Faith, Risk, and Uncertainty

December 2009

For the past eight years I have vacillated between careers in medicine and art. If it were up to me I would have chosen art a long time ago, but my parents keep encouraging me towards medicine, and I fear they may be right.

Medicine has a lot of advantages. As a doctor I would be able to help people while earning a comfortable income. I could support a family (if my spouse loses his job or dies) or work part-time without compromising my career.1 I would be able to find work wherever I move. What's more, as a doctor I would have the free time to do art on the side. My parents know several doctors who became excellent fishers, golfers, and photographers this way.

The problem is that while it's possible to develop a serious hobby on the side, it's nearly impossible to do first-class work this way. And I want to do first-class work as an artist.2

My parents remind me that of the tens of thousands of artists who aspire to do first-class work, only a few succeed. It would be nice if I could make up stars for the Academy Awards, but would I want to work at a Nordstrom counter or in a beauty salon for the rest of my life? Would I want to do street paintings like the artists in Venice Beach, or write novels that nobody reads? Becoming a successful artist might be my top choice, but the odds of that happening are 1 in 1,000.3 Medicine, on the other hand, might not be my top absolute choice, but it is my top realistic choice, and as a career it offers a much better expected outcome than art. Clearly, anyone with half a brain could see that medicine is the better choice.4

I often wonder what God would advise me to do. God is my heavenly Father who loves me and wants what is best for me even more than my parents do. He's also omni-wise and omniscient. Does God think that becoming an artist is a stupid idea too?

My parents dissuade me from art because they believe that my odds of success are extremely low. If they knew for sure that I would succeed as an artist, they'd let me do it. As it is they're convinced I will almost certainly fail. But God doesn't face that uncertainty; he knows everything. To God my odds of success should be 0 or 1.5 Can't God just look into the future and tell me if I will definitely fail as an artist, in which case I can go to medical school instead?

The answer, it turns out, is not so simple. Philosophers have debated for thousands of years how God's foreknowledge impacts our decisions. (They've also debated whether God exists, but that's a different story.) Does God have complete knowledge of all our future actions? Does God know what would happen or only what does happen? If God knows all of our actions and their outcomes in advance, then are we really free to do otherwise?


To see why some philosophers believe that God's foreknowledge is incompatible with man's free will, consider the following argument: Suppose that God believed yesterday (or a million years ago, or from outside of time)6 that I will become a doctor tomorrow. I'm not able to change tomorrow what God believed yesterday, since the past is fixed. Nor am I able to prove God wrong, since God is infallible and everything he believes is true. Therefore, I have to become a doctor.

The argument generalizes to say that no one can ever do other than they actually do: this is fatalism. Philosophers who agree with the argument above are incompatibilists; they believe that if God knows everything infallibly in advance, then man does not have free will. Compatibilists, on the other hand, believe that God's infallible foreknowledge is compatible with human freedom.

Let's take a closer look at the positions within each of these camps.

Theological Determinism

Theological determinists believe that God not only foreknows but sovereignly wills and ordains everything that comes to pass. Not a single human, planet, atom or quark ever behaves contrary to God's plan for it. Everything that happens has been specifically willed by God for the best.

A corollary of theological determinism is that humans do not have free will in the sense of being able to choose between alternative possibilities. (If humans were free to choose otherwise, it would mean that they could sometimes choose against God's purpose.) Instead, humans have what is called 'compatibilist freedom' - the ability to choose according to their strongest inclination. Even though humans are morally responsible for what they decide, God is the one who ultimately determines their choices.7

Theological determinism in its current form dates back to the fifth century when Saint Augustine argued with Pelagius about how man could be saved. Pelagius believed that man could save himself by doing good and living morally; Augustine thought that Pelagius gave too much credit to man and stressed that only by God's grace could man be saved. What's more, Augustine believed that humans as a race were so depraved that only an irresistible act of grace could cause a human soul to respond to God in faith. Without God overriding the human will, people would go on being lost forever.

