How can we use books we read everyday to describe the problems between omniscience and free will when looking into the properties of God?
Trying to get your head around the concept of God and the various issues that each of His characteristics have is a complicated one. Certainly, when I’ve been trying to explain it to other people it is always the area they get confused on. However, there are certain analogies that we can follow to get a better understanding of the properties of God. For instance, God’s relationship with time can be illustrated by the metaphor of a book.
Imagine that we are characters in a book written by God. It may be a fairly boring story for some, but no less a book. As the characters in the book, we cannot know what is going to occur next in our lives or what other people are thinking or feeling. We can only know what has happened and what is happening in the present. However, because God wrote the book, he knows everything from the past to the future and what everyone was thinking during that time.
What aspects of God’s characteristics does this pull up? Firstly, it describes his property of being eternal. God must have existed for an eternity, otherwise it denounces him as the perfect being, worthy of worship, as something must have been before God meaning his existence is contingent (depending on something else), undermining his omnipotence. The way of doing this is to for God to be outside of time, and so he has no start or end, making his existence necessary. This is represented by God being outside of the book instead of caught up in the actions of the characters. He is a completely separate entity, but the book depends on his existence.
Secondly, it clearly shows how his omniscience (being all knowing) is possible. One of the criticisms of God’s omnipotence is presented by Kretzmann, who asked whether God could really know everything in a changing world. He argued that, in order for God to have knowledge of a changing world, God himself must change to gain knowledge. This creates a problem for our idea of God as God needs to be perfect otherwise there may be something out there better than him, making him unworthy of worship. If God changes, then he can’t have been perfect in the first place and therefore makes God imperfect. The book metaphor avoids this problem as it explains, if God is outside of time, how he can know what’s going on inside time without changing. He is the author, the creator of the book and so has all the knowledge. However, he is not affected by the events within the book
This would make it seem that our idea of God is accurate if we are using the book metaphor. Unfortunately, the book metaphor also illustrates one of the major issues with the characteristics of God, raised by Kenny, about free will. Kenny argued that if God knows what is going to happen, and creates the events of the future, then it is impossible for humans to have free will in their actions. This is a large problem for Christianity as Christians believe in Judgement Day, where God judges us for our actions and decides whether we go to heaven or hell. However, if we are not in control of our actions, then it is not reasonable for God to judge us and God becomes unjust. It also creates the same problem with the idea of the Original Sin and creates a problem when talking about evil and suffering.
This makes the idea of God being omniscient less likely, and for some, it makes it incredibly difficult to believe in God. However, this isn’t necessarily the end of the conversation when it comes to omniscience, as it could be we have just reached the limit of the book analogy.. Some philosophers prefer to use the following metaphor;
Imagine that God is standing on a mountain and is looking down at a path that winds by with travelers walking along. God can see all of the events unwinding at the same time, but he has no effect on the events and is outside of the time line taking place.
This analogy fixes the problems we had above; It makes all events occur at the same time so God can be omniscient and know what’s going on. However, the events of the people are still decided by the people, creating free will. Therefore, God can be the perfect God in this aspect.
This was an incredibly brief analysis of God as being omniscient, and isn’t even a slither of the main debate. Want something covered about God in a future blog? Comment it below. Don’t forget to share!