Divine foreknowledge

“Why does a strange discordance break
The ordered scheme’s fair harmony?
Hath god decreed ‘twixt truth and truth
There may such lasting warfare be,
That truths, each severally plain,
We strive to reconcile in vain? …

“Ah! Then why burns man’s restless mind
Truth’s hidden portals to unclose?
Knows he already what he seeks?
Why toil to seek it, if he knows?
Yet, haply if he knoweth not,
Why blindly seek he knows not what? …

“For neither does he know in full,
Nor is he reft of knowledge quite;
But, holding till to what is left,
He gropes in the uncertain light,
And by the part that still survives
To win back all he bravely strives. …

“The movement of human reasoning cannot cope with the simplicity of the Divine foreknowledge; for it is a conception of its nature in any wise be framed, no shadow of uncertainty would remain. … First, I inquire into the reasons why thou are dissatisfied with the solution proposed, which is to the effect that, seeing the fact of foreknowledge is not thought the cause of the necessity of future events, foreknowledge is not to be deemed any hindrance to the freedom of the will.” ~Boethius

Divine Foreknowledge

The concept of Divine Foreknowledge is a simple one. It basically means that God not only knows everything that has happened, and everything that is happening, but also everything that will happen. Most agree that this must be true, or God would not be God, he would not be all-knowing, if He didn’t know the future.

The truth of it is, that much like divinely inspired prophets, God doesn’t see what will happen, but what might happen. The future is full of possibilities. Some of those possibilities are more likely to occur than others. God can see which ones will most likely happen. If it isn’t what He wants to happen, and if it is something important enough, He may intervene to get things back on the right path. Yet, that does not block free will, such as it is.

Hidden Truth

Why should any truth be hidden from man? For the most part, the answer is that we have hidden it from ourselves. Not directly, of course. We would have to have knowledge of the thing before we could hide it, and that would create a paradox. Yet psychologists know that it happens. For example, a person who may have been raped or otherwise harmed as a child may suppress that knowledge. Some hide it so well, that it takes many sessions of treatment to bring it to the surface again.

But in this case, the hidden knowledge Boethius refers to is knowledge that was hidden by our ancestors. When they “fell” from the realms of spirit into the realm of matter, it was difficult on them to remember their origin. It would be like a homeless beggar remembering that he was one the son of a king after that kind was killed and replaced. So they pushed it to the back of their minds and, over time, completely forgot.

Foreknowledge and Free-Will

Most believe that if Divine foreknowledge exists, than free-will cannot exist. While that is somewhat true, it isn’t entirely true. As I already mentioned, with Divine Foreknowledge, God sees possibilities, not exactly what will happen in detail. He may know, for example, that some act needs to be done, and one of five people will do it. He doesn’t know exactly which one until it happens. So that means that those five people still have some free will.

On many unimportant things, God simply pays no attention to them. He doesn’t care which shirt you wear today or what you have or breakfast. Therefore, he has no used forethought to see such things. So you remain free to choose your shirt and breakfast using your own free will. On the other hand, you can’t use free will to stop breathing for two hours. You would die if you did. But if you try, you will likely find that your body won’t let you do it. So free-will does exist despite the existence of Divine Foreknowledge. But free will is limited.


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