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Foreknowledge is not Fixed Fate

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posted on Mar, 4 2018 @ 11:43 AM
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“Others apart sat on a hill retired,
In thoughts more elevate, and reasoned high
Of Providence, Foreknowledge, Will, and Fate-
Fixed fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute-
And found no end, in wandering mazes lost.”
Paradise Lost, Book II, ll557-561, John Milton

That was how the fallen angels in Hell occupied their time.
We should be reluctant to follow them into the maze.
But there might be less danger (remembering a family visit to Hampton Court) in standing on the other side of the boundary hedge and shouting in gratuitous advice.

I want to confine myself to one detail of the debate, one particular blind alley.
There is a difference between Foreknowledge and Fixed Fate.

The Biblical God claims Foreknowledge of what will happen in the future.
The standard explanation, and probably the best explanation, is that the Creator God stands “outside” the structure of time. For time itself (as Einstein would agree) is one of the physical dimensions, one of the elements of the created universe.
This means that God has a vantage-point from which he can see our future just as easily as he can see our past and our present.
From our own vantage-point, where the future is invisible, this looks like Foreknowledge.

But what about the argument that this Foreknowledge amounts to Fixed Fate?
“If God knows what I’m going to do, then I can’t change what I’m going to do.
My freedom of will is impaired”.
Now, there may be reasons for thinking that our freedom is impaired, but this is not one of them.

We may try to explain the case by analogy.
Let’s take a novel, one that you know very well. It might be by Jane Austen, Dickens, Zola, Tolstoy… “Dead Souls”? “Pale Fire”? “The Mystic Masseur”?
OK, let’s try Tolkien. If you haven’t read “Lord of the Rings”, you will have seen the film, which is closer to the book than most adaptations.
When you follow the story through again, you will know the plot.
At each stage, you know what Frodo and Sam are going to do. You know what they will decide about leaving the Shire, taking the Ring from Rivendell, and getting through into Mordor, and you know how these things work out.
To be exact, as you read the “present” chapter from your vantage point of remembering the final chapters, you know what they did.
From the standpoint of the “present”, you know what they will have done.
The important point here is that your “foreknowledge” does not impinge upon their freedom of action.
They have the power (or Tolkien had the power) of directing their course in other ways.
But if they took a different line, then your knowledge of what they did would change, because your knowledge is determined by the final published version of the book.
In other words, your Foreknowledge is controlled by the choices they make, and not the other way round.

Or we could take a familiar story from History, like the reign of Charles the First (1625-1649).
Once again, when we follow the story through, we know the plot and we can spot the mistakes as they happen.
When the House of Commons gives up the impeachment of Strafford, and passes a Bill of Attainder instead, we know that the king will throw him to the wolves.
We know that Charles will fall into the trap of marching down to the House in a failed attempt to arrest the Five Members (“I see my birds have flown.”)
We know about the harsh letter that will drive Prince Rupert into the disastrous battle of Marston Moor.
We know that even as a prisoner of Parliament, the king won’t be able to resist the temptation to negotiate in bad faith and drag in the Scots for a second Civil War.
In short, we know what he’s going to do.
To be exact, as we read the “present” chapter of this history from our vantage point of remembering the final chapter, we know what he did.
From the standpoint of the “present”, we know what he will have done.
The important point here is that our “foreknowledge” does not impinge upon his freedom of action.
He always had the power of directing his course in other ways.
But if he had taken a different line, then our knowledge of what he did would have changed,
because our knowledge is determined by the final version of what happened in history.
In other words, our Foreknowledge is controlled by the choices he made, and not the other way round.

Or what about your own life-story?
You are going to be a very important person.
You will be promoted to, or elected to, offices A, B, and C.
Your achievements will include D, E, and F.
Along the way, you will have made mistakes G, H, and I, but they will all be retrieved by the famous triumph of Q.
A couple of centuries down the line, there is a young lady who regards herself as your greatest fan. She has read all the books about you, seen all the films, downloaded the hologram.
She dreams about inventing a time-machine, to come back and marry you.
You will guess that she knows every detail of your life-story.
As she reads it over again, she anticipates the promotions and achievements, groans over the mistakes, rejoices in the triumph, and weeps over the tragic death scene. (Sorry, I wasn’t supposed to talk about the tragic death scene. Forget I mentioned it.)
In short, she knows what you’re going to do.
To be exact, as she reads the “present” chapter of your biography from her vantage point of remembering the final chapters, she knows what you did.
From the standpoint of the “present”, she knows what you will have done.
The important point here is that her “foreknowledge” does not impinge upon your freedom of action.
You still have the power of directing your course in other ways.
But if you took a different line, then her knowledge of what you did would change, because her knowledge is determined by the final outcome of your decisions.
In other words, her Foreknowledge is controlled by the choices you make, and not the other way round.

In the same way, the statement that God knows “what you are going to do” really means this; from the vantage point of observing your future, he knows what you did.
From the standpoint of our present, he knows what you will have done.
The important point here is that his “foreknowledge” does not impinge upon your freedom of action.
You still have the power of directing your course in other ways.
But if you took a different line, then his knowledge of what you’ve done would also be different, because his knowledge is determined by the final outcome of your decisions.
In other words, his Foreknowledge is controlled by the choices you make, and not the other way round.

