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Thread: Knowledge of the future = God?

  1. #1 Knowledge of the future = God? 
    Forum Radioactive Isotope mitchellmckain's Avatar
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    This post is inspired by the cable TV series "4400" in which mankind of the future has abducted, altered and returned 4400 people in order to alter the course of history and save mankind. While watching the show I thought how pointless it was to resist the aims and goals of these future humans. And then it occured to me that relative to the humans of the present these future humans were effectively equivalent to God in power, knowledge and sovereignty.

    The idea is not a new one. It has been entertained in a number of science fictions stories like "Dune" by Frank Herbert and "The Redemption of Christopher Columbus" by Orson Scott Card. In Card's book however the intervention is much smaller, consisting of only 3 people sent back. In "Dune" it is only one man (and his children) who has the ability to see the future and alter its course, only I think this book sees beneath the superficialities to the underlying truth, that such an ability spells the destruction of human potentiality. Therefore the son and God emperor of Dune, spends a thousand years breeding humans for an immunity to his own ability to see the future.

    I think this idea raises some interesting theological questions. It is so easy for us to imagine people with just this one ability of forknowledge and no other qualifications, who for all intents and purposes, take upon the role of God. However when I look at the state of the world and consider that God is its creator, I cannot help feeling that this ability of foreknowledge actually trumps the power of God rather than merely immitates it. Otherwise we are logically forced to the conclusion that evil is necessary for the greater good and therefore justified. But this is something I could never accept. The possibility of evil, may be necessary for a greater good, as an inherent risk in the existence of life, by its very nature, but I repudiate the idea that evil itself could be neccessary or justified.

    Therefore I agree with the conclusions of "Dune" that existence of forknowledge by any being, including God, is destructive of the potential of life. I believe it reduces life to non-life, turning all subjects into objects. Therefore if God has the power of foreknowledge, then I believe he must have imposed limitations upon himself in the creation of life so that His forknowledge would not include our choices. That puts me within the bounds of the controversial doctrine of Open Theism.


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    Time Lord zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    First off, whether mankind of the future abducts, alters or returns 4400 people shouldn't make any difference. Sort of our now(which includes the 4400) being their past and, if anything they may have aided their own demise. But I know that is secondary to your point.

    Awhile ago I started a thread about what God cannot do. Knowing the future is definitely right in there. But one could argue that the preceding scenario was in God's plan, he knew about it, so it belongs in the mysterious ways category.

    It also means you can't alter history or destiny. Why? Because God planned it that way, he knew. I can't ever believe this personally. To do so means that for God, we are totally predictable. This is something I will never understand, why God does all he does when he knows what's going to happen anyway. It seems more logical and reasonable to assume that God, despite all his powers, would be better off making a little green planet for some monkey people that he didn't know anything about. He would also benefit from non interference with his brood, that way at least he could make a fair judgement in the end. Just how does He judge someone whose future, or life for that matter, He already knows?


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    Forum Radioactive Isotope mitchellmckain's Avatar
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    I read this science fiction/horror short story of a new mutation of the human species, where the all of higher brain function was given over to the ability to see a short time into the future. These creatures without any intellegence at all were nevertheless utterly superior to us in the competition to survive. In efforts to evade or overcome us, they could immitate our speech and operate machinery without any understanding. Thus in the advance to the next stage of "human" evolution, human civilization was doomed.

    I find it curious, that in supposing God has the ability to see the future, all other attributes of God become practically irrelevant. With this God needs no intellegence for this ability directs His actions with much greater effectiveness. With this ability, morality becomes meaningless, for no action in of itself is good or evil, the final result justifies everything. Such a being with this ability seems so alien to me that I cannot see how we could possibly be considered created in the image of such a God. If a God like this in whom intellegence and morality is meaningless were to create beings in his own image would they not be more like the creatures in the short story I read?
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    Time Lord zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    I guess the question is if God saw it before He created it. You woud think absolute knowledge of what's in store would have been a consideration in His plan for the universe. But what is a plan?.... something you hope happens? God a super advanced human with psychic ability? Wouldn't that be nice?
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    Forum Cosmic Wizard
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    Maybe it is more like God has an outline of the process of the course of human history such that He knows the outcomes and some of the major highlights if only because they are inevitable. And, meanwhile, He retains the authority to intevene. (Hmmm, is there some Asimovian Foundation Trilogy in that?)

    I am not convinced that God micro-manages the course of human events or natural phenomena. In view of the way things exist, it is unnecessary for God to make sure the tide changes. In much the same way, it is unnecessary for God to make sure mankind does not get along.
    Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. -- Albert Einstein

    If God DID do all of this, is He not the greatest scientist of all? -- dt, 2005
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  7. #6  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope mitchellmckain's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    Maybe it is more like God has an outline of the process of the course of human history such that He knows the outcomes and some of the major highlights if only because they are inevitable. And, meanwhile, He retains the authority to intevene. (Hmmm, is there some Asimovian Foundation Trilogy in that?)

