Testing some heresies, Part 2: I choose not to believe in Free Will®
It is almost impossible for a human to see that they don't have complete freedom to make choices. Most people laugh at the thought. Who knows, maybe God was laughing when He designed our minds this way. (Monkeys are proof that God has a sense of humor. So are televangelists.)
I think this difficulty is the result of our perspective, and our idea of control. Most people's revulsion to the idea of predestination is probably based on the idea of God forcing us to do things. As though He is sitting in heaven with a joystick, moving us around like we are Mario. Well, I would ask a simple question then. Since you believe that YOU have that joystick, what's causing you to make the decisions you do? I hope you don't say "nothing". Let's take a really simple example to start with… Please look at the following dot.
Now… You may have looked at the dot, or you may not have. (Or you may have stopped reading altogether, but for the sake of simplicity let's just say there are only two options.) You obviously had a choice whether or not to look at the dot. But was your choice uncaused? The realm of nature has no such example. The only entity we know of that was uncaused is God. So you think your choice is on that same level? Of COURSE something caused you to make the decision that you did. It may have been curiosity. Or a compulsion to complete something you started. Maybe you are a contrarian by nature and you don't like taking orders. Maybe you have no sense of humor and found the exercise pointless. There are many, many other reasons for looking at, or not looking at the dot. Just because you can't put your finger on it doesn't make it go away.
Let's pick one of those examples a follow it for a bit. Let's say a hypothetical reader (Those are the only ones I have!) refused to look at the dot because they don't like being told what to do. (If you believe that God is omnipotent and omniscient you will be able to follow along here.)
Question: Why is she a contrarian?
Answer #1: She is genetically predisposed due to her genetic makeup.
SubQuestion #1: Who designed DNA to work the way it does?
Answer #2: Her father was cold and too strict with her so she learned to hate authority.
SubQuestion #2: Who created her father?
Answer #3: She hangs out with friends who are of like mind and she would fall out of favor with them if she was seen following orders.
SubQuestion #3: Who created her friends?
Now you can continue to parse this explanation almost infinitely, but I try to keep my essays just a few pages short of eternal. So I'll pick one branch and follow it a little ways. I don't think many Christians would argue with me about the DNA part. They all acknowledge that God created some people smart, some stupid, some gifted in speaking, other's building, etc. But once environment – namely other people – enter into the equation they feel like they can say it's out of God's hands. So let's pick up on Answer #2. Her dad raised her in such a way that she grew defiant and angry. Well, you say, surely God didn't make her father be such a crappy father. Surly, if God had His way He would have given her a loving, perfect father who would not have hardened her heart. Clearly, her father decided to defy God when he raised her poorly and that is the whole problem. Well, the problem with that argument is that it just turns into trail that leads back to Adam. Once you ask why her dad is the way he is, part of that answer comes from the way HIS father was, and his father, and his father, etc.
OK. So why did Adam sin? Can a perfect being sin? After all, that is what we are taught. We've been told - even though there is no scripture that says so – that mankind was created as a perfect being. But how could a perfect being desire what is not right? All actions come from the heart, and the so-called fall of man is proof that man's heart was created sinful. But the traditional answer to that is that Free Will® gave Adam and Eve the ability to choose sin. But wait. If you make something perfect… and it fails… how is it perfect? People seem to think that Free Will® somehow gets God off the hook for evil and sin, but all it does is push it back one step. If a perfect God Who knows the future made a perfect being… it wouldn't screw up! But I'm getting ahead of myself here. I'm talking the problem of evil and suffering in the next installment. Let's go back to the contrary reader and her upbringing.
The advocate of Free Will® will say that since her father choose to raise her that way, God doesn't intervene and she becomes contrary and refuses to look at my carefully placed dot. Well let's examine one of the free choices her dad made in rearing her. I'm going to leave out any of HIS parent's issues, because as I just showed, that leads back to Adam. This is not sidestepping the issue, it's simply putting a bookend on it so that it's possible to examine how one person affects another. Of course this is an oversimplification because no one is affected by only one other person, but the rules remain consistent no matter how many people you add to the mix.
