Are you free? Do you have free will, or is everything decided for you? As my most frequent readers will know, I find the subject fascinating.
As I’ve said before, my own view has swung at times wildly between the two poles: one which sees all of life, including its minutest detail, being mapped out and planned for us before we’re even born, and at the other extreme, the conviction that there is nothing but free will.
Stoicism, Daoism, fate, karma, pre-destination, determinism, Calvinism, chance, Murphy’s Law, Sod’s Law, luck and many many other isms, terms and phrases have been applied to related ideas and philosophies and forces which have as their central theme the conviction that we do not have free will-we only think we do. While being protestant in my churchy beliefs, I still have to hold Luther at arms length, metaphorically speaking, since he insisted that free will is unscriptural. Calvin, of course, ran far and fast with that particular theological ball, and there are many Christians in our world who think we don’t even decide which box of cereal to pull off the shelf when we go shopping-it’s already decided for us by God.
I think I’ve settled on a position which is somewhere in between the two extremes. Not that I want to compromise. Again, regular readers of mine would never accuse me of compromising (I hope). However, looking at reality, as I regularly do while others are watching CNN or watching people in Hollywood slap each other, I’m sometimes consternated and shocked to realise just how little freedom we, in the “free” (ha ha) world actually have. And most of us don’t notice.
Think about it. The first most obvious control on life, (though unbelievers don’t know it) is the will of God. Yes, I am a believer in free will, but I’m very much aware that my God has ultimate power over me at all times. The freedom I have is only what He allows me to have-for now.
While the world outside our door is big, once we’re out there we have to stay within very narrow geogaphical bounds-on the sidewalk, on the road, at the stores, at work. Our behaviour is regulated by traffic lights and rules of the road. The road belongs to someone else (even though we pay for it). Almost all the land and buildings we encounter are owned by someone else, and stepping in or on them can be an offence which can land us in trouble.
At work (yes, some of us have to work) we have to obey our bosses and do pretty much as they tell us to do. We have to arrive at work at specific times, and give the bulk of our time and strength to our boss.
In relationships we’re constrained to treat people a certain way. Propriety keeps a check on all of us, otherwise we’re at the least rubbing people up the wrong way. We can’t say what we want to say. We can’t, in this world of propaganda and severe wokeness, hardly think what we want to think. We constantly have to moderate our moods, our tempers, our feelings, our desires, our opinons, our proclivities and even our preferences.
We have endless obligations to our government, to our families, and to other institutions we’re a part of. As Woody Allen said, “Only two things are certain: death and taxes”.
We’re limited by our own weaknesses, our upbringing, our financial situation, our self-image, our imagination, our health, and our urge to fit in and to impress other people.
Need I go on? No, it’s boring, and painful, right?
So what I’m getting at is what poor old Woody intentionally stopped short of. There is one issue in life that we have freedom in, and that’s our response to our Creator. While the Calvinists have as core belief the idea that God decides who will respond, I’m convinced that the opposite it true. I say “poo!”-very loudly-to that theology. I could list numerous scriptures here, but I’ll save that for another time.
The fact that we’re created beings is, to me, as obvious as the nose on my face, which, I have to admit, is pretty big: you can’t miss it. And you can’t miss the fact that, as the Psalmist said, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”:
“…you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body…” (Psalm 139:13-16).
If you want to believe the naysayers on that, good luck: that’s your choice. The alternative, and the wise, most obvious choice to me, is clear. Our God is a truly awesome, amazing, incredible, beautiful God, and I have the choice, the blessing, the privelege and the duty to praise Him, and His one and only Son, Jesus Christ.