Reconciling Free Will with God’s Omniscience: Evidence from C.S. Lewis and My Life

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Does free will exist if God is all-knowing? Does God lack omniscience if free will for humanity exists? Questions such as these have flummoxed philosophers since the inception of philosophic thought! Fatalism is the belief that human actions happen through necessity and as a result humans ultimately lack free will. Upon initially hearing this argument as a new student to philosophy I too developed angst. How do I reconcile the Christian assertion of free will with God’s omniscience? For if a being is not omniscient the being cannot be God and if human freedom is a façade—Christianity is a sinister masquerade.

Opponents to Christianity may look at my stance so far with euphoria. Here a Catholic man admitting his struggles to reconcile basic Christian philosophy. I would tell any adversary that such triumph is premature.  Through the lucid writing of C.S. Lewis, specifically his work Mere Christianity, and my own humble experiences in my nascent fatherhood I learned it is possible to reconcile the apparent Catch-22 between free will and divine omniscience!

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Light from Lewis

Mere Christianity was a book that I read after taking several theology courses. Yet surprisingly, instead of acting as a mere introductory and basic level of Christianity, C.S. Lewis managed to shed light on the looming battle over the omniscience of God versus the freedom of mankind. In the chapter titled Time and Beyond Time, Lewis put forth an incredibly simple and insightful example to describe God’s relation to time and space. He states, “Almost certainly God is not in Time. His life does not consist of moments following one another…If you picture Time as a straight line along which we have to travel, then you must picture God as the whole page on which the line is drawn”(Mere Christianity 167-168).

If you look in the above picture the blue arrow represents all of time and space. In other words the whole of the universe and reality as we know and experience is represented on that line. God is so above our comprehension that He is represented as “existing” on the rest of the page [see image above]. The Incarnation of Jesus Christ took place in a specific place on the line of time and space but God still remains above, below, outside of time while still being able to take on human flesh and live in time and space for 33 years!

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Later on in the chapter Lewis acknowledges the same difficulty I put forth at the beginning of this post—how do we reconcile God’s omniscience with human free will? According to him, “Everyone who believes in God at all believes that He knows what you and I are going to do tomorrow. But if He knows I am going to do so-and-so, how can I be free to do otherwise? Well, here once again, the difficulty comes from thinking God is progressing along the Time-line like us: the only difference being the He can see ahead and we cannot…But suppose God is outside and above the Time-line. In that case, what we call ‘tomorrow’ is visible to Him in just the same way as what we call ‘today’. All the days are ‘Now’ for Him” (Mere Christianity p. 170)

Clarity from My Children

 Together with the insight Lewis gave me on the issue of reconciling God’s foreknowledge with free will, my experience as a father schooled me on this issue as well. Let me explain. I have learned that as my children continue to grow I have become aware of their preferences and likes. Once I asked my oldest son if he wanted a animal crackers or a cheese stick for his evening snack. I had a foreknowledge that my son would select the cheese stick because I know that is his preference [AND YES HE DID CHOOSE THE COLBY-JACK CHEESE STICK J]. Another time I asked my daughter if she wanted to watch Frozen or Moana. I knew the answer was the latter and she choose that movie for that day.

Despite my foreknowledge of their choice I did not stop my son’s and daughter’s freedom to choose. In a more deeper and intimate way God as our Father knows us better that I know my children. God already knows our deepest longings and loves us so much that He allows free will to take place.

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Both Lewis’ example and my paternal experiences helped me reconcile the seeming chasm between God’s omniscience and human free will. While these examples ultimately fall short in explaining the nature of God’s omniscience I am still at peace with these explanations. I realize that I am a mere part of creation and my Creator is infinitely greater and more loving than I may possibly imagine. This endless wonder and awe about God is a gift. Let us not quiver at the omniscience of God but joyfully ponder it every day!

Thank you for sharing!

Reconciling Free Will with God’s Omniscience: Evidence form Fulton Sheen and My Life

Among the perennial questions that mankind asks involve freedom. With the increasingly new information scientists learn about human biology and DNA that gets passed on from generation to generation, it is natural to wonder: how much control or freedom do I actually possess in my life? Over the course of history the greatest of literary works—Oedipus Rex and Macbeth to just name a couple— centered on the debate of freedom versus fate. When things did not go my own way, I recently struggled with having fleeting thoughts about fatalism— the belief that human actions happen through necessity and a result humans ultimately lack free will.

A year and a half ago, I wrote an article titled Reconciling Free Will with God’s Omniscience: Evidence form C.S. Lewis and My Life. Since publishing this originally in 2017, I have noticed that more search engine results came up on the topic of free will, God’s knowledge, and how to resolve these two seemingly diametric views. If God is all knowing and knows the outcome of every event in an individual’s life, do we truly possess free will? Or are humans fated and not in possession of the ability to be permitted to act on their own accord? Because a lot of attention centers on this topic, I feel compelled to write again on this subject.

