Antinatalism and Evangelical Christianity

It’s been kind of dead around here for the past 24 hrs, so I’d love to spice things up a little. This may be controversial, but I’ve had a lot of thoughts over the years about having children that have more or less recently congealed into antinatalism—basically the stance that, as I understand it, having kids is a morally negative thing. It’s ultimately a cost-benefit analysis—for me, the question is, do I have the right to impose existence on someone, given the significant potential for suffering? I don’t think I do.

A lot of things went into forming this: everything from my upbringing in evangelical Christianity, the collapse of my marriage over the past year, my own recognition of my significant shortcomings in skills needed for raising a healthy human, and how I’ve realized that so much pain and negative behavior is generational.

I think for this, I’d like to focus discussion not only on just the general concept of antinatalism, but also how I think it should apply to at least my sect of Christianity, which was Calvinist, and held that having children was a good thing. The more the merrier (within affordable reason), as Psalm 127:3-5 states:

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!”

I never consciously questioned that while I was in the faith, but looking back, I’ve observed some tension with other important theology. For instance, what happened to one of these child-arrows who turned from the Lord/missed the mark? My sect believed they would be tormented in fire for all eternity. That doesn’t seem like a great outcome. It’s bizarre to me that a parent who actually believed this would choose to have a child at all, given the risk (significant these days, especially in more fundamentalist communities) of this horrifying fate. If this was outlined to me, I would never want to be responsible for bringing that kind of pain into the world. Based on the answers I got during a few uncomfortable conversations [citation unavailable], I think the way these parents handled this ugly truth was really to just actively not think about it . I think this in itself just dashes my hopes of some kind of inner goodness of people. It’s not that I believe anybody will actually go to hell, it’s that so many people who do believe will actively make these monumentally important decisions with so little regard for other people.

I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on this.

As your question is mostly framed in theological terms, I will mostly stay out of it, except to observe that I’d have to be actually pretty damned SURE that a theological position was right before I started letting it influence my decision to have, or not to have, children. It’s one thing to speculate on these things in the abstract, and another to do them. If I were in a suicide cult, for example, I’d probably just make an excuse to spend a really long time in the bathroom on the day when push came to shove (Leaves bathroom: “Brothers, did I miss anything? Brothers? Anyone?”). There are a lot of reasons why people have children and it’s hard to imagine speculative/philosophical considerations predominating over the practical.


You have a way with words, Puck. :joy:

You’re far more charitable than I’m often inclined to be. I suppose for many, there’s a “head belief” that doesn’t quite match up with the “heart belief”. When push comes to shove, it’s the heart belief that wins out.

I’m not immune to this, either. I wonder just how many of of my current philosophical views (including this one) I’ve spun to justify my gut feelings.

I think that while there may not be much to be said for “heart beliefs” in some departments, they are not necessarily unworthy things when it comes to matters that touch the heart. That’s neither a wholesale endorsement nor a criticism – it’s just that when feelings and values come into the picture, one is often best in thinking about ascertainable consequences and known operators than about the abstract.

I’m not sure you should WANT to be immune to it. Having moved from the heart down to the gut, we are now in a position for better analogies. I think that people are prone to fancy that their philosophical views are something worthwhile and their gut views are not. I think that this can in many cases be a mistake. Philosophy, when untethered from things which we can confirm and demonstrate, can be every bit as gassy as the gut. Exercises in pure reason may be Descartes, or they may be the race-supremacist who is sometimes seen writing out his manifesto in the corner at the Arby’s.

I think that to be useful in making real decisions, philosophical work has to be well-grounded. And, if you have ever seen a small child who was immensely proud of the size of the “poopy” he just made, you can understand that it’s in our nature to be proud of our output whether we should or not. I think that we imagine, when we have derived some notion from what feels like us like the application of rigorous, thorough, pure reason to a question, that we have just stepped out of the hall from a debate with Plato and Socrates and their colleagues, victory in hand. I think that more often we have just stepped out of Moe’s bar, where we bested (or think we did) the usual crew. And on our worst days, it really was Plato and Socrates, but we missed the debate and made the after-party: things we should wish not to remember, and sore orifices all round.

