Showing posts with label free will. Show all posts
Showing posts with label free will. Show all posts

Monday, May 22, 2023

It’s Iimi! Are You 0°K?

It’s time for the school fair, and the students from Hipso Hill are visiting. When Najiyah asks what the point of the Socratic Club, they hear members of the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture discussing an anime view of good and evil which is dualistic. Will Iimi be able to explain the truth using the example of absolute zero in temperature? Find out in Are You 0°K?


Pre-Comic Notes:

Absolute zero is -273.15°C or zero degrees Kelvin (0°K), which is the absolute absence of heat. It’s also close to the letters “OK.” And there’s your “stupid pun” title.

Post Comic Notes: The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture (first appearing in issue 138) is a reference to the manga series Genshiken.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

It’s Iimi! On Grave Matter and Other Things

Daryl asks if people who leave the Church are damned to hell. Iimi-tan points out that it is grave matter, but we also need to remember the issues of full knowledge and free consent. Doing a grave sin is never “okay,” and we need to work to help  those at odds with the Church to return to right relationship, even if the conditions of mortal sin are not present. It is important to remember that just because the Church might say that a specific person lacks the conditions of mortal sin does not ever mean that the Church gives permission to sin.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

It’s Iimi! A Dialogue on Misconceptions

Another comic involving a misconceptions about Catholic beliefs. When Saul misunderstands Catholic teaching on free will, Iimi clarifies and asks why don’t people ask what we believe before assuming that accusations are true.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

On Judgment and Misplaced Blame

JeremiahJeremiah prophesying to Israel

I’ve been working my way through the Book of Jeremiah and reflecting on his prophecies. God called on him to carry the word to His people that they were doing evil in his sight and, if they would not repent, God would punish them for their sins. The reaction of the people was anger towards Jeremiah, treating his words as if he was supporting Israel’s enemies and wanting to kill him on account of his prophecies.

It reminds me of St. Augustine, commenting on Psalm 129:

[#4] Why have they fought against me? Because “they could not prevail upon me.” What is this? They could not build upon me. I consented not with them unto sin. For every wicked man persecuteth the good on this account, because the good man consenteth not with him to evil. Suppose he do some evil, and the Bishop censure him not, the Bishop is a good man: suppose the Bishop censure him, the Bishop is a bad man. Suppose he carry off anything, let the man robbed be silent, he is a good man: let him only speak and rebuke, even though he doth not reclaim his goods, he is everything bad. He is bad then who blameth the robber, and he is good who robbeth!… Heed not that such an one speaketh to thee: it is a wicked man through whom It speaketh to thee; but the word of God, that speaketh to thee, is not wicked. Accuse God: accuse Him, if thou canst!


 Augustine of Hippo, “Expositions on the Book of Psalms,” in Saint Augustin: Expositions on the Book of Psalms, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 8, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1888), 611.

Just as Jeremiah gave God’s message to the Israelites about the urgent need to repent and received hostility in response, the Church speaks against the evils of this age and warns us that certain behaviors rebel against God and brings punishment. Just like the hostility given Jeremiah, the Church receives the same reaction. Israel suffered punishment for her infidelity. Jeremiah was not speaking against Israel out of malice nor because he sided with her enemies, but because God tasked him with bringing a message of truth and consequences. We do not know what God might do in response to our own infidelities, but we can’t say God hasn’t warned us.

I find it curious that the typical response to warnings against moral failings is to blame the messenger as if the fact that certain acts are evil was the invention of the one warning us of evil. His foes accused Jeremiah of treason when he warned Israel. They attack the Church as being homophobic, anti-woman, or legalistic when she warns the world. I think this misdirected anger is a form of denial. If we treat the warning as a “political opinion,” we can go on living our favorite sins and pretending what we do is OK with God . . . and then have the nerve to act shocked when God’s retribution falls on us.

God sent His prophets. Our Lord sends His Church. The mission is not condemning, but saving (John 3:17). Unfortunately, people think this means Jesus just gives out salvation without repentance. They forget that Jesus began His ministry preaching, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15). Yes, God wants the salvation of all people. But He links salvation with repentance. If we will not repent, we will not be saved.

