Here is a paradox that occurred to me tonight that I would like to present to the community for critique.

I know that I am being prayed for. I'm told nearly every day by my religious family that they are praying for my soul; praying that I accept Jesus and the Word of God; praying that I denounce Atheism and become a Christian. Prayer, as we know, has two antithical components. Allow me to demonstrate. I have a sick family member and I ask everyone to pray. If my family member lives, "our prayers have been answered!" If my family member dies, "its God's will." Following this logic, if the prayers of my family members are never answered, if I am never saved, is it God's will that I'm an Atheist? Can the God of Love (?!?) have it within his will for some people to be Atheist? If so, is he really a loving god. If not, is he really an all-powerful god? Thoughts?

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Perhaps the faithful see their deity like a teacher in a school of too many students, "you can't teach them all".

I prefer to look at it this way:

To believe in an "all-powerful being" these days, you've pretty much got to walk around with blinkers on and reject most - if not all - of the scientific and/or technological world. So there's got to be not much thinking going on (well, a lot of thinking that says "not in the book, ignore, not in the book, ignore..." but not much else)

Therefore, critique and analysis of their make-believe play friend is probably not required. They haven't put much thought into the existence of them, you shouldn't put much into the non-existence of them.

Im going to add that last paragraph to my favorite list of quotes... I agree, if the entire arguement for your god is basically god-of-the-gaps, you don't really have much of a god these days.

To paraphrase The Matrix:

 

Atheist: Do not try and communicate with God. That's impossible. Instead... only try to realize the truth. 
Theist: What truth? 
Atheist: There is no God. 
Theist: There is no God? 
Atheist: Then you'll see, that it is not God that communicates, it is only yourself. 

 

Sorry, just being cheeky this morning.

You're following the logic and reasoning that's existed for millennia, back as far as Epicurius:

 

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?

Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing?

Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing?

Then whence cometh evil?

Is he neither able nor willing?

Then why call him God?”
Epicurus

I agree and I really didn't want to put the last bit in but I thought that the Epicurean structure would help define it. But still the paradox its self remains. If, as according to christians, unanswered prayers are "god's will" and I am never converted, is it's god's will that I am an Atheist? I know that the question, like the Matrix, is a bit cheeky (*smile) and it actually presupposes a god. However, I am really, really looking forward to presenting this line of thought in a debate and get the christian view point also.

OK, gotcha. From the standpoint you're asserting, I have always argued that point as well when discussing religon with theists. I've always felt that one of the strongest arguments against any omnipotent and omniscient deity is that, IF he/she/it is truly omniscient, then doesn't it already know I'm going to be an atheist, thereby condemning me to hell/away from its supposed "mercy"?

 

And in a broader sense, how is it possible to both believe in free will AND believe in omniscience? The whole xian twisted-logic crap of, "oh, he gives you free will so that you can choose to worship him or not" is a bunch of doublespeak crap. It is IMPOSSIBLE to have both omniscience and free will. Period. Therefore any omniscient deity already knows, before you're even born, whether you're going to believe in it or not; and in the case of the Abrahamic god, this means that he has decided, ahead of time, who will be condemned and who will be saved - period.

 

Sorry, xians - you simply can't have it both ways.

I wonder how it is that they came by this tidbit of information and seem to know it with such certainty.

God chooses not to know!?  He, he!  The Christian god is transcendent knowledge: past present, future.  Does the Christian god lop off the part of himself that holds his omniscience and store it under Jesus' throne when he doesn't want to feel conflicted over free will?  Then he pops it back on whenever he needs to do a quick fact check?

god chooses not to know,  so Mrdeity is god, and god is jokester.

I really love this quote and will save it.

This whole discussion has led me to do a quick search to see how the xian apologetics folks would counter the omniscience/free will paradox - and to be honest, the response is laughable to me. Here is a site that is the common question, and xian answer. I'm going to state the first part - the question - and make some comments, then post the xian answer, followed by my concluding observations and thoughts.

