Prescience vs. Free Will

Jun 5 | Posted by: Fighter #1 | Tags: Waxing Sophistic

I've been reading about predestination a bunch lately. (Because, honestly, the concept is horrifying, and I wonder why so many Christians are apparently OK with it.) An interesting thing with these conversations is there's almost always some guy who says something along the lines of "God's prescience negates the idea of free-will anyway."

Here's the thing with that: Pre-knowledge of an event does not mean that an one has interfered with an event or that the agents involved are not free to act within their own nature.

Imagine the card game War. Two players are dealt a deck of cards. Each round, both players flip the top card on their deck over. The higher card wins the round. That player places those two cards facedown on the bottom of his own pile (opponent's card first). In the event of a tie, both players place 3 more cards into the the center, with the third card being the tie-breaker. This process is repeated until the tie is broken. That player then wins the round and places all his opponents cards on the bottom of his pile in the order played, then all of his own cards (again in the order played). Play is repeated until one player has the entire deck.

Assuming that both players played perfectly (i.e. they didn't misdeal, cheat, etc.), a computer that was told the initial state of the game would have complete prescience of the outcome. The initial state of the deck determines the entire course of the game, and a computer would be able to map the whole thing.

This doesn't mean that the computer influences the game or that the cards don't act within their full capacity within the game.

In the same way, an all-knowing, prescient God does not negate humanity's free will. Even omnipotence doesn't necessarily negate free will. Granted, this in no way proves that we do have free will. But those cards are still on the table, so to speak.

Photo: public domain via Wikipedia.

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