Let's say her father decided that children without discipline are an embarrassment to their parents, so he decides to put more value on rule-following than emotional connection. Well what made him think that unruly children embarrass their parents? He must have observed this process at some time. And when he did his God-designed eyes sent a signal to his God-designed brain where it was processed and then interpreted by his God-designed spirit/heart/soul/will. (Whatever you want to call it.) So at which point of this opinion-forming experience did God lose track of what was going on? Where was His lack of omniscience and omnipotence? Did He not foresee that this guy would interpret what he saw in that way? Free Will® says, "Of course He foresaw it. But He didn't directly intervene it the process so that the guy could control his own destiny." The problem is that this argument completely misses the point. God DESIGNED that man's spirit exactly the way He wanted it. And in the process of design, He knew exactly how this guy would react in every situation he would ever encounter. He knew exactly how many times the guy would blink, how many hours he would sleep, how often he would relieve himself, how many hairs would be on his head at any given moment.
You see, if you acknowledge that God designed you, and acknowledge that He knows all that is, was, and is to come, you have NO ROOM for Free Will®. God designed you in such a way that you would react exactly as He planned for you to react. To make every choice and decision that he planned for you to make. To have every opinion and attitude that He planned for you to have. To say otherwise is to contradict that God designed you OR that He knows all.
You can have a god who knows all but just lets his creation run on its own without him, procreating on its own with no intervention from him. But that's not the God of the Bible.
You can have a god who designed you, but wasn't sure exactly what you would do after he let you loose since he gave you Free Will® and all. But that's not the God of the Bible.
But you can NOT have a God Who knows all AND designs you with that knowledge in mind, and believe that you can make a choice that He didn't design, foreordain, and plan for you to do. Don't believe me? Go ahead and prove that you have Free Will® by choosing to look at the dot. Then go back in time and chose not to look at the dot. Go ahead… I'll warm up the Flux Capacitor for you. Oh wait, that's right. There is no way to prove that you have Free Will®. It's just nice to think you do. You make decisions based on your desires. But to pretend your desires originated from nothing is absurd.
So why would a God who designed us to make every choice we ever do exactly the way we do, admonish us to do anything? Why are we told to choose who we will serve? Why are we told to believe, hope, obey - to work out our salvation with fear and trembling - if our choices are inevitable. It's quite simple. God uses the world around you to influence you, to affect your desires. Or more accurately, He designed you to be influenced by the world around you in precisely the way you are. Or do you think He didn't know you would read those admonitions in the Bible? Did he not design you to take comfort or be challenged to action by His words? He admonishes us to action because His words are one tool in a toolbox of trillions of tools that He uses to accomplish His will. The whole universe is His tool box. He's a fantastic potter, you see.(Jer.18:6) And his pots never jump off the wheel to do their own thing. (Rom. 9:19) God has a plan for you and you can't stop it, no matter how much Free Will® you use.
13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
Hmm… I wonder how our will can be Free® when it is God working in us not only to act the way He designed, but to will the way He designed? Free Will® retorts, "Maybe that just means that God works in us to will and act only when it's His good purpose. But we can choose not to do His good purpose." Wait a minute Free Will®, are you saying that man can and does thwart God's will as he pleases?
11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,
5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
Free Will®: "That must just be talking about people who are saved!" Well Free Will®, I think God disagrees with you. He certainly used Pharaoh to the purpose of His will.
20 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let the Israelites go.
It sounds to me like God doesn’t care whether you follow Him or not when it comes to His will being accomplished.
10 I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say: My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.
11 From the east I summon a bird of prey;
from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose.
What I have said, that will I bring about;
what I have planned, that will I do.
Free Will®, "… Except when someone exercises their Free Will®, right?"
24 A man's steps are directed by the LORD.
How then can anyone understand his own way?
