God knows our actions before we do them therefore we are not free: discuss

Discussion in 'Religion, Beliefs and Spirituality' started by Verdant Nature, Feb 10, 2009.

  1. There is an important link between freedom and moral blame that has existed since the creation of man. It is generally understood that someone is only morally responsible for an action if they have freely chosen to do it. Meaning that if someone has been forced to do a bad action then they are not blameworthy, but if they have been forced into doing good then they similarly are not praiseworthy. For instance, if a man was forced at gunpoint to rob an old persons home he would not be blameworthy, for his life was at stake. However, if that same man was forced at gunpoint to give money to charity, he would not be praiseworthy because he did not act freely and probably would not have given them money had his life not been dependant on it. Certain theories attest to the fact that seeing as God is all loving, all knowing and all powerful, He has foreseen all possible outcomes and invariably knows which one a person will take, meaning that He is well aware of what a person is going to do before they actually do it. If this was true, then one could argue that humankind is not free at all, as everything is predetermined by Gods' master plan.

    The common Christian idea is that humans are free, autonomous beings that are freely able to choose their own course of action. St Thomas Aquinas wrote ‘man chooses not out of necessity but freely.' In the Bible Adam and Eve freely chose to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit from the Garden of Eden, and were consequently punished by God for their free choice of disobeying him. However, there is an alternate view that has arisen from Christian writings, that God has already decided who will be saved and who will not. This idea originates from Paul's letter in Romans and is called Predestination.

    “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified, those he justified, he also glorified.”

    The fact that God decides the righteous and sinful at creation contradicts the idea that humans are free, autonomous being and essentially states that ‘God knows our actions, therefore we are not free.' Ethically, that statement raises a number of moral questions. If one isn't free, how can they be held responsible for their actions? You cannot praise someone for doing a good act if it was done against their will, and cannot punish a murderer if they have not freely chosen to murder.

    Another theory, which has some ethical similarity to predestination, is hard determinism. Ted Honderich states ‘all our choices, decisions, intentions, other mental events, and our actions are no more than effects of other equally necessitated events.' This would of course mean that every event must have a prior cause; otherwise it cannot happen. Determinism sometimes draws on the Newtonian view that all physical objects, living or inanimate, must exist in accordance with natural laws. While few scientists would argue that genes alone cause our actions, many scientists believe that genes combined with environmental upbringing has a profound effect on our lives, and in many ways determines the person we become.

    A real life example of this case was that of Leopold and Loeb, two young men who had murdered a fourteen-year-old boy named Bobby Franks. These two men were very rich and very intelligent and if found guilty, were faced with the death penalty. However their lawyer, a famous and well respected man named Clarence Darrow, successfully argued that their death sentence be commuted to life imprisonment because their actions were merely a product of their environment and even though their crime was horrific, they were not entirely morally responsible and could not fully be held accounted for what they had done.

    There a number of criticisms of hard determinism. For one, it puts into doubt our hopes for the future and how we consider the morality of others. Determinism would mean we are mistaken in praising some people for being good or punishing others for being bad. Furthermore, it would also mean that we decide our own course of action is illusory and we could not deliberate rationality. Also, our whole notion of moral responsibility is called into question. Murderers murder because they have the wrong genes or a poor upbringing. How could one punish another for something if they aren't responsible for their actions?

    Some people reject determinism because it rules out the whole concept of moral responsibility. This view is called libertarianism and details that we are free and responsible for our actions. This is supported by the fact we have an idea that when we act, we're choosing our actions. We perceive ourselves as free agents, capable of making moral choices and responsible for those choices. Humans have a sense of decision-making, Sometimes we're torn between two options, both of which we feel equally uncertain about and deliberate before making a decision. Even if one is raised in such a way that they are predisposed to emulate those around them, they could still refuse to and live differently. For instance, if one is raised amongst thieves and is predisposed to believe stealing is acceptable, they would still be susceptible to realise that if they live like a thief they will be punished like one, therefore they could choose to live a good life in society. Libertarianism attributes our moral judgment to an objective source, unaffected by environment or upbringing, but this is questionable. Just as its difficult to show how one thing causes another, its difficult to show that there are no causes beyond our control. Libertarianism doesn't account for human motive, which is predetermined by something.

    Soft determinism is the notion that determinism doesn't rule out free will. They believe that determinism and free will are compatible. For them, freedom to act is acting voluntarily and not out of coercion. Soft determinism takes a midway position, suggesting that some of our actions are conditioned, while others have so complex a collection of causes that they can be described as freely decided. It is possible to be constrained by external circumstances to certain forms of behaviour. If I have no food, I can't eat. If I have food but want to lose weight, I eat less. If I have food but it's a religious fast day, I choose not to eat even though I may want to. If I have a diet set by my doctor, I eat specific food that is beneficial for my heath. In each case the relationship is different and cannot be narrowed down in general to either determinism or libertarianism. Also, if one were to look at the issue from a religious perspective: Iraneous' theodicy states that the fundamental law of human kind is free will, because it is only with free will that man can grow into Gods likeness, despite being made in his image. It would give God no satisfaction if He forced man into following Him, just like it would give a king no satisfaction in forcing her to marry him. However, if man followed God out of his own free will, then God would be immensely happy, just like a King who had fallen for a peasant girl who married him because she loved him out of her own free will. Therefore, it is arguably more plausible for one to assume the stance of a soft determinist, as it is this theory, which is most flexible and takes the most factors into consideration.
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  3. The bottom line is, you are trying to use reasoning with your human brain, on a subject the brain is not capable of understanding. You honestly think if there is a god that created existence you would be able to fathom the workings of it? Thats the point of faith. The subject of god is un comprehensible, and people have spent their lives pondering these questions. Saying god is fake, or god is real are both as legitimate as the other, that is where faith comes in, that is where you make your choice. That is the essence of free will.