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I’m a Christian and a father of three (including the bun still in the oven). I can say that one of my strongest motivations for having children of my own was that I am grateful for my own existence. I suppose, too, that I see it as a way of “paying it forward”, perpetuating the kind of familial love that I have experienced into the future.

I can say, too, that Christianity’s positive attitude towards children also played a part in my motivation. I do believe that God wants us to have children. (That is, those of us who are married - as a tangential aside, I think it’s worth noting that celibacy is also highly regarded by Christian teaching, so it is not the case that having children is a universal moral imperative.) And to be honest, Christianity’s positive attitude towards children is itself something that feels right to me, perhaps because of my other personal motivations mentioned above.

I’ve never felt like my parents “imposed” existence on me, in fact, I don’t think that question really even makes sense. I read a news article once about someone suing his parents for giving him life without his consent (as if he could have consented to it before he existed!). But that kind of sentiment (even less extreme versions of it) doesn’t seem to be very common to me - does it seem common to you? I honestly don’t know the statistics, but I would guess that there are many people who have suffered greatly in life who would still choose life over nonexistence.

What about the flip-side of your question: do I have the right not to “impose” existence on someone, given the significant potential for happiness? (Again, I don’t think the question actually makes sense; just posing it as a counterpoint to yours.)

Moving to the specifically theological question, if we consider the risk of the child rejecting God and being condemned to hell, we should also include the possible good of the child accepting God and attaining eternal life. How do you know that the risk outweighs the possible good? I don’t think it is as simple as a balance of probabilities - for one, we don’t actually know the probabilities, and for two, the good and the evil in question might not be symmetric - or even commensurable. (E.g., I think Christian teaching would be comfortable with the claim that the good of heaven is in some sense “so good” that the possibility of a person’s salvation outweighs even a significant risk of their damnation.)

There are further considerations. One is the common Christian belief that God doesn’t condemn people to hell who cannot be rightly held accountable (e.g., young children). Another is that the traditional “eternal torment” view of hell might not even be what the Bible is teaching; I think a very good case can be made that annihilationism is actually the biblical view. Yet another is that, whether one’s view is (hell = eternal torment) or (hell = temporary punishment followed by annihilation), Christianity holds hell to be a just punishment for sin, not simply the state of suffering/destruction experienced by the condemned. Maybe it is better for the damned to have never been born, but a fully worked-out theodicy / doctrine of hell is likely to imply that it is in some way better overall that they were born (even if that outcome is not as good as it would have been if they had freely chosen to accept God instead).

Even more fundamentally, I would challenge the assertion that “it’s ultimately a cost-benefit analysis”. If Christianity is true, utilitarian ethical theories are most probably false, and something like natural law theory, or a deontological theory, or virtue ethics, is true instead. And on all of those, the “cost-benefit analysis” plays at most a secondary role. So I would say there is quite a lot of room for the Christian to hold that the traditional pro-natal stance is fully consistent, and not at all in tension, with other doctrines (and in particular with the doctrine of hell).

For what it is worth, this is a question that my wife and I, and other parents I know in my church family, were thinking through before having children. Whether that counteracts any of the dashing of your hope in some kind of inner goodness in people - well, frankly, there’s plenty of other examples of human evil out there for you to ponder. Good thing God provided a way for us sinners to be saved, through Jesus. :slight_smile:


Everything @structureoftruth said. Very well-written. Congrats Matthew on the bun in the oven.

I have three kids. I’m pretty sure I do most things wrong on a daily basis. No one is qualified to be a good parent. Probably a qualification of being a decent parent is realizing that you don’t have the qualities of a good one.

And I’m sorry, especially about your marriage. This is a lot to handle / think about.

I think it is likely you were misunderstanding these parents. It’s difficult not to be concerned about your children. I guess you do have to actively not think about it or it would be overwhelming at times. But that doesn’t mean you have less regard and care less, it means you care more.


