How can we be free if God knows what we’ll do?

I received a question about God’s foreknowledge and free will.  The person asked if God knows that we will do some action “C”, then doesn’t that mean that we must do “C”?  God can’t be wrong, so we can’t refrain from doing “C”.

My response is below:

I think the mistake here is thinking that if God knows C, then necessarily C.  Instead one should say that if C, then necessarily God knows C.

I find that possible worlds semantics is helpful here.  Let’s consider an actor Billy who may or may not perform action A.  In possible world X, Billy will do A and in possible world Y, Bill will refrain from doing A.

X) Billy will do A
Y) Billy will refrain from A

If X is the actual world, then God knows that Billy will do A.  If Y is the actual world, then God knows that Billy will refrain from A.

So while if it is true that Billy will do A, then it follows that God will necessarily know that Billy will do A but it is not true that Billy will necessarily do A.  Billy may yet refrain from A, in which case God would instead have known that Billy will refrain from A.

In the quote you’ve given, it is said, “[If God knows an individual will be good or bad] then it necessarily follows that the man is compelled to act as God knew beforehand he would act, otherwise God’s knowledge would be imperfect…”. We should disagree with this quote and say that the man may choose differently, but in the case God would have known that the man would choose differently.

Sincerely,
Matt Bilyeu


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