Here is a Spiritual Conundrum submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by a reader named Josh:
It says in the Bible that God knows our every word before it even leaves our tongue. If God already knows what we’re going to do, then how could we have free will?
Thanks for the great—and classic—question, Josh. I’ll get right to the point, and then we’ll explore the question in a little more depth.
The most basic answer to this question is that knowing something is not the same as causing something.
If I hold a book up in the air and let go of it, I know that it will fall to the floor. But I do not cause it to fall to the floor. Gravity does that.
In the very same way, God knowing what we will do does not mean God causes us to do it.
Further, the very idea that God “already” knows what we “will” do in the future is human, time-bound thinking, and a misunderstanding of how God knows everything. God does not look into the future and see what’s going to happen. Rather, God sees everything from an eternal state of being outside of time and space. God simply sees and therefore knows everything that to us is past, present, and future.
In other words, just as you and I can survey an entire scene from the top of a hill or mountain, and see everything in it in one view, so God can survey the entirety of creation, not only taking in everything that exists everywhere in all of space all at once, but also taking in everything that exists in all of time all at once.
But just as our seeing a vast panorama from a mountaintop doesn’t cause that scene to be the way it is, so God’s seeing everything that exists in all of time and space does not cause all of those things to be the way they are.