Free Will: Its Essential Nature and Implications


I actually finished TILOG last night. I hope to make the time to write a review.

Middle knowledge doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t believe in it. I’m just wondering what you guys think of the questions I’ve asked.


If I remember/understand correctly, middle knowledge means that God knows everything that would/could have happened in any circumstances. If that’s correct, then I think God could do that. But maybe there’s something here I’m not comprehending correctly. I realize that the implications here would be of mind-boggling knowledge impossible for us to even begin to understand. Yet nothing is too hard for God.


That’s my understanding of middle knowledge. It doesn’t fit with my theodicy. Free will IMO is essential, and it seems to me that if God has middle knowledge, and middle knowledge is compatible with free will, then God could have created a world filled only with peaceful, free-willed people. There would be no point, so far as I can tell, in creating violent criminals if God could grant humans free will while knowing what humans would do in situations that would never happen.

To restate my questions:
If God has middle knowledge, then couldn’t he create a world where all people would choose him? (If God “know under what circumstances the most people would so choose” to follow him, why can’t “the most” be all?)

Also, what do you guys think of the idea that God can choose whether or not to use middle knowledge? In other words, that God has middle knowledge stored in a sort of “lockbox”, but only chooses to use it some of the time? When God chooses to use middle knowledge, he nullifies free will (for particular individuals) , but when he doesn’t use it, he permits free will.


Out of curiosity, why not?


Cindy, see my edited my post.


I think that God created the world via the big bang and some form of evolution. Why? Because that was the only way to create free persons who are OTHER than Him. If He directly made us and dictated every moment of our lives, dictated our personalities, dictated where we were born and to whom and etc., etc., etc., we couldn’t be real. We couldn’t be free. We would be dolls or robots or completely under His thumb. We have to be permitted to grow into freedom, and in that process, we have to be permitted to fail very, very badly. Otherwise, if He engineered each of us just so, we could never be actual persons.

We are not, any of us, free. We do not have free will–yet. We came into this world as slaves to the flesh. I suppose you could loosely translate “the flesh” to instinct. Included in that, selfishness. Someone said, “That which was necessary for our development now stands in the way of our progress.” Evolution is a profoundly selfish process, but I believe it was necessary, in order for us to develop into conscious beings who are NOT automatons. God had to stand at arm’s length and allow us to act on one another and be acted on by our environment, largely without interfering. Otherwise we would not be the sort of life that He wants–offspring, not automatons–people, not things.

In the right time, Jesus came to lift us up out of that process, to set our feet on higher ground, to make it possible for us to be made free from the dominion of the fleshly nature. We could not lift ourselves. He came to provide for us to be raised up out of the natural and into the supernatural nature of God. That’s my understanding. I know it’s only rudimentary but at present it’s the best I can do.

As an example: Babies come into this world utterly selfish. They are slaves to their instincts, and because of the early stage of their development, they have pretty much no free will. They can cry and they can breathe and they can wave their little arms around. How much of that is the result of free choice could be debated, but I doubt very much of it is other than instinctual. They have no free will because they are incapable of exercising free will. As they grow, they have more choices. They can choose to sit up. They can choose to obey or disobey simple commands. They can smile and babble and be good and be naughty. They can NOT choose to take the family car out for a joy ride. If they attempt to play in the street, their parents will curtail their free will. If their parents do NOT curtail their free will, we would accuse them of neglect.

God’s picture is a bit wider, I think. While He will permit us to do all sorts of horrible things with dire consequences for this life–and also allow us to suffer such things–He will NOT allow us to inflict eternal damage on ourselves or on others, nor will He allow others to permanently damage us. As we become more mature and more like Jesus, our wills become freer. I do not believe that when we die, God suddenly makes it physically/spiritually impossible for us to sin. I DO believe that at some point, it WILL become impossible for us to sin–not because God takes away our free will, but because sin will have become so abhorrent to us that it will be psychologically impossible for us to sin.

Most people want happiness. We are tempted to sin (to do selfish things that hurt other people) because we believe that doing those things will help us to become happy. This is a lie, but we are caught in that lie. Most of us here hate sin. We hate the sins that we ourselves cannot seem to quit doing. Paul said that if he did the things he hated, it was no longer him doing it, but rather sin that dwelt in him. “Oh wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?” He cries out in anguish. Then he answers: 'I thank my God, through my Lord Jesus Christ." Jesus came to set us free from sin. THAT is the next step in our journey toward freedom–freedom from sin. Once we are free from sin, we will still be theoretically capable of sin, but we will hate it so thoroughly that we never will do it, nor want to do it. We will then have true free will. As of yet, we do not have it.

God is MAKING us free, but we have a long way to go before we have anything approaching real freedom.

