Introduction: The Problem Of Foreknowledge And Free Will
Moses Maimonides has set out the problem in the traditional manner:
Does God know or does He not know that a certain individual will be good or bad? If thou sayest He knows, then it necessarily follows that man is compelled to act as God knew beforehand he would act, otherwise Gods knowledge would be imperfect.
The argument can be extended. The thrust of the argument does not apply only to doing good or ill, but indeed to every human act, from the most mundane to the most significant. The argument could just as well read:
Does God know or does He not know that a certain individual , on Feb. 3, 2081, will put on brown shoes when dressing in the morning? If thou sayest He knows, then it necessarily follows that the Prime Minister is compelled to act as God knew beforehand he/she would, otherwise Gods knowledge would be imperfect.
The argument for the seeming impossibility of both Gods having foreknowledge and our having free will has troubled religious thinkers, philosophers, and jurists for centuries.
But why should secular philosophers and jurists also be concerned with this conundrum? For two reasons.
The two concepts foreknowledge and human freedom seem to be utterly incompatible. The challenge, then, is to find a way to show that
|free will does not exist|
|or||the alleged logical relation between foreknowledge and the exercise of free will is mistaken .|
The Spiritual Battle For Your Marriage
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Evil People Chosen To Fulfill God’s Purposes
Some Christians claim that God predestines people for hell. This concept is never stated directly, although the Bible indicates that God does use evil people to accomplish His purposes.17 Paul indicates in the book of Romans that evil Pharaoh was “raised up” to demonstrate God’s power.18 Paul goes on to say that God chose Jacob over his brother Esau,19 and that He chooses to have mercy on some people over others.20 John says that God will give the kingdom of Israel to the beast to fulfill His word.21
Jesus indicated that He chose the apostles, including the one who would betray Him.22 Even Judas, as a worker of evil, was fulfilling part of the redemptive purpose of God. Luke, in the book of Acts indicates that evil Herod and Pontius Pilate, who condemned Jesus, were serving God’s purposes.23
Presumably, evil people who are predestined to serve the purposes of God through their evil will eventually go to hell. However, they still possessed free will and would have done evil under any circumstances. So, the Bible indicates that God placed them in history to fulfill His purposes, knowing that they would do evil. God did not cause them to do evil, since God is not the author of evil. James says not to blame God for temptation:
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God” for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.
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How Free Is Our Free
Reflections from a neuroscientist
Oh, thou, who didst with pitfall and with gin Beset the road I was to wander in, Thou wilt with predestined Evil round Enmesh, and then impute my Fall to sin!
The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám
Free-will is fundamental to our sense of wellbeing, and underwrites our sense of morality, our judicial system and the Judeo-Christian faith. However, science has provided evidence that free-will may be an illusion. In this paper I explore how the brain functions as the seat of our individual free-will and how we are also part of a collective-will expressed by cultural or religious groupings. In both cases free-will is an emergent property where decisions are expressed creatively rather than simply responsively. Yet we may not be as free as we like to think, but within boundaries shaped by our individual histories, our genetics and our environment we can make decisions that determine our character, relationships and future.
I realize that I dont have what it takes. I can will it, but I cant do it. I decide to do good, but I dont really do it I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, dont result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.Romans 7:18b20
Freedom is paradoxical
Free-will: an illusion?
Free-will: its significance
What is free-will?
One can categorise various types of free-will, from proximal free-will , to prior free-will .
Respect The Others’ Free Will
Just as God respects our free will, we also must respect the free will of others. Does that mean that we have no responsibility for anyone else? Of course not. Just think of children. If a child is very young, his parents cannot simply think, Well, children have a free will too, so they should only do what they want to do.
Parents are responsible for the upbringing of their children. However, as their children grow older, they must find a healthy balance between the childs free will and the parents’ responsibility to bring that child up. We have a great deal to learn in this area. For example, as parents, we should not dominate or provoke our children neither should we attempt to turn them into copies of ourselves. Instead, we should be examples for them, bear them on our hearts, and pray for them! We should maintain contact with them, and help them understand things clearly, instead of burdening them with a lot of rules.
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Differences Of View Between Roman Catholic And Orthodox Churches
Various Roman Catholic theologians identify Cassian as a teacher of the semipelagian heresy which was condemned by the Council of Orange. While the Orthodox do not apply the term semipelagian to their theology, they criticize the Roman Catholics for rejecting Cassian whom they accept as fully orthodox, and for holding that human consent to God’s justifying action is itself an effect of grace, a position shared by Eastern Orthodox theologian Georges Florovsky, who says that the Eastern Orthodox Church “always understood that God initiates, accompanies, and completes everything in the process of salvation”, rejecting instead the Calvinist idea of irresistible grace.
Recently, some Roman Catholic theologians have argued that Cassian’s writings should not be considered semipelagian. And scholars of other denominations too have concluded that Cassian’s thought “is not Semi-Pelagian”, and that he instead taught that “salvation is, from beginning to end, the effect of God’s grace” and held that “God’s grace, not human free will, is responsible for ‘everything which pertains to salvation’ – even faith.”
Christians who were influenced by the teachings of Jacobus Arminius believe that while God is all-knowing and always knows what choices each person will make, he still gives them the ability to choose or not choose everything, regardless of whether there are any internal or external factors contributing to that choice.