    I am not convinced that God micro-manages the course of human events or natural phenomena. In view of the way things exist, it is unnecessary for God to make sure the tide changes. In much the same way, it is unnecessary for God to make sure mankind does not get along.
    Yes, but the real theological issue I am raising here is not just whether God micro-manages the course of human events but whether He has absolute foreknowledge. I am in fact putting forward the opinion that knowledge and control are the same, or more specifically that micro-foreknowledge unavoidably means micro-management. That is the essential contention of Open Theism, that the idea of absolute foreknowledge is in conflict with the idea of human free-will. After all, remember that open thesist or not I am a Christian and I have to accept the Bible on faith so I do have to take Biblical prophesies and Biblical passages concerning predestination seriously.

    So in this regard, I have found, in these ideas of science fiction, other reasons to question the whole idea of God having absolute foreknowledge.
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    Mitchell, I think most Christians do not even wrestle with this question nor do they really understand the full implications of the traditional explanations of foreknowledge and omniscience which may sort of be the same thing. Most just accept what they've been told and move on to question of lesser complication.

    I think the traditional believe would be absolute foreknowledge and I think I would tend to agree with you that this concept would seem to lead to the conclusion you draw and a concept with which I cannot fully agree.

    I think I see God managing some of the course of human events and leaving some to random results.

    At the local museum of science and industry there was (maybe still is) a glass cage in which a number of ball bearings would be released at the top and they would take random paths down various tracks to the bottom of the device where they were collected and elevated to the top to being a new run through the tracks. I did notice that some paths seemed to be used more often than others.

    But, no matter which path was taken, it was almost inevitable that they would reach the bottom. I say “almost” because there were rare instances where a ball would jump the track and get stuck someplace off track or drop to the bottom into a position from which it was irretrievable.

    While I suspect the device was designed in such a way that it was possible to predict which paths would be most often used, I doubt that one could reliably predict what percentage of the balls would use which specific paths. However, I think it reasonably easy to predict that each ball would reach the same place at the bottom.

    While the analogy is far from perfect, I think God’s omniscience and foreknowledge provide Him with knowing the final results, but not necessary all the little paths us odd-ball humans are going to take.

    I’m sure that high in the list of scriptures in your thinking on this is Romans 8:29-30, which I paraphrase to say “Whom he did foreknow, he did predestinate to be like Christ.” (That should really clear it up!!! Ha ha.)

    You sort of have to start with the question of whether God “did foreknow” all people or if he only foreknew those whom he predestinated. If you entertain the idea that he foreknew ALL people you have to wonder why all people are not being conformed to the image of Christ which leads you to the idea that God failed in this project. That being impossible for a perfect God, one must try to come up with another meaning. So I think the traditional explanation is that God foreknew those who would believe in Him and predestined the person of Christ as an example of proper human behavior for one to be conformed to.

    However, I do not think that quite answers Mitchell’s overall question nor do I think the Bible provides a clear answer to this issue of just how much God foreknows and the extent to which he knows it. To me, I think omniscience means more than knowing everything. Surely, it must include knowing all the possibilities but does not always necessitate knowing all the actual cases. Much as with the ball device, it is possible to know all the paths and where they go, but it is not necessary to know the path which each ball will take to travel down the cage in order to know that they will all reach the bottom.

    So I suppose to me God knows the bottom line, but it is not necessary for Him to direct every action and reaction of human history or personal life.

    Meanwhile, however, I think God does retain the authority to intervene wherein a may suit his purpose.

    Something else that seem relevant to this discussion is the two aspects of God’s will – His sovereign will and his moral will.

    This is a relatively new concept to me and I have not seen or heard much discussion. This idea suggests that God’s sovereign will relates to those things God has decreed that cannot be changed or undone or thwarted or violated. This aspect of God’s will is not clearly or completely revealed.

    God’s moral will, however, can be violated with the exercise of human free will. For example, we know that God’s stated moral will is that people should not commit murder, yet we know people commit murder.

    It seems incongruous to suggest that God would state that it is His will that people not commit murder and then through his foreknowledge and micro-management, direct that an act of murder be carried out.

    (I know someone will object to this with, “What about war?” Even human laws do not consider all homicides as murder. Self defense is a justified homicide and war tends to provide a basis of justifiable homicide.)

    The conclusion I have reached and which seems to satisfy my questions on this matter is that God does foreknow and manage some things while other things are left to random chance. Those things left to random chance have no capacity to interfere with God’s management.