There may or may not be scriptural reasons for regarding God as writer of the book, as well as reader.
However, that is another set of problems in the darker part of the maze, where the Minotaur lurks.
The central point here is that Foreknowledge is not in itself a reason for believing in Fixed Fate.

So let’s leave the maze behind. Shall we go for a pot of tea and some scones, and then go round the rest of the Palace?




posted on Mar, 4 2018 @ 11:44 AM
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This is normally a very abstract issue.
There’s a potential paradox, on those rare occasions when God shares his foreknowledge by telling people what they are going to do themselves. But perhaps he only does this when his foreknowledge tells him that the revelation will make no difference.
The best-known case is “You will deny me”, addressed to Peter.
One example in the Old Testament is Elisha’s prophecy to Hazael (2 Kings ch8 vv7-15).
On the whole, though, the Biblical God is more likely to speak in general terms, and about what other people are going to do.

His foreknowledge would be the key to his forward planning, because it would enable him to incorporate the effects of human decisions (such as the choices made by Judas).
The thought-provoking novel “The End of Eternity”, by Isaac Asimov, depicts an elite group of scientists attempting to control history from a similar vantage point, with clumsier results.



posted on Mar, 4 2018 @ 12:40 PM
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God gives you wisdom as a gift. That wisdom gives you the ability to predict outcomes of things and steers you out of conflict which can result in life turning into hell. Ability to reason and see the outcome of your actions is a gift from god. One that those who deceive us want to block.



posted on Mar, 4 2018 @ 12:48 PM
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a reply to: rickymouse
Yes, but that is about our foreknowledge, surely?
I was addressing a speculative theory about the effects of God's foreknowledge.



posted on Mar, 4 2018 @ 01:00 PM
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originally posted by: DISRAELI
a reply to: rickymouse
Yes, but that is about our foreknowledge, surely?
I was addressing a speculative theory about the effects of God's foreknowledge.



So what you are talking about is the deceptive practice of the deceiver of giving people false foresight.



posted on Mar, 4 2018 @ 01:07 PM
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a reply to: rickymouse
No, the opening post is about the usual presumption that God has foreknowledge which he normally keeps to himself.
It attempts to offer an answer to the common argument that this foreknowledge has the effect of limiting people's freedom of will; "If he knows what I'm going to do, that means I can't change my mind and do something different."



posted on Mar, 4 2018 @ 01:13 PM
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originally posted by: DISRAELI
a reply to: rickymouse
No, the opening post is about the usual presumption that God has foreknowledge which he normally keeps to himself.
It attempts to offer an answer to the common argument that this foreknowledge has the effect of limiting people's freedom of will; "If he knows what I'm going to do, that means I can't change my mind and do something different."



WE're having leftover pork chops for supper tonight instead of baking the turkey breast we bought. I hope god is not disappointed in me.


We are not running a script, just following basic rules and being evaluated on our ability to pass the tests given by Satan. Sadly to say, most people cannot pass the tests we are given.



posted on Mar, 4 2018 @ 01:23 PM
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a reply to: rickymouse
OK, that gives me a good way of illustrating the opening post.
A common line of argument (I've seen it on ATS many times) would be "If God has foreknowledge that I will have turkey, that controls what I'm going to do, which in theory prevents me from having pork".
Or alternatively, "If God has foreknowledge that I will have turkey, and I have pork instead, I have defeated his foreknowledge, which is a paradox".
The argument in the OP is "Your decision between turkey and pork controls his foreknowledge about what your decision will be/will have been, and that is the real reason why they will match".



posted on Mar, 4 2018 @ 01:30 PM
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originally posted by: DISRAELI
a reply to: rickymouse
OK, that gives me a good way of illustrating the opening post.
A common line of argument (I've seen it on ATS many times) would be "If God has foreknowledge that I will have turkey, that controls what I'm going to do, which in theory prevents me from having pork".
Or alternatively, "If God has foreknowledge that I will have turkey, and I have pork instead, I have defeated his foreknowledge, which is a paradox".
The argument in the OP is "Your decision between turkey and pork controls his foreknowledge about what your decision will be/will have been, and that is the real reason why they will match".



I doubt if god cares what I eat, as long as I appreciate the life lost so that I can eat. That thanks can go to god to distribute to all life effected, he is the operator who delivers the message.. Next thing some conman will say is that you have to pay a service fee to use the operator service.



posted on Mar, 4 2018 @ 01:39 PM
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a reply to: rickymouse
In other words, you're not troubled by the theoretical difficulty which some people find in this issue. That's fine.



posted on Mar, 4 2018 @ 03:39 PM
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originally posted by: DISRAELI
a reply to: rickymouse
Yes, but that is about our foreknowledge, surely?
I was addressing a speculative theory about the effects of God's foreknowledge.



