The Gamebook Metaphor – God’s Omniscience and Human Free Will

You know those gamebooks that were popular back in the 80s and 90s? (Check out this comprehensive list – you may recognize some of them!)

In brief, a gamebook is like a regular storybook novel where the reader gets to choose the path of the plot to a certain extent. You start reading at page 1, but at the end of each the page you are given a choice of which path to follow through the story, and turn to the corresponding page.

For example, page 1 lines out the general details of your surroundings – say, an abandoned castle that you are tasked with exploring. At the end of the page, you are given a choice – try and enter via the imposing front door (in which case you turn to page 56 and read from there), or try and climb in through one of the high windows (page 218).

Each choice will then branch out into more choices, and more choices, with the ultimate goal of reaching a favourable ending of the story.

(You can try out some of them online to get a feel for what it’s like – Fighting Fantasy, Lone Wolf.)

Thus, depending on your choices over the entire length of your read/play through of the gamebook, a huge number of possible combinations of paths can be taken to reach the end of the book (or die trying – curse you, Creature of Havoc!!!).

And once you’ve read through the gamebook, you can read it again to find another way to reach the end – what if you had chosen to open the dusty sarcophagus that you were too chicken to investigate the first time you played? An entire new plot can be followed, creating ‘replay value’!

By making subtly different choices, countless different routes can be found through the gamebook. Only by playing through the book over and over again can one hope to find all the possible pathways – unless you cheat by peeking ahead, of course! And even then, it’s a long shot that you would remember every single combination by heart.

But what about the gamebook author? Even though there are numerous possible combinations, the diligent and dedicated author already knows what each choice will lead to – since he wrote the entire book. A keen enough author might even be able to remember and cite each and every single possible path through the book, page by page and plot point by plot point.

But does this mean that the reader has no choice in the matter of how the story goes? Of course not! Just because the author wrote the entire gamebook from start to finish and knows every single possible way the book can be read, doesn’t mean that the gamebook has become an ordinary novel. The pages are there, yes, but which pages the reader turns to is not set!

Now keep that conclusion in mind, and put it in the context of God and His creation.

God is omnipotent and omniscient – He can do anything and He knows everything. He created everything in the entire universe, and has full power and control to do anything within the universe. He also knows everything that happens and will ever happen in the universe, even before it happens.

And thus the polemicist argues: If God knows everything that ever will be, then He is to blame for everything bad and wrong in the world! After all God knew that Satan would rebel against Him, that Adam and Eve would eat the forbidden fruit, that humanity would sin – and yet God let it all happen!

Ah, but to this I respond – What about the free will that God gave us?

God gave us the free will to choose what we want to do – be it love our neighbor, steal from our enemy, follow His ways or travel down the road to eternal condemnation. This free will was ‘enshrined in the human constitution’ – if I may put it that way – from the very moment God created us in His image, with the choice to do anything we pleased – even reject Him and rebel (as Adam and Eve chose with the forbidden fruit).

But if God knows everything that will ever be done, doesn’t that still nullify the practical application of our free will? Does it matter at all that we can seemingly make concious decisions when the outcome has already been ‘pre-set’?

Return now, if you will, to the gamebook. The author has already written the pages and worked out the various plot possibilities – but does this mean that we cannot choose which pages to turn to? Of course not – that is a clear fallacy! Even if the author has memorized every single dot and comma of his gamebook, that doesn’t remove our ability – our free will – to decide between the door or the window of the castle.

Similarly, God has already ‘written’ all of eternity and worked out the various possibilities that existence could take – but does this mean that we cannot choose what actions we will take, what course human history will follow? Of course not! Just because God has ‘memorized’ every page of His ‘gamebook’ (The Humans of Earth-top Creation), that doesn’t remove our free will to decide between obedience or disobedience.

The gamebook is thus a metaphor for all creation, all history and all potentiality – an infinite number of possible combinations. The readers are us – all humans throughout all of history – deciding the path we (and history) take.

And the gamebook author is, of course, God – already knowing every single one of the infinite combinations, but allowing us to choose how the story goes.

In this way, God can be omniscient (knowing everything that is to come) and at the same time not constrain the free will of humans and the path that history takes.

And just as all gamebooks have certain plot points that are inevitable – the magical artifact you have been sent to recover, the showdown with the big boss, and including the ending(s) – history has certain junctions that will inevitably be reached, such as the birth of Jesus Christ and His future triumphant return to judge the world. In this way, God can give prophecies through his prophets and have them come true – without forcibly shoving history towards that direction.

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4 Responses to “The Gamebook Metaphor – God’s Omniscience and Human Free Will”

  1. sara Says:

    Cool illustration! =)

  2. Scott Thong Says:

    Thx ;>

  3. Aa Says:

    I just puked a little in my mouth.

  4. Simon Thong Says:

    Aa, kindly swallow your own puke; pigs/swine shouldn’t come here..nor should dogs/curs.

    Ever heard the words of Jesus? “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.” Wasn’t meant for you. Troll somewhere else.

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