Beautiful, whimsical prose!


Thanks for your well thought-out reply!

I don’t disagree with this—I think having children is a source of a lot of joy and meaning and hope, and it makes sense to me that it feels right. However this feeling makes less sense to me once ECT is brought onto the table.

No, I don’t think it is common, at least not in my circles. As for the second half, it’s a bit more complicated than simply choosing life over non-existence, as in our current state, the choice is between life and a process to non-existence, a process which entails suffering in itself. As for some statistics, according to this website, in 2019, some 47,500 still made that choice regardless, with 1.3 million having attempted.

I would say yes, you do have that right, because there is no one you have deprived from happiness. And that’s why I don’t think think both sides of this question are equally weighted. Lmk what you think about that.

Yes, I don’t have a problem with including eternal life. As far as knowing the risk outweighs the good, I think it’s completely irrelevant. Allow to me explain:

For instance, if I had a machine that, if entered, had a 50-50 chance of providing me with the greatest possible pleasure or the greatest possible pain, would I be on the fence about whether to step in or not? No, there’s no way I’d take that chance, and I suspect most people would feel the same way. How skewed do those probabilities have to be before I’d try it out? Pretty dang skewed! Without having a scientific study to back this up, I think this does indicate that avoidance of pain is more important than the promise of pleasure. Nevertheless, some people may be willing to take significantly high risk in order to use the machine. Crazy, maybe, but that’s up to them.

But what if I changed the scenario a bit? What would the pleasure/pain odds have to be in order for you to place someone else in the machine without their consent? What would change if they had some control over the machine once they were inside, yet could not choose to leave until the cycle was complete? At what point should we feel the potential for a positive outcome is so great that someone suffering is no longer an impediment to our decision?

I can grant this.

I think this immediately makes things far better. Is this a view you hold?

Hmmm. I don’t find this particularly reassuring. If I might try another thought experiment to see where you fall on this (I imagine you know what I would do), imagine you are back to where you were before you had your first child. You receive a vision from God Himself, saying that if you have children, no matter what you do or say, your firstborn will freely choose to reject Christ and be justly punished for their sin (let’s say a temporary punishment and then annihilation). However, God tells you each successive child after the first will freely choose to follow Him and enter into eternal reward. Do you still choose to have children?

I’m not overly familiar with theories of ethics yet (:grimacing:), but I think I can agree that a strictly utilitarian view isn’t something I would necessarily hold to. I’d have to brush up a bit more on this.

Very true! And yes, that does go some way—perhaps a bit of perspective helps with that. Again, thank you very much for your lengthy and thoughtful response, I want to be as open about this and willing to change as I can be. I look forward to further dialogue!


When I was a child, my writing skills were awful: mostly simple fart jokes. Now, of course, I have complex fart jokes, so all is well.


Fair enough, you have a point here.

As it stands, I think your scenario is too disanalogous to the actual case to provide a meaningful comparison. I will try to change it further to rectify that.

Now in the scenario, someone you love is in a coma. You’ve been given authority over their medical decisions, by virtue of being their closest relative, say. You can wake them up by putting them in the pleasure/pain machine for regular treatments. Furthermore, the pleasure/pain machine doesn’t just have minimum pleasure or maximum pleasure as possible outcomes, but a range of possibilities with mixtures of both pleasure and pain as the most likely. You know this because you yourself go for regular treatments in the pleasure/pain machine, for the same condition. The doctor has told you that at some point your outcome in the pleasure/pain machine gets fixed to either maximum pleasure or maximum pain, but there are steps you can take to ensure the favorable outcome - and you can teach those steps to your loved one, should you choose to wake them, although there is always the possibility that they will reject your advice.

Of course there are still disanalogies - one of them being the artificiality of the whole scenario making it somewhat ludicrous, whereas having children is one of the most natural things in the world - but it captures several aspects of the situation that I think are important here, namely the impossibility of the person either giving or withholding consent, your decision being the precondition for them experiencing anything at all, your relationship to them, and your shared condition with them.