While I still experience feeble moments of struggle to reconcile God’s omniscience with human freedom, hope is not out of reach. I am stronger in my belief and understanding. This is through the graces of the Holy Spirit along with my own continued pursuit of truth and sharpening my intellect through reading of people much, much wiser than myself. Most recently, I re-discovered the superb sagacity of Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen. Through the clear writing of Sheen, specifically his work Re-Made for Happiness, and my own humble experiences as a father I furthered my understanding that it is possible to reconcile the apparent Catch-22 between free will and divine omniscience!

1. Sagacity from Sheen: Although every book I have read of Archbishop Fulton Sheen impressed me, as of right now, Re-Made for Happiness tops them all. Chapter 13 entitled Hope specifically resonated with me. I got so excited after reading that chapter that I called my wife and declared, “This is the most amazing chapter, I have ever read of perhaps any book ever!” Whether this is a premature hyperbole, that is a debate for another time, nevertheless, I strongly recommend reading his entire book as soon as possible. In the meantime, I hope to provide an adequate highlight of his treatment on hope, free will, and God’s omniscience.  According to Fulton Sheen, “Remember that in God there is no future. God knows all, no in the succession of time, but in the ‘now standing still’ of eternity, that is, all at once. His knowledge that you shall act in a particular manner is not the immediate cause of your acting, any more than your knowledge that you are sitting down caused you to sit down, or prevents you from getting up, if you willed to do it” (p. 161).

Being outside of the space-time continuum, God is not contained within the constraints of time. Our ability to judge knowledge depends on succession of events, day by day, moment by moment. Divine omniscience does not fit into the box of time. Sheen goes on to say, “Because there is no future in God, foreknowing is not forecausing” (p. 162).

2. Insight from Infants [and beyond]: As a parent I have known my children since the moment of their birth. I gazed [lovingly, not creepily—so do not worryJ] at them while rocking them to sleep, watched them slowly grow, develop, and learn about the world around them. The more I learn about my children the more I am aware of the outcome of the choices they will make. Let me give an example. For instance, my youngest son has developed a fond affection for toy cars, actually wheels in general. Possessing the intimate knowledge of my son’s [all my children’s] interests, patterns, and needs allows me to have an ability to now the outcome of a choice posed for them. This “foreknowledge” does not limit their freedom.

Together the examples from Fulton Sheen and parenting helped deepen my ability to reconcile the apparent chasm between God’s omniscience and human free will. Ultimately, these examples fall short in fully explaining the natural of divine knowledge. Nevertheless, I am still at peace with these explanations.

I realize that I am a mere part of creation and my Creator is infinitely greater and more loving than I may possibly imagine. This endless wonder and awe about God is a gift. Let us not quiver at the omniscience of God but joyfully ponder it every day!

Thank you for sharing!

Controlling the Unexpected

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According to 18th century British poet Alexander Pope, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” Although as a perfectionist and someone who thrives on routine, my immediate reaction to his words would be to disagree. However, I am actively seeking to stretch my preconceived notions and prejudices, especially when it comes to challenging situations. Possessing a penchant for order, clear expectations, and knowledge of what exactly I should expect in daily life, I do not always adjust to unexpected changes gracefully.

In fact, I think as a whole humanity tends to be geared towards order, structure, routine, and regular habits. When faced with the unexpected a natural reaction usually is to question the purpose or cause of the upheaval of our “control”. As recent as the new changes [developments as I prefer to call them] to the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the issue of the death penalty, people seem to have [over]reactions to something new, and possibly unexpected! Now, I am not going to provide you may thoughts on the new developments on Catholic Church teaching on capital punishment—I hope to write about this on a later time—it is just one example of how mankind does not seamlessly adjust to unexpected changes.

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The words of C.S. Lewis appropriately describe our seeking to “control the unexpected”. In his work A Grief Observed the Christian apologist declared, “We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination” [emphasis added]. Humanity in the 21st century seeks to dominate all aspects of our life. Even the abortion clinics in the United States contain a euphemism—Planned Parenthood—as if children are something to be ultimately controlled! Why cannot we plan all aspects of life? Would it not be easier to live each and every day free of the stresses of the unknown and unexpected?

Control over all variance that a creature with free will such as man would in fact actually lead to a cold-indifferent robotic society. Attempts to eliminate pain, risk, and the unknown of life would also mean that joy, humor, and creativity would disappear. C.S. Lewis summed up this tension between free will and pain in the world best in The Case for Christianity:

God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t. If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata -of creatures that worked like machines- would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free.

Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. (…) If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will -that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings- then we may take it it is worth paying.

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1. Love Worth the Unexpected: After a busy week of wrangling and wearing out my three children through taking them to the park, walks around the neighbor, piggyback rides, picking up strewn toys—for the 100th time!—and trying to put the children to bed for what feels like the 1,000th time, I am tanked. Drained out energy I oftentimes lack the strength to be fully present to my wife.

