Do I need to find a new class of friends, or what? I mean, who ends up having two conversations about free will in one week?!
Then again, having those conversations has given me the material for this little rant, right? So maybe I should be happy about it. I suppose I’m free to choose how I view the whole thing. 🙂
The first viewpoint: THERE IS NO FREE WILL
Of course that has to be one of the viewpoints, right? Can’t have it be anything reasonable or rational. Let me fill you in on how the conversation happened.
Natalie and I were talking (Natalie works on the farm Sundays so I have a day off), and we reached a natural end point in the conversation. Rather than stand there watching her work, I walked away to check on one of the riders.
Natalie called me back and asked “Do you think we have free will?”
Well, you could say I was a wee bit surprised by the question. It’s not your average, everyday, at-work conversation starter. And I could tell what Natalie’s answer would be right away. You see, she’s a little contrary at times.
I give her my answer: “Yes. Absolutely. We have the freedom to choose anything we want, and we’re equally free to experience the consequences; whether we like them or not.”
Now you know Natalie disagree and said we don’t have free will, but here’s the interesting part…Her reason for why we don’t have free will is that some external influence is always acting on us.
Well, you know me…I’m not likely to miss an opening like that. So I asked her what the great external influence was that caused her to call me back and ask that question in the first place. She didn’t quite have an answer for that.
Let’s face it, saying “Johnny made me do it,” or any other attempt to escape responsibility is EXTREMELY popular right now. Listen to the psychologists and they’ll tell you no one is responsible for anything. And you certainly shouldn’t ever tell someone they’re wrong!
That’s a load of crap that won’t ever be fertilizer. It’s just destructive, demeaning crap that robs us of freedom.
We have free will, and that means accepting responsibility for the things we choose.
Absolutely there are outside influences. Natalie has that part right. Where she goes wrong is in saying that those outside influences force her actions. That’s an attitude that firmly places your cranium in the rectum, and it just don’t belong there.
Now for the second viewpoint. It accepts free will, but denies for the very person who gave us free will.
The second viewpoint: WE HAVE FREE WILL, BUT GOD DOESN’T KNOW WHAT WE’LL DO
I can more easily deal with Natalie’s denial of free will than I can with this viewpoint. Hers is a much simpler form of self-deception than this.
Let me fill you in on the conversation first.
I was talking to John about the conversation I had with Natalie. He agrees that we have free will, but he has a problem with the part in scripture where it says God predestined us for either salvation or damnation. Look at Romans 8: 29-30.
John’s complaint is that if God already knows where we’re going to end up, then we’re just lab rats. What we do doesn’t matter because God already knows how it all turns out.
It’s interesting that he used lab rats as his metaphor. You see, scientists use lab rats precisely because they DON’T know what’s going to happen. He would have been better off comparing us to programmed robots.
In any case, the big difficulty with this argument is that it denies God’s existence. After all, to be God, He has to be omnipotent and omniscient, right? But if He doesn’t know everything – including what we’ll all be having for breakfast tomorrow – then He can’t be God.
It’s one of those convenient little paradoxes we humans are so good at accepting.
What may not be so obvious is that the convenient little paradox is really just a different way to deny responsibility. “God doesn’t know what I’ll do tomorrow, so I could always choose to follow Him later.” We don’t want God to know where our life is headed because then we might have to listen to His Spirit telling us to choose a different path.
A really good question that John asked is “If God knows what we’re going to do, why does He let the bad people keep going?”
Naturally the superficial answer is that if God stops us from making bad choices, then we obviously do not have free will. The deeper, and more powerful answer is that God allows us to make our bad choices because we cannot responsible for a choice until AFTER we have made it.
Get it? It’s about responsibility. God lets us choose anything we want. Whether we like it or not, we free to choose, and free to experience the consequences of our choices. Good choices bring good consequences, right? We like that part. It’s the part about bad choices having negative consequences that we want to avoid.
Can you see how this ties into getting happy?
My happiness is my responsibility. Since good consequences will certainly make me happy, it’s up to me to make good choices. And just as surely as we get fat eating one doughnut at a time, we build a strong character, a happy life, one decision at a time.