Friday, 5 April 2013

God's Inerrant Omniscience Revisited

I wonder if Christians can do any better now.

Almost three years ago I wrote a blog pointing out the logical impossibility of an omniscient, inerrant god coexisting with free will - see On The Logical Fallacy Of God's Inerrant Omniscience. Despite several comments varying in absurdity, and many comments demonstrating a lack of logical thinking, no one has yet managed to refute the logic of my argument.

It might be worth recapping the salient point again, to see if any believers can explain how these two central tenets of Christian dogma, which appear to be mutually contradictory, are logically consistent. Failing that, perhaps an explanation of how holding two mutually contradictory beliefs simultaneously is not indicative of intellectual dishonesty and of the self-deceiving nature of the mental process involved in religious faith.

To recap:
  • An omniscient (all-knowing) god would know every detail of your future, including the outcome of all decisions you will ever make. It will have known this for eternity. If not, then it isn't omniscient.
  • An inerrant god would never be wrong so it cannot 'know' something which turns out to be untrue.
  • Given these two conditions, it is not possible for you to make a decision which this god has not always known you will make.
  • Given these two conditions, such a god can not 'know' a decision which you do not in fact make.

To apply this to a trivial, everyday example: suppose this god has always known that you will have eggs for breakfast tomorrow. Can you chose not to have eggs and have cereal, or toast or waffles, or anything else instead, or even decide to skip breakfast altogether? If you do, this god cannot be omniscient. If you can't, you do not have free will.

Remember, this god can't, as some have argued, 'know' all your possible decisions so whichever you chose will be right. This would mean that whatever decision you make, the god would be wrong about all the others. In fact, given that there are masses of possible 'right' answers for every real right one, it would be far more often wrong than right - which is never good for the reputation of an 'omniscient' god.

But, if you believe in a god like this and also believe you have free will, how can you do something your god hasn't always known you will do? If you can't, in what sense of the word 'free' do you have free will?

Here then is a simple challenge for Christians (Muslims and Jews who believe in the same god might like to try it too):
Give a single example of someone exercising free will by not doing something an omniscient, inerrant, eternal god would always have known they would do.

Or give a single example of someone exercising free will by doing something an omniscient, inerrant, eternal god would not always have known they would do.

Simple, eh? All you have to do is to give a single example of something happening that is central to your faith, and which you have probably taken for granted.

Why is this important?

Because, if the Christian god isn't omniscient it doesn't know what's going on and is not in control of the Universe. Such a god is not worth praying to because, to change events it would have to be aware of them and in full control of them. This god would be a mere observer, having no more power than the spectators at a ball game have.

If you don't have free will, then everything about the Universe is pre-determined. It makes not one iota of difference what you do or say and you cannot be held responsible for anything you do, let alone be accountable for the 'original sin'. There is no 'sin', no need for you to seek 'redemption', no need for forgiveness of sin, and so no reason for Jesus. Whatever you do or say was merely what you were predestined to do or say.

Curiously, this is actually pretty much what the Bible says too:

So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no one knows whether love or hate awaits them.

All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.

As it is with the good, so with the sinful;
as it is with those who take oaths, so with those who are afraid to take them.

This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead. Anyone who is among the living has hope — even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!

For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten.

Ecclesiastes 9:1-5:

In other words, unless you can meet this simple challenge and resolve the fatal contradiction between free will and an omniscient, inerrant god, you have no basis for your faith because your faith has no basis and the Bible has lied about one or the other, or both.

The other little problem for Christians (and Muslims and Jews for that matter) is that if the presence of an omniscient god means there is no free will, then that also holds true for gods. An omniscient god must also exist in a predestined Universe and so would have no free will either.

A god with no free will is no god at all. A god with no free will cannot have decided to create anything.

Another little problem for Christians of course, is that if they can't answer these questions they are showing the world, even if they can't admit it to themselves, that they know their 'faith' is phoney.





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30 comments :

  1. Hmm, but the only way we can find out what this omniscient, inerrant god knows in advance is to wait and see. If I choose to have eggs for breakfast, that's what god knew. But if I change my mind, that is what he knew. In other words, it doesn't make any sort of sense to talk about what god does or does not know and words like "omniscient" cannot be applied to a god. Only words like "unknowable".

