As a non-believer I’m going to try to make an argument for the existence of both free will and the ability for a deity to be omniscient. These are typically contradictory. The modern school of thought seems to be the free will is just an illusion. I’ve covered this in the past so I don’t want to go into it again, but to sum it up, the idea is that you really don’t have free will. All the choices you have made have been based on your past experiences, your environment and who you are genetically. You think you are making choices, but in reality those choices are predetermined based on everything you’ve done before. Even what seems like a completely random choice is motivated by everything that lead up to it.
The position posed by religious people is that you have free will to make your own choices but that God knows everthing you are going to choose ahead of time. This is often debated by atheists who claim there is a failure in logic here. The reason is because if you have a God that already knows everything that is going to happen, any choices you make are ultimately predetermined and thus you really aren’t making those choices. At best you are being presented with choices that already have predetermined outcomes. The various choice options are pointless when the outcome is already known. You’re simply going through the motions.
For example if I gave you the choice between chocolate and vanilla ice cream but I already know 100% that you will pick vanilla, all I’ve really done is just wasted both my time and yours even presenting the chocolate as a choice. Even if I tell you ahead of time that I’m going to punish you for picking vanilla while knowing 100% you will still pick vanilla, then it’s still a waste of time to present you with the choice of chocolate. You have already been predetermined to pick vanilla for whatever reason. Adding a punishment for picking what I know you will pick won’t change anything, it will just make me an meany for punishing you.
I see no way around this argument using what we know. You can call it choice all you want. If you have presented multiple options it would appear to be a choice, but when the outcome is always known then presenting options is silly because the outcome is predetermined. It’s choice only in the way it is presented, never in the way it is executed.
So how do we get around this? We have to invent things we have no idea exist. Admittedly this is a poor argument but lets do it anyway.
Let’s assume we lived in a would where there was no time. If someone described time to us we would still have no idea what it is really like because we haven’t experienced it. All we have is a description of some weird thing that probably makes no sense. If we take a photograph of someone and assume that by doing so we have created a person in that photo that is different than the person we took a picture of in real life, than that person in the photograph is living a life in a timeless world. They are perpetually stuck in the state of that photograph. Meanwhile the real person we took a picture of has moved on and done many other things since that photograph was taken. The real person has moved through time and changed, the person in the photograph has not. The person in the photograph has no concept of time. He (let’s just assume a he) has no idea there is an entire reality outside of his photograph world where there is such a thing as time and people like him moving through said time.
Now imagine that God exists in a place or in way that has a state (like time) that is beyond our conception. Maybe it is even a higher form of time that moves in directions we can’t even conceive. Not just linear like we imagine time on a line going forward from the past to the future with present being our current position on that line.
Let’s also assume then that God is able to see our timeline and know everything past through future (which would include all the choices we will make) yet somehow still affords us the ability to make our own choices. It’s hard to even imagine because it defies our logic. But then it would, because like the person in the photograph, we have absolutely no reference to work from. We have no concept of what this other state is. We do not even have someone trying to explain it to us, we just simply have no idea of its existence. But just like that photograph couldn’t exist without a world where time exists and where it was created with the help of time, perhaps the same is true with our reality and whatever possible other states exist beyond it. Which ultimately account for the choices we make while still allowing a God to know them all.
We can’t know this. It’s outside our reality. We’re not even aware that it’s possible for something to be outside our reality. We’re guessing, unless you’re a revealed religion person that believes that someone(s) already came and told us. So it’s not at all unreasonable to not believe there is such a thing as something outside our reality. Furthermore such things as other states which affect our reality but are completely beyond our capacity to understand.
At best all we can do is have faith those things do exist. As odd as it may sound, faith may be our only real link to those things. If we can’t know for certain and we have no evidence, then our only choices are to have faith or simply pass it off as one of many unfounded speculations. Therein lies the bigger prolem. We don’t know which idea is more likely true. Hence we have all of these different types of idea of how it all works beyond our own reality and we fight over which is true based solely on greater belief in one over other.