Once December 21, 2012, passed unnoticed, we went back to worrying about other things than the end of the world. Can you think of an accurate prediction someone made about a future event? The truth is that they happen all the time, even with an exact date involved. Seeing how and why such predictions work helps to answer the paradox of free will versus predicting the future.
Here’s an example of a prediction you can likely count on that involves an exact date. Where I went through K-12 school in California, they haven’t varied the graduation process in 50 years. The graduation ceremony always takes place on the third Wednesday of June in each new class year. If that doesn’t change for the next 50 years, then it is easy to predict the exact graduation date of the class of new students who will enter kindergarten this coming September. It doesn’t matter that the event will not take place for 13 years. The date is pretty much certain.
But how assured is little Joey’s graduation date in that same kindergarten class? Is he guaranteed to walk that platform with his peers? So many things could change over the next 13 years that it seems unlikely. His family could move to another district. Joey could be held back or skip a grade. He might even drop out of school or perhaps his parents prefer to home school him. The free will choices of all the decision makers in Joey’s life make predicting the date and location of his high school graduation problematic at best.
This example demonstrates that predictions and free will do not have to be at odds, though they certainly can be. It’s pure math that allows us to predict where the Sun, Moon and Earth will be 13 years from now. The majority of humans on the planet right now will still be here in 13 years. But can we predict the exact addresses where everyone will live in the future? Probably no more than the Mayans could predict the end of earthly time 5,000 years ago.
The question naturally arises, “Does that mean God doesn’t know what will happen to us individually?” Let’s look at another analogy that covers an even broader perspective to better understand why God already knows everything we might do despite our free will.
Think of a pinball game where the balls are put into play and have an infinite number of combinations to maneuver around the pins, bumpers and ramps that are used to score points and measure progress. While we would find it impossible to predict every single move a particular ball might make as it passes through the playing area, we do know where it will finally end up…in the hopper at the end of the game. Why? Because the game was originally designed to ensure that every ball would wind up there eventually.
So here’s a prediction for everyone. We will all eventually “graduate” from the earth. This prediction is a certainty even if the path we take and the “when” is different for each person. God knows every selfish choice we could possibly make and has already prepared a way of escape. We don’t just live and move and have our very being in Him for a period of time; we are His forever. Knowing that we were created in His perfect image, how can we permanently turn into something else? The “unknown” that we really need to answer is, “For how long can I resist the unconditional love of our Father?”