The question is really not “at what point is the potential for a positive outcome so great that someone suffering is no longer an impediment to our decision?” We are almost certain that there will be some positive outcome and some suffering. We don’t know what the ultimate ratio will be, but we have reason for hope - both for them and for ourselves, since we are in the same boat. But without making that decision, there is no possibility of relationship, something which has value in and of itself, again both for them and for ourselves.

What if everyone accepted the antinatalist position? (Also assuming, for the sake of argument here, that atheism is true, since I already don’t think antinatalism makes sense if Christianity is true.) Everyone currently alive would die, and that would be the end. Sure, the end of suffering. But also the end of anyone experiencing any happiness. Is that really the rational decision? Is life really so bleak that we should just… give up?

Honestly, having difficulty imagining such a scenario. That’s a real brain-twister and heart-wrencher thrown into one. On one hand, in this completely and entirely hypothetical scenario, God knows that I wanted to have children before revealing this, I believe his general will for married couples is to have children, and he’s told me that if I have more than one child, all but one of them will go to heaven. I trust that God is good and that he has a reason for telling me this, knowing what I will choose and intending to bring good out of it. I could justify choosing to go with the natural desires God has given me, my belief about his will for husbands and wives to become parents, and my love for the children who would be saved. But I would weep for the one who would be lost. Oh, I would weep.

On the other hand, with that knowledge, I would probably royally screw up the whole parenting thing - worse than usual, I mean - since, hey, whatever I do, this one will be lost and these ones will be saved. Probably why God doesn’t give us that kind of knowledge. Then again… if God chose to reveal that to me, perhaps he would also give me the grace to make the right decisions with that information. :man_shrugging:

You have a knack for coming up with crazy scenarios, I’ll give you that. Of course, in the real world, we aren’t in this situation - rather God is, and the question of whether it is right for him to create anyone is basically what theodicy is all about, so that’s a whole 'nother topic.

Thanks for the interesting discussion, so far. :slight_smile:

Edit: realized I forgot to answer this question:

The answer is that I’m agnostic on that, but definitely leaning towards the annihilationist position (also called “conditionalism”, for “conditional immortality”). I think the biblical case for it is actually fairly strong. There’s a website called Rethinking Hell that lays out the position well, if you’re curious.


Yes, this is true, and I find myself in agreement. I suppose, as an example, I was thinking of an instance where someone feels disgust or outrage when seeing an unclothed ankle brazenly flaunting itself outside the protective covering of a skirt; they justify the righteousness of that feeling by constructing a narrative in which the pervasive lack of moral fiber in society and the fall of modern civilization can be directly traced to the public display of women’s bare ankles. Then they use this framework to justify their continued ankle prejudice. Something like that.

Yeah, I think you’re right, there’s a humility that’s so important. I’ve been on therapist TikTok and there are just so many I’ve been seeing where I’m like, “Oh, is that how parents are supposed to model conflict resolution?” It sure would have given me a leg up in my younger years! :joy:

Thanks for the condolences. It’s a painful process to undergo, but I think the unfortunate truth is we’ll both be happier for it. :confused:

I don’t mean to say—or… maybe I did and have since taken a deep breath and a step back—but I don’t mean to say these parents don’t care about their children. I know they care very deeply for their children and would give their lives for them at a moment’s notice. I don’t doubt that for a second. It did seem to me these parents were/are compartmentalizing these concerns and ignoring ones that seem to be in tension with their beliefs. I have a tough time wrapping my head around it emotionally.


Well, yes, but I guess I was not so much thinking of it as a kind of viscera-amplifier as a process that tends to spin off into its own wild tangents, for any reason or for no reason. Let me see if I can explain.

