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God's knowledge


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#1 S. David

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Posted 12 November 2011 - 11:41 PM

beloved all,

I know that God knows everything in advance, and I heard a lecture and what I understood from this podcast is that everything happening is done by God's knowledge. For example, when some pray for something and got that something, this was predestined from eternity because God know you will pray. In other words, God acts based on what we are going to do by free will. Another example will be that God appeared to saul because He knew he will accept Him, and God does not waste His energy on people who will not accept Him. Is this the Orthodox teaching?

Another related topic, if God knows everything, even my future destiny after death, why did He created us in the first place and to go through all of this from Adam and Eve until now. What is the difference between if I live this live and then go to place x, or I was created to live in place x from the first moment? Is this has to do with free will?

In IC XC

#2 Anna Stickles

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 02:08 AM

It's best to avoid picturing predestination and God's foreknowledge as if our lives are a script that is already written out beforehand, a series of predetermined (even if "free") choices that God already knows.

Even though we try to keep freedom in this formula by saying the choices are free, really from this starting point it is almost impossible to avoid seeing our lives in a light similar to the Greek idea of Fate, and the Fathers reject this as incompatible with the Christian understanding of reality.

I think this problem comes from a failure to really allow for God doesn't know things the way we know them and allowing for the fact that His knowledge is all encompassing in a way that is beyond our understanding.

When we say that things are "predestined from eternity" I think we have to be very careful about how we understand this. "Eternity" doesn't mean from the beginning of time, nor does it mean something that is completely unchanging or lasting forever.

"predestined from eternity" means that our being and actions start in God. It is a statement about the fact that all that happens has its origins in the spiritual and unchanging Reality of God, not the material and changeable reality we experience in our fallen state. But beyond this, I think it's pretty much a mystery to our limited and fallen minds.

What we can say is that though our being and actions start in God as something wholly eternal and spiritual, there is a degree of freedom in how God's eternal will is worked out as it gets implemented in more material, less spiritual realms. So when we say that God knows things in advance, "advance" doesn't mean beforehand in time, but rather He knows them as they exist in the eternal and spiritual, and that this is the source of all movement and action in the material.

#3 IoanC

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 09:56 AM

God doesn't plan our destinies as if He is outside of Creation; we are not simply actors on a stage that God set up and then left us to our own devices. God is actively involved in our lives through The Grace of The Holy Spirit. As Orthodox Christians we should be very aware of this because it is the essence of our life in The Church -- The Sacraments, Prayer, and just about everything. We know that everything good that happens (even breathing) is done in Christ and by Christ; the only time this is not the case is when we sin (we do something bad). Thus, we can't think of our destiny apart from God's Grace which is always with us, apart from the synergy between us and Him. If our destiny is a bad one, it is because we decided to reject God, to refuse His Grace. So, we can't exactly say that God predestined our lives; actually, we together with God are constantly building our destiny, and while God does know the future, He still has to go through our process of becoming together with us.

#4 Brad D.

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 01:32 PM

beloved all,

I know that God knows everything in advance, and I heard a lecture and what I understood from this podcast is that everything happening is done by God's knowledge. For example, when some pray for something and got that something, this was predestined from eternity because God know you will pray. In other words, God acts based on what we are going to do by free will.


Hello David, Saying that everything is happening by/with God's knowledge is not the same thing as saying that all things happen with his preference. It was not God's preference that Adam and Eve sinned, otherwise that would make God a supporter of sin. However, when He created the world he looked at it, and with full knowledge of their sin he said "This is very good". The fact is that when God said "Let there be light", he knew the end - he knew the sin that would be in the world. God could have chosen not to create. He has no need of us, we cannot add a single measure to his glory. God could have chosen not to create, because he knew what the world would be come in the days of Noah, in the days of Christ, and in our day. However, God did choose to create. In speaking the words "Let there be light" and the succeeding creative words God truly did predestine all events to the degree that he absolutely knew beforehand what would happen each and every day of our lives, but he chose to create anyway. So, in the mind of God all events have occured in the "past tense" ("Christ was slain before the foundation of the world", etc.). However, God's knowledge is not the same thing as his preference. For instance, I know with certainty that the lightbulb in my light fixture here will burn-out one day soon. I know it. However, that is not my preference, I wish it would remain lit forever. I also know I have other energy-efficient light bulbs in my house that will burn much, much longer than this bulb. My knowledge of these things does not make one bulb burn longer than another, nor does it make either of them lose their light. I know these things will occur with absolute certainty, but it is not my choice when they run their course.

Another example will be that God appeared to saul because He knew he will accept Him, and God does not waste His energy on people who will not accept Him. Is this the Orthodox teaching?


As far as God seeking out those whom he knows will not accept him, we see in the life of Christ that God sent Christ to all kinds of men and women. The Apostles and The Seventy were sent to all kinds of homes and cities. Christ gave them specific instructions on how to deal with those who did not accept the Gospel ("Brush the dust off your feet", etc). The important thing is that God sent men to them, God reached out to them, he sent people to their very door.