    And for the thread starter, you can probably take this above quote and put it in your signature. It will more then likely answer alot of your questions you have on this forum.

    Our being can be broken down to 3 areas, our mind, body, and soul. We can look in and out of one and still not fix all the problems (body). We can look in and out of another and still not fix any of the problems (mind), and last but certainly not least applies the same as God. It's something you can't see or touch, but deep inside you can feel it. And if you never have felt it thenn..... you might be an empty vessel..who knows. I sure as hell don't.:hello:
  5. First off, it is hard to prove that we are made of mind, body, and soul, since nobody has really proved anything beyond the existence of minds.

    As for the OP, which stance are you claiming to take? Because I would defend soft-determinism. When you talked about God being happier about people following him of their free will, if God creates you, he decides when he is creating you whether or not in the future you will follow him. You see, if God is all knowing, he knows whether or not you will be following him in the future, and therefore, if he creates people that he KNOWS will not be following him, it follows logically that he does not WANT everybody following him.
  6. Again you cause me to think and to pursue the truth in dialogue with you. You raise the issue of the divine testing of Abraham. Let me begin by pointing out that God puts a great many people to the test in order to find out what they really value and believe. God repeatedly tested the people of Israel to see whether they would trust and follow him or not (Exod. 16:4, 20:20; Judg. 2:22) and God tested people such as King Hezekiah so that God would "know what was in his heart" (2 Chron. 32:31). Why all this testing if God already knew the outcomes? Yes, God knows our hearts, but he seems to obtain this knowledge by testing.

    The openness interpretation does not call into question God's "present knowledge" of Abraham's character. Rather, the point is that Abraham's character is not fully formed in crucial respects until he has faced this ultimate test. What God knows about Abraham is different after the test because Abraham himself has become something different than he was previously. Abraham's decision and actions are part of the character-forming process, and the question for God is whether Abraham will trust him in this seeming reversal of the divine promise. Moreover, though God may have had a very good idea of what Abraham would do, Abraham's free decision was not enacted until that point. You and I have different views about human freedom. You believe in a form of "soft determinism" in which Abraham could not have done otherwise, so there is no uncertainty as to what Abraham will do and so God's test is not a test at all. However, I believe that Abraham could have, even at the last moment, refused to obey God, so the test is genuine.

    You claim that Abraham's faith is already established by the time we reach Genesis 22. I do not believe God is "suddenly second-guessing himself." Rather, in Genesis 15:6 God indicates that Abraham is in the right sort of relationship with God. Abraham is making progress in trusting God, and God informs him that he is on the right track. However, the relationship is not static. True, Abraham has a history of faithfulness, but it is mixed with a history of not trusting God as well. He twice passes off Sarah as his sister because he fears men rather than God, has a son through Hagar, and complains to God that God has not fulfilled what he has promised. Abraham, like all of us, is a mixed bag. All through his life, Abraham is worried about protecting his life and is anxious about passing on his inheritance to his "real" son. All this is to say that Abraham is not a finished person, or the kind of person God believes he can count on until passing this test.
  7. I'm not sure what you mean by "Again you cause me to think and to pursue the truth in dialogue with you" but it kind of sounds like a complement. As far as Abraham being tested, I would like to say first off that I don't find the Bible to be the most reliable source of proof when dealing with philosophical issues. That said, you are saying that Abraham is tested, right? And that he is tested because God has uncertainty about him, and knows more about him after the test? This is a paradox, because God is ALL-knowing. That means that there is nothing for him to learn about Abraham's character. God created him, and knows him through and through. A clockmaker understands all of the gears he has put in his clock. Furthermore, God understands, and knows what will happen in the future, as that is part of his knowing everything. Therefore God knew before the test, exactly what Abraham would have done, and not only would have known what he would do, that is what God wanted him to do, and designed him, and his surroundings to have the effect of: his will.
  8. #8 poseidon0513, Feb 14, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 14, 2009
    1. this philosophical issue is concerning god so i believe the bible is a very good source

    2.why would god give abraham a test if he knew what abraham would do?

    Furthermore, on several occasions God expected Israel to repent but they did not do what God expected (Isa. 5:2; Jer. 3:6-7, 19-20). Also, God uses words such as might, if, and perhaps (Exod. 4:8-9; Jer. 26:3; Ezek. 12:3), indicating that some of the future is open, but such words make no sense in your view—in fact, God seems less than genuine to offer forgiveness when he already knows they will not repent.
  9. Once again, the Bible is a source of philosophical opinion, not philosophical truth. Nothing differentiates the truthfulness of Christianity from the truthfulness of another religion, which could easily have contradicting beliefs. The Bible is a work thought of and prepared by men, therefore its contents is not above suspicion.

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