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Does Complete Foreknowledge lead to Fatalism?


In the Debate, Tim wondered aloud as to how my view of God’s complete foreknowledge does not lead to fatalism. In the debate I replied that God does not causally bring about these free-will choices. Thus, fatalism is avoided. I pointed out that there is nothing in God’s ‘simply knowing something’ that will causally make that something to happen. I may know that my son or daughter will struggle with a particular kind of homework, but my knowledge of that fact does not cause it to be so.


Different Kinds of Fatalism: In its strongest conception, fatalism is the idea that God or ‘the gods’ are controlling things for their ends. Therefore, even if you want to do something different, ‘the gods’ will force you to do their will. God’s ‘simply knowing’ what the future will hold in the actual world in no way implies he is ‘fating’ (by control) the future. This first understanding of fatalism is certainly not implied by my view.


Fatalism could also be understood as the idea that you cannot freely do anything else but what God wants you to do. The problem here is that even though God knows exactly what is going to happen, his knowledge of what is going to happen is based on his knowledge of what people will freely do in every situation. Therefore, he knows what you will freely do, not because he has determined what you will do, but because that is what you will do.

For Tim’s charge of fatalism to be true he will have to prove how God’s knowledge of future events is causally determining those events. I think Tim would like to reply that, “God chose which world to create, so he chose which future he wanted, and that is why Isaac’s view is fatalistic.”


This is incorrect. Why? Because God chose which world to create based on his good goals and nature. His choice determines which kind of goals he pursues for a world. That choice allows a variant set of free-will choices that God knows, but he does not determine those choices. They are done on their own terms in this world variant.

Fatalism is avoided.

Next week I will address “Why we should pray if God knows everything that will happen?”

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