Another related topic, if God knows everything, even my future destiny after death, why did He created us in the first place and to go through all of this from Adam and Eve until now. What is the difference between if I live this live and then go to place x, or I was created to live in place x from the first moment? Is this has to do with free will?
In IC XC


Justin Martyr said: "Could not God have cut off in the beginning the serpent, so that he exist not, rather than have said, 'And I will put enmity between him and the woman, and between his seed and her seed?' Could He not have at once created a multitude of men? But yet, since He knew that it would be good, He created both angels and men free to do that which is righteous, and He appointed periods of time during which He knew it would be good for them to have the exercise of free-will; and because He likewise knew it would be good, He made general and particular judgments; each one's freedom of will, however, being guarded." [Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter CII]

God said this path, this way, is very good. "As far as the heavens are above the earth, so are my thoughts higher than your thoughts and my ways higher than your ways" (Isaiah). We may not fully (or even partially) understand why this path was the path God chose, but we can be certain that it is very, very good.

With Care,
Brad

#5 Brad D.

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 01:48 PM

PS - Maybe I should add that just like Anna and Mr Ioan said, we are not just wind up toys that God has cranked up and set in motion. He isn't just sitting there waiting for "the lightbulb" to go dim. He cares for us, nurtures us, provides for us. Prayer is one of these means of care. Prayer really does change us. God really does intervene in circumstances. He intervenes even when we don't pray, thanks be to God.

#6 Anna Stickles

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 06:27 PM

Justin Martyr said: "Could not God have cut off in the beginning the serpent, so that he exist not, rather than have said, 'And I will put enmity between him and the woman, and between his seed and her seed?' Could He not have at once created a multitude of men? But yet, since He knew that it would be good, He created both angels and men free to do that which is righteous, and He appointed periods of time during which He knew it would be good for them to have the exercise of free-will; and because He likewise knew it would be good, He made general and particular judgments; each one's freedom of will, however, being guarded." [Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter CII]

The part that I underlined, is this an idea of St Justin's that doesn't fit in with wider tradition, or is it part of wider tradition? I never heard this before, that there was only a period of time during which we are free.

#7 Brad D.

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 07:52 PM

Very interesting question. I am thinking he probably was not actually implying any set period of time, but was just using that as a manner of speech. Although, perhaps he is thinking of the time after Christ returns. I don't suppose we will have any chance of rebelling once Christ has returned and we are resurrected. That is just speculation though. My first thought is that he is not actually indicating we have free will only for a set time, but just stating that our time on earth is a period where we have free will.

#8 Kusanagi

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 09:36 PM

St John Chrysostom said out of love that God created us and for us to return that love to Him freely.

Elder Sophrony said that God took a risk when He created everything because He knew what would happen such as the fall etc etc but He still done it out of love for His creation.

I do not agree that God does not waste His energy on people that will not accept Him. There is always an opportunity for them to know Him and to believe in Him. God is all merciful and on the Last Judgement you can't say to Him, You didn't give me a chance to know Him.
But He will reply, but I was always patient with you and presented many opportunities for you to know Me but you preferred to look the other way.

#9 Rob Bergen

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Posted 14 November 2011 - 06:06 AM

I would approach this question from the act of the Incarnation of God. Would God really be willing to die for creatures? We are much more than a creation, we are made in the image of God. God is truly love in this sense, and love "conquers all." God created us, and God loves us and cares for us, and he certainly knows us, for He is God. I believe that, though God may have known we were to sin, His love for us was so great, that he created us, cared for us, became man for us, and died for us, in order that we may live with Him once again. His foreknowledge does not predicate His actions. Jesus knew that he would be delivered up to the authorities, and killed in the worst possible torturous manner. He even showed a moment of true humanity, when He asked of His Father to take the bitter cup from Him. He knew he would die, and yet he did so out of his love for us.

I think approaching the question from this view makes the question both impossible and irrelevant. Though, it is a question that has undoubtably passed through many minds before.

All this suffices it to say, God cannot be put into human categories. We have certain knowledge of God, and that was learned in a span of 33 years nearly 2,000 years ago, in the land Galilee, Nazareth, and Jerusalem. The life of Jesus gives us what we know of God, for certain. Outside of Jesus, God Himself incarnate, we have the wisdom of the prophets, apostles, and fathers. This clarifies our picture of God and leaves us with the Church, which is our life lived in Christ. I believe that it is not our place, nor of our own creation, to be able to comprehend the nature of God, outside of the modes of the thrice Holy Trinity.

As for God wasting his energy on those who turn from Him, well, He became man and died for us, so I would say that he indeed wastes energy, and life, on us unworthy humans.

I think all questions must be approached from the fact of the Incarnation of Christ. It is from this point that our humanity begins to make sense again. You could almost say that human history was restarted and began anew 2,000 years ago, with the firstborn of all creation. The incarnation is an expression of divine love, and, indeed, what else could we ever need than to be so loved by God?

humbly in Christ,

Rob




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