So you see, when you speak of God “creating violent criminals,” that makes no sense to me. God didn’t create a violent criminal. He created a world in which a woman gave birth to a child who eventually fell into a life of violent crime. To say that God knows the circumstances in which He will eventually reconcile that violent criminal to Himself in no way infringes on the criminal’s free will. The criminal is a slave to sin. In order to end that slavery, it is necessary to set him free. If he doesn’t wish to be set free, then he needs two things: 1) He needs knowledge–he needs to know that the path to his blessedness lies in Christ, and 2) He needs to be sane. If #1 is fulfilled, and he now knows that the path to his own blessedness is freedom from sin–which leads to death–yet he still refuses to be set free, then he is insane. If an insane man refuses to be cured, curing him doesn’t violate his free will, because he HAS no free will to violate. He is insane, and that insanity renders him incapable of free choice. Yes he can make choices, but they will not be free choices. In order to provide this man with free choice, God must heal the insanity and make him rational and knowledgeable. Once he is sufficiently informed and sufficiently rational, he will choose blessedness freely. God knows how to bring him to that place, and bringing him to that place does not violate his free will, because until he has knowledge and rationality, he is incapable of having truly free will.

That’s my take on the issue. You may or may not think it has merit, but perhaps it will help you to think your way through this and come to conclusions that seem right to you and the Holy Spirit.


Cindy, I agree with most of what you wrote. It sounds to me like you don’t believe in middle knowledge.

I agree. One does not have to believe in middle knowledge to accept that premise.

I don’t think that’s a matter of middle knowledge. Middle knowledge isn’t about what will happen to a free-willed person, but what would happen to a free-willed person under different circumstances.


Well, I really don’t know much about middle knowledge. But I’m a big fan of middle earth . But folks might find this interesting from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy - Middle Knowledge. So is the term “middle knowledge” the preacher article used the same as the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy uses? Let me make a brief quote from the encyclopedia :smiley:

It might also be informative for everyone to read the encyclopedia’s articles on Free Will and Theological Determinism

Of course - when I have time - it might be interesting to read through the opinions expressed in this forum thread. Then see how they compare and contrast, with historical and contemporary positions, of professional theologians and philosophers. :smiley:

To which I might reply, only if you are free to do so. :laughing:


Good stuff, Randy. :slight_smile:

Qaz, I agree it isn’t necessary for God to have middle knowledge in order for my scenario to work, and I even kind of begin to see (perhaps) why you may feel that God using such knowledge would negate free will. If He could just (metaphorically) push this or that button to make us react in certain ways, that would definitely negate free will. I don’t think though, that He could logistically make that work together and still maintain minute control of all creatures, nor do I think He DOES do that. I do think it’s reasonable to suppose that He might have, using His middle knowledge, created the best (or least bad) possible world in which all persons would eventually come to salvation. That is to say, the world in which the least possible suffering would need to be allowed. That wouldn’t allow minute control of each person’s life, because any “tweaks” would inevitably ripple out and change all sorts of things. God might need to MAKE tweaks from time to time, as a part of the whole creation process–to keep the world in the track He had chosen. I think tweaks of that kind would have to have been a part of the original plan, though.

The other option is that God is flying by the seat of His pants (not meaning any disrespect). He doesn’t know (or doesn’t choose to know) exactly how things are going to work out. Nevertheless, what He DOES know is that He can eventually make it all work for everyone and bring His creation to a state of completion, maturity, and perfection. I held to that idea for a while, but the whole nature of time thing made me change my mind. Either way, it doesn’t matter much for us little protozoa. What we REALLY need to know is that Father has it handled. He’s capable of pulling this off, and all we have to do is trust Him. :wink: So whether you’re right and I’m wrong or vice versa or (much more likely) we’re BOTH way off :wink: He’s got it covered. :smiley:


Some new thoughts I’ve had:

Did God have a choice regarding whether or not to create the world? If God does not have middle knowledge, but knew before creating the world exactly how many people would be saved/unsaved, then it would seem to me that God had no choice but to create the world. I feel like there are some big implications and also that I’m missing something. Thoughts?


Actually, your questions raised more questions for me:

The problem with middle knowledge is that Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy - Middle Knowledge gives objections, which are needed to first be addressed. How do you answer the objections? For example - let’s just look at one in A Simplified Grounding Objection To Middle Knowledge and focus on that:

In Why open theism doesn’t even matter (very much) Why open theism doesn’t even matter (very much), it says this:

So is the future closed or open (as open theists would indicate - possibilities, mind you) - in the mind of God?

What’s the difference between what you are asking and this questionn from the middle ages? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

How do we address this answer by Jacob Boehme , who was a German Lutheran mystic. Where he described

? :question:

let’s explore this a bit at Boehme Boehme


This assumes that man was originally joined to God. That is, it assumes we had an elevated state from which to fall. (Scripture doesn’t name this event “the fall;” that is a human tag we’ve given it. I don’t think we necessarily have to start out with the assumption that we had anywhere to fall FROM. What if the Garden narrative tells the story of how God breathed His breath into the man he had made (by whatever means God made him), and how then man was given the choice (two trees) of whether to live by the LIFE of God, or whether to live by his own innate (evolved?) moral and intellectual nature, newly awakened with the granting/infusing of consciousness by God (breath of life)? If that is the story (as I think it well may be), then there was no fall. What there was, was a refusal/failure to be helped up to the next step of our development. Evolution must be left behind in favor of the tutelage of our Father via the Holy Spirit. We were and are to be made into the image of our Elder Brother. Do we choose to do that via our own strength and intelligence, or do we admit to the need to be supernaturally lifted up into a new kind of life–the kind of life we cannot reach on our own? Most of us choose the DIY self-improvement paradigm, and like A&E, we fail miserably.

