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Thursday, November 04, 2010

Reporting vote counts and God's perspective on time

Even in the 21st century, news stories about elections often say something like "Jones was ahead in the early returns, but, by the time all the precincts had reported, Smith won."

(I'm ignoring absentee ballots, and the like, in this discussion, just as news reports like the above often do.)

That's the way it looked to those who summarized the voting, or who reported the summaries. But, if, as usually happens, the polls closed at the same time in all the precincts, the winner had already been determined. If we assume an entity with a limited omniscience, enough to know how everyone voted, to that entity, the election result is known as soon as the polls are all closed. But election commissions and reporters don't have omniscience, of any kind (although reporters sometimes act as if they did!). To them, the winner is determined only after counting and adding up a significant fraction of the amount, which takes some time.

God is, we are told, outside of time. He is omniscient. He knows what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen. Just as that knowledge does not prevent a voter, me, say, from exercising free will in my choices on the ballot, perhaps even finally making up my mind when I'm in the actual process of voting, God's knowledge of what I will do does not mean that I don't have real choices in deciding what I will do.

That's my view of God's foreknowledge, which is related to, but not the same as predestination. (Not everyone shares my view.) I chose to write this post on November 3rd. I chose to have it posted on the 4th. But God knew, on the 2nd, even the 2nd of October, or the 2nd of November, 1876, that I would do this.

Thanks for reading.


Keetha Denise Broyles said...

I agree with your view of foreknowledge, and I would FURTHER hazard to suggest that the "entity" of which you speak, knew who the winner would be even before the vote was cast - - - knowing the hearts and minds of his creation the way He does.

Keetha Denise Broyles said...

This is perhaps too simplistic, but it helps me see the difference between predestination and foreknowledge to picture a plane in the sky, seeing two vehicles approaching an intersection in the middle of corn fields just before harvest, from equal distances, moving at equally fast speeds, and neither one slowing. The persons on the plane can see what will happen ahead of time, though they did not cause it.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Keetha. That's a good illustration.

I guess God foreknew that you would use it in a comment on my blog.