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    1. I agree with you. You're free to make whatever choice you're going to make (eggs or french toast). In this argument, God is not imposing his will on your choice, he just already knows what your choice will be.

      I do not believe in God, but I also believe this argument is flawed. Knowingness and imposing will are separate things.

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    2. The question was, can you make a choice this god doesn't know you will make or, can you choose something other than what this god knows you will choose.

      If not, your freedom is constrained by this god's prior knowledge and is not free, but pre-ordained. If you can, this god is not omniscient.

      No one asked whether you can make a choice per se.

      If the argument is flawed you should have had little difficulty in answering one or other of the questions posed, yet you did not do so.

      Delete
  2. This has been obvious to thinking humans from the start. Theistic Apologists (not just the Christian ones) have twisted themselves in knots trying to get out of the logic trap they set up for themselves. Christian Apologists thought they had escaped by putting out the "free will" defense, blaming the victim of the abuse rather than the abuser. They continue to chase their tail in a futile effort to square the circle. They need the ignorance and/or apathy of the masses to keep them in business. They get quite angry when you dare question the myths they know can only survive by faith. The light of reason and critical thinking is an extinction level event for them. I wouldn't expect an answer out of them anytime soon. It has been 2000 years and counting which is an amazing record of failure.

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  3. Free will is not a central tenet of Christianity. See Romans 9.

    Out of curiosity, do you believe free will exists?

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    1. I wondered how quickly people would start ducking the question. I see you've had to go to the extent of ad hoc redefiniton of Christianity including the implicit abolition of 'Original Sin', which is meaningless in the absence of free will.

      Interesting example of cherry-picking there, where you pick a handy verse to contradict all the others which say or imply exactly the opposite. Must be handy having a book which can be used to excuse anything.

      Of course, not having 'Original Sin' also abolishes the Christian claim to need Jesus and any need for the blood sacrifice of Jesus, but when you need to run for cover, you don't worry about the niceties of whatever you're trampling on in panic, eh?

      Delete
    2. It's true that much of the language in the Bible suggests free will exists. In fact, much of *your* language does the same. Moreover, our laws seem based on the idea that free will exists.

      It would be great if you could let us all know whether you think free will exists.

      It certainly is an interesting paradox, but not one that is unique to Christianity or religion.

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    3. Will you be dealing with the question soon or are readers to be treated to more evasion and prevarication first?

      Delete
    4. You've created a false dilemma.

      Delete
    5. There is indeed a dilemma, but not of my creation. That was created by those who claimed their god is inerrantly omniscient and that they have free will.

      It doesn't become false just because it's embarrassing for those who hold those two mutually exclusive and contradictory views simultaneously. It simply means that one or both of those views must be false.

      Which do you think it is?

      Delete
  4. In A Many Worlds concept of the universe, A truly omniscient god could well have to function as treating all possible versions of reality as absolutely real, not differentiating in any way, so what seems like a linear universe to us would appear as an infinity of other worlds, overlapping each other and contradicting each other to the point where the idea of causality would be meaningless to it. It's Omniscience, necessitating it to be the "Blind Idiot God" of lovecrasftian fiction

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  5. This also applies to prayer. What is the point of praying? Convince the deity to change its mind? But if the deity is omniscient, then it already knows that someone will be praying for something to (not) happen and therefore there is no real need to pray in the fist place. That also applies to "free will". If the deity already knows that I am going to do that certain thing, I really have no choice and my free will is actually not free at all.
    At the end of the day, by this premise, the whole human existence is just a play with the deity already knowing every single line. Ultimately an exercise of futility

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  6. I follow you on twitter, another excellent post

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  7. The Free Will defense is the Christian blaming the victim for their god's abusive, sadistic behavior. Like an abused partner they will say the blame for their suffering is their own fault and please don't blame the abuser because he is an angry and jealous god who will hurt us even more because he is good... no, really, he is, we promise, if you just got to know him the way we do... you'd see he is just misunderstood. It is really a sick and twisted way to view the universe and life.