Not until we consent to the Great Physician’s ministries on our behalf and with no contribution of our own (to assuage our shame at our inability), will we rise to the next level of our journey. In a video game, this would be the secret key-code as opposed to our defeating the strongman on our own. Jesus defeated the strongman we could not best and now He lifts us up to the next level. He comes to save us, because we simply cannot and never will be able to save ourselves.


Randy, which of the views on omniscience (simple foreknowledge, middle knowledge, open theism, calvinism) do you think is most plausible?

What are the implications for universalism if we posit that (1) God does not have middle knowledge and (2) man has free will?


I always first run with the Eastern Orthodox answer. God is a divine mystery and beyond our philosophy and theology (but we can have theological understanding - to some degree). But the option I run with is open theism, as it gives quite a bit of “wiggle room”.

I cam across this from an article, from the Evangelical site Patheos. I like this from Why Some Christians Are Universalists (Letting Go of Hell Series):

The other thing that struck me from the article is terms. While Annihilationists talk about conditional immortality, Kurt Willems calls his hybrid view purgatorial conditionalism. or in his own words - from the article:

But these are areas I put as primary:

We can experience God in the here and now - to some degree. And thoughts and feelings effect reality. My own contemplation is a creative fusion of the traditions of Vedanta, Vipassanā and Zen, centered around the Golden Key of Emmet Fox. We just need to change it to a contemplation of God’s Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent . And do this constantly. Or in the word’s of St. Paul - pray without ceasing.
We continue to grow in Christ through a process of Sanctification in Anglicanism and Theosis in Eastern Orthodoxy.
I follow the view of Kurt Williams (A hybrid universalism/annihilationalism view called purgatorial conditionalism). But will add this (the universalism aspect is a strong possibility - as asserted above - not a certainty): That the Eastern Orthodox have the best understanding of Heaven and Hell, as being equal in God’s presence. How we experience God’s presence is heaven or hell for us. But add also that we may be reconciled to God through Christ, whether we know it or not (as inclusivism would emphasize). Actually, the hybrid finality vision is in harmony with the visions of Tiffany Snow (contemporary Catholic mystic and stigmata bearer). But I’ll only go with certainty, to those vision aspects in harmony with accepted major theological tenets.

Now I can theologically defend inclusivism and annihilational as orthodox theological tenets. But the scenario quoted above seems the most likely outcome. The key question is “how much time” is there for this scenerio to play out? Or how long can a person that’s not in Christ resist God’s presence, before they cease to exist?

As far as what is the best philosophical position for universalists to run with, I’ll defer that to their discretion.


Here’s an interesting thought from Hugh J. McCann, quoted in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
His point being that perhaps what we call ‘foreknowledge’ is actually just a matter of God’s ‘vantage point’ - if He is not ‘in’ the time stream…

Many philosophers have followed Boethius in this, holding that God is in no way a temporal being, but is rather the creator of time, with complete and equal access to all of its contents.[2] And it may well appear that on such a view God’s omniscience is restored, in that he has immediate cognitive access to everything that will ever occur. Moreover, there is no conflict with libertarian freedom, since on this account God’s knowledge of our future decisions and actions is not really foreknowledge. Rather, the vantage point from which God knows our decisions and actions is completely external to time. This makes all talk about “when” God knows about our actions pointless. He simply knows them, in a unified, timeless and unchanging act of comprehension that comprises all that ever was or will be.


Let’s hear him talk on YouTube: :smiley:


But what does it mean, Dave, for God to be “outside time”? I find the concept to be unintelligible.
Those who hold to this idea, incomprehensible as it is, also seem to hold that God can act within time. How is this possible if He exists outside of time?

Also, why should existing outside of time (whatever that means) imply seeing all events within time simultaneously? Who would it not imply not seeing any events within time?

Also, “time” is not an entity that has to have been created. As I see it, “time” is but a measurement of the temporal “distance” between the occurrence of events. If there were no events, there would be no time. The first event was the generation of the Son. As soon as the second event occurred, time was the consequence. By “the consequence” I mean that it was implied by the occurrence of the two events. If that doesn’t make sense, consider drawing an equilateral triangle. The consequence is that you have also drawn an equiangular triangle. Your drawing of an equiangular triangle is implied by your drawing of an equilateral triangle.


You’ll have to ask McCann about that, Paidion - way above my pay grade! :smiley: It has to do with ‘Perfect Being’ theology, which I am just getting into.


Actually, Hugh J. McCann and Stephen T. Davis, have written books on this. Their ideas are briefly summarized in God in time or timeless?


Exactly, Dave. Thanks for finding someone who could say what I’ve been trying (mostly without success) to say for quite some, ahem, **time **now. :wink: Not here, so much, but you know, around the net. For us, the concept of being outside of time IS unintelligible. Yet that would have to be God’s situation if He is the foundational reality. He can’t be a resident of time or a resident of eternity. He IS eternity, and time is in Him.