therefore the future would be set down, and we could not make decisions for ourselves.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 12, 2007 #2


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    I there was an omnipotent deity, would not that deity have the power to ignore the future and take whatever results from our expression of free will?
  4. Jun 12, 2007 #3
    Or, the deity could see all possible futures, and people would go through whatever future they choose.
  5. Jun 12, 2007 #4


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    Another equally valid possibility.
  6. Jun 12, 2007 #5
    The point is.. Is that we don't know.

    There are 2 possible outcomes when you talk about a divine being's judgement in several faiths - Salvation or damnation. Every decision that we make from the time we are born to the time we die determines where we are placed.

    When you go to a store you can easily steal something you were planning on paying for by accidentally putting it in your pocket.. It is your decision whether not you will return to the store and pay for the item or not. An occasion of ignorance, an example of free will?
  7. Jun 12, 2007 #6
    How would that be possible? Would this omnipotent being also be thinking for you and performing all of your actions?
  8. Jun 12, 2007 #7
    You don't have to be a god to know in advance the future decisions of other people.
    If you know enought from one people you can know what decisions he will make.
  9. Jun 12, 2007 #8
    The deity would know what you're going to do, but he did not make you do it.
  10. Jun 12, 2007 #9
    Well I believe in an omnipotent God and I don't believe in free will, so I have no problem with your conclusion. Seems plausible to me that any omnipotent deity might predetermine his subjects' actions.
  11. Jun 13, 2007 #10
    Actually an omniscient, all knowing, being would know the future, an omnipotent being is just 'all powerful', so they might or not choose to use their power to know any particular thing.

    In terms of freewill though, the important thing is omnipotent, but not because of knowing things. If you tell me you're going to kill someone, assuming you're not lieing and you're capable, I know you're going to do it, so I'm in the same position as an omniscient god, with respect to that one thing at least. Doesn't mean I'm making the choice for you. I may simply not care. I know lots of things I never had any choice in. 'Future knowledge' is still just knowledge. For an omniscient god, its all 'past'.

    Now, omnipotent, does create a problem for freewill. An 'all powerful' god, whether it uses its power or not, can make you do anything it wants. So even if its refraining from forcing you to do something, that still leaves the choice of an action.... all up to it. You might choose to kill someone, but if an omnipotent god doesn't want you to, it still has the final say. You don't really have a choice in any real sense.
  12. Jun 13, 2007 #11

    This is all implying that omnipotence is possible in the sense of knowing the future without any doubt. To forsee the future, you would need to know the exact position and velocity of every particle in the universe, which, according to quantum mechanics, is impossible, as it violates the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.
  13. Jun 13, 2007 #12
    While I agree omnipotence is nonsensical, being bound by physical laws is exactly what an omnipotent being wouldn't be. The being could simply change the physical law or magically get around it. And an omniscient being wouldn't need to 'observe' anything, by definition they would already know it.
  14. Jun 14, 2007 #13
    there was an article in Scientific American years ago about why no one, not even a god could know the actual future. It had to do with the need to sample data in order to become aware of it and anything less than an infinite sample, which is impossible, will introduce data gaps which exponentially increase and very quickly obscure whatever projections you might make about the future.
  15. Jun 14, 2007 #14
    Omnipotent means 'all powerful', and yes thats nonsensical from a science/logic point of view, but it also, by definition, means nothing is impossible for such a being, assuming one believes in an omnipotent being.
  16. Jun 15, 2007 #15

    Yes but if god controlled our fate wouldn't you notice if someone is a good person throughout life then he all of a sudden robs a bank. That is unless this omnipotent dude doesn't mess with people.:smile:
  17. Jun 15, 2007 #16
    I like this one.

    I'll assume that when you say omnipotent you mean omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. And, assuming that this god has foreknowledge (neat word, sorry) of a persons actions. It doesn't follow that the person did not have free will with their actions.

    Consider free will without this god. If you believe in fundamental and static laws for this universe then it is reasonable that there is a predetermined outcome for everything. This situation isn't much different from one with an omniscient god, except that this god knows your choices your choices before you; they were inevitable anyway.