God is thus the sole author of any good that occurs, including man's initial decision to say "yes" to God. Augustine's theological determinism later passed down through Luther, Calvin, and Edwards to a large part of Protestant Christianity. In fact, while growing up at church I learned a version of it.8

I now believe that theological determinism is false because it makes the problem of evil intractable. If God is the ultimate sufficient cause of everything that happens, then God would appear to be responsible for evil as well as good. Of course, a theological determinist would deny that God directly causes evil. Instead, she would say that God actively causes specific good events while permitting the specific evils that further God's sovereign plan. However, if everything that happens is really for the (ultimate) best, then it would mean that it was really better for six million Jews to die during the Holocaust instead of five million, or four million, or two hundred, or zero. That it was better for the Rwandan genocide and 9/11 to happen rather than not. That it is better for certain children to grow up with metabolic disorders and learning disabilities than not. I agree with Alan Rhoda who says that "for a theist to take this view is like giving atheists a slow pitch ... down the middle of the plate."

Additionally, I believe that theological determinism creates a false dichotomy between man's freedom and God's glory. Augustine and his successors emphasize the utter inability of man to choose good and the overriding character of God's grace. But man's ability to freely say "yes" doesn't take away from God's glory in salvation or creation. As Saint Irenaeus writes, "God is glorified in his saints. The glory of God is a man fully alive." If anything, God is greater for creating humans who can freely love.

So I don't think that theological determinism works. What about the compatibilist approaches?


Like theological determinists, Molinists9 believe that God foreknows and meticulously controls everything that happens. Unlike theological determinists, Molinists believe that God's sovereign foreknowledge is compatible with man possessing libertarian freedom - the ability to choose in a way that is not causally determined.

Molinists reconcile divine sovereignty with man's freedom by appealing to the concept of "middle knowledge." According to Molinists, prior to creating God knows what all possible creatures would freely do in any set of circumstances. For example, God knows that if Eve were placed in a garden she would freely sin, whereas if Eve were placed on a desert steppe then she would freely not sin. These counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, as they are called, are true independent of God's will. (God doesn't cause them to be true.) However, they are enormously helpful to God in deciding what to create, since God can survey all possible worlds and combinations of creatures before picking the best ones to actualize. For instance, if God sees that if I become a doctor then I will be miserable, and if I become an artist then I will be happy, then he may arrange the world in such a way that I freely choose to become an artist.

Because God is constrained by counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, he can't create any world he wants. For example, God might prefer for me to become a successful poet, but even God can't make people like poetry against their will, and maybe no possible world exists in which audiences freely prefer poetry to novels. Same with the problem of evil - God may prefer a world in which all creatures freely do good, but no such world is available. God therefore actualizes a world containing the smallest amount of evil, or the lowest ratio of evil to good. No matter what happens, it is the best (or one of the best) outcomes given the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom that God has been dealt.

Molinists claim that their position is the only one that retains a strong view of God's sovereignty along with a commitment to libertarian freedom. Opponents argue that the Molinist posits "brute" facts about the universe that are not true for any apparent reason.

In general, it seems that in order for a proposition to be true, there must be some corresponding aspect of reality that "grounds" it, or makes it true. For instance, the proposition that "Esther is right now sitting in a chair" is true because I am in fact sitting in a chair. (The fact of my sitting in a chair is the "truthmaker" for the statement being true.)

The problem with Molinism is that there are no obvious truthmakers for the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. What causes the proposition, “if Esther is placed in such-and-such a situation, then she will freely do X” to be true? I don’t, since I am not yet around to serve as truthmaker. (Remember, counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are supposed to be true before God decides what to create.) God may not even decide to bring about my existence, in which case I would definitely be excluded from being truthmaker. Nor does God cause the statement to be true. If he did, then everything would be determined by God’s will, and Molinism would lapse into a form of theological determinism. It therefore seems that nothing or no one causes the counterfactual of freedom to be true, which is unacceptable if you hold a correspondence theory of truth. 10

Molinists like Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig argue that counterfactuals of freedom don't require grounding to be true. Plantinga writes: "It seems to me much clearer that some counterfactuals are at least possibly true than that the truth of propositions must, in general, be grounded in this way." Counterfactuals of freedom simply are true and are known by God as part of his essential omniscience. Alfred Freddoso, also a Molinist, compares God's knowledge of counterfactuals to God's knowledge of the future. As Freddoso points out, a theist has good reason to believe that God knows free free actions that occur in the future. If this is the case, then God knows at least some truths that are not grounded in the present state of the world (e.g., no truthmaker presently exists for the statement, "Esther will freely go to medical school tomorrow.") If God can know future facts for which no obvious grounding exists, then why not counterfactuals of freedom as well?

