Father Answers Your Questions


QuestionIf God is all knowing then He would know how we will live our lives and whether we will be saved or condemned.  Does this conflict with the concept of free will?  Please explain


This question has been at the heart of theological debates since the beginning of the Church.  St Irenaeus in the Second Century wrote: “Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts.” 
St Augustine in the Fifth Century wrote extensively about the relationship between God’s grace and our own free will.   He stressed that it is only through our free acceptance of God’s grace that we are saved.  Our actions on their own are powerless to save us, but only through our acceptance of Christ’s death and resurrection will we be saved.  But this acceptance continues to be a free choice on our part.  Over and over again the Church has continually taught that just because God may know all that has and will happen; that knowledge does not take away Man’s freedom to choose good or evil.

Not all Christian churches have taught this doctrine.  In the Middle Ages during the Protestant Reformation, some Protestant theologians felt that the connection between God’s knowledge and power was such that if God saw happening, he then willed it to happen.  In particular John Calvin works lead to the doctrine of Predestination.  The Westminster Confession of Faith (1643) states:

God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass;

By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.

The Catholic Church has never accepted the doctrine of predestination. St Paul in Galatians wrote: “For freedom Christ has set us free.”  Gal 1:5.   In the Catechism the Church teaches that:

God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions.  “God willed that man should be ‘left in the hand of his own counsel,’ so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him. “ (Catechism 1730)

God is perfect Love, and as such wants to be loved.  He knows that for true love to exist that it must be freely given.  It cannot be forced.  Therefore God has given us the gift of free will so that we can freely chose to love Him.  Left to ourselves we will never be able to love Him in the way that he has already loved us.  But God continues to enter into our lives.  “By the working of grace the Holy Spirit educates us in spiritual freedom in order to make us free collaborators in his work in the Church and in the world”.  (Catechism 1742)

Fr. Steve

St. Patrick's Church at Moody Air Force Base