Conceptions of God are constantly in flux, which is what yields so many different religions. In Lake Woebegone Days, Garrison Keillor humorously describes numerous disputes among church congregations over the interpretation of scripture which lead to factions developing which cause the congregations to split. Baptists and Methodists primarily disagree over the method of baptism, and Protestants and Catholics split over whether faith alone or good deeds are necessary to ensure salvation. Even the idea of God differs from congregation to congregation, some believing in a vengeful “Old Testament” style deity while others opt for a loving father figure watching over us all.
One thing most believers agree on, however, is the nature of God. A common description is that God is all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful. God knows us better than we know ourselves and knows all that has happened to us and will happen. The idea of an all-knowing God goes back at least to the Egyptians, with their all-seeing eye of Horus watching over everyone. Given this capability, one wonders why so many spend so much time communicating with God, when an all-knowing entity, by definition, should already know anything we’d be likely to tell it. Also, the belief that God knows the future implies that the future is set and if this is the case, this seems to suggest our destinies have been been predetermined by God.
Such a situation makes the quest for salvation almost irrelevant, since God has already decided who’s going to heaven and who isn’t. The problem with a system like this is that if God has predetermined our destinies, we are, necessarily, living according to God’s plan and are not responsible for our behavior. How can we not gain salvation, since we’re only following the plan God has laid out for us? One might argue that Satan can step in and lead us astray, but if so, God should have already taken this into account, since God knows all. If we accept the notion that our lives have been predetermined this leads us to a further dilemma when tragedy occurs. If a plane crashes and everyone on board is killed, is that somehow part of God’s plan, since surely God knew the plane would crash? Perhaps God’s foresight rests not in absolute knowledge of the future but in being able to visualize the possibilities.
There’s a difference between seeing the future and being able to theorize potential outcomes. Each decision we make comes with many potential consequences and it’s nearly impossible for us to anticipate all of them. Perhaps, instead of being able to see what will happen, the entity we call God has the ability to imagine all potential outcomes of a given decision. One wonders, though, why such an entity would waste time and energy imagining what might happen, when all it has to do is wait and see what actually happens. If salvation is a possibility, humans must be free to make their own decisions and therefore predestination can’t factor into the equation. Perhaps the point of the universe is to test unlimited possibilities.
There appears to be no rhyme or reason to it, no cosmic logic to explain it all. Predestination robs us of our free will and calls into question the notion of salvation, since a vital part of that is having the freedom to choose. A future that can’t be anticipated by even God, however, takes away the notion of an all-seeing and all-knowing entity watching over everything we do. In this chaotic universe in which we live, it’s difficult to believe an entity would exist that somehow manages the chaos, while concealing the mechanisms to those who inhabit it unless, of course, observing how the inhabitants manage is part of the plan.