I don't buy the Molinist argument. I think that if God has knowledge of future events, it has to be because they really do happen or because they are causally determined. It's hard to imagine that God knows, prior to creating, what every hypothetical creature would freely do in any set of circumstances. Additionally, it seems strange to assign moral responsibility to people who are making the choices that God pre-selected for them to make (even if he did choose from a limited menu of counterfactual truths). How can we be free if God is controlling the "free" choices we make?

For these reasons, I don't think that Molinism works either. Is there a different compatibilist solution that works better?


Like Molinists,11 Ockhamists believe that exhaustive divine foreknowledge is compatible with libertarian freedom. However, Ockhamists reject the Molinist idea that God uses his middle knowledge to control and guide his creatures' decisions. Instead, Ockhamists believe that God's belief about the future is solely dependent on what we bring about at that time. Because God's foreknowledge is just a description of what we freely do, his infallible prescience poses no threat to our ability to do otherwise.

Ockhamists distinguish between hard and soft facts about the past. A hard fact is one that we can no longer change - for example, that D-Day occurred on June 6, 1944. A soft fact, on the other hand, is one that depends on what we freely do; we can act in such a way that were we to act differently, the soft fact would have been differently in the past. God's past beliefs about our future actions are soft facts; they are explanatorily dependent upon what we choose to do. For example, suppose that God believed yesterday that I will become a doctor tomorrow. An Ockhamist would say that the reason God believed yesterday (and has always believed) that I will become a doctor is that I freely decide to become one tomorrow. If God had foreseen me choosing to become an artist instead, then he would have always believed that I will become an artist tomorrow.

Opponents argue that just because an event occurs, doesn't mean that it was always true that it would occur. For example, the fact that Barack Obama was elected president in 2008 does not mean that it was always the case that he would be elected. Rather, it was always true that Barack Obama might get elected president - a possibility which became true in 2008 when voters freely elected him. If it wasn't true prior to 2008 that Obama would get elected, then there was no soft fact for God to foreknow.

Opponents also assert that Ockhamism introduces causal loops if God uses his past knowledge of the future to affect what occurs. For instance, if God foresees that I will go to medical school, he might tell me when I ask that I will go to medical school. Then, partly because I am influenced by what God has said, I go to medical school. My decision thus becomes part of a causal loop, in which it's not clear who caused what when.

Despite these objections, I think that Ockhamism is the best compatibilist model that we have so far. In fact, if you hold a certain view of time - that past, present, and future things are all equally real and so future events can "ground" present truths (more on that later) - then Ockhamism may be the only solution that makes sense. And yet - if Ockhamism is true, then why does my heart rebel against it? Why is it so annoying that God knows everything in advance, even if the results are up to us?

Maybe it's because for artists and entrepreneurs (and other people), risk is a huge part of life. We know that the odds of creating a successful startup, or of dancing in the New York City Ballet, or of writing a book that affects a lot of people, are extremely small, but we decide to try anyway because we believe there is a non-zero chance that we will succeed and that the results will be worth it. But if the uncertainty is only epistemic - based on our lack of knowledge and incomplete information about the future - and not ontological (real), then isn't it pointless, or trivial, to embark on these ventures? Even if the outcome is partly fixed by our free decisions, the fact that God infallibly foreknows - and has always foreknown - whether we will fail or succeed, is really frustrating.

Did God always know that Google would succeed and that AltaVista would fail? Were there times during Google's creation when Larry and Sergey were worried, but God never was? Of all the thousands of aspiring actors and actresses in L.A., did God always know that Edward Norton and Natalie Portman would be among the ones to "make it?"

Fr. Nathan says that the future depends on what God and I do together. I replied, "Yes, but doesn't God already know what that will be?" If God knows that our free actions (and the free actions of other people) will result in my failing as an artist, then he's not really helping me to create beauty and feeling. Instead, he's sending me on a wild-goose-chase to build character. I hate gratuitous chances to build character!

