Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
The topic came up last week in a conversation, and I thought I knew the answer, but, as the days go by and I ruminate on it, I'm not so sure that what I had thought was correct.
I was always of the notion that we had complete free will and could decide to either do this or that. We've been shown, and taught, and instructed on what we should do, but, the act itself is up to us. We either choose to do good, to do bad, or to do nothing at all.
The statement was made that God knows beforehand what we will do...to which I adamantly protested, stating that we have complete free will.
To me, that train of thought always smacked of predestination...and I don't believe anyone has been destined to be a sinner, a murder, a betrayer, an adulterer, etc...but, we "choose" to be these things.
However, the more I think on it.... Christ told Judas to go and do what he must...so, He must have already known that Judas would betray Him. Christ told Peter that he would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed....so, He must have already known this, even though Peter was convinced he would never do such a thing.
So, did God know that Eve would eat the forbidden fruit? Did He know that Lucifer would rebel?
If He "knew" all this ahead, it sounds like there really is no real choice....because if He knows it, than it will happen....
I'm struggling with this at the moment and can't quite get my head around it. I know there's a simple explanation, but, it's eluding me....
If someone could simplify this for me, I would appreciate it.
I don't think God knows what we will do before we do it, He knows every possibility and every possible outcome, like a kind of algorithm or matrix, and so can know what will happen after we express our agency and free will. However and again, I am not quite sure the fullness of predestination is Orthodox, our cosmology entirely allocates for free will. Without Free Will how can we Love God in the truest sense? Love can't be feigned, it has to push us from the core of our being, it has to truly be our own in existentially. God has to take the risk of allowing for our freedom of thought, of feeling, of interpretation of His Grace, that we can metabolize this Created world into Love, Gratitude, and Worship. So perhaps God knew that Adam and Eve could eat the Fruit, knew that Satan could rebel, knew that we all could make those daily sins we all struggle with, but does God know that we WILL do these? I would like to think that God has hope above all hope that we WON'T make these mistakes, and that if we do, we will come in time to a natural repentance. Humans are naturally self-reflective beings, in in our self-reflections we often encounter guilt, responsibility, and accountability. That is the consequence of the Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, self-reflection, a spiritual narcissism, which requires us to always take scope of how we fit into our social hierarchies, both local, familial, and cosmological (this includes God and the bigger picture).
I have heard scientific arguments that we lack free will, that the chemical and neurological structures of our brains subconsciously determine our thoughts, our reactions, our feelings. That what we think of as our experience with free-will is just the way our personalities interpret these chemical signals and concoctions in the brain. However, this is a purely non-Spiritual interpretation. In Orthodox theology, the Soul/Spirit is the source and origin of all of our being, our existence, our feelings/thoughts. The Brain and its respective chemicals are the mechanism which the soul manifests spiritual realities into physical realities. The signals in our brain are the reaction to the inner and underlying spiritual sources. As spiritual beings we feel happy, and our brains respond into our physical bodies releasing feel-good hormones like endorphins and Oxytocin, when our spiritual beings feel stressed our brains respond and release stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisols. When our spiritual selves are feeling dreamy we release Serotinin which is the same neurochemistry behind LSD trips and other psychedelic drugs. Whereas science thinks the chemicals are the all-now of our existence, we know they are merely mechanisms. So the chemicals do not determine our free-will, the neurological structures do no determine our free-will, the socio-cultural patterns in our brains do no determine our free-will. In the theological sense, free-will is the agency of our being (which is at once spiritual and physical) to make decisions, to have independent feelings, and to have interpretations and reactions. We have a very real sense of free-will, in the cosmic sense, we can make almost eternal decisions which have ontologically effected even the entirety of Creation.
Free will is the crux of Orthodox Theology, it is why we are not into Atonement Theory or Penal Substitution, and it is why we believe in the Grace of the Mysteries and of Synergy and of Theosis. The answer to the Mysteries of Creation is free-will, God enabled us with this agency to make our own decisions, to embrace or reject God at any given moment, and so it takes an Eternity it seems for God to allow us steadily to adjust to His will by experiential learning, hence why it seems further that He gives us the opportunity at Eternal Life to sort it all out.