Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Free Will Contrasted to Divine Will

In the time of reformation, leaders arose. Ideas of Martin Luther, Erasmus, and the Jesuits seemed to be challenging everything about the Holy Roman Catholic Church. One of the biggest debates was over the identity of free will. By referring to mainly the Bible and contrasting philosophies I will attempt to share a solid philosophy on free will compared to God’s will. This view is different than any of the Sixteenth Century views, yet it possibly bares echoes of them all.

First, I must argue against the Jesuit philosophy. Even though alternate dimensions are an entertaining idea and add great aspects to science fiction TV series and books, they seem irrelevant for our world’s salvation. The Jesuits think that each possible decision that man makes through his free will must create a whole new dimension. Each decision leads to a new dimension. God infallibly watches all dimensions so that he may know man’s future.  With the premise that God has limitless knowledge, we should be able to assume that even if there was only one world God would know everything about it. God would not have to be dependent on the fact that there are multiple worlds to be able to know everything about one of them. Over all though, whether the other dimensions exist or not is another debate; much like the argument for extraterrestrial life. To disprove this philosophy, it is important to understand that God’s will is bigger than anything we could imagine. It is so vast that it does not require the need for other possible realities to exist to be able to have foreknowledge.

I seem to be a Compatibilist. I believe we both have God’s will and free will. It seems to be another Christian paradox, such as the ones discussed in G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. One fallacy that repeatedly sticks out in the Fatalistic arguments is the implication that God’s will is on the same level as man’s will. Though God can bring himself down to us (and he did as Christ Jesus), we can never bring ourselves up to him (body, mind, or soul). In faith, it is clear (as Luther believes) that it can only be God’s will that brings us to him but our will may still reject him.

These things being said, I take that stance that man does have free will in his daily life, even though God knows what man will choose. This is much like when God is depicted as a father. If a father knows his son well enough (just as God does for he made our bodies, minds, and souls and knew us even in our mother’s wombs Psalm 139:13) he should be able to guess what his son will do in any situation. A father will know by his son’s character whether he would choose to drink or not, whether he would drive safely or not, among other things he would even recognize whether his son had a habit (such as getting a cheeseburgers every time they go to the restaurant) and whether he would implement it or not. This isn’t a complete comparison because God is so much more than an earthly father. There is a chance that the father may be wrong, the son could give in to pressure or choose differently than expected, but God knows us so much better than anyone else could that he would also expect the rarities. Perhaps, by knowing the true person as God has formed them he has a clearer understanding of who we are than we ever could have. Besides knowing our every inner-working, God is outside of time. God, being alive and active in our lives is not like the father who spawns a child and then runs off never to know them again. He is the father who is there at the birth of his son and continues to be there for him. Due to the fact that God is also outside of time, he also knows us as we were formed, as we grew, as we matured, and as we grow old all simultaneously. We do not give God enough credit if we do not allow him the ability to know who we are and what we will chose. By being all-knowing, God does not need access to alternate possible dimensions. Even though he knows that we have already chosen a path (because he is outside of time), he would already know which path a person is going to take.

In Judges 7:9-15, God tells Gideon to arise in the middle of the night and take the enemy’s camp. God also says that if Gideon is afraid he should go down to the camp first, if he does go down to the camp he will hear what the enemy is discussing and he will become encouraged to overtake the camp. Gideon could choose whether or not to go down to the camp first before he attacked (God in his knowledge of Gideon must have known that he was scared and would need to go down to the camp for encouragement), and he did. As God foretold, Gideon overheard a soldier’s dream and became ready for battle. Still, if Gideon would have chosen to solely trust attack without going to the camp first God would have also understood Gideon and understood why.

There is another example in 2 Samuel 11:1-24. It is less direct, but still speaks truth. David sees Bathsheba and covets her. He finds a way to be with her and even though God punishes David by killing his firstborn, he also blesses him with his next heir, Solomon. Even though David and Bathsheba sinned, God knew that this would lead to one of the wisest men in the Old Testament. It was the couple’s choice to give in to pleasure above the command of God, but the birth of Solomon had always been God’s will. Perhaps if David hadn’t sinned, Bathsheba’s husband would have died all the same and they would have ended up together. In any case, God is able to have his will done through man whether they choose to directly follow his commands or not. Another thing to remember is that God is not limited by time itself. Even though he may work through time, he is not captive to it. He knows what has always been and what always will be much like a script writer watching his play come to life. Even more than the script writer, God knows the cast. He made each individual casting call and knows each member personally enough that he can tell when they are going to mess up their script or adlib. His will would have been done with any decision that David or Bathsheba had chosen. Was it not the Lord who protected Bathsheba through child-birth and created the baby Solomon? Just as in Genesis 50:20 where Joseph realizes that God had even worked through the actions of his brothers, God has worked through David and Bathsheba’s adulterous ways.

It would be a mistake to flatten God’s will to be on the same level as man’s. He is able to change everything with his will while man is only able to change the things around him in given circumstances. Man could never fully choose to fulfill all of God’s will, while God can choose to fulfill man’s will.

In the end, God’s will is done. Proverbs 19:21 states, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” God’s will works through situations that we find ourselves in and through other people. Usually, it is not as direct as we would want it to be. But, his ability to have foreknowledge and will does not mean that we cannot have free will. Have we not been created in his image, in the likeness of God? Perhaps like creativity we have will to an extent even though it is not as capable or vast as God’s.

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