When we think about this, it’s clear that Israel blaming her prophets for the prophecy or Americans blaming the Church for her teachings miss the point in blaming them. They’re the messengers warning us that our behavior goes against the love of God. Our problem is with God. God wants a loving relationship with each one of us, but when our behavior goes against what God commands, we break that relationship—something that has serious consequences. In such a case, warning people that their behavior is separating us from God is not an act of hatred or treason. It is an act of love, warning us to step away from the danger.

The atheist, the non-Christian, and the non-Catholic might say “I don’t believe the Church teaches with any authority.” We must pray for those people and evangelize them that God give them the grace to believe. We must also pray for the grace so we don’t be a stumbling block for them, misleading them by our bad behavior. But for the Catholic to ignore the teaching of the Church is as foolish as the Israelite to ignore God’s prophets, and to be angry at the Church for warning us of our behavior is like Israel being angry at prophets for warning them of God’s coming wrath. It is foolishness where we will have nobody to blame but ourselves if we face God’s wrath instead of His mercy.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

An Analogy on the Importance of Baptism

Preliminary Note: The use of the analogy of citizenship in this article has nothing at all to do with the current issue of illegal immigration and children from Central America. Comments attempting to argue immigration issues in this article will simply not be approved.


I have encountered some people—some believers, some not—who object to the Catholic view of Baptism and the Fall of Man in Genesis 3. They ask how is it fair that humanity has to be punished for the sin of Adam and Eve? Others object to our view of Baptism because they think that only a person who can rationally accept the faith can be baptized, and thinking that baptism of children is required implies all children must go to hell.

It sounds arbitrary because I think some people have not understood the story of the Fall and what the sin entailed. Nor do they understand how it impacts each one of us. So I propose this analogy for people to consider.

The Analogy

(Remember . . .every analogy is weak at some point. So it's best to look at the general story as opposed to trying to tie each point to a specific point of theology)

Consider a married couple being gifted with citizenship in a nation. Because of this citizenship, they have access to all the rights, privileges--and the responsibilities that go with them in terms of obeying the laws. They would pass on this citizenship

But instead of carrying out their responsibilities, the couple commits treason against the nation. The result is they are stripped of their citizenship and exiled. What happens to their children?

Well, if children had been born before the couple committed treason, obviously they would have remained citizens because the sins of the parents would not fall on them. If only one of the parents had committed treason, the children born later would still be citizens.

But because both individuals committed treason and lost their citizenship before having any children, any children born to them after this fact have no claim to citizenship. This is not the fault of the ruler. This is the fault of the parents. You cannot give what you do not possess. Since neither parent possesses citizenship, none of their children can possibly be born citizens.

The result is, because this couple committed treason and lost their citizenship, there is literally nothing they can do to make their children citizens. It seems hopeless for any of them.

But, the ruler is aware of their plight and does not want to leave them in some refugee camp. But He simply can't just say, "Well, your treason doesn't matter. I'll just pretend that it didn't happen." So he needs to set up a plan that allows all of them a way to regain citizenship that they lost (the married couple) or never had to begin with (their children). It is a plan that this ruler would carry out at the cost of his son . . . and both were willing to do this for us.

When this plan was carried out, it became possible to become citizens again . . . but not automatically and not with a general grant. Each individual who has reached the age of reason has to make the decision to become a citizen on their own, promising to be faithful to their country. Parents may apply for their children not yet at the age of reason to become citizens, promising to raise them to live in accordance with the rights and responsibilities of the nation.

Unfortunately, some have forgotten the fact that the induction ceremony for citizenship was not an option and not a symbol. It is the means the ruler set in place as the ordinary way to become a citizen. Some believe that as long as you have good intentions, the act of becoming a citizen is not necessary. Others think that parents should not apply for their children's citizenship. Why not just let them decide whether or not to decide when they become adults? So as not to prejudice them, they tell their children nothing about this choice. After all, if this ruler is just and merciful, it won't matter with such a small thing, will it?

Yes this ruler is just and merciful . . . he makes citizenship free to all who seek it.He also sends members of his kingdom to go out and make known the importance of becoming citizens and living according to the laws of the kingdom. See, this ruler knows that a calamity is coming that will sweep the neighboring lands and his kingdom will be the only place which is safe. That is when the ruler will determine who may enter.

