Orson Scott Card: God's foreknowledge: This life shows who we are

Published: Thursday, July 7 2011 4:00 a.m. MDT

We believe in eternal progression, and a progressing God is not outside of time.

(Please don't write in with all the sophistries designed to explain the "timeless" God, or with "higher" math invoking multiple dimensions — trust me, I've heard them all, and they still come down to the nonexistence of a God who is actively involved in the universe of causation.)

In recent years, I've reached the conclusion that while I cannot, from scripture or by reason, determine the truth of the matter, there is a way to account for the foreknowledge of God without compromising our freedom or requiring that God have everything nailed down in every detail in advance.

God does have a plan for each and every one of us, and we agreed to it. It's called our "second estate" (Abraham 3:26). As long as we are in mortality and have the power to act, we will live lives that perfectly fulfill the purposes of God.

God has given us a world in which things happen according to natural laws. This includes the natural laws that govern the behavior of the natural man, as well as the spiritual laws that govern the children of God.

Regardless of what happens to us, God judges us by what we do in response. People who live through horrible trials that most of us shudder to imagine will reveal their true character in those times of duress.

But people who seem to lead charmed lives where only good things happen to them manage to have just as many opportunities to be wicked and miserable, and as many to be good and kind.

As for God's larger plans for the history of nations, he knows human nature.

Societies that behave in certain ways destroy themselves — history shows it again and again. It does not take specific foreknowledge for the Lord to make such prophecies.

Plus, God knows what he is going to do. As often as not, prophecies are actually promises: I will do this, he says, and I will do that. These prophecies will be fulfilled because God will keep his word.

To my way of thinking, this is all the foreknowledge required for God to be perfectly just and loving, and for this life to do a perfect job of testing us while leaving us morally free to choose according to our uncreated, eternal nature.

God has given us a world in which he intervenes only rarely, when his special purposes require it. We are utterly free to be who we are, no matter what happens to us (Alma 14:11).

God's plan for us has no errors in it, though we are free, during mortality, to err to our heart's content. For in this life we cannot cause any eternal harm except to ourselves (Matthew 15:11).

God's perfect foreknowledge needs to be no more than this: In this life, we will freely show who we are, so his judgment will be just. That is the end, and he knew it from the beginning; all his promises are fulfilled in this.

If it happens that God's foreknowledge is much more detailed than this, I will be neither surprised nor disappointed to discover that my thinking on this matter was wrong. This is merely the simplest view I've found that provides for the justice of God and the freedom of men.

Orson Scott Card is a writer of nonfiction and fiction, from LDS works to popular fiction. “In the Village” appears Thursdays on MormonTimes.com.

Contact Orson Scott Card by visiting www.nauvoo.com/contact_desnews.html.

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