A Questioner doesn’t like the implications of God knowing the future

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

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Question: I was reading Got Questions Ministries answer to "Does God know the future," and I find it puzzling. If God really does know the future, then he would know that mankind would fall, that he would have to destroy his creation in the Flood and that humanity would have a long history of godlessness, horror, murder and physical misery.

I think Christians might be wrong about creation: I think God was experimenting. An omnipotent and omniscient God could have created a perfect universe. But since he didn’t, why wouldn’t this be experimentation?

Answer: Greetings friend. Thank you for asking such a philosophically probing question. I’m with you, by the way. We shouldn’t let God off the hook. The world I see is not one I think I would have created if I were an omnipotent and omniscient being.

Fortunately, God did not leave it to me to create the universe, and that’s part of my answer to your question. But the most important part of my answer is so basic that we cannot not start there. You see, even God cannot violate logic. (More generally, he cannot do anything contrary to his nature.) So, if he were to act illogically, that would make his actions arbitrary and his essence non-true… and I doubt many believers would accept that as their picture of God.

However, this limits the types of worlds God can create. “World A” and “World non-A” cannot exist in the same place and at the same time… but that’s what you are proposing. Here’s why that won’t work.

God created the universe for his own glory (Psalm 19:1; Isaiah 43:7)… yet he put us in charge of the earth! (Genesis 1:28). But we are free beings — beings who can do whatever we want including rebelling against God. The world you are proposing has these two elements, but to arrive at perfection — or at least to a state of non-experimentation — you’ve added predetermination into the mix. Such a world cannot exist; predetermined outcomes are not compatible with human free will.

Here’s the issue: without true human freedom, the worship of God cannot exist. If we were somehow forced to worship God… say, by God making it so we would love him no matter what… that would not be love… and our worship wouldn’t be worship. Why not? When it comes to humans, only free moral agents can worship.

As to your question, a world that can be messed up by humans will be messed up by humans, and a world that cannot be messed up by humans cannot contain human freedom. So, what are the implications?

In the world you are proposing — one where people were predetermined to make a perfect world — the “humans” might feel that they are making their own decisions, but that would not be true; they’d only be meat-puppets. Such beings would have more in common with fire hydrants than with the beings we currently are... and we are the ones making a mess of the place. But “mess” is the price of admission for truly free people — and God knows that.

You see, it was “free agents” — people with “libertarian free will” — that drove humanity to the flood. God did not do this. I agree with you that God “saw it coming” — and that he could have stopped it! But the fact that he was willing to wipe out all of humanity (save eight) because of their sin shows that he respects our free will.

This is our experience now, too. Don’t you “feel” like you can do anything you want at any time? Don’t you wake up every day feeling the potential of your agency? Being free to obey God or ignore him is a necessary condition of humanity. If we cannot “choose” to love God, then the thing we are doing is not love, the service we are doing is not service... the worship we are doing is not worship, etc.

You are probably familiar with the movie The Matrix where most of the world’s population had no idea that they were plugged into a motherboard and that the lives they felt they were experiencing were just illusory. (The idea for the movie was not new; it came from an old philosophical discussion that we might be brains in a vat. Interestingly, there is no way we can “prove” that we are not brains in a vat… but we don’t stop life because of that.)

Philosophers classify these types of assumptions as “properly basic” understandings of life. Proper basicality is one of the many “social contracts” where we just assume that reality is true and get on with our lives. The thing is, the alternative would be to stop life until we figured absolutely everything out! That’s fun to talk about in a coffee shop, but if we lived as if that were true, we’d all die of starvation.

There’s another part to this question, so let me sum up this first part before I move on. According to the rules of logic that God has revealed through Scripture, nature, mathematics and his character, even God cannot have his cake and eat it too. He cannot create a non-messy world that is populated by free agents. Fortunately, God has one more trick up his sleeve.

Now, this statement may come as a surprise: I agree with you that what God has done with us on earth is an experiment! But it’s not one like you think... where God is somehow trying different things and testing and failing. This will take some explanation, of course, but when it comes to election and predestination, I am a Molinist... and under Molinism, God is indeed "experimenting" with the creation —  yet he is not. Let me explain.

Molinism looks at God’s omniscience through new eyes. Most Christians agree that God knows everything. My question is, what does “everything” include? Every actual thing? Or every possible thing? I say the latter. If that were not true, then there would be things that our “omniscient” God did not know!

But you can’t just nod in agreement here: if God knows every possible thing, then he knows the infinite number of things that would happen when acted upon by an infinite number of variables. That’s an astounding feat — and that feat is the basis of Molinism. So, let’s take a moment to look at knowledge per se.

God knows what has happened and what is happening; that’s simple knowledge. He also knows what will happen; that is foreknowledge! But he also knows what would happen under certain circumstances. We Molinists call that his “middle knowledge” ... and this is the secret to how God can elect us while we maintain our libertarian free will.

Since God knows how every individual would respond in every possible circumstance, he knows how an individual will respond to the gospel, to the cosmos, to his conscience — and to all the revelations he has provided — and find their way to God via the light they have. This is the engine of Molinism.

Look at me for instance. God arranged things so I would be born in the USA on a certain date where I would — on my own accord — respond positively to the gospel. There are countless scenarios where I would not have responded positively to God! But God did not actuate any of those lives. He actuated the life I’m in the process of living, and the choices I’m making along the way are not predetermined. They are pre-known… but “knowing” is not the same as determining.

Where the rubber meets the road, I make real choices in real-time, and these choices determine my future. God saw the particular life I am living... but he did not cause it. He actuated it… and what I do with my life is all on me.

The essence of Molinism is that God “tests” to see how every individual will freely act under every circumstance. There’s the “experimentation” I was talking about. But real-life — lives lived with a free agency — are necessarily messy — but they are also optimal. It takes no time and no effort for an omnipotent and omniscient God to sort through every iteration of our freely lived lives and actuate ones where we will be saved… and/or actuate the ones that best serve his glory.

William Lane Craig of Reasonable Faith Ministries is the credentialed champion of Molinism. Click here to see his introductory video about Molinism. God bless you.

(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20210510 Is it a problem that God knows the future?).

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