23 I know, O LORD, that a man's life is not his own;
it is not for man to direct his steps.
35 …He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: "What have you done?
It sounds to me like people can't direct their own steps or hold back the hand of God as He does what He pleases no matter how much Free Will® they use.
From what I can tell there are five reasons that Christians cling so tightly to this Free Will® thing even though it is never mentioned in the Bible, and is often contradicted by it. I'll be tackling number 4 and 5 in the next couple installments.
- It's seems obvious that we wave the ability to choose.
- We are under the impression that we can't love God without the power to choose to love Him.
- We need Free Will® to be responsible for our actions and thoughts.
- Free Will® is used as a scapegoat for God so we can say He is not responsible for anything bad that happens.
- We need Free Will® to explain why people can reject Christ and spend eternity in torment in Hell™.
So I'll examine each of these one at a time. I've already dealt with the idea that it seems obvious that we have the ability to choose. And I agree. But we never will choose something that God didn't ordain. God designed you to will every thought and deed that you do. It may seem a bit mind boggling, but not so much if you give God the credit He is due. Just because we can't see God doesn’t make Him less real. Just because we die, doesn't mean we won't be resurrected. Just because we don't see Jesus doesn’t mean He won't be our judge. Just because we feel like we are making uncaused decisions doesn’t mean we are. I think this sums it up beautifully:
11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
The next issue involves love. What a tricky word. It has so many meanings to so many people and is misused and abused constantly. We can fall in love. We can choose to do loving acts of charity. We can love art. We can love evil. So when we say we need Free Will® in order to love God, it behooves us to look into exactly what kind of love that is, and what the object of that love is.
How often do we choose to love someone that we didn't previously love? Sure there are times in every kind of love relationship where you have to grit your teeth and make yourself act in a loving way. But is that love? Is that the kind of love you think God wants from you? Or do you prefer the idea of falling in love with God? I know I do. When we fall in love, or find ourselves loving art, or anything else, it's not an act of the will! It's a natural process of finding elements of your love that fit with your natural inclinations. I fell in love with a woman who complements my weaknesses and shows godly character. She has a good sense of humor and plays piano beautifully. I didn't have to use my Free Will® to force myself to love her. And I would not have fallen in love with a godless, humorless woman. I could have tried as much as I wanted, but it wouldn't have happened.
I love juxtaposition humor, fantasy, the female form, and explosions not because I choose to. I love those things because that's how God designed my mind. Sure there are things like acquired tastes that you have to force yourself to like. I could probably acquire a taste for spicy food, gambling or alcohol if I wanted to. But not if there is no 'fit' in my mind for them. That is, if I can't find a single thing that I enjoy in them I won't be able to develop a love for them. For example, I don't think I could ever acquire a taste for punching babies. I could try it over and over, but it just wouldn't 'fit'.
So do you think God wants us to acquire a love for Him by forcing ourselves to love Him? That seems like it would take a lot of Free Will® to accomplish. It also sounds nothing like what the Bible says.
What if, instead of requiring us to use Free Will® to love Him, God simply IS an object of love for us due to His intrinsic nature? What if He were so wonderful that simply to know Him IS to love Him? What if Free Will® were not required at all? Why is Free Will® required at all? I can tell you from experience. God IS that beautiful and lovely. I'm 31 and I've barely scratched the surface of what it is to know God and I can whole-heartedly say that it took 0.000 effort on my part to love Him. 0.000 Free Will® to love Him.
I wonder if there is a Biblical example of God overriding a person's Free Will®? Hmmm.
1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples…
3 As he neared
5 "Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked.
"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. 6 "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of
Hmm.. According to modern theology Jesus should have said, "Saul, will you choose to do what I'm telling you? Because, you know, you can always exercise your Free Will® and do as you please. I certainly don't want to come on too strong or give you the impression that you don't have a choice in the matter. Because if you don't choose me in a totally uncaused way than I know it wouldn't really be real love.