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  8. "God's Inerrant Omniscience Revisited" - Critique
    http://shar.es/dPMzt

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    1. Link merely goes to your blog where, after the usual give-away ad hominem, you boast that you could refute it, but never do so. Is that your idea of a refutation?

      Readers can see your laughable failure by clicking on this link If they want to see your infantile idea of a refutation.

      The question you were challenged to answer was, as readers can see above:

      Give a single example of someone exercising free will by not doing something an omniscient, inerrant, eternal god would always have known they would do.

      Or give a single example of someone exercising free will by doing something an omniscient, inerrant, eternal god would not always have known they would do.


      As I pointed out, another little problem for Christians of course, is that if they can't answer these questions they are admitting, if only to themselves, that they know their 'faith' is phoney.

      Should readers take your spectacular failure to answer than as an admission by you that your faith is phoney? It would certainly explain how you use a pretence of piety as an excuse for your bizarre and abusive behaviour.

      Would you like another go at addressing these questions and so meeting my challenge or is the above failure to do so your best effort?

      BTW, Manuel, will you be publicly retracting your previous lie that you couldn't post here because you were banned, or will I need to draw people's attention too it again?

      Delete
    2. Are you still going to be abusing that child Manuel? My name is Michael. I'm sure you have seen my blog post detailing your lies and how to report your child abuse. Anyhow... The questions do not make sense because you are not applying the terms correctly.

      Free will means simply that - Free will. We can do whatever within the laws of physics in our universe. God being omniscient has no bearing on the choices we make because free will specifically deals with the opportunity to make a choice that God already knows we will make. It is not a hard concept to grasp. Your questions are what's called non sequitur. Your challenge crumbles :)

      Delete
    3. So you're going for the diversion as expected, eh, Manuel?

      Will you be taking the second chance I gave you or was that it?

      The question you were asked was:

      Give a single example of someone exercising free will by not doing something an omniscient, inerrant, eternal god would always have known they would do.

      Or give a single example of someone exercising free will by doing something an omniscient, inerrant, eternal god would not always have known they would do.


      I'll call it tomorrow if you still can't meet this simple challenge. You do understand that failure to do so will confirm that you know your faith is phoney and just something you are using to excuse your abusive behaviour and to try to hide your personality disorder. Just something for you to ponder on for the next 24 hours from 17:30 BST today (BST is GMT+1 if you're still confused about how time zones work).

      Delete
    4. Every time you mention that kid you just provide further evidence. Also, the internet does cache pages.. just saying. I already answered your questions:


      The questions do not make sense because you are not applying the terms correctly.
      Free will means simply that - Free will. We can do whatever within the laws of physics in our universe. God being omniscient has no bearing on the choices we make because free will specifically deals with the opportunity to make a choice that God already knows we will make. It is not a hard concept to grasp. Your questions are what's called non sequitur. Your challenge crumbles :)

      Free will means that you have the ability to make choices. This is simply what that term means. God knowing the choice and its outcome has no bearing on the ability to make said choice.

      As shown, your challenge is easy to answer.

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    5. Still desperately trying for a diversion, eh, Manuel?

      Redefining words won't work either.

      The task you have to complete before 17:30 BST today is:

      Give a single example of someone exercising free will by not doing something an omniscient, inerrant, eternal god would always have known they would do.

      Or give a single example of someone exercising free will by doing something an omniscient, inerrant, eternal god would not always have known they would do.


      Once you failed at this task, as I've no doubt you will again, I have several more prepared for you. You see, the problem with being a lying, braggart and a fraud is that you are so easily exposed by very simple questions - which is, incidentally, why I recruited you to help discredit religion about a year ago, your narcissm and stupidity are such a good combination.

      By the way, I expect people will have already noticed how you've shown you don't believe the superstition you push either but this particular failure will demonstrate that beyond any reasonable doubt.

      Good luck.

      Delete
    6. BTW, Manuel, readers can see that you are the expelled seminarian, Manuel de Dios Agosto, by reading how we exposed you in Sacerdotus - The Fraud Exposed. It has screen shots and everything.

      I really think it's time you stopped abusing that poor kid who happens to have the misfortune to have the same name as you. With your record it's probably not the wisest move you could make.

