Pirke Avot 3:19

Everything is foreseen, yet the freedom of choice is given.

The world is judged with goodness, and everything depends on the abundance of good deeds.

There are perhaps 2,000 years’ (or more!) worth of discussion about the first issue raised here – how do we reconcile God’s knowledge of everything, including the future, with human free will?

In Christian thought it all comes down to our conception of God.  The classical conception is rooted in Greek philosophical terms and posits that God must be “all-knowing”, “all-powerful”, “un-changing”, perfect and complete etc.

Process philosophy and theology, first emerging in the 20th century, understands God differently.  In process thought God is ever-changing, includes (but is not limited to) the physical universe, and begins each day with us wondering what we will do together today.  In process thought we are co-creators of reality with God.

The rabbis conception of God is less bound to the concepts that emerged with the Greeks.  The biblical God could change God’s mind, could be negotiated with, and was, above all – personal.  Over time (certainly by the time of the rabbis) a less anthropomorphic (human projection) understanding of God came to dominate.

The rabbis reconcile God’s foreknowledge of the future with human free will by insisting that God does not intervene or impose God’s will on us.  They also suggest that despite the pull of our habits and social situation we can indeed choose to act in the way we ought to act – we are not determined by outside forces.  We may not often choose to do the right thing – but we could, if we tried hard enough.

In any of our traditions – we human beings are responsible for our choices and decisions and actions.  How we act matters!

The second part of this saying reminds us that when God created the universe God saw that it was GOOD.  God looks at our world with eyes of mercy and love and does not see us as filled with evil to the core.

Do we get a free ride then?  No indeed.  God does see what we do wrong and divine justice is meted out – along with forgiveness and mercy.  Hopefully we do an abundance of good things / good acts / good choices in the course of our lifetimes.  God looks at these as evidence of our good will and will pour out his mercy as needed.