This week we’ll discuss if God’s providence and our freedom:
We’re using the “Handbook of Apologetics” by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli to go over the arguments for the existence of God. Today, we will be covering the above question in relation to God. Dr. Kreeft teaches logic in two major universities, so his arguments tend to be clear, concise and very helpful.
Providence and Freedom
God knows all things and his knowledge is eternal. Therefore he must know what we are going to choose before we ever choose it. But then how can we choose anything freely? Being free seems to involve an alternative; I may choose the path of vice or virtue. But if it has been determined from eternity that I will choose one path rather than another, there is really nothing for me to genuinely choose. God, in creating me, seems also to have created all my choices. So my choices turn out not to be mine at all but really God’s. Two terrifying conclusions seem to follow: (1) if God exists, human freedom is impossible; and (2) God is the author of sin. Such is the problem of providence and freedom.
Our reply will be brief. First, when we say that God’s knowledge is eternal or that he knows from all eternity the choices you are going to make, we do not mean that he knows at a time in the distant past that you will do something in the future and that this knowledge determines you to do it. We mean instead that the kind of knowledge God has (like the kind of being he has) is not limited in any way by temporal constraints as our knowledge is. Time is the measure of moving, changing beings; in other words, time is a creature every bit as much as these things are. God, the Creator, is beyond such measure. His being transcends time and all such temporal categories.
We naturally think of God’s eternity as if it were a temporal extension stretching infinitely back into the past and forward into the future. That is because our language reflects the kind of being we have: finite, changing, timebound. We know that God’s being cannot really be like that, and therefore that his knowledge cannot really look forward or back. He sees in a single and eternal act of vision all our free choices as they really exist, embedded in their times and places and circumstances. And he can have this eternal vision because every creature is “embedded” in him, the Creator, the Source of all being.
Second, if God created us to be free, our freedom is a created gift. That is to say, God’s creating and conserving power must be present in all our free acts. There can be no human freedom which is absolute in the sense that it eliminates the need for God. If God is really the Creator, the source of the being of all things, he must also give being to our freedom. His power cannot be an impediment to our free acts, as it would be if he were just another, but supremely powerful, creature—like a Cosmic Hypnotist, making us do his bidding, when we think we are acting on our own. Creatures can act on their own only with respect to other creatures; but never with respect to the Creator. Without God there would be no freedom for us to have. And there would be no “us” to have it.
A great deal of technical theology has been written about the problems of providence and freedom. We decline to enter those dark and still turbulent waters. But as Christians we offer this thought: If God really is intimately involved in giving being to our free choices, to all our actions, think what a terrible thing sin must be. God has committed himself to create and sustain those of us who use the gift of freedom to hurt others and to hate God himself. The power of those who drove the nails into his beloved Son’s hands and feet came ultimately from him. If freedom has a terrible price, surely God pays more than his share.
Kreeft, P., & Tacelli, R. K. (1994). Handbook of Christian apologetics: hundreds of answers to crucial questions (pp. 108–109). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.