Fr. Nathan said to turn down the volume on God's omniscience and focus on collaborating in the present instead. But if God already knows everything in advance, then I don't know how to do that. Maybe the Ockhamists are right that God's foreknowledge is compatible with human free will. I guess it would be fine if God simply knew things from a distance and didn't do anything with his knowledge. But if God is intimately involved in his creation, if he is partnering with and relating to us while knowing everything in advance, then it's just ... frustrating.

Plus, if God sees all of his own actions in advance, doesn't that make God less free (since he can't do other than what he's foreseen himself doing)? Does the process become less meaningful or fun for God?

Open Theism

In contrast to Okhamists, Molinists, and theological determinists, open theists believe that there are parts of the future that not even God foreknows. Many open theists are also incompatibilists regarding free will and divine foreknowledge.

Open theists fall into several categories. Some, like William Hasker, believe there are truths about how the future will unfold, but because divine foreknowledge is incompatible with free will and we are free, God can't logically know these truths. Other open theists, such as Alan Rhoda and Gregory Boyd, believe that the future is not completely settled but consists at least partly of possibilities. It is true that some future events might or might not happen, but not that they definitely will or will not happen. God thus knows that some future events might or might not occur, but not that they definitely will or will not occur. Still other open theists believe that God could know everything about the future if he wanted to, but most of the time chooses not to because he wants to relate to us in the present. All open theists believe that there are some aspects of the future that God does not infallibly foreknow.

Open theists claim that an open future is necessary for genuine relationship between God and man. In facing an open future, God is free to change his mind, respond to prayers, and otherwise relate to people. Open theists who are incompatibilists also claim that it's not possible to foreknow an event will definitely occur unless it is causally determined. (In other words, Ockhamists are wrong that God's foreknowledge can depend solely on our free choice at time t). Open theism is thus the only way to affirm future contingency.

At first, open theism sounds dangerous and vaguely heretical. It goes against tradition in claiming that God does not know everything about the future. It seems to diminish God's omniscience and render the universe a less secure place. If God does not know all of the future, how can he be trusted to provide guidance or to triumph over evil? Doesn't God become as limited and error-prone as the rest of us?

Opponents also argue that open theism fails to explain the prophetic statements in the Bible. If you believe Scripture, it seems as if God sometimes has very specific beliefs about the future. For example, Jesus predicts that Peter will deny him three times before the cock crows twice. Open theists interpret prophecies as conditional statements (e.g., if Israel obeys God will bless her, if she disobeys he will punish) or as unilateral declarations of what God will do (e.g., become incarnate in Jesus). But some prophecies - Jesus predicting Peter's denial, for instance, or Daniel foretelling the rises and falls of various empires - fit neither description and involve the free choices of multiple actors. So I don't think that God can't logically foreknow free actions in the future.

However, I do think that open theism makes a lot of intuitive sense. God is a creator. As an artist, what I enjoy most about the creative process is the possibility - not knowing at each step what the final outcome will be. When painting I have an idea of how I want the finished picture to look, and which colors I will put where, but mostly I stay in the present and work with the patterns that the water makes. Maybe God also chooses not to know everything in advance, but to borrow certain aspects from the future while staying in the present with us.

In my college chemistry class, we distinguished between state functions and path functions. For any reaction A + B --> C + D, there are certain properties that never vary: these are the state functions. If you calculate the entropy or free energy difference between the products and reactants, you will always get the same value. But how the reaction gets from A and B to C and D does vary. It can follow a squiggly or a straight path, it can go through two intermediate products or five. But no matter how the path functions change, the state functions always stay the same.

Maybe God's knowledge of the future is like that. Perhaps he determines certain state functions in advance, like he will redeem the universe and work all things for good, but how that happens - and to what extent we participate - is up to him and us. For example, God promises that the church will remain indestructible until the end of time, but how that comes about - whether it's through internal reform like the monastic movement or through violent upheaval like the Protestant Reformation - is up to God and us.

How does God borrow from the future? How are we God's creation and at the same time co-creators with God? What does it mean that God can see everything about the future but would rather stay in the present with us? Does it mean that by staying in the present, he changes the future he would have seen? If God did choose to know everything about the future, would that take away our freedom of choice?

And is open theism even true?


The biggest objection to open theism is that it violates our understanding of time. In positing that there are parts of the future that God does not know, open theism relies on an A-theory of time - the commonsense view that there are real differences between the past, present, and future. The past is no more, the present is now, and the future is yet to come. The past and present are fixed whereas the future is, in Jorge Luis Borges' famous phrase, "a garden of forking paths."

