Argument from free will
|Part of a series on|
|Arguments for atheism|
|Part of a series on|
|Philosophy of religion|
|Concepts in religion|
|Conceptions of God|
|Existence of God|
|Theories of religion|
|Philosophers of religion|
The argument from free will (also called the paradox of free will, or theological fatalism) contends that omniscience and free will are incompatible, and that any conception of God that incorporates both properties is therefore inherently contradictory. The argument may focus on the incoherence of people having free will, or else God himself having free will. These arguments are deeply concerned with the implications of predestination, and often seem to echo the standard argument against free will.
People and their free will 
Some arguments against God focus on the supposed incoherence of humankind possessing free will. These arguments are deeply concerned with the implications of predestination.
… "Does God know or does He not know that a certain individual will be good or bad? If thou sayest 'He knows', then it necessarily follows that [that] man is compelled to act as God knew beforehand he would act, otherwise God's knowledge would be imperfect.…"
Counters reconceptualizing free will 
- God can know in advance what I will do, because free will is to be understood only as freedom from coercion, and anything further is an illusion. This is the move made by compatibilistic philosophies.
- The sovereignty (autonomy) of God, existing within a free agent, provides strong inner compulsions toward a course of action (calling), and the power of choice (election). The actions of a human are thus determined by a human acting on relatively strong or weak urges (both from God and the environment around them) and their own relative power to choose.
- Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has stated that man does have limited free will; he can decide whether or not to surrender to the will of Krishna. All other material happenings and their implications are inconceivably predestined.
Counters reconceptualizing omniscience 
- Molinism argues that God can know in advance what I will do, even though free will in the fullest sense of the phrase does exist, because God somehow has full knowledge of future contingents – that is, knowledge of how agents would freely act in any given circumstances.
- God's Omnipotence includes the power to set a limit on what can be known, and thus his own knowledge. Moreover, God chooses to know and predetermine some things, but not others. This allows for humankind's free moral choices for those things that God chose not to preordain.
- "It is not possible for God to know the result of a free human choice". The results of a human's choice is thus not included in God's omniscience (understood here as "knowledge of everything that can be known") any more than the supposed 'knowledge' of what a square circle would look like. Critics maintain that omniscience must include the choices humans will make, or else God could not know anything after the very first human choice ever made.
- In line with presentism, God knows everything that ever happened, and that is happening, but cannot know the future, because it doesn't exist. Because it is not possible to know something that doesn't exist, not knowing the future does not affect God's omniscience. In the same way, because it is not possible to make triangles with four angles, not being able to make triangles with four angles does not affect God's omnipotence.
"God is outside time" 
A proposition first offered by Boethius and later by Thomas Aquinas and C. S. Lewis, it suggests that God's perception of time is different, and that this is relevant to our understanding of our own free will. In his book Mere Christianity, Lewis argues that God is actually outside of time and therefore does not "foresee" events, but rather simply observes them all at once. He explains:
|“||But suppose God is outside and above the Time-line. In that case, what we call "tomorrow" is visible to Him in just the same way as what we call today." All the days are "Now" for Him. He does not remember you doing things yesterday, He simply sees you doing them: because, though you have lost yesterday, He has not. He does not "foresee" you doing things tomorrow, He simply sees you doing them: because, though tomorrow is not yet there for you, it is for Him. You never supposed that your actions at this moment were any less free because God knows what you are doing. Well, He knows your tomorrow's actions in just the same way—because He is already in tomorrow and can simply watch you. In a sense, He does not know your action till you have done it: but then the moment at which you have done it is already "Now" for Him.||”|
An obvious criticism of God being outside of time is that this does not seem to grant free will. Predestination, regardless of how God perceives time, still seems to mean a person's actions will be determined. A logical formulation of this criticism might go as follows:
- God timelessly knows choice "C" that a human would claim to "make freely".
- If C is in the timeless realm, then it is now-necessary that C.
- If it is now-necessary that C, then C cannot be otherwise (this is the definition of “necessary”). That is, there are no actual "possibilities" due to predestination.
- If you cannot do otherwise when you act, you do not act freely (Principle of Alternate Possibilities)
- Therefore, when you do an act, you will not do it freely.
God's free will 
It has also been suggested that this can lead to a "Freewill Argument for the Nonexistence of God"  on the grounds that God's omniscience is incompatible with God having freewill and that if God does not have freewill God is not a personal being.
- "knows everything that God chooses to know and that is logically possible to know"; Or instead the slightly stronger:
- "knows everything that is logically possible to know"
If omniscient is used in the first sense then the argument's applicability depends on what God chooses to know, and therefore it is not a complete argument against the existence of God. In both cases the argument depends on the assumption that it is logically possible for God to know every choice that he will make in advance of making that choice.