      You're welcome.

      Delete
  9. Please explain how God's knowledge of our actions prohibit us from exercising free will.

    You seem to be asserting the fallacy that free will and omniscience are mutually exclusive.

    There is nothing to prove as I don't agree your argument is logical.

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    1. >Please explain how God's knowledge of our actions prohibit us from exercising free will. <
      You can do that for yourself by trying to answer the simple questions which I asked. In case you missed them, here they are again:

      Give a single example of someone exercising free will by not doing something an omniscient, inerrant, eternal god would always have known they would do.

      Or give a single example of someone exercising free will by doing something an omniscient, inerrant, eternal god would not always have known they would do.


      Perhaps you could write the answers out for me.

      Delete
    2. By the way, I did explain it in the blog you are comment upon. Did you not read it?

      Delete
  10. Not only does God being omniscient contradict with our free will, it also contradicts with God being righteouss and benevolent/kind. If God knows everything, he also knows who will become (or stay) atheist or non-christian. So He also knows they'll go to hell (rev 21:8).

    That is, if he exists..

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  11. The wonderful paradox of human freedom and God's sovereignty is one of my favorite doctrines to ponder. Rather than seeing it as a faith-killer it's a faith-builder. We humans wouldn't invent a God we couldn't understand!

    That verse in Ecclesiastes is a great find, by the way.

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  12. In response to my last comment I might hear, "So why don't you tell us, Chris, how this works. You said it's a wonderful paradox (apparent contradiction) but you didn't say how it works in order to defend your faith."

    I've found that debating a topic that even Christians disagree upon with those such as yourself who are perishing to be an exercise in futility. 1Cor 1:18 tells us that those who are perishing consider the word of the cross to be folly, and in my experience, no matter how carefully and thoughtfully I argue, I'm always wrong. The rebuttal is almost exclusively filled with logical fallacies and unnecessary mocking. Not exactly an open-minded unbiased response, and it's very wearisome for a guy with chronic fatigue.

    But I've debated this topic many times on forums such as CARM.org, OpenAirOutreach.com, my personal blog and other blogs. Feel free to search 'cdevidal' on those forums. I've been internet debating for about twelve years so I've built quite a history.

    If you would like to come to know the God of the Bible, then we can talk. Proof at NeedGod.com.

    Suffice it to say this is not an unanswerable question. It is a gloriously complex problem that reveals the great depths of our Creator, but it is not unanswerable.

    Oh and I'll save you time: "Chris, you're wrong! Because [circular reasoning], [moving the goalposts], [post hoc ergo propter hoc], [strawman] HAHAHAHAHA!"

    Winky face

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    1. In other words, you aren't actually going to say what your 'incontrovertible evidence' is. Strange how given the chance of worldwide fame for being the first person in history to prove the existence of any god, and so of winning converts by the million, so many theists suddenly become very shy and decide to keep their proof to themselves.

      Further preaching and spam will be removed.

      Delete
  13. This is essentially a variant on "can your god make a rock that is so heavy he can't lift it?" An all powerful god should be able to do so. The Believer's reaction is to simply marvel at the idea that their god is so amazing he actually can do this impossible thing. That we can't understand how this impossible thing is actually impossible simply reinforces how small we are in comparison to How Great Thou Art.

    Can an omniscient god know you were going to have waffles tomorrow but will change your mind at the last moment? Of course it can. It's omniscient. Does this create paradoxes and bring in to question free will? Not at all. A Believer can simply state that their omniscient god is capable of knowing what choices we will make even though he gave us free will. He's THAT awesome and amazing.

    It's not plausible to reason with unreasonable people. Attempting to do so simply points out you too are being unreasonable.

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    1. Absolutely. The point of the blog was to show how religion requires compartmentalised thinking in order to believe two mutually contradictory things simultaneously,and believing in free will and the presence of an inerrant omniscient god at the same time is as good an example of that as it gets.

      It neatly illustrated the delusional and intellectually dishonest nature of religion and yet no Christian, Jew or Muslim dare admit they don't believe one or the other. To be religious is to be delusional and dishonest.

      Delete

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