Saturday, June 20, 2015

Do Humans Have Free Will?

This is part two in my discussion with Dmitri regarding purported contradictions in the Bible. Part One was published last week.

Clearly, from my response to the last question, you know what my answer to this is going to be. Yes, most certainly, and this is the very point of human life. Without free will, we cannot love the Creator. This question is tricky because it is one on which Christians are divided. Some Calvinists deny free will, and hold that only those God specifically chooses to save can be saved, while everyone else is, by God's command, damned, and their own will has nothing to do with this. Others (such as the Catholic Church and myself) see this viewpoint as heresy. Given that this issue has proponents within the Christian Church, it is understandably a bit murky. Let's see, however, if we can part the waters.

I already handled 2 Thesalonians 2:11-12 in my prior comment, so I'm not going to go into any depth on that. However, it's worth pointing out that a "powerful delusion" is mentioned, not an undeniable command. Those words don't come close to making the point the athiests think they are making, and show well the sloppiness of their arguments overall.

To make sense of Acts 13:48, one must look at the word translated as "appointed." This word is τεταγμένοι, which is derived from the root τάσσω. The meaning of this word can be examined in detail here, but I have highlighted a relevant portion for brevity.

5021 tássō – properly, arrange (put in order); to place in a particular order, appoint; (figuratively) ordain, set in place; "station" (J. Thayer).

5021 /tássō ("place in position, post") was commonly used in ancient military language for "designating" ("appointing, commissioning") a specific status, i.e. arranging (placing) in a deliberate, fixed order.

[5021 (tássō) was "primarily a military term meaning 'to draw up in order, arrange in place, assign, appoint, order' " (A-S).]
Here God is not forcing men to do something, but merely putting them in a place where they might choose Him, leading people forward by giving them experiences that will let them understand and choose the truth. This no more implies the excisement of free will than do our enticements of other people. Nor do military orders, as this word is meant to convey, literally leave their hearer with no ability to disobey.

Romans 8:29,30 likewise forces us to engage with the Greek original. Here we face the word προώρισεν, translated "preordained."

4309 proorízō (from 4253 /pró, "before" and 3724 /horízō, "establish boundaries, limits") – properly, pre-horizon, pre-determine limits (boundaries) predestine.

[4309 (proorízō) occurs six times in the NT (eight in the writings of Paul). Since the root (3724 /horízō) already means "establish boundaries," the added prefix (pro, "before") makes 4309 (proorízō) "to pre-establish boundaries," i.e. before creation.]
Although it is a different word, it conveys the same concept of God's influence over man as did tasso. God sets up events in mens lives that lead them closer to him. By foreordaining his circumstances, God influences the ideas a man will have, and how he sees the world. However, this is, again, not strict mind control. Man also does this to other men, pushing certain ideas and highlighting certain things, while obscuring others. If God, in "establishing boundaries/limits" destroys free will, so also do our media and government, which punish certain thoughts and ignore others to entice men into thinking in certain ways.

Ephesians 1:5, again, uses proorizo. I believe I have covered that fully. The other operative word here is "choose" or ἐξελέξατο, ἐκλέγομαι. This word means "to choose for oneself, to pick out, to select." God certainly does, pick out, choose, select, but so do we. When you approach a woman, you have chosen her, and chosen her for something extremely personal and intimate. However, she may still choose to reject you. (Ask me how I know this) That God chooses does not prevent others from choosing, even if they choose elsewise.

Romans 9:11 uses a similar word ἐκλογὴν, ἐκλογή, in the same sense as eklegomai means to choose, means the selection chosen. Lets move forward:
15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
By showing mercy, God does not limit mans will. On the contrary, He expands it, offering us options and choices that we did not have before. This is what Christ's sacrifice was for, to enable man to return to God, to give him the choice that he had thrown away at Eden.

While God might guide certain individuals to destruction,as stated starting in verse 17, this is "that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth." In short, that God might influence, not command, others. If man did not have free will, why would he need to make an example of anyone? He could merely command, and man would obey.

2 Timothy 1:9 further makes my point, not theirs. God "calls" us, He does not force us. Certainly, His plans in this regard had been laid before time began. Did anyone seriously think that God winged it with the universe? But making a plan, even a good one, is not a breach of free will. Was Hannibal's free will extinguished by the Romans when they led his forces to exhaustion? Were the Persians without will when the Greeks holed up at Thermopylae? Certainly not!

Jude 1:4 doesn't even come close to making the atheists' point. It mentions people "whose condemnation was written about long ago." Well, yes, the Bible does mention that sins have consequences. It predicts that man would rebel against God in many times and many ways. That hardly amounts, however, to mindless predestination. The American criminal codes also were written about long ago, and predict that man will kill, steal, and rape. Likewise, it writes about their condemnation, long before, in many cases, that condemnation came upon them. This code requires a certain number of years imprisonment, or money spent in restitution for their crimes.It does not, however, make them commit them.

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