Many scientists now believe that absolute time has been disproved by Einsteins' theories of relativity. According to special relativity, two events that are simultaneous in one frame of reference may not be simultaneous when viewed from a different reference frame that is moving relative to the first one. Therefore, what occurs in the present of one reference frame may occur in the past or future of a difference reference frame in motion relative to the first one. Since there is no way to determine which reference frame is the privileged or "real" one, B-theorists believe that there is no such thing as a single present for the entire universe. Instead, what we have is a kind of "block universe" containing all the different points in spacetime.

According to B-theorists, we can talk about the sequence of events - things being earlier or later than each other - but to speak of an absolute present or future makes no more sense than to speak of an absolute up or down. Past and future events are just as real as present ones; they're just farther away in time, the way that Mars is just as real as Stanford, California, despite being 36,000,000 miles away.12 The future already exists, and facts about the future have the same concreteness and definiteness as facts about the present. As my friend Jeff says, if B-theory is true, then "God can't be let off the hook for knowing what future facts are."

So if B-theory is true, then open theism is clearly false. Is B-theory true?

Most physicists and philosophers say yes, but admit that B-theory still has holes. For one thing, B-theory fails to account for our subjective experience of time. If past, present, and future things are equally real, then why do we perceive time as moving in one direction only? Why can't we go backwards and forward in time like we can in space? Why are we relieved when a painful experience passes or fearful of impending death? If all points are equally real in spacetime, then the painful event is not really "over," and death is just one of the boundaries of our spacetime worm (the four-dimensional extension of our lives in spacetime), which has always existed and will always exist. B-theory is thus highly counterintuitive.13

Furthermore, certain results in quantum mechanics suggest that there may be an absolute present, since one of two entangled particles always appears to arrive "first." It's not clear that this is the only explanation, and in any case I can't wait until everyone agrees before deciding whether to become an artist or not. Does the future already exist? Does God know if I will fail or succeed before I get started?


One thing that gives me courage is living in Silicon Valley. Here, I am surrounded by entrepreneurs who care intensely about their work14 and are trying to build great technology. As computer scientist Alan Kay says, "The best way to predict the future is to invent it."

In Silicon Valley, the attitude is that a limit doesn't have to be a limit. If you have a problem and haven't figured out a solution yet, it doesn't mean that no solution exists. And if its a problem that a lot of people have, and you figure out how to solve it, then you might get rich.

There is something magical about living among people who are young and smart and testing the boundaries of what's possible. Everyone knows that their project will probably fail, but they don't believe it. And Silicon Valley is peppered with examples of people who were young and obscure before building great things. Founders look at Larry and Sergey and think, they were once like me. Maybe I could do that too. Not probably but maybe - at least I'm going to try. Silicon Valley is also full of people who attempted a startup and failed, or who tried and failed a couple of times before succeeding. The atmosphere is contagious, and failure and risk become a lot less intimidating than before.

Sometimes I wonder, if being around people who are taking risks is so important, would it be better to live in L.A. where every waiter is an aspiring actor, screenwriter, makeup artist or director? If it's inspiring to be around startup founders, wouldn't it be even more so to be around artists in the film and fashion industries? My guess is no. I went to high school in L.A. and hated it.15 I always felt like I wasn't popular enough or good-looking enough. In Silicon Valley, what's cool is being smart and making things - it's cool to be an artist and a nerd.

Valley culture is also unique in the amount of good will that founders experience. While startups compete, it's definitely not a zero-sum game. It's not like in L.A., where there is a limited number of roles for which every actress competes; or like New York, where every fashion photographer is trying to work for the same five or six magazines. Here, founders realize that there is no limit to the valuable things that could be invented and built. There's no fixed size to the pie. So you have founders helping each other out and founders who become successful sticking around to invest and start new companies.

What to Do

Maybe the B-theory of time is correct, and God already knows what I will choose. Maybe he always knew that Silicon Valley would develop its unique culture of risk and that I would find its atmosphere intoxicating. Maybe he put me here so that I would (falsely) believe the future is open and thus freely choose to become an artist. Or maybe the future really is open, and leading me to Stanford is God's way of encouraging me to take a risk. But I still need to make the decision. He can't do it for me.

