Tag: FREE WILL

FREE WILL: REAL OR ILLUSORY?

Once I started questioning if reality is exactly what we perceive it to be, I began to discover some of the weird, wacky and wild philosophies at large in the human mind throughout history and in today’s world, including that of many professing Christians…

Some Buddhists believe that we aren’t really here: reality is just an illusion which we create in our own minds, and all we need to do is create the right kind of reality. Of course, the logical question here is “how can something which doesn’t exist think?” I’m not sure how they would answer that one, because I’m only just beginning to delve into the multitude of strange ideas. Not that I’m shopping: it’s a matter of interest only. Among these ideas are such related issues as determinism-secular and “religious”; destiny; fate; predestination; providence; Murphy’s Law*; Karma; luck and fortune, and preordination.

The “free will” which most of us like to think we have is subject to at least one of these forces, according to many millions of people in all parts of the world, and throughout history. From the Christian perspective, does God impose his will on everything we do and everything which happens, as many Christians believe? These people are convinced that if you pick up a box of Corn Flakes at the store, it’s because God decided and decreed it, or ordained it, long before you were born or before the world was made. Or does the Lord just step into some situations and guide some of our lifetime events?

From the secular perspective, is nature itself arranged in such a way that certain things, or even all things, are “fated” to happen? Is there a natural flow of things, as in such philosophies as Daoism and Stoicism, which we would do well to willingly yield to, rather than attempt to fight against?

How many Christians are aware that Martin Luther rejected the idea that we have free will, particularly when it comes to salvation? He wrote, among other things:

“This false idea of ‘free-will’ is a real threat to salvation, and a delusion fraught with the most perilous consequences.” (Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will, p.106-107).

Luther wasn’t the first to make this claim, and later, John Calvin came along and  impacted the Christian world forever with his strong views on predestination. As Augustine had argued, Luther and then Calvin believed that salvation and faith come solely at the discretion of God’s will, long before we are born. If you are chosen, you will receive faith and so be saved. It has nothing to do with you wanting to seek God or loving Jesus Christ.

If you are not chosen to receive faith, you will not be saved. And in Calvin’s “double predestination”, God not only chooses who will go to heaven (and that, a small minority of the population) but also chooses who will go to hell-long before they are born. It doesn’t matter how much you pray and try to live for the Lord and how much you love Jesus: your designated destiny may be the fires of hell. For all Calvin knew, most of his congregants, who were all but forced to attend church, may have been of the damned. I can’t see how he could have been sure of his own salvation. Apparently you have to test yourself to see if you are doing the works that God requires in increasing measure. But surely, that’s works, not faith.

In my own life, my interest in the subject of free will began when I started to observe how many things happen in life which seem to be beyond natural events and coincidence. This mostly applies to “bad” things. I also met the acquaintance of a Calvinist who attempted to pull me over to his persuasion. I hadn’t experienced this thinking before, and I wanted to get a grip on it.

He’s a good man, but arbitrary predestination of the soul? No thanks: my God isn’t that cruel. Yes, God is God and we are not, and He can do what He wishes. But a God whose love is so deep as to send his only son to die at the hands of men, is not then going to be so pernicious as to block the vast majority from seeking or finding  salvation. If salvation comes from God alone, and not from our works, which I firmly believe, then the idea that God gives some salvation and sends others to hell even before they’ve had a chance to live is not consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Reality, fate, fortune and free will are all unfathomably deep topics. And how can we come to any conclusions at all if what we see is not real? No, I think a God who can create such an orderly and beautiful universe can also make as much reality as we need to be clearly seen to us. What we see is only a part of reality, yes, but what we see is real. My observation at this point in life and in my walk with God is two-fold:

1/ We do live in a real, physical universe in which our actions and our decisions and our thoughts have real, physical consequences. Having said that, I’m sure that our reality is greatly affected by many unseen forces: God’s occasional or even regular intervention; Satan’s opposition to the people of God and mankind in general; spiritual attack and deception; God’s testing of us; the Curse; God’s faithful angelic beings; the fallen nature of man at work in our world, and yes, luck and real, natural coincidence. God does not drive us like automatons.

The fallen nature of man greatly affects our lives. We are constrained by numerous obligations such as work, taxes, alarm clocks and human laws. For most of us, the day is already shaped for us before it starts. But this isn’t any cosmic denial of free will, it’s the natural consequence of living in a world and a society in which we want to survive, to adhere to a certain amount of moral law and propriety,  and to stay out of prison.

2/ God cares for all people. This is the testimony of scripture. No, I don’t believe that everyone will go to heaven, but I do believe that we all have the opportunity. Some may have their hearts hardened, as pharaoh ‘s was, because he was already wrapped up in his own pride and power and opposition to our God. God can foresee the future, and the hearts of all men who will live, and acts accordingly. I’m sure he knew well before Judas was born that he would betray Jesus, but I do not believe that God selected him to do it without first knowing what kind of a man Judas was. There’s no other conclusion to draw than that we all get the chance, when we read scriptures such as this one:

“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32 KJV).