    Sometimes, I almost wish I was a non-believer so I would not have to struggle with these questions.

    But as to your question, I think I would come down on the side that suggests God does not have absolute foreknowledge.
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    If God DID do all of this, is He not the greatest scientist of all? -- dt, 2005
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope mitchellmckain's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    Mitchell, I think most Christians do not even wrestle with this question nor do they really understand the full implications of the traditional explanations of foreknowledge and omniscience which may sort of be the same thing. Most just accept what they've been told and move on to question of lesser complication.
    ..............
    God’s moral will, however, can be violated with the exercise of human free will. For example, we know that God’s stated moral will is that people should not commit murder, yet we know people commit murder.

    It seems incongruous to suggest that God would state that it is His will that people not commit murder and then through his foreknowledge and micro-management, direct that an act of murder be carried out.
    ..............................
    Good explanation - solid and straightforward. I especially like the point about murder which is well taken.


    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    The conclusion I have reached and which seems to satisfy my questions on this matter is that God does foreknow and manage some things while other things are left to random chance. Those things left to random chance have no capacity to interfere with God’s management.
    I would prefer the general term "uncontrolled" to "random chance", so that free will and choice is included. I am usually satisfied with the defense of human free will and do not bother with the defense of randomness in the world though I would tend to agree with you on this. But some people do seem to take offense at this idea and believe in a philosophy that "there is no such thing as chance". After all, seeing meaning in the apparently random events of life is a basic element in the religious perspective. And who knows? Perhaps, by the time something becomes a macroscopic event maybe it isn't purely chance. Though I think this would make more sense in line with the ideas of spiritualism than with the idea of God's sovereignty.

    Don't mistake me. I have no use for spiritualism myself. But that does not mean that there is no truth to it.


    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    Sometimes, I almost wish I was a non-believer so I would not have to struggle with these questions.
    Now that is a sentiment that is difficult for me to understand. I revel in this stuff so much that I tend to pity those who prefer simple minded answers.
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  10. #9  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard
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    I don't REALLY feel that way. It was my feeble attempt to take a potshot at atheists who are always saying that people become Christians in order to simplify their lives by passing responsibility for all their mistakes upon God. What really did dissapointed me as I read what I said was realizing that I had an improper verb, using the past tense "was" where the past participle "were" should have been used to complete the conditional tense. Dang! Even we Christians blow it sometimes.
    Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. -- Albert Einstein

    If God DID do all of this, is He not the greatest scientist of all? -- dt, 2005
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  11. #10  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard icewendigo's Avatar
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    at atheists who are always saying that people become Christians in order to
    I'm atheist and I wont say people become Christian in order to (insert reason here).

    The overwelming majority of Christians arent people who at age 50 suddenly decided to become Christians for reason X. Just as you wont find a 50 year old non smoking man who will wake up one day and say 'hey I should start smoking'.

    Not all, but most Christians (and many people of established religion) just emulate their parents and or society. Just as kids can be thought to believe in Santa Claus you can tell them all about an invisible man in the sky(Thor, Zeus, Alla, God, Yave, Extra terrestrials) and about the holy book X(bible, Koran, etc) he has given you.

    If you(or a Christian) were abducted as an infant and and sent not to an other point in time but given to adoption to fervant Muslim parents in Gaza, I bet its unlikely you would have at some point decided to become Christian out of nowhere for any reason. You would probably be a muslim, period. There no deep theological reason or magical enlighenment envolvent in any of this, its just social emlation, and the few that realize its all a fabrication that dates back to the time were people thought the earth was flat sometimes do become atheist.

    No mystery there. :wink:


    ( Of course there are also those who switch religion for the advantages the other religion to avoid persecution or gain advantages in their society, but overall its still usually the parents and communities religion that offers the most correlation to an individual's religion. )
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    I agree almost entirely with your post except the flat earth bit, that was a society formed by an eccentric English aristocrat in the 19th century, even the most ancient depictions of the world show it as a globe.
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope mitchellmckain's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    I don't REALLY feel that way. It was my feeble attempt to take a potshot at atheists who are always saying that people become Christians in order to simplify their lives by passing responsibility for all their mistakes upon God.
    Ah yes, now that I can understand!

    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    Dang! Even we Christians blow it sometimes.
    Tut tut! The self-righteousness in that statement does not become you. Christians are not better than non-Christians. Just the opposite if anything. Well middle of the road anyway. Scott Peck's observations are that the most mentally ill are beyond even realizing their need for help. I think the same goes for "spiritual illness". We Christians are screwed up enough to reach out for help in our desperation but we are at least aware enough to realize that we need help. But I think there are a lot of people coping well enough that they see no need, and I am not sure we are justified in thinking we Christians are better than they are.
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    Time Lord zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    I think what this is all boiling down to is this....If the religious ever concede that God is not all knowing, by that I mean having no foreknowledge whatsoever, then it instantly gives Him some type of believability or at least His existence sounds more plausible.