In the Old Testament, God promises young David that he will become king over Israel. I used to wonder, did David worry less when he was fighting battles or hiding in caves from King Saul? His life might have appeared risky at times, but really there was no danger because God had already promised that David would become king, and it's hard to be king when you're dead. As long as David made a reasonable effort to stay alive and didn't do anything ridiculously stupid (like sit naked in the middle of a battlefield), he was guaranteed the throne.

I often wish for a similar promise. If God said to me, one day in this life you will produce great work that touches a lot of people,16 then I would be very happy with that. Even if it didn't happen until twenty or even thirty years later, I would know that all of the intervening crap (financial insecurity and critical non-recognition) was temporary, and that eventually I would manage to succeed. If I had such a promise, I would do exactly what Paul Graham says: release a first version and keep iterating until I succeed; be flexible, resourceful, and determined - determined to convey beauty and feeling, flexible regarding which medium and in what manner.

Interestingly, what I would do if God guaranteed success is a lot like what I would do if the outcome was truly open. I'd be less worried, sure, but other than that I'd follow the same course. So maybe what I really want to know is that God doesn't infallibly believe I will definitely fail as an artist. As long as I have a non-zero chance of succeeding...17

Right now I want to become a top makeup artist. I can do everything in my power to practice and get better, try to land an agent, get tear sheets, etc. And all the while I can pray for God to work with me and in me, to help me notice opportunities and, if it's possible, to bring luck my way.

But if it turns out that makeup artistry is not going anywhere, that despite my best efforts I (like most makeup artists who don't starve) seem doomed to work on brides forever,18 or if I do make it to a high level in the profession and realize that the fashion industry is toxic or that the work requires more travel than I'm willing to do, then I'll change my plans. I'll go to graduate school, or become a writer, or do something. Maybe I'll even decide to re-take my MCAT and become a doctor after all, and combine medicine with art. But I won't give up.

I am going to become an artist.

There is a real chance that I will fail, of course. It's possible that I could be as talented as Madeleine L'Engle and as resourceful and determined as Steve Jobs, and still never achieve commercial success or touch anyone. I know this. But I do not believe it. And I don't believe that God believes it either.

- esther-emmanuel


[1] In many other professions - law for example - women who work part-time when their children are young are shunted to the "mommy track."

[2] Academia seems to be one of the few professions conducive to doing great art. (C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, for example, were professors in Medieval and Renaissance Literature and Linguistics, respectively; yet both are primarily known for their fiction.) I think it's because academics have blocks of free time to work on what they want, and they spend a lot of their job hours thinking about interesting questions. So even when they are not working on art per se, academics are getting smarter and more creative, which translates well into art (especially writing). Whereas internet marketers, in the same 8-hour period, are not only not getting smarter and more creative but are in fact getting actively dumber and less creative. There are probably exceptions, but I was definitely not one of them. (I worked for two years in online advertising at Google and could feel my brain rotting away the whole time). My point is that many kinds of work are not just neutral to developing artistic potential, but actually negative.

[3] I'm not sure exactly how terrible my parents think my odds are. Based on comments they've made, I'd guess that 1 in 1,000 is a safe lower bound of terribleness.

[4] People have pointed out that there are careers other than medicine and art. This is true and I may end up in one, but for now medicine is my top practical option. For Asian parents, practical careers include medicine, engineering, law, pharmacy, optometry, accounting, and dentistry. The list varies slightly from family to family - for instance, my parents don't recommend law, whereas other Asian parents might accept teaching or business.

[5] I realize that success or failure is often not so Boolean.

[6] Boethius' solution to the paradox of divine foreknowledge and free will was to locate God outside of time. Since God is eternally present at every moment, he doesn't know yesterday what I will do tomorrow; instead, he knows timelessly what I will do at each moment. I don't think this argument solves the problem. It doesn't matter if God believes X yesterday or eternally from outside of time; the point is that if God infallibly believes X about (my) tomorrow, then I am not free to change God's belief or prove him wrong.

[7] A secular version of "soft determinism" states that every event is causally determined. Our actions are immediately caused by our beliefs and desires. But our beliefs and desires don't spring out of nowhere; they too are caused by our genetics, upbringing, and experiences, which in turn are links in a causal chain that extends back to the initial state of the universe. Indeterminism, compatibilists argue, is no better for free will and moral responsibility than determinism. If a quantum indeterminacy causes me to randomly select A over B, in what sense is that a free and responsible decision? "Free will" is no more than luck.