Here's the question:

Hello,
Christian doctrine holds that God is all knowing (1 John 3:20), and humans have free will (Deuteronomy 30:19 is my favorite example). however, at my favorite apologetics debate board, I have seen skeptics raise an objection to these points several times. the basic logic behind their arguments is this:

  1. A being with free will, given two options A and B, can freely choose between A and B.
  2. God is omniscient (all-knowing).
  3. God knows I will choose A.
  4. God cannot be wrong, since an omniscient being cannot have false knowledge.
  5. From 3 and 4, I will choose A and cannot choose B.
  6. From 1 and 5, omniscience and free will cannot co-exist.

I have read many counter-arguments from apologetics sites, but they were
either too technical (I couldn't understand them), or not satisfying. so, I
was wondering what would your input be on this issue?

Thank you,

Justin

First, Justin does a good job of stating the paradox rather succinctly - and his concluding statement, "I have read many counter-arguments... but they were either too technical (I couldn't understand them), or not satisfying." Well, I have to agree - most of them are a mishmash of pretzel logic, or a simply too stupid to be credible (to be blunt). So, let's see how the respondent to Justin answers his question...

Hi Justin,

Thanks for writing. This is a great question as it shows how even those who appeal to logic can have biases that blind them. Let's examine this argument and see if it follows logically.

Premises 1 and 2 in your outline above are the main premises to the argument and are not disputed. The Christian worldview argues that every human being is a free moral agent and is capable of making choices simply by exercising their will, not under compulsion or because of instinct. Also, it is a long held doctrine of Christianity that God is all-knowing. The Bible says that God knows "the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10)." For omniscience to be truly knowledgeable it must be correct knowledge, so premise number 4 is also granted.

However, point number 5 is where the logic falters. Those who argue in this manner make the mistake of thinking that because God possesses knowledge about a specific matter, then he has influenced it. That does not follow at all. Just because God can foresee which choice you will make, it does not mean you couldn't still freely choose the other option.

Let me give you an example. I have a five year old son. If I were to leave a chocolate chip cookie on the table about a hour before dinner time and my son was to walk by and see it, I know that he would pick up the cookie and eat it. I did not force him to make that decision. In fact, I don't even have to be in the room at all. I think I know my son well enough, though, to tell you that if I come back into the kitchen the cookie will be gone. His act was made completely free of my influence, but I knew what his actions would be.

In examining the argument, the assumption is made in premise 3 that because God knows I will choose A somehow denies me the choice of B. That is the premise that Christianity rejects. Omniscience and free will are not incompatible and it is a non-sequitor to claim otherwise.

Thank you Justin for this interesting question. I pray that you will continue to defend the gospel of our Lord and may He continue to bless you as you seek to grow in Him.

Are. You. Kidding. Me?? He claims that the original statement is a logical fallacy, and then goes on to state his own idiotic logical fallacy! He starts to establish his (supposed) explanation thusly:

Those who argue in this manner make the mistake of thinking that because God possesses knowledge about a specific matter, then he has influenced it. That does not follow at all. Just because God can foresee which choice you will make, it does not mean you couldn't still freely choose the other option.

Uhhhh, no - that's not what the argument is at all. The argument is that there is no free will because the choice is already known! If god is omniscient and inerrant, then your actions are predesignated, PERIOD. You may *think* you have free will, but what you do is already known, period. So, let's see if he can explain this with an airtight argument of logic:

Let me give you an example. I have a five year old son. If I were to leave a chocolate chip cookie on the table about a hour before dinner time and my son was to walk by and see it, I know that he would pick up the cookie and eat it. I did not force him to make that decision. In fact, I don't even have to be in the room at all. I think I know my son well enough, though, to tell you that if I come back into the kitchen the cookie will be gone. His act was made completely free of my influence, but I knew what his actions would be.

No No No No No!! You PREDICTED your son would pick up the cookie and eat it. And in fact, there is a high probability that he would do so - but a prediction is not the same as KNOWING, with 100% certainty, that he would eat the cookie. If you were like god and had omniscience, then you would not only know he would eat the cookie, but you would know:

  • The exact second he would take the first bite
  • The size and shape of the first bite
  • The number of chips in the first bite
  • What he was thinking when eating the first bite
  • Where he was standing when eating that first bite
  • and so on...

Predictability and Probability is not the same as omniscience.

If Justin's arguments continue to be answered like this one, then I would predict that Justin is on his way to atheism.

But since I'm not god, I can only predict it - not know it...

 

Fantastic amount of research. Thank you very much for all that.

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