God and creation
Free Will Vs Predestination
God in His sovereignty uses our choices to bring out His will. Thats because He has predestined everything to happen according to His will. How does this work, exactly? We cant really know. Our minds are limited by our scope of time.
Unless God, through His mercy and grace, changes someones heart, they cannot choose to repent of their sins and accept Christ as his Lord and Savior.
1)God could have chosen for no one to go to Heaven. After all, He is totally Just. A Just God is not required to have Mercy.
2)God could have chosen for everyone to go to heaven, thats Universalism and is a heresy. God does love His creation, but He is also Just.
3)God could have chosen to make His mercy available to everyone if they make the right choice
4)God could have chosen those to whom He would have mercy on.
Now, the first two options are not usually debated on. It is very clear through scripture that the firs two are not Gods plan. But the last two options are a highly debated subject. Is Gods salvation available to everyone or just a few?
23. Acts 4:27-28 For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.
24. Ephesians 1:4 Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him in love.
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Does God And The Angels Have Free Will
Gods will is not a libertarian free will. But His will is still free in that He is not coerced. His will is still bound by His nature. God cannot sin and thus He cannot will Himself to do something that is against His nature. This is why the argument Can God create a rock so heavy that He cant lift it? is self-refuting. God cant because it is against His nature and character.
Angels too, they are able to make decisions that are free from coercion, but they are also bound by their nature. Good angels will make good choices, bad angels will make bad choices. In Revelation 12 we read about when Satan and his angels fell from heaven for their choice to rebel. They made a choice that was consistent with their character. God was not surprised at their choice because God knows all things.
20. Job 36:23 Who has prescribed for him his way, or who can say, You have done wrong?
21. Titus 1:2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.
22. 1 Timothy 5:2 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality.
Does Everyone Have Free Will
Or perhaps we should say it differently: is everyone free? John Piper advocates for this subtle shift in our language: So instead of speaking of the will as free or not, I prefer to speak of people as free or not because that is the way the Bible does.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh rather, serve one another humbly in love.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
*Bold emphasis added.
Its a topic that comes up a lot in Scripture, but notice how each of these verses reveals something different about freedom:
So no, everyone is not free. No matter how hotly we might insist on our autonomy if Jesus has not freed us from the bondage of sin, then we are still slaves to it . It is only by His mercy and grace that we are given the freedom to come , live , and declare the Lordship of Jesus Christ . And it is only through His lovingkindness that we can truly make choices unfettered by a nature that is hostile toward Goda nature we are all born with.
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Mans Nature And Free Will
1) Pre-Fall: Man was able to sin and able not to sin
2) Post-Fall: Man is not able not to sin
3) Regenerated: Man is able not to sin
4) Glorified: Man will be unable to sin
The Bible is clear that man, in his natural state, is utterly and completely depraved. At the Fall of Man, mans nature became fully and totally corrupt. Man is completely depraved. There is no good in him whatsoever. So, by his nature, man can not choose to do anything completely good. A depraved man can do something nice like walk an elderly lady across the street. But he does it for selfish reasons. It makes him feel good about himself. It makes her think well of him. He doesnt do it for the only truly GOOD reason, which is to bring Glory to Christ.
The Bible also makes it clear that Man, in his Post-Fall state is not free. He is a slave to sin. Mans will in and of itself can not be free. This unregenerate mans will be longs to his master, Satan. And when a Man has been Regenerated, he belongs to Christ. He is under a new owner. So even now, mans will is not entirely free in the same regard as the secular humanists use the term.
8. John 3:19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.
9. Corinthians 2:14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
Free Will Is Gods Greatest Gift To Humanity
My recent reply to a question on free will generated lots more questions and comments which usually happens when I tackle any of the great mysteries of God, life and freedom. Here are some examples:
D., from New York City, wrote in part:
Many people, in fact , do understand how/why the two concepts are not mutually exclusive, based on God having created the concept of time, and therefore being outside of its boundaries. .
A: I can join you in enjoying Star Trek, but Im afraid I cant join you in using it to prove or disprove the great mysteries of God and free will. Now, if you had used I Love Lucy as your theological touchstone, I might sign up.
T., from Irvine, Calif., wrote in part:
Knowing and causation are two different things. I may know its going to rain tomorrow that doesnt mean I caused it. In Psalm 139:4, King David writes, Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely, and in verse 16, all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
This clearly indicates God does know what well do next. If God doesnt know what well do next, He is not truly sovereign, but rather reactionary to his creation. The prophets were chosen by God before they were born. They did not become prophets of their own will.
Its time for us to see Gods gift of free will not as a limitation, but as Gods greatest gift to humanity. Free will frees us from being Gods puppets and enables us to become Gods partners.
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Jesus Summarized Free Will In The Old Testament History
These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat. And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy and there abide till ye go thence. And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.
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What Do We Mean By Free Will
However, there is a context in which the position of free will does have biblical support: the grave responsibility of making choices. Because beneath the canopy of Gods sovereignty, man does have free will. In the beginning, God established the principle of choice by giving Adam and Eve an entire garden containing a forbidden treethis, but not thata thread that weaves through the tapestry of future generations into the present.
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.
But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…
Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.
Scripture also states clearly that
- that we will all be held accountable for the choices that we make ,
- and that our choices can grieve the Lord or please Him .