Being interested in bog bodies and their associated artifacts as I am, I picked up a book once that was titled something like “The Life and Death of a Druid Prince.” What I found was that it wasn’t a particularly rigorous approach. The data were scant – we had a burial, certain information could be discerned from what remained of the body and from elements of the burial which suggested some ritual practices, and so on. While something can be built of these observations, a responsible archaeological treatment tends to limit itself to what can be firmly known, and, if accompanied by speculation, tends to label the speculation as such.

But the approach of this book was quite different: it was intended to tickle the reader with how much we could learn from a grave. And the book had a kind of pattern. Each chapter would begin with inferences and speculations drawn from the data, and flesh those out. The next chapter would take all of that, including the highly speculative bits, and treat it as established fact, then layer a new round of inferences and speculations upon it. The next chapter would repeat the process: “round 2” speculations were now established fact, and could form the frame around which “round 3” speculations were based, and so on for about ten rounds. The result was that the “conclusions” were absurdly tenuous – guesses stacked high on other guesses. It was like watching someone try to build a skyscraper out of blocks of Jell-O.

Or, have you ever had to do an emergency repair? If my throttle linkage breaks and I’ve got a paperclip handy, the paperclip might do decent substitute duty and allow me to drive home. But what if the paperclip isn’t long enough? Will two of them chained together do the job? How about two of them attached to each other with a rubber band? As we add links, the connection between what happens at the one end of the chain and at the other gets more and more problematic. We can no longer assume, after a while, that if I press the throttle the car will speed up or that as I release it the car will slow down.

What makes empirical methods work so well is the way that empirical questions are tethered to reality. If I work out how cells metabolize sugars from first principles rather than by investigation, I can generate a slew of plausible sounding answers, all false. But if I have a testable hypothesis about metabolism, and the right tools for investigation, I can examine that hypothesis and get feedback from the real world. I may layer some speculation on top of that, but once I have done so, if I do it well, my speculation is itself a testable hypothesis, and can likewise be evaluated. All throughout, the process is characterized by inquiry/feedback cycles, where a question is asked and the answer comes not from the mere working-out-in-the-head of the problem but from the rubber-meets road data.

Purely philosophical propositions, such as one has in theology, aren’t subject to this. The result is something rather like the Life and Death of a Druid Prince. Such-and-such a manuscript is considered and a conclusion drawn, and further conclusions follow from that, and so on. Butterfly effects are huge, because the consequences, for example, of reaching conclusions about predestination have spillover effects at every stage. And the outcomes are never testable. You can never ascertain that “unsaved” people are going to hell – there’s just no way to do it. You can never ascertain what the nature of any “hell” they might be going to is. You can never know what is going on, in any observable sense, at all. And so what you wind up with is spinning, like the author of that book, speculations on extremely limited data, and then spinning further speculations grounded on those speculations, ad infinitum.

Now, I’m an atheist, but I think it’s fairly evident that the above is true whether there’s a god or not, and whether it is thought that some set of core beliefs of your religion are true or not. You are in a data-impoverished problem where a hypothesis CANNOT obtain confirmation or disconfirmation. And that means that when you start getting into third-and-fourth-order moral consequences of doing such and such in the face of a reality which is constructed just so and so, you are pretty much watching a boxing match between two shadows.

Now, propositions one can’t support can be true, of course. But we do, as a practical matter, distinguish between things we provisionally accept and things upon which we distinctly and objectively rely. My suggestion here is that it is a mistake to rely upon things which are such highly-derived results of a process of reasoning which can have no factual feedback.


This is beautifully written. It may be very useful in explaining to those with at-least-partially open minds why IDcreationism is not science, as well as why the “just a theory” trope is so deceptive.


This is THE fundamental point. Hypotheses based on religious writings and traditions can of course get feedback from those writings and traditions when testing them against those… but there are a great many of such writings and traditions, so which one are we to use?

In contrast, there is only one reality. Only one. We don’t have to argue about which one to choose.