    Like JoeDawg said, you only really lose your free will when this being uses its power to force certain choices onto you. Sorry, I know this has all been said, but I wanted to state my solution in my words.
  18. Jun 15, 2007 #17
    if this god is also the creator, then you lose your freewill because it was his ultimate and knowing choice, presuming he had freedom, that made the entire universe presumably fit his desires and so your actions were all determined by this one act. The flaw I see in this scenerio is that this being seems to be a slave of its own omniscience and never had any choice in what it had to do because it always had to do it.
  19. Jun 18, 2007 #18
    The way christian theologians usually get around this is by saying that god is 'eternal', or as they say, outside of time. This actually makes sense with regards to physics, since time doesn't really exist 'before' a big bang, time is an aspect of the 'created' universe. Also within this type of logic, the entire history of the universe, the universe itself, is just a 'moment', an object for consideration by this god. Of course the problem with words like omniscience and eternal is that they describe things we have no real relation to, let alone any sort of proof of.
  20. Jun 21, 2007 #19
    What would omnipotence even want? What would it lack? What form would awareness take in the realm of omnipotence?

    Seems to me that only the less than omnimpotent would be cursed with such things as desire. Human life seems to be nothing but desire. It seems to control everything human beings do and believe.
  21. Jul 5, 2007 #20

    That is what I always thought, like you would have to sample a poor damn baby from it's birth, watch all its movements, patterns, brain waves... its just not going to happen consciousness wont let it. In the end, I think theres something besides free will or determinism. A third theorem which is a tad more complex.
  22. Jul 6, 2007 #21
    Ah the classic omniscience and free will debate.

    The fact is if you look at free will in a broad sense, and God knows everything from the beginning of time to the end, then any action you take is predetermined, God knows your action from now until you die.

    Now you may believe that every action you take is a matter of choice, but let's set up an argument.

    I have a choice: to either eat cheese sandwiches or ham sandwiches, ie I have at least two possible choices and two possible outcomes, and I chose ham, now God knew I would choose ham so the only possible outcome was ham, so in fact although I was convinced I had a choice there was only one possible outcome. Choice by it's nature means that we should have a range of outcomes, in the omniscient sense of this we don't.

    This is only an illusion of free will, it is not a choice, in other words: the illusion of free will is so complete it might as well be true, but in fact might it? Or are we just in a cage of self delusion?

    There are two arguments to argue this age old issue:- http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/compatibilism/" [Broken] that try to resolve it either way.

    There is no answer, what you can be sure of though that the paradox of God's omniscience and choice has been in existence since the latter half of the first millenium AD amongst theologians both Jewish and Muslim, and no one has come up with a satisfiable answer unless it removes the absolute omniscience ie it says God knows the ultimate future but is hazy on the details in between, so God is in some way not omniscient as we understand it, and as in fact it was understood in the OT. Why give the Earth one hundred years to change or perish in a flood, when God already knows you will fail, it's kind of cruel :smile: it's like dangling a carrot on a string in front of a donkey.

    This idea of a God who was not totally omniscient changed with the advent of organised religion and lead to an ever widening chasm the Church has dug itself into; now we can't get into a discussion about which church was right the ancient Jewish one or the new Christian one. But we can scratch our heads and claim that they have shot themselves in the foot these days. :smile:
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  23. Jul 6, 2007 #22
    If i were religious I'd go with, god is omniscient ie can calculate all possibilites but uses free will to deny himself knowledge of any specific outcome unless he so chooses.

    Adam and Eve as a parable for free will kinda proves that. God set up a test, knew what the possible outcomes would be and left it to us to exercise free will.

    As mentioned in another thread though The multiverse with branching timelines for each choice and its opposite makes a stronger case for free will. For if both choices enacted lead to different outcomes in differing universi then we are free to choose either and although the result is known, it is not known which choice we will make.
  24. Jul 9, 2007 #23
    If God knows the possibilities but not the outcome, then he is not really omniscient is he?
  25. Jul 9, 2007 #24
    If a conscious mind can think about all of this, isnt it an omnipotent being? Or isnt it an omnipotent mind? If we have an omnipotent mind/imagination, what is there left for god to have?
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2007
  26. Jul 10, 2007 #25
    ...yes, if he knows the possibilities and chooses not to know the outcome as per adam eve and the fruit ???
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