This is a powerful argument and at first I didn't know how to reply. But I think that such an argument assumes a material view of the universe. I believe that God is free (the most free, or radically free), and nothing outside of God causes him to create or to create what he does. Can't humans who are made in the image of God be free in the same way?

[8] I remember asking my pastor in high school: "If I have a race tomorrow, does God already know who will win? And if I don't win, will that be what God wanted, because losing the race is the best thing that could happen to me from an eternal perspective?" He thought the answer to both questions was obviously yes.

[9] Named for the Jesuit priest Luis de Molina (1535-1600).

[10] Some truths, in particular necessary truths (e.g. "All bachelors are married") and negative existentials (e.g. "Unicorns do not exist") are difficult to locate truthmakers for and some philosophers have argued may not require truthmakers to be true. However, it is hard to see how the Molinist's counterfactuals of creaturely freedom qualify as exceptions to the truthmaking principle.

[11] Named for William of Ockham (1288-1348), also the namesake of Ockham's razor.

[12] At its minimum. The distance between the earth and Mars varies as a function of where the planets are in their respective orbits; it can range up to 250,000,000 miles.

[13] A-theorists believe that absolute time and simultaneity do exist, even if physics can't detect them. Some A-theorists propose that only one slice of the spacetime manifold is real (i.e., the present), while other A-theorists advocate a return to Lorentzian physics which does posit an absolute reference frame in the ether. Some A-theorists also favor taking an instrumentalist approach to physics, in which relativity is useful for making predictions but not for telling us about "real" or metaphysical time.

[14] Some people say that God sort of cares which career I choose, but he cares a lot more that I do it in a Christ-like manner - that I am kind and loving, etc. This kind of advice always makes me think that I should choose the less stupid option (medicine) and be done with it. Am I wrong to care so much about conveying beauty and feeling? Is it foolish or idolatrous to care so much about doing great work?

[15] Max suggests that what I hated about L.A. was not L.A. itself but the high school experience. (I did go to a high school where one of my classmates got a nose job as her graduation present.) That may account for part of my dislike; however, it's hard to imagine liking a city where celebrity-stalking is a common pastime.

[16] In theory, doing great work is under an artist's control whereas gaining an audience is not. In practice the two variables interact. As Paul Graham writes, "It's good for morale to know that people want to see what you're making; it draws work out of you." Conversely, it's hard to keep producing when people ignore what you're making.

[17] William Goldman, author of The Princess Bride, says "people don't realize the amount of demeaning garbage you have to take if you want a career in the arts." When he graduated from college and told adults he wanted to be a writer, they would ask, "What are you going to do next?" (implying failure) or "What are you really going to do?" (implying that writing isn't a serious occupation). Having adults tell you you're going to fail is annoying, but if God believes it too, then you're in trouble.

[18] Working with brides forever should be a punishment in hell.

Thanks to John Etchemendy, Max Etchemendy, Matt Hubinger, Nina Moon, Alan Rhoda, and Jeff Russell for reading drafts of this essay.

Please see Gregory Boyd (God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God, 2000), William Lane Craig ("Middle Knowledge, Truth-Makers, and the Grounding Objection," 2001; The Tenseless Theory of Time: A Critical Examination, 2000), John Martin Fischer ("Engaging with Pike: God, Freedom, and Time," 2009; ed. God, Foreknowledge, and Freedom, 1989), Thomas Flint (Divine Providence: The Molinist Account, 2006), Robert Kane (ed. Free Will, 2002), Nelson Pike ("Divine Omniscience and Voluntary Action," 1965), Alan Rhoda ("Open Theism, Omniscience, and the Nature of the Future," 2002; "The Philosophical Case for Open Theism," 2007) John Sanders (The God Who Risks: A Theology of Divine Providence, 1998), Theodore Sider (Four-Dimensionalism, 2002), Peter van Inwagen (An Essay on Free Will, 1983), and Bruce A. Ware (God's Greater Glory: The Exalted God of Scripture and the Christian Faith, 2004; God's Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism) for helpful writings on the topic.