If Free Will® is necessary to love God, it also presents a dilemma of its own. How can our love for God be pure and voluntary if we believe that choosing to deny Him leads to eternal torture? Free will doesn’t solve the problem of our inability to love God, it makes it worse.
So what about number 3: needing Free Will® to be responsible for our thoughts and deeds? After all, if we don't actually control our own will and desires, how can God judge us for them? How can He blame the sinner and bless the saint? How can we keep looking down on wicked and slovenly people if they aren't responsible for them selves? How can we still be proud of our choice to accept Jesus if He's the one who chose us? Most Christians would probably stop me on the last one or two. They would say they shouldn't look down on anyone and they acknowledge that they are saved by grace. Well if you agree with that, follow your logic and apply it to the first two statements. How can God judge us? Why would He bother? Well, we know that God wants sons and daughters, of whom, Jesus is the first. We know that God chastises those He loves. There must therefore be a reason for judgment and punishment. And it must have to do with our souls after the resurrection of the dead.
Salvation by grace is a two way street. You can't say people who are saved are completely saved by grace, but then say those who aren't have chosen their own fate. If you say you are saved by grace that means you did nothing on your own. If you had it wouldn't be grace. It would be mostly grace. I'd love to see a verse that says we are saved mostly by grace. Or as I've heard it preached, "God reaches most of the way towards us, and we just have to make the tiniest movement towards Him." It doesn’t matter how tiny that movement is or how small the decision, it is something that we have done to get salvation. I've never seen that process even hinted at in the Bible.
10 As it is written:
"There is no one righteous, not even one;
11there is no one who understands,
no one who seeks God.
1 Corinthians 15
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
You can't earn your salvation with any work.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
You can't earn your salvation by summoning up faith with your supposed Free Will®. God has to give it to you. And if God is 100% responsible for your salvation, He must likewise be responsible for the lack of salvation for others. You can't have it both ways. You can't say you are saved by grace through faith that maybe you had a little bit to do with. That's not Biblical. You can't say you are completely saved by God with no contribution on your part, (As it clearly states in the Bible.) but then say the unsaved are responsible for themselves. All humans share the same responsibility for their salvation: zero. God takes all responsibility for Himself. He can handle it. He's God. God never says "Whoopsey!"
18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
19 One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" 20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' " 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?
22 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—
Here is one last way of looking at this enigma of our supposed Free Will®. God makes it clear that He works with us on our level. He asks us questions that He knows the answer to, such as when He asked Adam where he was, or Cain where his brother was. There are a lot of things in the Bible that seem contradictory until you realize that some are written from our perspective, as reality seems to humans, and the other is God's transcendent truth. Here are some examples that I copied from L. Ray Smith's rebuttal to a sermon by Dr. James Kennedy.
" ... seek, and ye shall find ... " (Mat. 7:7)
"Not one is seeking out God" (Rom. 3:11)
"God changed His mind" (Ex. 32:14)
"God is not a man Who changes His mind" (I Sam. 15:29)
" ... choose you this day whom ye will serve." (Josh. 24:15)
"Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you ... " (Jn. 15:16)
" ... whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God ... " (I Jn. 3:10)
"All is of God" (II Cor. 5:18)
"Zechariah was just before God" (Lk. 1:5) (Comparing him to the corrupt priests)
"Not one is just" (Rom. 3:10) (Comparing man with God)
In the same way, it is true that Cookie Monster likes to sing about cookies, but it is more true that Frank Oz is really the one singing and making him move his mouth. In the same way it is true that we seek God and work out our salvation, but it is more true that God causes us to seek Him and He works through us all the things we do in our life. We perceive that Cookie Monster sings and that we make uncaused decisions, but our perceptions are carnal.
6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
The number three reason that Christians want to believe in Free Will® is that we just can't stand the thought of God creating evil. Creating beings that do evil. Creating situations that involve evil. Willing evil upon us. Well, they have to cover their eyes when they read much of the Bible.
Next, I'm going into the dark depths of the Bible to reveal the evil it contains.