Sister Mary Martha, my husband has a question. He says, "My brothers and I were raised Catholic and one is now a professed atheist. I pray for his conversion everyday. We were talking yesterday about the subject of free will. I told him that God created us with free will and intellect. However, he states that we do not have a free will because if God is all knowing and all powerful,then God knows what we are going to do before we do it and therefore there is no free will because everything is laid out in front of him already. I wasn't sure how to respond except to tell him that we have free will and that God knows our choices. Can you help me with a better response?
I guess "It's a Sacred Mystery" won't cut it. That was always what the old nuns said, back in the day, when they either didn't know the answer or they knew that, since you were seven years old, you wouldn't understand the answer just yet (if ever).
And your answer: that is the answer.
But you might try something along the lines of, "Your kid hates green beans and you know that if you put green beans in front of him he'll make a face. Does that mean you are in control of his face? No, it means you know what's going to happen."
Knowledge is not control.
But here's an element that you folks might not have discussed. God isn't sitting around with a day planner, thinking, "It's Tuesday September 6th, 2011. Genevieve will turn right instead of left and miss the curb and sprain her ankle. Bob will kill at his presentation. Charlotte will spend almost an hour looking for her glasses, which are on her head."
God isn't like us. We live inside Time. We can only see the world as the past and now, and we can't see the future at all, even into the next millisecond.
God lives outside of Time. He sees everything all at once. He just sees what you're going to do. He doesn't make you do it. Seeing the future does not equal controlling the future.
And underneath this argument is the elephant in the room. What about "God's Plan"? If God has a plan for you and He knows what's going to happen, then what difference does it make what you 'choose', you're going to be following His plan, even if it means you'll end up in Hell.
That's really the crux of the argument isn't it?
Which is another huge misunderstanding of what "God's Plan" is. God's Plan is that you find your way to His Love to be with Him in eternity. How you do that is totally up to you.
One last thought about Free Will and God's Plan: Human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, so one of our intrinsic attributes is that we always choose good.
I know that sounds crazy, but it's absolutely true. The problem is what we think might be good. Hitler didn't kill millions of Jews because he thought that was a really bad thing to do. He thought that was a really good thing to do. He was far from alone in this thinking. Saints wore hair shirts and make shift thorn crowns because they thought is was a good and helpful thing to do.
Sorry to put Hitler and saints together in the same paragraph.
My point is our choices are based on what we perceive to be the best thing to do, which is sometimes totally wrong headed. God's plan is that our lives somehow manage to head in His direction. He can see you coming.