Thanks for reading. I welcome comments and suggestions, or information. I may write more on this subject at a later date. You could search for my series titled “Why Do We Suffer”, and my post on Murphy’s Law*

https://nickyfisher.com/2016/12/10/toast-murphys-law-and-the-bible-2nd-edition/

 

 

 

WHY DO WE SUFFER 2: FREE WILL

Why do we suffer, and more importantly, why does God allow us to suffer? Why doesn’t he just step in and stop bad things from happening?

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Welcome to part two of an updated and improved version of a series I first wrote six years ago. I approach this subject from a Biblical point of view: how does scripture answer such fundamental questions?

So much of our suffering results from the way we humans act, towards others and towards ourselves. We can easily understand that. If a thief robs our house we’re suffering because of his deed. But the next thought that enters our mind once we realize that the house was robbed by a scoundrel is “Why did God allow this to happen to me?

An unavoidable issue to consider in the quest for answers to the opening questions is that of free will, because with free-will comes the likelihood that someone will suffer at the hands of someone else’s bad actions.

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God clearly planned for mankind to have a mind of his own.  According to Genesis, when He first made the world and everything in it he made one tree-and only one-which Adam and Eve were commanded not to eat from. It was called “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. God warned them that if they ate from it they would die. It seems to have been a simple, easy choice in a simple world. Everything was created for their happiness: all they had to do was avoid that one tree.

What happened? They believed the lie fed to them that they would be better off not following their maker’s instructions, and they ate the forbidden fruit.

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Why, we may ask, did God do such a thing as to make a deadly tree in an otherwise perfect world? The answer is really quite straightforward, if you think it through. With God’s intention to give mankind true intelligence and the ability to choose there had to be an opportunity to disobey, to make a wrong choice and to enact the decision. The potential for a wrong choice had to be real, the deed had to be allowed to happen, and there had to be real consequences, or free will would not be free will. Do we want to be pre-programmed like a robot, and be made to behave in a certain way, and be made to go to heaven and worship God, or would we rather make our own choices?

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In any case, that particular decision has already been made for us: we have the conscience and the ability to choose, and we’re stuck with it!

True, some people don’t live long enough to think it all through, and some don’t have enough information to make a very informed choice about God or right and wrong: that’s a subject for another day.

Unfortunately Adam’s bad decision-making didn’t end at eating from the forbidden tree. From our ultimate progenitor until this day the history of man is marked with bad decisions and bad living. We harm each other, and we harm ourselves. As we look around our world and at our own lives we can see the affects of those decisions.

THE ULTIMATE PURPOSE OF FREE WILL

When God created the world he never wanted Adam and Eve and their descendants to disobey his warnings. However, even before he created the world he had “Plan B” ready (1 Peter 18-20). God didn’t “lose” his creation when Adam and his descendants disobeyed and essentially rebelled against his perfect nature. It wasn’t suddenly beyond his reach so that he gave up on it. Humanity didn’t become independent of him in the sense that the world is now ours to do what we want with it. Scripture speaks plainly of consequences for our actions, the ultimate one being the future judgment of all mankind before the world is restored to its pristine condition.

Humanity through the ages has included a mass of people who’ve willingly chosen to seek God. It’s these people who’ve used their free-will to try to obey and to love God who will populate his heaven and his universe for all eternity, and who will have incredible, intimate fellowship with their maker. This is the ultimate purpose of free-will. Please note that I’m not advocating salvation by works: salvation from our sin is found in the gift of God, his son Jesus Christ.

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Jesus in a parable likened the world of mankind to a farmer’s field. The farmer waits patiently for his crop to grow, though there are weeds in with the good grain. Those who have rejected and opposed him are compared to weeds. The farmer tells his workers not to pull up the weeds too soon, as they may pull the good plants up with them-don’t forget that this parable was given before weed-killing chemicals and other intense farming methods were developed.

The workers were to wait until harvest, at which time the crop and the weeds would be separated. The harvest represents the end of the age of human government (see Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43). If you read about the return of Jesus Christ to bring both salvation and judgment (Matthew 24) you will find that these passages fit together perfectly.

God’s heaven will be populated by multitudes of people who were not necessarily perfect in their earthly lives, but who at some point acknowledged that God’s ways were right and theirs were not, and who then attempted to live in obedience. They will fit perfectly into the new world, and they’ll be happy there. In contrast, those who chose to reject him and his ways now would certainly not be happy there, and if they were sent there, they would only make heaven into the same confused, violent, cold-hearted, rebellious mess that we see around us now.

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Yes I believe in answered prayer. However, God does not stop all suffering in this world, because his plan is not to patch up a fallen world (as an example, read about Paul’s physical ailment, for which he prayed for healing three times (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Instead, God’s “Plan B”, which is really part of the original plan, is for us to find salvation from our sin and bad decisions and actions through his Son Jesus Christ. God is preparing a ‘crop’ of followers for his heaven: people who love his ways and who choose his will above their own.