Wednesday, June 1, 2016
God “has appointed a day” of judgement (148), but –being omniscient – must already know how it will go. Is there a conceptual problem with reconciling an all-knowing, all-powerful creator with the idea of judging his/her/its own creation? Aren’t the judg-ees already doomed, having been created imperfect only then to be assessed and penalized for their imperfection.\?
An omniscient being is a paradox because it creates a conundrum – how can a being know everything from the beginning to the end without controlling everything in between by their knowledge of the outcome before the event occurs? The question of whether we have free will to make decisions has been tackled by philosophers and theologians for ages in the past and probably long into the future.
As Herman explains in Chapter 18, the issue of free will “separated Boethius and Saint Augustine at the onset of the Middle Ages,” and “had at its heart the clash between Plato and Aristotle on free will.” (318). Erasmus (1466-1536 CE) and Luther (1483-1546 CE) disagreed vigorously on the question. Luther followed St. Augustine (354-430 CE), “The path of reason doesn’t lead us toward the light of God, but only deeper into the cave: in fact, right to the gates of hell.”(320). Luther did not agree with Aristotle, “This is why, of all Aristotle’s writings, the one Luther despised the most was the one Raphael and the Renaissance had most celebrated: Aristotle’s Ethics.” (319). In them, Aristotle “proposes that all moral action is about making right choices, and choice is about intention.” (318). According to Herman, “Plato argued that doing good versus evil was a matter of knowledge versus ignorance: in other words, the man who is ignorant of the good can no more choose good than one who is ignorant of algebra can solve a quadratic equation.” (318).
Almost all of an individual’s choices whether through ignorance or by intention are the responsibility of the individual and they are not predetermined and are unknowable. To make them otherwise is to suggest that someone else is responsible for our actions. If it is raining outside and I choose to walk out without an umbrella, I will get wet; if I choose to use an umbrella, I will stay dry. There is no external intervention to predict at that exact moment why I chose to do either and nothing predetermined by fate to mandate the outcome; I simply did it. As long as I do not have someone with the physical means to insure that I use an umbrella, I have free will. I prefer not to create God in man’s image and to attribute micro-managerial skills to a divine being. Life is what it is, and I agree with Boethius (480-524 CE) that “we have to be free to act in the world, even if that means we make mistakes,” (191) and that “If we are going to deal with a complex and dangerous world, he believed, we had better be prepared.” (191).