Thursday, March 28, 2019

Is Freewill a Myth?

Robots don’t sin. Of course we’ve all seen movies where some robot makes decisions concerning right and wrong, but the reality is that robots just run programs. The brain of a robot is nothing more than a device that reads data and writes data. It’s actions are controlled by what that data tells it to do. Robots don’t have a soul. If a robot does something that it shouldn’t do, we may shut it down. We may repair it. We may throw it in the landfill. But we don’t do that out of a sense of justice. If there is anyone held responsible for the evil done by a robot it is the designer, the programmer, or the operator, not the robot.

Robots don’t sin because they have no capability to decide to go against their programming. But if the inability to decide to go against their programming keeps a robot from sin then that implies that anything that can sin can decide to go against their programming. I mention this because I recently heard someone claim that “freewill is a myth.” Their basis for this claim was Ephesian 1:4 which includes the statement “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.” Their claim was that this selection could not be based on foreknowledge of what we would do. This quickly degrades into circular reasoning. If we have no freewill then everything we do is the predetermined will of God. But if we are only doing what God said to do then we are not sinners. Even if we reject Jesus that is the will of God. Without freewill we are nothing more than moist robots and robots don’t sin.

Many people have this image of God prior to creating the world sitting there and picking people. “I’m going to save this one, but not that one…” When he is finished he creates a world ideal for the salvation of those people. The problem with this is that it implies that God’s nature is finite. If it is correct that God has always known everything that is knowable then there has never been a time when God didn’t know who would be saved and who would be lost. It’s possible that is what Paul was saying. In this light it lends support to the verses around it that talk about us being blessed with all blessings and being predestined. Predestination doesn’t make sense without foreknowledge, but there is nothing about predestination that precludes freewill.

Let’s lay aside the issue of sin for moment. Another thing that robots don’t do is love. Love does not exist without freewill. Imagine if your spouse had this button. Anytime you started feeling like she didn’t love you you could just push that button and she would instantly begin showering you with love. Is that love? Of course not. Love can only come from someone who has the choice not to love. For God to have people who loved him he had to create a world in which people could choose not to love him. This is not the violation of his sovereignty that some would suggest but he delegated to us the freedom to choose.

I see a couple of possibilities one is that God looked at the people throughout time and saw certain one’s who would believe and who would love him. These were not perfect people, but people whiling to be shaped by him into the kind of people he wanted to spend time with and these were the people he chose. The other is that he arbitrarily picked some people and over time has been shaping them to be the kind of people he wants them to be. To me, the first option is one in which human beings all have innate value even if they ultimately choose to reject him. With the second option only those he has chosen have value and the rest are simply here to live out their lives and go to hell.

I believe God has given us freewill because he wants us to be able to love him. We are not robots. If we were, then we could not sin and it would be unjust for us to be punished for our sin. If God is love and God is just then freewill is not a myth.