Those who accepted citizenship and followed the laws (or would have if they had only known what they needed to do) will be admitted. Those who reject his authority or his laws cannot enter—in fact they would probably refuse to enter the country. Certainly the ruler cannot be faulted for excluding people from his kingdom who refuse to accept his citizenship and his laws. He offers it to everyone, but some will refuse to cooperate, just as the first couple did.

The Evaluation

God is that ruler. Heaven is His kingdom. The plan allowing people to enter His kingdom that cost the death of His Son was the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Baptism is the way to citizenship His teachings are His laws and His emissaries are His Church. The calamity is the end of the world.

Now when you consider that, the knowing refusal to accept God or His Plan or His Baptism or His Laws or His Church is not a thing of no importance . . . it is the rejection of God, the refusal to accept His reaching out to us to save us.

God will judge us with Love and Mercy and Justice. But the person who refuses to accept God's Love and Mercy will face what's left . . . His justice. God doesn't withdraw it. The sinner refuses it in this case. Since Heaven is the place of God's love and mercy, where can the person who refuses it go? God will not force it on the person.

The only place left is the place outside Heaven . . . the ruins. Hell. Hell isn't a final failing grade for people who aren't "nice enough." It's the choice of the person who knowingly refuses God.

That's why the Church can say God is Love and Mercy—and say Hell exists, and not contradict herself.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Reflections on the California Video Game Law Before the Supreme Court

There is recently a California law before the Supreme Court which forbids the sales of certain violent video games to minors (See here for some background).  What strikes me about this discussion is what is not being asked.

The Issue NOT Under Discussion

First of all, let me preempt certain angry responses

On some gamer sites, the argument tends to go that people either are entirely for censorship or must insist on no restrictions whatsoever, so let me make clear that this article is not an article supporting state control over all issues of our lives.

Moreover, this is not an article seeking to defend the California law (I think it should be redrafted personally as it is too vague in some parts and redundant in others)

What this Article IS About

What this article hopes to make clear is that there is a difference between the rights which an adult possesses and the rights which a child not yet legally responsible for their own decisions possesses — specifically the issue of the rights of the parent to bring up their children in accordance to what is right.

Ultimately this article focuses on the question of whether the retailer has the right to sell a movie or game with content labeled Mature or Restricted to a minor without consulting the parent.

"Freedom of Speech" Misses the Point

The article cites some of the Supreme Court Justices as divided:

"We do not have a tradition in this country of telling children they should watch people actively hitting schoolgirls over the head with a shovel so they'll beg with mercy, being merciless and decapitating them, shooting people in the leg so they fall down," Chief Justice John Roberts said, according to a Nov. 2 report by the Associated Press.

By contrast, Justice Antonin Scalia said: "I am concerned with the First Amendment, which says Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech." He then added: "It has never been understood that the freedom of speech did not include portrayals of violence. You are asking us to create a whole new prohibition which the American people never ratified when they ratified the First Amendment."

Here is my problem with the basic assumptions of the Court: That it is a Free Speech issue as opposed to an issue of denying parents the right to control the media their minor children are exposed to.

The Parental Authority over their Children Overrides the Freedom of Expression for the Child

Whether one is strict on lenient on the types of restrictions which ought to be placed on content in media, one issue which used to be recognized is that the parent has the right to set the restrictions on what his or her minor child can view.

When one recognizes this, it becomes irrelevant to what the Supreme Court says on Free Speech.  If a parent deems certain material offensive, the Supreme Court does not have the right to overrule the parental decision.

Now of course there are limits.  As I pointed out in a past article parents can use poor judgment, and that merely using the "if it is ok with the parent, nobody has a right to complain" argument can lead to some extreme problems. 

We do realize there are also some moral absolutes involved.  If (to use a hypothetical example) a parent were to see nothing wrong with permitting their minor children the right to drink, smoke and watch pornography, most people would consider such parents failing to live up to their obligation in bringing up their children.

So here we run into a problem.  Some parents do have issues with the exposure of their children to R rated moves and M rated video games.  Others do not.  So the question is what happens when a minor goes to buy a movie or a game which is rated for an age above the person buying it?