I like your changes. As you say, it does cover the consent and experience issues very well. I think this brings up another material consideration here, because in this analogy, they are still exist before our choice to bestow consciousness upon them, which might affect how we think about them. Are they a person who should be broken out of the prison of the coma, or are they an entity summoned/coalesced out of nothingness? And I wonder if my own position might entail that under certain situations, the distinction might not matter. I’ll have to think on that.

I think I have a feel for what you might say about this, but do you think the life of a non-believer is worth beginning? As in, if someone knew none of their potential children would enter into eternal life (assuming conditionalism), is it still worth having them?

In my community, we were taught that the majority of people would be lost–narrow is the path and all that. Like you say, we didn’t know the ultimate ratio will be, but we were looking at, at the very least, >50% of the population, and the unspoken assumption was more along the lines of perhaps 90%. But if you’re leaning towards conditionalism, then there doesn’t seem to be a true downside to either fate in the afterlife–either it’s pure bliss or it’s nothing at all.

For me, I kind of look at things from the other end. I don’t feel I can bring someone into the world without their consent, and given that I would be responsible for bringing them into suffering or for bringing others suffering through my child. Furthermore I don’t think it’s bad to not have a child (I know you believe this as well with the celibacy thing). I’m not wed to the purist antinatalist ideal that the experience of any amount of suffering is too much. There may exist some, I think somewhat arbitrary, set of conditions under which, I would be okay with becoming a parent.

So to answer your question, I don’t think life is bleak for everyone, or even most people, and I think adopting the antinatalist position is morally neutral, even if the whole world accepted it. As far as rational, I think it is–we know that under either of our worldviews, humans will eventually stop procreating anyway. Should it matter much that it’s sooner rather than later? I don’t think so, not unless by deciding to not have children, we’ve snuffed out real timelines of real future people.

From someone whose father would never show this kind of vulnerability (#daddyissues), thanks for your openness. It’s like a breathe of fresh air for me.

It may come as no surprise to you that I think there are some real interesting similarities between the two! But thank you, I’ll take that as a compliment! If you have any tough scenarios for me (or if you feel I haven’t adequately addressed something) I’d love to reciprocate.


I reject the antecedent, for two reasons.

(1) Not even God could know that such a thing is true about my firstborn. The idea that God could know that the first child I have, if I choose to procreate, would infallibly be lost makes no sense because there can be no true counterfactuals about the free choices made by as-yet-hypothetical beings (remember: I haven’t yet chosen to procreate, the scenario you propose). It makes no sense to speak of what someone would do in a given situation (e.g. what they would do if they were presented with an opportunity to steal), unless they actually exist in the first place. Molinism says that God knows what they would do, before they even exist: more precisely, God’s knowledge of what they would choose in every possible situation is logically prior to His act of creating them. That’s one reason why I reject Molinism. It’s philosophically absurd.

Instead, I believe that God’s knowledge of our free choices is logically consequent on our making them. I adopt a Boethian view of free will, where God is a timeless spectator of our actions. (If you personally find the notion of timelessness incoherent, you might prefer the notion of a God who is temporal, once He decides to create the world.) Some Christians find the Boethian view offensive, arguing that it conflicts with a doctrine known as the aseity of God: the view that God doesn’t depend on His creatures for anything. However, I cannot find such a view in Scripture or in the official teachings of any Church Council. To be sure, God doesn’t depend on creatures for His existence, but He could certainly depend on them for information about their free choices - especially if He has freely chosen to make Himself dependent.

(2) Even if God could know what my (as-yet-hypothetical) firstborn son would do, logically prior to my decision to procreate, it would still be impossible for Him to communicate that information to me without taking away my freedom. Consider the scenario of a parent who, upon hearing this revelation from God, goes ahead and procreates, and as soon as their firstborn child is born, baptizes that child and then smothers the child to death, thereby cheating God of the possibility of punishing that child for their sin. See what I mean?

Now, to be sure, you might postulate a God who doesn’t let the parent do that. But then ask yourself: what kind of Deity would impart such mischievous information to a parent, prior to their decision to procreate? Certainly not a good one. But if this Deity is not good, then we can have no confidence that anyone will be punished for their sin, anyway. So I have to say that I find your scenario incoherent.