Response to criticisms 
In response to the above criticisms:
Point 1 
Both of the interpretations of omnisicience referred to in the criticism include a qualification: what is chosen to be known, or what is logical. So the proposed definitions impose limitations on this God. So saying that Barker assumes "that it is logically possible for God to know every choice that he will make in advance of making that choice" is self-defeating as an objection. Firstly, it contradicts the traditional concept of the omnipotent, infallible God in Christianity that Barker is responding to; and secondly, it leads logically to the position that humans could potentially know more than this God.
Point 2 
It is not enough to simply take the position that free will is compatible with determinism. The argument against free will is not about "God observing someone making a choice", it is about perfect foreknowledge that something will necessarily happen, negating that there is choice. If the future is perfectly known, it is fixed, and there are no choices.
Point 4 
The charge that the argument against free will assumes that foreknowledge and free will are incompatible (and therefore circular), is untenable. The incompatibility stems from the claim of omnisicence. It is a quite reasonable position to take that "a being that knows its choices in advance has no potential to avoid its choices." The challenge for the theist is to provide a reasonable account of how, if all is infallibly known in advance, that it is even possible that anything could be different.
The real problem is in the way that concepts of Gods are developed, and the extraordinary claims that are made, which are not based on empirical evidence.
The objection on the grounds of committing a modal fallacy is also untenable. In the case of omniscience, foreknowledge of what will happen tomorrow means that it is indeed logically necessary that it happens, with no possibility that it will not. Otherwise it is not omniscience. So the truth of "X will happen tomorrow" is equivalent to "it is necessarily the case that X will happen tomorrow".
In addition, the new proof provided is poorly constructed. Omniscience, or foreknowledge, is placed incorrectly in the sequence (starting at step 4), after the choice is made. Clearly foreknowledge, by definition, occurs before the choice is made. So if at a point in time before T there is infallible knowledge that X will choose to do action A at time T, then it is incorrect that at time T X can choose to do any action because X is committed to A and only A. The claim of free will collapses. The specification is very different with and without the inclusion of omniscience.
The objection that the "confusion comes in mistaking a semantic relation between two events for a causal relation between two events" can be criticised as at the very least presenting a false dilemma, or at worst begging the question. The false dilemma stems from the lack of specificity of how the infallible divine foreknowledge can occur. Begging the question stems from the assumption that the infallible, divine foreknowledge is not based on causality. Omniscience, knowing everything to come, that the future is settled and fixed, can only make sense if determinism is true. If everything is causally determined, then it is feasible that perfect knowledge of the causal relationships will produce perfect knowledge of what is to come: omniscience.
See also 
- See the various controversies on God's Omniscience, and in particular on the critical notion of Foreknowledge
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Foreknowledge and Free Will
- Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Foreknowledge and Free Will
- Though Moses Maimonides was not arguing against the existence of God, but rather for the incompatibility between the full exercise by God of his omniscience and genuine human free will, his argument is considered by some as affected by Modal Fallacy. See, in particular, the article by Prof. Norman Swartz for Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Foreknowledge and Free Will and specifically Section 6: The Modal Fallacy
- The Eight Chapters of Maimonides on Ethics (Semonah Perakhim), edited, annotated, and translated with an Introduction by Joseph I. Gorfinkle, pp. 99–100. (New York: AMS Press), 1966.
- Gospel of Thomas 3
- Holy Bible, 2 Peter 1:10, Webster's Encyclopedic Dictionary
- The Philosopher's Handbook, Stanley Rosen, ed., Random House Reference, New York, 2000.
- Consolatio Philosophiae, Boethius, book 5:4
- See also Divine Providence versus the concept of Fate
- C. S. Lewis Mere Christianity Touchstone:New York, 1980 p.149
- The Freewill Argument for the Nonexistence of God by Dan Barker Freethought Today, August 1997 
- see e.g. Richard Swinburne Does God Exist? of The Catechism of the Catholic Church
- see e.g. John Polkinghorne
- Grayling, A.C., The Meaning of Things. Phoenix, 2007, p. 128.
Further reading 
- Thomas Aquinas. Summa Contra Gentiles
- Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica I, Q. XIV, esp. Art. 13: "Whether the Knowledge of God is of Future Contingent Things?".
- Boethius. The Consolation of Philosophy. Many editions.
- Hasker, William. God, Time, and Foreknowledge". Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998.
- Molina, Luis de. On Divine Foreknowledge, trans. Alfred J. Freddoso. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988.
- Plantinga, Alvin. "On Ockham's Way Out". Faith and Philosophy 3 (3): 235–269.
- Ockham, William. Predestination, God's Foreknowledge, and Future Contingents, trans. M.M. Adams and N. Kretzmann. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1983.
- Zagzebski, Linda. "The Dilemma of Freedom an Foreknowledge". New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.
- Luther, Martin: De servo arbitrio, in English: On the Bondage of the Will. In Latin and German 1525, in modern English: J.I. Packer and O. R. Johnston, trans. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1957.
- Free Will – Freethoughtpedia.com original article on the nature of Free Will and how it applies to religion
- The Paradox of Free will – An online discussion
- Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica I, Q. XIV, Art. 13.