Understanding the Movie/Game Rating System

We do recognize that certain bodies offer ratings to advise parents of the content of certain media.  The MPAA for example has an 'R' rating which advises that "Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian."  It also has an 'NC-17' rating which advises "No One 17 and Under Admitted."  Such ratings are not considered censorship for requiring a parent or guardian to accompany anyone under the age of 17 to an R rated movie and forbidding anyone 17 and under from seeing an NC-17 movie.  Rather they are considered to be helping parents be aware of the content.

Likewise the ESRB has a rating system for video games.  It gives a general description of videogames content to advise parents.  The issue of course is whether a game has content intended for people 17 and older.  The M rating for the ESRB rating is described as:

Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

Very well.  For people who grew up with things like Pac Man and Space Invaders, a game which shows graphic death, profanity or other things may be problematic.  However, so long as we make sure that only individuals old enough to buy the game for themselves, or parents/guardians have made an informed decision that the game is not morally offensive, we do not have a problem.

When Retailers Violate the Rights of Parents

The problem with such a system is that, being voluntary, there is no legal obligation for a retailer to stop a 14 year old kid from buying a copy of RoboCop or Grand Theft Auto.  Now some stores have policies to check ID and some stores do not carry certain materials which goes against a family friendly mindset.

Unfortunately others do not, and that is why this case is before the Supreme Court.

This is my own take on the subject.  A law which requires a check of ID and requires parents to purchase  R rated movies or M rated games for their minor children does not violate the rights of the movie/game distributor, the retailer, the minor child or the parent.

HOWEVER, the retailer who does sell to a minor without checking ID does usurp the rights of the parent by making an assumption that the child has permission of his or her parent, or by not caring whether or not the child has permission so long as he has money.

Laws Requiring the Check of ID Do Not Demand the State do Parenting Instead of Parents

One of the annoying Straw man arguments I have seen on gamer sites is the claim that laws which place any restrictions demonstrate bad parenting by insisting the state do parenting for them.  That kind of argument might have been true back in the past before VCR Players, DVD Players and home consoles, and even PCs were common enough to be in every room of the house, back when either parents had to drive youth places or the youth were old enough to drive.

Instead, such laws prevent the minor from certain levels of access to content their parents have forbidden.  Now of course such laws can never be perfect.  There is always the possibility of the retailer being fooled by a fake ID.  There is always the possibility of a minor being exposed to content at the house of a friend with more lenient standards.  It would be ridiculous to expect the law to enforce the impossible.

However it does not follow that because a law cannot prevent everything it should prevent nothing.

On the Other Hand, The Existence of Laws Do Not Remove the Responsibilities of Parents

Just because a law exists which prevents the minor from the legal purchasing of something controlled does not mean the parent can abdicate any of their own responsibilities.  It is the responsibility of the parent to raise their child in keeping with the truth, and to discern what is acceptable or unacceptable in a way which movie or game ratings cannot accept.

For example, many parents have decided that the movie The Passion of the Christ was something they found suitable for their children to watch despite the violence contained within the movie.  On the other hand, Catholic parents would be unwise to let the old game Grandia II into their house even though it had a "T" rating (it was a pretty anti-Catholic game).

It's not enough to say "It's rated [whatever], therefore it must be OK/Bad."  Parents do need to discern messages in a movie or game which the state or rating agency is not competent to judge.

Thus we need to look at a fine line to see what can be legally liable and what cannot.

What a Just Law Should Require

Now the problem with the California law is that it sets up a state commission to establish what games within the ESRB code require a special 18+ sticker for violence.  This is redundant of course.  It is also subjective.  By what criteria is this commission to discern what is acceptable and what is not.  Is it acceptable for a store to not sell a game with a special 18+ sticker to a minor 16 years old, but also acceptable for a store to sell a game without the sticker, but still rated M (for 17+) to the same 16 year old?

I think certain objections on a vague line are justified.  If a game would warrant an 18+ sticker, why is it not rated AO for example instead of M.  Such a law creates overlapping

However, just because the current form of the California law seems to be flawed, it does not seem to logically follow that therefore no law should exist.

