Free Will?

How can God be all-knowing and mankind still have free will? This is a question that has been asked practically from the dawn of Christianity. Some will deny that we truly have free will in the long run, that we are predestined to our fates and that any apparent free will we have is merely an illusion. But, if this is the case, why would God bother to create mankind in the first place? And more importantly, why send Christ as the atoning sacrifice for mankind, if our fates have been determined in advance?

It is my belief that God truly has provided us with free will. Mankind was created that God could have a relationship with another of that being’s own choice. Love that is required is not love at all, only love that is freely given is worthwhile. As we are created in God’s image, I believe that the same applies to Him, He desires our love and worship, but will not force us to love Him.

“Okay”, you ask, “if we have free will, then how can God be omniscient?” I can’t say that I have a definitive answer to that question, but I do have one that at least makes sense to me. I believe that God knows all the possible decisions and outcomes of our lives (easy enough, since He is outside of time, after all). Essentially, He knows the potential outcome of all decisions we make, whatever we choose. These outcomes remain merely potential until we reach that decision point in our lives and crystallize one outcome or another by making a choice. God may prefer one outcome to another (His perfect will), and may encourage us to make the choices that lead to His preferred outcome, but He cedes the final decisions to us. So instead of a single line leading from birth to death that represents our fate, He sees a great cloud of possibilities for each of us. Because He is God, He could easily choose to simply remove those choices, giving us merely the illusion of free will. This, however, would render our love and worship of Him hollow, not at all what He desires. Rather, I believe He makes the choice to see only possibilities, rather than predetermining each life. Only in this way can our love for Him be unforced and given freely.

2 thoughts on “Free Will?”

  1. A very difficult subject — free will and salvation. You’ve put it elegantly, “He sees a great cloud of possibilities for each of us.” And, you (and I) are struggling with a great paradox, one which I’ve no claim to having solved — but I do have a thesis.

    What has drawn me to the Calvinist side (besides Romans 8:28-30 and Ephesians 1:4-6) is the notion that an all-knowing and all powerful God, who is outside of time and space, has, in effect, chosen who will be saved — by not choosing for us. Which He could have done but chose not to.

    Yes, we have free will. But, no, we can not be saved by any effort on our part — it is done solely by the Holy Spirit (another Calvinist-Arminian point of contention). And that God knows, before we are ever born, what choices we shall make with our free will. The “choosing by not choosing” comes about by the notion that God could presumably have wired us to open ourselves to salvation through His Son, should it have pleased Him to do so.

    Why He does not do so remains a mystery. My opinion is that God has given us mind and spirit to use in seeking to know Him as best we are able to; some things remain beyond our grasp. The role of our so-called free will is among them.

    All that stated, I know for certain that He does not want us to use theology as a blunt weapon to divide His church — Ephesians 4:5 – one Lord, one faith, one baptism.

  2. I agree that theology should never be a blunt instrument used to divide the church. For me, only one thing truly matters: Does the church preach Christ crucified, risen and the only path to salvation? If so, the rest is truly irrelevant. On the other hand, I would disagree that salvation has nothing to do with what we do. There is one, and only one, thing we must do to be saved. We must choose to be saved. And that’s where we’ll probably just have to agree to disagree.

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