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Vincent, I’m not sure SlightlyOddGuy has a monopoly on incoherence. How is it possible God is not omniscient?

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Hi @AlanFox,

How is it possible God is not omniscient?

Fair question. My question to you would be: how do you define “omniscient”? Do you mean:

(a) (i) knowing everything that has already happened, but not as-yet-undetermined future states of affairs;
(a) (ii) knowing everything that is, was and will be (i.e. all actual states of affairs);

(b) knowing all actual and possible states of affairs; or

(c) knowing all actual, possible and counterfactual states of affairs?

My first answer would be: to be omniscient is to know everything that can be known by a Creator Who gives His intelligent creatures libertarian free will. And I think the definition that best fits this description is (a) (ii). I can’t see any good reason why a timeless Deity couldn’t see past, present and future events arrayed side by side, as it were. (Problems only arise if He tells people living in the present what they’ll do in the future.)

I don’t think it makes sense to say God knows all counterfactuals, because that assumes that all counterfactuals have a determinate truth-value, which I think is obviously false. Does God know exactly what you would have done if you had won the Mega Millions lottery last Friday? I don’t think so, because there is no determinate answer to that question.

Nor do I think God knows all possibilities, because I think the idea of there being an exhaustive set of all possibilities generates philosophical paradoxes (e.g. Cantor’s theorem).
Instead, I think it’s better to say that God is able to know any possible state of affairs He wishes to, where “possible” means “metaphysically possible.”

So that’s my take on omniscience. I may be wrong, of course, but it seems to me that people (especially theologians) tend to make inflated claims about God’s omniscience because they subscribe to perfect being theology - i.e. the notion that God must possess any perfection that can, without contradiction, be ascribed to Him. And because it seems possible to conceive of God having true beliefs about all actualities, possibilities and counterfactuals, many theologians leap to the conclusion that God (Whom they declare to be the most perfect Being that can be conceived) must know all of these states of affairs. [Interestingly, even theologians who don’t subscribe to the ontological argument - Aquinas, for instance - are still happy to describe God as a maximally perfect Being.]

Where these theologians go wrong is in equating “knowledge” with “true belief,” forgetting that knowledge requires some epistemic ground or justification - otherwise it is nothing more than a lucky guess. Most contemporary philosophers reject Molinism, precisely because it assumes that there are many groundless counterfactuals. I would also argue that there’s something wrong with the notion of God saying to Himself, “I can envisage all possible states of affairs,” because new possibilities can be generated in ever-ascending hierarchies: there is no concept of everything possible. God can know any possibility, but not every possibility.

I think I’ll stop there, as I’ve said enough.

Yes; e.g., in my little scenario, it seems practically morally obligatory to wake the person from the coma, whereas I would not say that there is a moral obligation to have children as soon and as often as possible.

I’m going to answer this by saying that I believe there is an intrinsic value to a human being (as someone made in God’s image and loved by him) over and above the sum of their positive and negative experiences, which makes the answer to this question certainly come out yes (at the very least, for anyone who comes to exist in the actual course of events under God’s providential control). With the caveat that a non-believer (or their prospective parent) might not feel like it is worth it for them when faced with the spectre of the final punishment.

Well, by taking it into our own hands and deciding to stop procreating earlier, we are snuffing out the timelines of people who would have existed even if not the actual futures of anyone who will exist (since, by making that decision, we of course ensure that they won’t exist). Aside from closing off the possibility of a lot of future good, that is to arrogate to ourselves a decision that properly belongs to a God with perfect goodness and foreknowledge, and act contrary to his general will. So… I think it does matter. :slight_smile:

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Thanks, Vincent,

Not my place to say but I agree with you on your choice of omniscience and the corollary of that is we live in a strictly deterministic universe. No paradox for me as I neither think our universe is strictly deterministic nor believe in any god. But then how do you resolve God’s omniscience with free will?


Can God be a little bit omniscient?