    Why is it necessary for God to be omniscient anyway? Does anybody's bible say God has the foreknowledge of all things or is it just the knowledge of all things? I think there may be a difference between the two.
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope mitchellmckain's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos
    Why is it necessary for God to be omniscient anyway? Does anybody's bible say God has the foreknowledge of all things or is it just the knowledge of all things? I think there may be a difference between the two.
    Necessary????? Clearly I would say the opposite. So the real question here is why do people believe this? Does it come from the Bible?

    The word omniscience is not in the Bible but foreknowledge is:

    (Romans 8:29) "For whom He forknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren"

    The idea that God is all knowing is supported by verses like Psalm 139:4 "For there is not a word on my toungue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether" and Proverbs 5:21 "For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord and He ponders all his paths"

    But the idea of God's knowledge of the future is a basic theme throughout the Bible where Jesus and God's prophets make prophecies - predictions of future events.

    I suspect that many simply see God as omnicient because they think that for God to be God, He must be without any limitations. But I think that many paradoxically place limitations on God by doing this. For if God must be without limits in order to be God then God cannot place limits upon Himself without ceasing to be God, and therefore since we cannot believe that God could ever cease to be God then God must be incapable of putting limits on Himself. But I consider this to be a major inability and limitation upon God, therefore, I reject this line of reasoning at the beginning point of "God must be without limits in order to be God", which I conclude is contradictory. So instead I say only that God is without any limits except those which He imposes upon Himself.
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  16. #15 Re: Knowledge of the future = God? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    This post is inspired by the cable TV series "4400" in which mankind of the future has abducted, altered and returned 4400 people in order to alter the course of history and save mankind. While watching the show I thought how pointless it was to resist the aims and goals of these future humans. And then it occured to me that relative to the humans of the present these future humans were effectively equivalent to God in power, knowledge and sovereignty.

    The idea is not a new one. It has been entertained in a number of science fictions stories like "Dune" by Frank Herbert and "The Redemption of Christopher Columbus" by Orson Scott Card. In Card's book however the intervention is much smaller, consisting of only 3 people sent back. In "Dune" it is only one man (and his children) who has the ability to see the future and alter its course, only I think this book sees beneath the superficialities to the underlying truth, that such an ability spells the destruction of human potentiality. Therefore the son and God emperor of Dune, spends a thousand years breeding humans for an immunity to his own ability to see the future.

    I think this idea raises some interesting theological questions. It is so easy for us to imagine people with just this one ability of forknowledge and no other qualifications, who for all intents and purposes, take upon the role of God. However when I look at the state of the world and consider that God is its creator, I cannot help feeling that this ability of foreknowledge actually trumps the power of God rather than merely immitates it. Otherwise we are logically forced to the conclusion that evil is necessary for the greater good and therefore justified. But this is something I could never accept. The possibility of evil, may be necessary for a greater good, as an inherent risk in the existence of life, by its very nature, but I repudiate the idea that evil itself could be neccessary or justified.

    Therefore I agree with the conclusions of "Dune" that existence of forknowledge by any being, including God, is destructive of the potential of life. I believe it reduces life to non-life, turning all subjects into objects. Therefore if God has the power of foreknowledge, then I believe he must have imposed limitations upon himself in the creation of life so that His forknowledge would not include our choices. That puts me within the bounds of the controversial doctrine of Open Theism.
    The Knowledge given by the Lord in human form like the Bible, Gita etc is divine knowledge. If the concept of human incarnation is realized, the divine knowledge is recognized. If people can believe in Krishna, Jesus etc as the Lord in human form, the Gita, Bible etc are recognized as the divine knowledge. But the problem is that there are several interpretations of such divine scriptures. These interpretations are contradicting each other. These interpretations are given by different human beings and no human being can decide the correct interpretation. You yourself cannot decide the correct interpretation because you are also a human being. Therefore the original author of that sacred scripture alone can convince you with the correct interpretation. Such correct interpretation is called as the real divine knowledge. For this you have to recognize the human form of the Lord present in your generation. The identity of such recognition is revealed to your inner self, which gets convinced by such real interpretation. The identification must be aided by your careful and patient analytical faculty of the intelligence called as buddhi. Even an illiterate person has this inner self and the analytical faculty even in the absence of language.

    At the Lotus Feet of His Holiness Sri Dattaswami

    Anil Antony

    www.universal-spirituality.org
    Universal Spirituality for World Peace
    antonyanil@universal-spirituality.org
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