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A website for the book by Ian J Thompson:

"Rational Scientific Theories from Theism"


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16.4 Freedom

Again we wonder: if God knows about our future free choices, what would happen if he were to tell us what these will be? Would we be bound to fulfill them? In this case, would we not be predestined to watch our future approach and not be able to do anything about it? That would be predestination!

The answer must be no to both questions, for the simple reason that if God tells us something, we are changed. Any acquisition of knowledge must change our state and give us the power to do something different in the future. The whole universe must now evolve differently because of that interaction, and we have to conclude that even spoken divine predictions become, ipso facto, not necessarily still true. We may accept the prediction, or we may rebel or repent so it is now longer true. This means that, if God is to tell us of his foreknowledge, the best he can do is to tell us where we are heading and hence what we would do if he did not interact with us by the telling.16.6

The preliminary ontology assumed here is that God is outside the universe. He sees all future possibilities and also knows which of these will be actualized if the universe proceeds by itself. However, God is living and hence free to interact with the universe at any time. Actions are always in the present. Those interactions change the future that starts from the time of the interaction. It may seem odd that God can change the world so it has a new future he did not see before. Cannot he see what he is going to do? And what about God’s Wisdom and foreknowledge of the future: knowledge that is supposed to be eternal and timeless. How can timeless knowledge change? The answers to these questions are that since God can act, the world must change as a consequence and hence also his knowledge of that must change. It would be entirely illogical for God’s actions to change the world and for God’s knowledge not to be able to reflect those changes!16.7

We should remember that this model of God being outside the universe and only intermittently interacting with it is not itself strictly true within theism. This whole book is based on the principle that the universe can never really be an autonomous system, but needs continually the life that only comes from God. Later we will see more details of that ‘life that comes from God’. For now we only note that God is (almost certainly) frequently interacting with the world. I speculate that we may be often receiving information that comes from divine foreknowledge, and furthermore, that much of our inner spiritual life may in fact be based on receiving that information in a reliable manner. The resulting insights, for example, may continually inform us about where we are heading and give us means to make revisions. By God’s giving us our own partial foresight, we have a means to freedom from compulsions that might otherwise be difficult to achieve.

Concerning predestination, we find that either we do not know of the projected future, in which case we still make our own life as if on our own, or else we do know of the projected future, in which case we are free to react on the basis of that knowledge. In neither case are we presented with a given future that we must inexorably see coming towards us as predestination, so fatalism would always be an irrational response. In both cases, rational life is still possible, whereby we think about possibilities and decide which of our loves to manifest in our life of action.

Previous: 16.3 The future Up: 16. We Act Sequentially Next: 17. We are Composite, as Spiritual, Mental and Physical

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