Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Freewill Argument for the Nonexistence of God

The Freewill Argument for the Nonexistence of God

If the argument is successfully refuted, the implication then is that God has both free will and is capable of existing as a personal being. If the argument is upheld, the implication is that the Christian God cannot and does not exist.

The Argument:

The Christian God is defined as a personal being who knows everything. According to Christians, personal beings have free will.

In order to have free will, you must have more than one option, each of which is avoidable. This means that before you make a choice, there must be a state of uncertainty during a period of potential: you cannot know the future. Even if you think you can predict your decision, if you claim to have free will, you must admit the potential (if not the desire) to change your mind before the decision is final.

A being who knows everything can have no "state of uncertainty." It knows its choices in advance. This means that it has no potential to avoid its choices, and therefore lacks free will. Since a being that lacks free will is not a personal being, a personal being who knows everything cannot exist.

Therefore, the Christian God does not exist.

The Author of the argument followed up by stating various obvious rebuttals faced in past debates. Those can be viewed by going to here. It will help to read those comments, as I will be referring to them later on.

I am also going to cite here some of what he wrote in order to further clarify the argument for the sake of my rebuttal. Nothing will be taken out of context, and everything can (again) be viewed by clicking on the link above.

He says:
“Free will requires 1) having more than one option, 2) a desire to choose, 3) freedom to choose (lack of obstacles), 4) power to accomplish the choice (strength and aptitude), and 5) the potential to avoid the option. "Strength and aptitude" puts a limit on what any person is "free" to do. No human has the free will to run a one-minute mile, without mechanical aid. We are free to try, but we will fail. All of our choices, and our desires as well, are limited by our nature; yet we can still claim free will (those of us who do) because we don't know our future choices.”

The Rebuttal:

To address this argument, it becomes somewhat necessary to address the first known choice made by the Christian God.

The first choice made by the Christian God (as far as we are able to know) is the choice to create the universe. This choice would not have interfered with His ‘nature’ since what’s being spoken of is the creation of the universe, not the degree to which it was created or qualities it would then possess. God was under no obligation to create the universe. There was the desire for fellowship, but not a necessity for it, nor a necessity for the universe to be created. And since time did not exist prior to its creation by the Christian God, there would not necessarily be any foreknowledge concerning it (or, rather, there would not necessarily be any foreknowledge to possess in the way that we understand the term).

Based upon that, we can draw conclusions that will satisfy the five criteria necessitated by the author of the argument:
1) Having more than one option
2) Having a desire to choose
3) Having a freedom to choose
4) Having the power to accomplish the choice
5) Having the potential to avoid the option

The first criterion, that God would need more than one option to be able to initially make a choice, is satisfied by His ability to either 1) create the universe, or 2) not create the universe.

The second is met by our knowledge that the Christian God wanted fellowship (the reason Man was created).

The third is met by His ability to act or not, despite His ‘nature’.

The fourth is met by His omnipotence and ability to create.

The fifth is met by Hs ability to act on the desire, to create or not to create the universe. There is nothing forcing God to create the universe.

In this, all of the criteria that allow God to possess free will are met. And since --as stated above-- there was no time before Time was created, by its very definition foreknowledge would not exist (as it pertains to you or I).

Therefore, up until the creation of the universe, God is perfecetly capable of free will and of being a personal being.

That said, the possibility of a problem comes into play once creation is created.

The answers to the five criteria listed above are still very much valid as God can always choose to interact or not to interact with His creation; God can, and obviously does, desire to interact (eg. Sending of Jesus Christ, miracles, prayer); He always has the freedom to choose, the power to accomplish the choice, and the potential to merely not interact.

The problem comes then in the Christian God’s omniscience, His divine foreknowledge. Yet even there, the problem is easily solved, depending on your view of omniscience:

Inherent Omniscience is the ability to know anything that one chooses to know and can be known.

Total Omniscience, on the other hand, is actually knowing everything that can be known.

If we take the stance that the Christian God has Inherent Omniscience, then God can merely choose to not know certain things (which would grant Himself the ‘lack of foreknowledge’ needed to be able to make ‘free’ choices). Game over. Problem solved. Argument refuted sucessfully.

If we choose Total Omniscience, we have yet another obstacle to hurdle.

How does God, who, according to Total Omniscience, knows everything that can be known, have the sufficient ‘lack of foreknowledge’ to allow Himself the freedom to choose ‘freely’?

The answer, I think, would have to lie somewhere in the realm of eternity. For instance, one of the chief attributes of the Christian God is that He is infinite, or eternal. Within the scope of eternity there are several varying ways in which God can exist within eternity (eg. Existing outside of time; Existing outside and inside of time). I take the position of Augustine of Hippo who said that God exists outside of the created universe and therefore exists outside of time; because of this there is not a past or future for God, but only an eternal present.

If then, to God, creation exists within an eternal present, several things would happen. 1) God would know all things at the same time (since God exists in an eternal present, all events are eternally present before God); yet 2) God would not necessarily know the choices made by people (since He cannot see the future because there is no future to God, and since God is viewing the events in the present); this means that 3) God would not necessarily know the choices He Himself would make (since it's already been stated that there is no future to know) except as it concerns prophecy and other things God says will indeed happen.

This existence in an eternal present and lack of a future acts as the "state of uncertainty" mentioned in the argument. Whether or not it truly is a state of uncertainty is speculative; but for reasons concerning the argument and its logic, the 'eternal present' scenerio sufficiently satisfies the finite aspects of the "state of uncertainty".

Thus, the omniscient Christian God can be said to have free will, and is therefore capable of existing as a personal being.

And with that, the argument is rebutted.

To recap:

God meets the criteria for possession of free will as follows:
1) Having more than one option
2) Having a desire to choose
3) Having a freedom to choose
4) Having the power to accomplish the choice
5) Having the potential to avoid the option

The final criterion needed to be met is that of a certain 'lack' of foreknowledge/omniscience, which as shown above is met in accordance with the two varying definitions of omniscience: With Inherent Omniscience, God chooses to not know certain things; with Total Omniscience, God, viewed to exist in a state of eternal present, sees all things as in present time, and is then not seeing the future.


Now, all that said, we cannot really know everything as it concerns God, since God exists outside of our complete realm of understanding.

Consequently, I'm open to comments that would help me to then improve the integrity of the rebuttal.

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