Free Will And Divine Omniscience


Abstract
A traditionally difficult problem in the Philosophy of Religion is the one that divine omniscience, particularly divine foreknowledge, poses for free will. If God knows in advance how we will act, it looks as if we cannot act freely because we cannot act other than in accordance with God's foreknowledge. Thus, it looks like God's full omniscience and free will are incompatible. But this is problematic precisely because both God's full omniscience and human and divine free will are very important in Christian theology. In this dissertation, I discuss this dilemma and attempt to find the best solution available to the Christian theist. In Chapter 1, I introduce and discuss the problem, which I refer to as "the foreknowledge dilemma." I then consider and ultimately reject three of the most commonly offered solutions. These solutions are the Boethian solution, which attempts to solve the foreknowledge dilemma by arguing that God does not exist within the temporal order and so cannot have knowledge prior to our actions, the Ockhamist solution, which argues that God's past beliefs are soft facts about the past and so rely upon the future in a way that many past facts do not, and the Molinist solution, which posits middle knowledge to explain the way God can know facts about human free actions. I conclude the first chapter by arguing that God's omniscience and free will, as traditionally defined, are incompatible and so the best solution will be to redefine (though not give up entirely) one of these two concepts. In the next three chapters, I discuss the suggestion made by source incompatibilists that we redefine free will in such a way that it does not require alternative possibilities (though still remains incompatible with causal determinism). In Chapter 2, I discuss the reasons (independent of the foreknowledge dilemma) that have driven some in the secular free will debate to adopt this understanding of free will. In Chapter 3, I point out that in order to be a successful solution to the foreknowledge dilemma, the source incompatibilist's version of free will cannot rely at all on the presence of alternative possibilities, for God's foreknowledge rules out any and all alternatives. I then reject such a characterization of human free will. And in Chapter 4, I ask if source incompatibilism is required to save God's freedom in light of His essentially perfect nature. I conclude that it is not. Finally, in Chapter 5 I gesture in the direction I take to be the most promising for the Christian theist. The best solution, I argue, is not to redefine free will but to redefine God's omniscience such that it does not include exhaustive foreknowledge. This Open Theist solution argues that it is logically impossible for God to know in advance how a free agent will act and so this lack of knowledge is not a diminishment of God's perfection
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