It seems to me that a just law would require the retailer to check the ID before selling a movie rated R or NC-17, or a game rated M or AO to someone who is suspected of being under the required age, refusing to sell to people under this age, and if the retailer will not comply, they can be fined for violations of such a law.


Such a law would not prevent a parent or guardian from using their own discretion and permitting a child to view a certain R rated movie or playing a certain M rated game.  Nor would it violate the rights of the game creator from offering a game for sale or a retailer to sell games to an adult.

It would however say to the retailer "You do not have a right to sell such a movie or game to a minor who is not your own child.  Only the parent has this right to permit the child access."

Again, such a law would not protect the minor from being exposed to materials at a home of a friend with parents who held lesser standards.  However, once we recognize such a situation is beyond the scope of the law anyway, such an argument against passing any law at all becomes irrelevant.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Candy Bar Theology

24 Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He had Paul summoned and listened to him speak about faith in Christ Jesus.

25 But as he spoke about righteousness and self-restraint and the coming judgment, Felix became frightened and said, “You may go for now; when I find an opportunity I shall summon you again.” (Acts:24:24-25)

One thing I have noticed in modern Christianity is the tendency of the believer to choose or not choose a belief based not on whether it is true, but on whether it is appealing.  Thus we hear the message of love, but believe the messages of obedience and judgment are left behind.

The Origin of the Term

In his insightful book, Socrates Meets Jesus, the character of Socrates speaks of the modern beliefs in Christianity as such:

Socrates: And I still don't know why you believe what you believe.

Bertha: I just do, that's ail. Maybe it's irrational, Maybe we choose to believe things and choose to do things for other reasons than rational reasons. Didn't you ever think of that?

Socrates: Like eating that candy bar, for instance?

Bertha: Yes. I think you're wrong when you teach that evil comes only from ignorance. That's rationalism. That assumes that rea­son always rules. It doesn't. It gets pushed around by the desires and the will sometimes.

Socrates; I think you are convincing me of just that. In fact, I think I have seen two instances of it just this morning— instances of something I disbelieved in until now.

Bertha: Two instances?

Socrates: Yes. Your candy bar and your beliefs. You choose both not because they are good for you, or because they are true, but because they are sweet. Your belief that God forgives but does not judge is rather like a candy bar, is it not? It Is a sweet thought, the thought that we have only half of justice to deal with when we deal with God, that God rewards goodness but does not punish evil—is not that thought sweet and desirable? And are you not attracted to it just as you are attracted to the candy bar? (Page 55)

How It Afflicts Christianity

The reason this afflicts [no, I did not mean to type "affects"] Christianity is that it focuses on one aspect of God, making it the whole.  When the Church insists on looking at God as both Love and Just, it is the Church which is accused of legalism or being hard hearted in relation to God instead of considering the possibility of a lax conscience of the individual.

Such a view of Christianity seems to make use of the following kind of reasoning:

  1. [God] is [Good] (All [A] is [B])
  2. No [Punishment] is [Good] (No [C] is [B])
  3. Therefore [God] Does not [Punish] (Therefore No [C] is [A])

The problem is the assumption of the minor premise, that no punishment is not good.  This is begging the question because the minor premise needs to be proven, not assumed.  Now of course some punishment may be wrong because it is excessive or inflicted on the wrong individual.  However it does not follow no punishment is good.  Sometimes parents must correct their children.  Sometimes the state must incarcerate law breakers for their correction or the protection others.  We can argue more reasonably as follows:

  1. [God] is [Just] (All [A] is [B])
  2. Some [Punishment] is from [God] (Some [C] is [A])
  3. Therefore Some [Punishment] is [Just] (Therefore some [C] is [B])

We can demonstrate the second premise from Scripture and Church teaching.  In both the Old and the New Testament, we see God speaking of punishment and warning of punishment as a way of calling the sinful man back to Himself.  So from this, the believer has to look at the major premise.  Do they believe that God is just or do they not?  If they believe God is both good and just, then it follows that if He punishes, He does so for reasons which are good and just.

If they don't believe God is good or just, then why follow Him?

"Does God really care about X?"