This is standard board game AI. Consider one of the simplest games; noughts and crosses or "tic tac toe","space lines" or "four in a row". Each move made by a player fills in a square with one of their playing pieces. Once they get all the pieces in a row, they win. Each player has free will to place pieces in particular locations, but some moves will lead to a guaranteed win and some will lead to guaranteed lose. An observer can write out a graph showing every possible move for the first piece placed, then the second piece played, and so on, then work out whether that move will lead to a guaranteed win or lose. This forms a hierarchical tree of moves. This observer could have foreknowledge of every possible game played.



posted on Mar, 4 2018 @ 03:56 PM
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a reply to: stormcell
That's one way of understanding God's knowledge of the world, but I think it underestimates him. It places him within the limitations of time.
I'm suggesting that his true vantage point gives him a simultaneous view of the participants making the first moves AND of the final version of the paper showing the result of the game. If he chose to share what he sees about the end-result, that would be "revelation of foreknowledge".
The OP is trying to refute the common argument that this simultaneous view of their present and future moves constrains the participants to act in accordance with what he is seeing.



posted on Mar, 5 2018 @ 02:04 AM
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God's foreknowledge is instinct. You are the ones burdened with pondering. Not God.

He doesn't calculate. He doesn't determine. Its all just instinct. He doesn't have to decide or observe anything.



posted on Mar, 5 2018 @ 02:27 AM
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a reply to: AdKiller
Quite true. But then, for some people, there is the question of whether this knowledge amounts to "control", removal of free will. I'm not convinced that it does.



posted on Mar, 5 2018 @ 07:48 AM
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God design this world and the universe, so he knows every aspect of it. He knows when a star is going to die when a new planet is going to form. Everything because He design it.
Like a programmer, they know what they did, so they know the outcome.

Anything that is in God's control we do not understand because we do not know the rules of this programming. In my opinion every step in this universe is cyclical it will repeat itself from time to time. Not on our time, but in God's "time".

Is like the NBA original Dream Team. We all knew from the beginning that they were going to win all of their games. But we did not knew for how much or how many points will score this or that.



posted on Mar, 5 2018 @ 08:12 AM
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a reply to: Abednego
Are you assuming that he also programmes the choices that people make?
The philosophical problem here is accounting for his foreknowledge of people's decisions without removing their freedom to make decisions.




edit on 5-3-2018 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 5 2018 @ 08:58 AM
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originally posted by: DISRAELI
a reply to: Abednego
Are you assuming that he also programmes the choices that people make?
The philosophical problem here is accounting for his foreknowledge of people's decisions without removing their freedom to make decisions.


Basically yes. God put choices in there and we decide which one to take (that is our free will, to decide between choices already given to us).
One example: I raised my kids to do things in a certain way (programming), but in the end when they grow up, they will do everything differently. They may make their own decisions (free will). But in those decisions are hints of what I teach them. Somehow I may be able to know (not 100%) what decisions they will make.

Is like a chess game. Best chess players will force you to make a move (what you think is a great move), without you even notice it was a forced move. But 2 great chess players will get in a battle of who is better at forcing the other to fail.



posted on Mar, 5 2018 @ 11:31 AM
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a reply to: DISRAELI
In other words, your Foreknowledge is controlled by the choices they make, and not the other way round.

Try this idea.

You did something nasty to another person(s) in a previous life or another planet, got judged by God who has given you a chance to redeem yourself.

God showed you every path that would be adequate in teaching you your lesson. You chose 1 that you felt best with. Then the mind wipe occurs and you are born into this world.

So it is actually your choice that defines your perfect path back to God.

God drops breadcrumbs of common sense and wisdom along a persons life path to remind their subconscious that they are making a detour from the perfect path that they agreed with before they were born.

If a person learns then they will probably go to a better planet and have a better life whilst remembering everything they learned on this planet.

If they fail again, then its back to reincarnation.

BTW: Jesus is the ultimate Get out of jail free card which is why the demons are so grumpy these days. They feed off the human misery and love people being reincarnated to suffer all over again.



posted on Mar, 5 2018 @ 12:04 PM
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originally posted by: DISRAELI
a reply to: AdKiller
Quite true. But then, for some people, there is the question of whether this knowledge amounts to "control", removal of free will. I'm not convinced that it does.


Another good thought-provoking thread


I think that if we somehow understood how god positioned self over-seeing our activities without any prejudices; allowing us to make good choices as much as bad choices. Residing on a neutral foundation.

He knows ahead of time what bad choices are and the consequences of them...he's not gonna try to take away our choices to protect us from the consequences we can only learn about in so by doing them.

I doubt it is god's will to never forgive satan and his angels...it's satans will that created a place for himself and others due to making bad choices.

It seems to my mortal mind that Satan still has options available to avoid negative consequences?



posted on Mar, 5 2018 @ 12:31 PM
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a reply to: loveguy
I don't want to get too close to what I called the "Minotaur" part of the maze (which in any case is more religion than philosophy), but I'm coming round to the idea that many things are God's work and man's work at one and the same time. A joint operation. He may give us freedom of choice and also guide us subconsciously and in other ways.
We are told (it comes in my next Ezekiel thread) that he does not want people to choose death and would prefer them to live.
We are certainly instructed to behave as people who have freedom of choice and choose God on that basis, whatever we may think in theory.



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