Free will and the nature of Man. In the last post we looked at the mechanics behind the origin of the universe and used all kinds of science-y concepts to explain how something can come from nothing (with the explanation that what we think of as “something” really is “nothing” because…oh, just read the last post. I don’t want to go over it again).
We have an explanation of all the “stuff” in the universe, but what about us? Apparently, there is something special and unique about man. The Bible spends a couple chapters and verses here and there about the creation of the universe, but it has volumes of information about the make up of humanity. In Genesis 1:27, it is said that we are made in God’s image (well actually it only says that the first man and woman were made in God’s image. Technically, the rest of us are in their image. I’ll deal with that in a future post).
Man vs. Dolphin
What is it that makes humanity so special? What do we have over the rest of creation? The ability (that most of us have) to think – understand and apply knowledge – definitely puts us in a different category than the vast majority of matter in the universe. But many animals also have the ability to think. Some people even believe that dolphins are more intelligent than humans. Of course that doesn’t explain why they keep getting caught in those tuna nets. How smart do you have to be to swim around a net?
If we bear any “resemblance” to a being whose nature is composed of principles (God), then that means our true nature – the real“us”, is made of principles (we discussed this a few posts ago). Unlike God however, our principles are NOT always and completely Right and Just (listening to a politician or lawyer for two minutes will bear that out).
The principles that make up our nature are unique to the individual. Your principles are the first cause of your personality. Everything that makes up your personality, temperament, reactions, values, and psychology are an effect of your core principles. I can think of few causes more worthwhile than discovering and living out your individual principles. Here is a link that will greatly aid you in this endeavor.
Incidentally, my principles are “analysis” and “sharing” – At my core is the desire to understand things and then to share what I understand with others. Hence, this blog.
Whatever our individual principles are though, it is important to keep in mind that our basic nature is NOT always and completely right and just.
What we have that God doesn’t
We are also different from God in another very important way: God gave us free will. Free will (or volitional will) means that we have the ability to intentionally act outside of, or contrary to our nature. So while it is not in our nature to be right and just, we can choose to be.
Interestingly, this is not an ability that God has. That’s right; God does not have free will. Before you accuse me of sacrilege, consider the implications. If God could choose to not be always and completely right and just, then He would no longer be the First Cause of creation. Which is impossible according to the law of non-contradiction.
Does God want something from us?
Ok, so why would God create humanity this way? Apparently God has some special purpose for us. We intrinsically know this. We know that we have a “higher purpose”. It causes us to ask, “what’s the point?” and not be satisfied until we get the answer.
God wants something from us. Dare I say, He desires something from us. But how can a perfect being have desires? Does that mean that God is lacking something? Isn’t God “complete”?
Yes, He is complete, but there is something that a being who lacks nothing can desire without diminishing His completeness – He can desire more of what He already has! (I’ll address this next week)
The Biblical narrative makes it clear that God wants us to choose Him. More specifically, He wants us to choose to love Him. We’ll explore why God wants us to love Him and why our love is so important to Him in next week’s post. But for now, we’ll go with the supposition that God wants us to love Him, and that this desire is Right (since that’s God’s nature). Let’s look at the mechanics and implications of God creating us with the ability to love Him.
As we saw in this post, love is not an emotion; it is not an involuntary feeling or reaction. Love is a choice. In order for a choice to exist, there has to be at least two options in existence, as well as a being of volitional will to make the choice.
So God, being Just, must present a just situation in which His creation can exercise the choice to love Him. For this situation to exist, God would have to:
- Create a being with free will.
- Present the choice to love or not love Him.
- In the purest sense, not interfere with, or act on the choice until after the choice is made. (There are circumstances where God can intervene prior to a choice being carried out in response to justice, but the vast majority of the time, He has to allow the choice to be carried out before He can act).
The only way we can truly love God is if we have the option not to love Him. This is a choice we constantly make.
The answer to the greatest theological question (seriously)
This situation offers an answer to the classic question that many skeptics (and believers) have about God which I promised to address in the post on love: “If God is a God of love, how can He allow [universally acknowledged “bad thing”] to happen?” In light of what we understand about God’s nature and ours, a more valid question would be, “how could a God of love not allow them to happen?”
In addressing this question, I am excluding “natural” calamities such as hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, getting mauled by a bear etc. There is a reason for these situations that we’ll tackle later, but for now I’m limiting the answers to evil initiated by man, against man.
All evil and abhorrent actions that people commit – war, violence, assault, molestation, theft, betrayal, cruelty etc, are all the result of choices; specifically the choice to act in an unloving manner to others. And God cannot justly intervene (in most cases) until after the choice is carried out, because anytime before the choice is executed, the person has an opportunity to intentionally change his or her mind and not commit the act!
If God does not allow them that opportunity, then He is interfering with free will. If He interferes with free will, He is nullifying choice and preventing love (which a God of love cannot do).
Furthermore, if God punishes someone before they do evil, He is being unjust. If He is unjust, then He is not God (the First Cause). God cannot act outside of His nature (right and just), so He cannot punish evil before evil happens. Just like a police officer cannot arrest you for murder when you decide to murder someone. You are not a murderer until you actually kill someone. Only after you commit the act can you be judged.
So, the reason why God allows evil to be committed is that He wants us to choose love, and He can’t justly interfere with our opportunity to make the right choice. However, He can, does, and will justly and completely punish all the evil that has ever been committed in due time – as only a just judge would do.
As for the reason there is evil in the world – you see the reason every morning when you look in the mirror. All the evil in the world is the result of choices people make to not love each other and God. Evil is not God’s fault. It’s ours’.
Next week we’ll look at why God wants us to love Him. The reason behind this desire is not only the answer to “what’s the point?” it is also the answer to the meaning of life. No big deal.
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Related Podcast – Why a Good God Allows Evil