I have a question, and it's not related to this article.
Recently my teacher asked us whether we believe in fate or free will. Honestly, I didn't know how to answer that question. Could you please tell me what does the Bible say about that?
June 5, 2008 5:34 PM
Blogger Rob R said...
Though you've asked ma, This is an issue I've studied a great deal.
The church has taken several positions on this issue. One side has taken the view that God has determined everything that has and will ever happen and the other side has taken the position that God created creatures with significant free will. There are a variety of positions regarding these issues with different nuances and in combination with a variety of doctrines, but over all, there are still two basic sides. Either God has determined absolutely everything, or he hasn't and has granted his creatures a degree of self determinism. (The closest thing to a middle ground is a position called molinism which I may or may not go into in this post)
Both sides use scripture to back up their claims. The determinists (often called "Calvinists" after theologian John Calvin) like to use Romans 9 and Isaiah 45:7 (see the king james version on that second verse)
The indeterminist (often called Arminians after theologian Jacob Arminius, or just free will theists) will often cite 2nd Peter 3:9 or John 3:16.
So both sides use scripture and both sides deal with the "problem passages" for their own perspectives. That is, they attempt to explain away the other position's passages.
There is far more scripture to consider than just these and it's been a while since I've gone into all the different texts. But I'll give you my position and a few important reasons including biblical reasons as to why I hold that position.
I am a free will theist as I find free will is behind some of our most basic intuitions in human thought and behavior, and I find the notion that God completely determined everything including every wicked act from the mildest to the most unspeakable to be repugnant beyond belief. Furthermore, these issues relate to the question of predestination and free will, and the implication of determinism, that God has determined (even by something some Calvinists refer to as "second causes") that some specific people will be damned to an eternal hell (or even just oblivion as some hold to in a position called "annhiliationism" which is a theory about damnation and not necessarily about predestination) is even more grievious.
One of the first passages that I found that I felt could not be explained away by calvinists was 1st corinthians 10:13. This passage explains that if a Christian is tempted, God will provide a way for the Christian to escape that temptation and not sin. If theological determinism is correct, then it really isn't true that a christian who was tempted and sinned could have avoided that sin since in determinism, there is no way to do other than what God has determined.
A calvinist could get around this by insisting that Christians never sin, but this is observably false and a biblical case can be made to the effect that Christians do indeed sin.
So if Christians sin, then free will is necessary as far as 1st Corinthians 10:13 is concerned.
In my studies, I cam across what I believe to be what is absolutely the most important argument against theological determinism (given that the theological determinist believes that God damns people to hell... we'll call this belief "reprobation," that is the combined belief of damnation and theological determinism). If you believe in reprobation, then it is impossible for you to perfectly follow the two greatest commandments as Jesus described them. Jesus said those two greatest commandments were to love God with all of your being and to love your neighbor as yourself.
So if God reprobates people, then most likely, some of the neighbors of any given Christian are reprobated even though the Christian doesn't know specifically who. Now what is the Christian called to do with regard to his neighbor? He is to love his neighbor as he loves himelf. What does that mean. One thing that this entails is that the Christian identifies the needs of his neighbor as if they were his own. What does his neighbor need more than anything? It is the love and salvific grace of God. But according to the doctrine of reprobation, it is God himself who refuses to extend his this grace. Now if God is refusing your most important basic need, can you love him with all your heart? Not at all. According to the apostle John, we love because God first loved us. So without that need met for our neighbor, in consistence with a love for them as if their needs were our own, we cannot be at peace with the idea that they are reprobate. If you really are identifying your neihbor's need as if it were your own, the idea that God himself refuses to satisfy this need that you are now identifying as your own should shake you to the core. You should not be at peace with it. This is so fundamental that it will interfere with one's ability to love God with all of one's being.
Hence if God reprobates, then we cannot satisfy the two greatest commands.
You could still be a determinist and get around this argument by denying that God damns anyone. These people are universalists as they believe that either everyone goes to heaven, or that hell is more like the catholic idea of purgatory so that one day everyone will repent and leave hell.
I hope these ideas and reasonings are clear to you but understand that this is a huge issue and what I've written here is just an introduction which leaves a lot of important information out.
June 5, 2008 7:07 PM
"God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and have eternal life."--the Bible