Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Predestination, Free Will, or both?

One of the prevailing arguments in Christianity is whether we are predestined to be saved, or whether we choose to be saved.

In my view the answer is "yes."

Let me explain.

The Christian conception of God is one who is eternal. He has neither beginning, nor end, and may have only an intellectual appreciation of the concept of past and future, existing in the eternal "now." He is also all knowing, which I translate as knowing all true propositions.

An illustration I've used proposes that we first imagine a librarian. Now let us imagine that this librarian inhabits a library. This library exists at the end of time. This library also contains nothing but history books, and within those history books are written every decision ever made by a person from the beginning of time. Our imaginary librarian has read every book and hence knows every decision made throughout history.

Does the existence of these history books preclude those who are recorded therein from making free choices? No. The knowledge in these books was obtained passively, from recording observations. Hence the mere fact of such knowledge does not preclude free will.

If we give our librarian a time machine and send him back to the beginning of time with his library, he can live alongside the people who fill his books, even telling them ahead of time things that will happen. He has not caused those things to happen, but he has foreknown or predestined them.

So it is with God. He knows every decision made, because the act of making that decision causes him to know it. Those who choose to accept his authority, he foreknew. Those who choose to rebel he foreordained. The conflict between them arises from our applying our own temporal limitations to an entity who does not possess them.

Predestination and free will are not contrary to each other. In my view they are simply two sides of the same coin.

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