However, most people who do believe in God believe He is just and good.  It's just that they don't think their own behavior should be considered bad.  Because God is good and they don't think their behavior is bad, they reason that therefore God doesn't think the behavior they do is bad, but rather the "mean old Church" imposes this on people for whatever reason.

So we thus see all sorts of questions:

  • "Do you really think God cares if I have sex with my girlfriend/boyfriend?"
  • "Do you really think God cares if a married couple trying to be good uses contraception?"
  • "Do you really think God wants me to be unhappy because my spouse was unfaithful to me and ran off with another?"
  • "Do you really think God cares about homosexual acts?"

The unvoiced part of the objection is "This is really unimportant and only the Church thinks it is important.  Yet it is that unvoiced objection which must be proven.

The problem is, of course, you can justify any kind of behavior from this point of view:

  • "Do you really think God cares if I offer sacrifice to an idol?"
  • "Do you really think God cares if I participate in the Death Camps?"
  • "Do you really think God cares if I apostatize from the Faith?"
  • "Do you really think God cares if I steal from a rich man?"
  • "Do you really think God cares if I eat of the tree of knowledge?"

The thing is, if an act is contrary to His will and we know it is contrary to what He decrees, we are obligated to do as He commands and are guilty if we defy Him.  If a thing is contrary to His will and we do not know it is contrary to His will, our guilt or innocence will depend on what we could know if we bothered to find out.

The Ultimate Satanic Deception

Ultimately the Satanic deception behind such a mentality is Do what you will.  If you think it is good, it must be good.  Good is made subjective to feelings.  Because a God who forgives but does not punish is a pleasing thought, we hide from the consideration of if a thing is good, and what the consequences are for disobedience for what God commands.  Thus we have the sweetness of a forgiving God and the sweetness of self-indulgence without the responsibility and the obligations to obey and the consequences of disobedience.


It is an act of tremendous arrogance to assume for ourselves what is good or bad depending on what we want to do instead of what we ought to do.  To decide that punishment and sin is only for things which do not involve us and fail to consider what we are required to do or what happens when we disobey is foolish indeed.  It is not based on what is true, but what is pleasing to us.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Was Man Set Up to Fail? A Look at God Creating Man as He Was (Article II)

Recap of the Last Article

Last time I discussed some general Christian Beliefs about God, Creation and the Fall in regards to the question, “Did God set up man to fail?” To recap, the premise of the challenge is that God knew man would fail, yet created the situation where free will, the serpent (the Devil) and the Tree of Knowledge existed. Therefore God set man up to fail.

In my article, I stated that man did have the ability to refuse, yet chose to act against God, knowing it was forbidden. As a result, man and his descendents fell from what God created them to be.

So let us now look at some of the questions of why God made us in such a way which we could fail.

On The Nature of Triangles

One of the common questions intended to stump believers is to ask whether God could make a triangle with four sides. The supposed dilemma is: If God can make it, it isn’t a triangle. If He can’t make it, He isn’t all powerful.

The problem with this dilemma is that it assumes that the nature of things comes before God, and not that the nature of things comes because of God.

If God wills to make a triangle, He wills to make a thing with three sides. If He wanted a thing with four sides, He wouldn’t make a triangle to begin with, because the essence of a triangle is that it has three sides and the total interior angles total to 180 degrees, whether it is scalene, isosceles or equilateral.

Things like the lengths of the sides and the degrees of each angle depend on the type of the triangle it is. A triangle is not less of a triangle because it is scalene and not equilateral for example. However, once you add a fourth side or make the angles of the interior > 180 degrees, you no longer have a triangle, but something else entirely.

So the answer to this supposed stumper is that it is nonsense to ask whether a four sided triangle can exist, because a four sided object is not a triangle to begin with, and the question can be rewritten “Will God call a four sided object a triangle?”

The answer is no, because to call a four sided object a triangle is to speak falsely, which would mean God was not perfectly good.

So what does this have to do with the creation of human beings?

On the Nature of Men

From the point above, we need to consider what the human person necessarily is. The Human person necessarily possesses certain characteristics in essence, where if you remove them from the idea of “human” what you have is no longer human.

As Christians, we believe that all people are created with an immortal soul. No soul, no person. