The Bible on Free Will

I just love it when “Scientists Debunk” something. The studies I was referring to are using identical twins, and thus eliminating any uncontrollable variables. They debunk astrology by picking people born at the same time and expecting to draw conclusions, with controlling genetics?

I am not trying to prove any astrological claims, other than time has an impact in genetic studies.

Hopefully, that God’s will be done in each of those areas, as Jesus modeled. If it is all fixed, then I am not sure why, other than to change your heart about them, which is a reasonable thing, if your heart can be changed.

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On the contrary, it makes no sense to pray if God really does know what is going to happen. If the future is already written then nobody can change anything. And if anybody can change anything then apparently God didn’t know what was going to happen after all. Prophesies are either self-fulfilling or self-preventing. If the latter, then the one giving the prophecy becomes a false prophet. This was the frustration of Johah. It is all rather pointless.

Predictions make a lot more sense. In that case, it is not a matter of seeing a future which is already written, but one of seeing what results events are moving towards and then taking action to put a stop to it. This is something which science does all the time. A God who values love and freedom over power control created life in a universe where the future only exists as a superposition of possibilities. The when you pray you can enlist His help in selecting the better future from those possibilities. So are you a living person who makes his own choices or just a character in a divine novel already written whose only thoughts and feeling are just what the author has chosen to write into his book. Because if it is the latter, then this discussion is pointless.

My friend, that is too great of a faith, even for me.

Good point. I think that they are the same–Lamoureux would say that they were using the science of the day to communicate a spiritual truth, but the science was not correct. Sorry if I was not communicating well.

Regarding supernatural and natural diseases, yes, they did have physicians that lanced boils, set bones, etc; but the mental and epileptic problems seemed to be explained as demon possession, from my understanding. Who knows–down the road, things which we think are relatively straightforward but can’t treat very well will be understood as physical in a whole new way (depression, for example). We certainly have room for humility, too, based on what we don’t know.

Thanks for your thoughts.

For those interested, I started a thread on r/AcademicBiblical on whether or not ‘free-will’ was a Hellenistic idea imposed on Judaism:

(Exodus 32:26) “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me!..” Looking at the verse without any bias, one could answer your question with a no.

But then later in the verse 29, “You have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day”

As a person who is of the Wesleyan-Methodist tradition I tend to lean toward free-will but according to the Five Articles of Remonstrance as it seems to give a good balance between free will and God’s sovereignty.

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Personally, I find it nearly beyond debate that the Bible embraces a “compatabilist” view.

  • “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good,”

  • “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”

  • “Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.

  • “Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger, in whose hand is the club of my wrath! I send him against a godless nation, I dispatch him against a people who anger me… But this is not what he intends, this is not what he has in mind; his purpose is to destroy, to put an end to many nations.

That said, I can’t count how often i see it assumed that one must embrace either free will or divine determinism. I maintain that this is simply a false dichotomy.

Case in point, consider the language used to describe the two positions in the debate Chris linked…

I haven’t listened to the debate, but as a committed compatabilist Calvinist, I raise my humble objection to the false dichotomy suggested in the language used to describe the two positions. I find it an all-too-common mischaracterization.

By basic historical standards or definitions, a Calvinist is by definition one “who believes in the ‘meticulous divine providence’ of a God who predetermines every aspect of the Universe” and “believes that God achieves his purposes while allowing genuine human freedom.”

This goes back hundreds of years, consider the basic creed of us crazy Calvinists, the Westminster Confession. Say what you want about us Calvinists, but it is simply untrue that we don’t believe in real, genuine, complete and unadulterated free will and individual liberty and responsibility, and that this real freedom is compatible with God’s ordaining of all things:

Ch 3: God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

Ch 5: Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, he ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.

I believe the future is already written. And yet I still choose to wear my seatbelt. This because I understand the future has been written in a way that incorporates the consequences of my freely chosen actions.

And if God chooses to work in real time in response to our prayers, then I will pray for the same reason I wear my seatbelt, because even though God knows what will be, my actions, and my requests for God to act, are part of that overall story, and thus they can and do affect the final outcomes.

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Only by stubbornly ignoring all the parts of the Bible which flatly disagrees with this. Like Genesis 6:6 “And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.”

If the future is already written then if god exists then he is the author and apparently has no interest in a relationship with anyone but himself. He cannot create anything real, but can only dream and write books like any human being. I am not impressed and do not see such a pathetic creature as worthy of the smallest fraction of my attention, let alone any regard, respect, or worship. Worse, this god you believe in values only power and control and it is inescapable that he is responsible for all the evils of the world – the abuse and torture of innocent children. And if this monster wants to demand such things with threats then it will only get my middle finger for I equate this creature with the god of this world and a devil – the soul and heart of evil as are all who value only power and control.

The God I believe in chose love and freedom over power and control. And thus He created life, which is the antithesis of design and control for it is a process of self-organization and the freedom of choice is demonstrable in mathematics of chaotic dynamics and quantum physics. God demonstrated his choice for love and freedom over power and control by becoming a helpless human infant and subjecting Himself to all the rules of this world even to die on the cross at our hands.

You may not agree with my position, but I object to the accusation that I would ignore any such. The fact that God is so intimately involved and imminent and personally affected by what happens in this world is a precious and dear belief I hold, and is upheld and embraced specifically by such Scriptures as Gen 6, or countless others.

I believe that what David did “displeased the Lord.” I believe we can grieve the Holy Spirit. I think God is angered and grieved by my sin. And countless other passages I could reference.

And, to the point… I believe God was genuinely grieved by the suffering he himself planned, executed, and inflicted on Israel in 1Chr 21.

You may not grasp, understand, or find it rational how I can hold that view simultaneously alongside my belief in God’s absolute control over all things. But it does not follow that I must therefore ignore certain scriptures if I believe others that affirm God’s sovereign control. I find them absolutely compatible, because Scripture certainly seems to. And thus I personally object to the false characterization that I must be stubbornly ignoring such scriptures as this, when they are some of those Scriptures I hold most dear as they communicate how deeply involved, engaged, personal, intimate, and responsive God is to us.

Personally, I find it beyond debate that the Bible embraces a “incompatabilist” view.

Interesting. I’d be interested in what you do with the passages I referenced above in relation to that concept.

Genesis 50:19 But Joseph said to them, “Fear not, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he reassured them and comforted them.

What needs to be explained? Sin destroys free will and makes those who sin very predictable and easily manipulated. If we trade our free will for sin then what reason would God have not to manipulate us for the ultimate defeat of sin? In general there are many many cases like Job where God does not do evil but allows evil because free will, the essence of life itself, is a greater good. God chooses love and freedom over power and control, because there is no goodness in the latter but only in the former.

Acts 2:22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Just because God has a plan does not mean the plan has no contingencies. When we say everything going according to plan, that does not mean everything is following a fixed script with no flexibility for the different ways that people might behave. It just means that we have planned for those possibilities also. And there is nothing in this passage to claim that foreknowledge of the future is not a knowledge of many different possible paths that the future can take just as quantum physics establishes to be the case.

Consider Jesus’ prayer in the garden. You may view this as a momentary selfishness and doubt before surrendering to God’s will, but I do not. That would make Jesus pathetic compared to many people history who never wavered in their determination to do what it takes to save those they love. Instead what I see in the prayer of Jesus in the garden is the same kind of regret God had in Genesis 6:6 that things did not go according to other contingencies in God’s plan. To be sure Jesus was just as unhesitating as Socrates to drink the cup that refuses to compromise, but that doesn’t mean there was never any hope that thing might go a different way.

The same goes for Acts chapter 4 with Herod and Pilate. Just like in the book of Jonah. Just because God reveals one possible future of the city of Ninevah to preach warning to them, doesn’t mean that there are no other possible futures, as Jonah wasn’t happy to find out since in his limited and foolish thinking it made him look like a false prophet. But this story shows the truth, that prophecy is not about revealing a future that is already written. It never has been.

And the passage in Isaiah chapter 10 about Assyria is just like Romans 9 speaking of Pharoah. Sinners have traded their free will for sin and are easily manipulated and thus there is no reason for God to not use this in order to change the course of human development in order to bring about the ultimate destruction of sin.

Just because the future is not written does not mean that human beings are not habitual or that free will is anything like absolute, universal, or unchanging. Our free will choices may be few and far between, just as we see in the laws of nature that most events are quite deterministic. And yet the proof is absolute that complete determinism is just not the way things are. The future is a superposition of possibilities and we participate not only by playing a small part in selecting among these possibilities, but particularly in the choices of what we become ourselves.

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