Some Quick Comments Regarding Free Agency and Foreknowledge

The following comments come from the “??Questions??” page.  Since they quickly address two of the most common questions Calvinists ask Arminians, I thought I would post the short correspondence on the main page.  You can read the original question in full here (which might provide some helpful context concerning the first question).  The inquirer’s questions are in italics, followed by my responses:

…though I have trouble understanding why God can’t know what a hypothetical person might do, even if there is no person to know about

Because there is no person to know anything about, just as you said. That seems plainly absurd to me. How can God know what a person (and remember there is no “person”, nor will there ever be) would freely do in a situation when the “person” will never exist to make the free choice or be in that situation? If God could know such a thing it would only be possible within the framework of determinism where God could know what such a person would choose simply because God would know what He would cause the person to choose. But the Arminian is operating from the perspective of freedom, and not determinism. For that reason, the objection, based on the presupposition of determinism, cannot succeed. It is simply question begging.

Also, if God did foreknow what a person would freely choose and then not create that person based on that knowledge, God would falsify His own foreknowledge by not creating that person. God would essentially make Himself wrong by making something He foreknew happening as not happening, or making a person He foreknew as existing, never to exist. Since God cannot be wrong, He cannot not create someone based on what He knows this “person” (who will actually never exist) would do or choose. Do you see the problem?

I think my question at the moment is ultimately about freewill and our responsibility. With libertarian free will, we are sent to hell for our free choice to reject God. Why then, do some choose God and others reject Him?

For a multitude of reasons. No one is denying that we make choices for reasons or in accordance with motives. Arminians only deny that such things irresistibly cause our decisions. When we choose in accordance with a motive, or for a reason, we do so freely, rather than by necessity. The free agent weighs the motives and chooses accordingly. Motives do not irresistibly dictate choices.

If they all have the same ability to choose freely, and are all given the grace of a choice to accept Christ, and yet some accept and others reject, what is the cause?

The cause is the God given power and capacity to make a free choice (or, as you say, “the ability to choose freely”). The cause is the agent himself and the agent’s will is a full and adequate cause in itself, needing nothing more to make (or cause) a choice, in accordance with whatever reasons or motives it deems important.

If it is external factors (influence from environment, time period, family, etc.) it seems unfair that the only difference between the one in hell and the one in heaven is that one had better environment.

Influences are factors, but they are not irresistible factors. That is all the Arminian is saying.

If you say, however, that the cause is something in us, rather than external factors, why are we that way in the first place?

Yes, it is the God given alternative power of the will that is in us. We are that way because God created us with the power to make free unnecessitated choices. It was His good pleasure and sovereign right to do so.

Did not God create us the way we are?

Absolutely. He created us as free moral agents.

I’ll try to put it another way… This is my dilemma. If person A chooses God and person B rejects Him, is it because of their differing environments or because of the way they are?

Ultimately, neither. Those things factor in to our choices, but they do not irresistibly cause us to choose a certain way. The reason for the choice is ultimately the agent himself who freely decides what he or she will do and why he or she will do it, in accordance with the God given power of free will. You would probably do well to read this series by J.C.