When I am motivated by controlling my kids sleep schedule instead of love, I actually lose control. Love involves permitting free will to occur and setting boundary-lines to avoid self-destructive habits. God as the All-Loving Father graced humanity with the ability to freely choose Him or to reject Him. He provided guidelines for love to grow and flourish both in expected—and expected ways. Freedom involves the unexpected from time to time and love is always worth the unexpected—we just have to make a daily decision to choose love over selfish arbitrary control!

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2. Creativity of the Creator: Along with love being worth the unexpected, total control over one’s life actually stymies creativity—an essential feature of love. Whenever I think of creative individuals, famous or people within my life, words that immediately come to mind include: passionate, intelligent, desire, attentive, and inventive. Albert Einstein, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Thomas Edison are individuals that I think of right away that fit this above description. A further trait of creative individuals is that the act of creation originates not from need, but rather from love and or pursuit of a higher reality.

As a creature created by the Creator, man is not meant to be a static, robotic entity. Creativity naturally entails an involvement on behalf of the Creator with creation. Evidence of this is found in Genesis 1 which shows God actively involved and attentive to the creation of the universe—paying heed to both the whole and the details. Throughout the day, my children act creatively by lovingly engaging in imaginative play via erecting Lego-structures, racing toy cars, or dressing up stuffed animals for “dance parties”. While general boundaries exist in play, the joy, creativity, and humor of childhood [and life as a whole too!] exist when the constraints of control do not rule absolutely supreme.

According to J.R.R. Tolkien, “The most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing [controlling] other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity.” Regulating reality is not inherently bad, as with most things moderation is the key. Limiting surprises is not necessarily a bad thing. Humans need routine to thrive. The chief purpose of life, for any of us, is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. Our freedom to choose influence over our surroundings should not be at the expenses of our soul or our fellow man!

Thank you for sharing!

Missing Pieces or Finding Peace—How the Puzzling Brokenness of Human Nature Leads to God

Saint Augustine’s simple and ageless maxim, “Because God has made us for Himself, our hearts are restless until they rest in Him” resonates with mankind regardless of history and time. No amount of material possessions, health, or control over finances will provide lasting and authentic happiness and peace. Humanity is naturally a broken species—greed, pride, anger, lust, gluttony, sloth, envy abound. This truth is evident simply by noticing daily interaction with yourself and others. Perfectibility in the human race—eugenics—was tried and failed many times, arguably most notoriously during the Nazi regime in the mid-20th century. True perfection does not occur through purely human willpower and scientific advancement. Rather authentic perfection—or holiness is achieved through cooperating with the Divine Will.

Possessing all the catechetical knowledge in the world will not ensure that a person has the puzzle of life solved. A relationship with Jesus Christ is absolutely essential to fill that “God-shaped” hole in my soul/complete the puzzle of life. As a perfectionist, I struggle mightily with falling into the heresy of Pelagianism. St. Augustine, himself, battled the false teaching of the monk Pelagius. Heresies rise and fall. Pope Francis warned of the dangers of this heresy in his encyclical letter Gaudete Et Exsultate. He declared,

Those who yield to this pelagian or semi-pelagian mindset, even though they speak warmly of God’s grace, “ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style”.[46] When some of them tell the weak that all things can be accomplished with God’s grace, deep down they tend to give the idea that all things are possible by the human will, as if it were something pure, perfect, all-powerful, to which grace is then added. (no. 49).

Awill lacking humility cannot fix the human condition no matter one’s tenacity and intellectual prowess. As I mentioned before I struggle with relying on my willpower over cooperation with my Creator’s gift of grace He bestowed on me. After a frustrating situation at work, I expressed concerns to my manager, “I did everything right. I provided accurate information, willingness, to help, and empathy to customer situations. Normally, I am able to control/steer nearly all my customer interactions to a positive outcome. I wish I could have this influence for all situations.”

Listening intently to my concerns, my manager acknowledged my frustrations yet added this profoundly simple, but very applicable analogy—that of a jigsaw puzzle. “Imagine you are working on a 500 or 1000 piece puzzle and you completed everything perfectly. When you get to the end you discover there is a piece missing. No matter how perfectly you worked with that piece missing the puzzle is still incomplete. Some customer conversations are like that. You may do everything perfect on your end, but still a piece is missing to prevent your perfect result.”

Now I am not aware of my manager’s theological leanings. His analogy originally meant to be for a practical workplace example, after further reflection I learned that this example of a puzzle missing a piece applies to my faith life as well. Willing myself toward perfection and completion cannot happen because a piece of missing in the puzzle of my life—a God-shaped hole!

C.S. Lewis stated “We have a strange illusion that mere time cancels sin. But mere time does nothing either to the fact or to the guilt of a sin.” Humanity cannot evolve out of the original brokenness of human nature ushered in through the Fall of Adam and Eve. Time and time again my hubris leads to the danger relying solely on my will. However, God’s merciful gift of confession allows me to exercise my free will to cooperate with Divine grace to complete the puzzle of my life and overcome my inclinations for self-centeredness. True peace only happens when we have a relationship with God.


Trying to fill the God-sized hole in our hearts with things other than God is like trying to fill the Grand Canyon with marbles. —Peter Kreeft

Thank you for sharing!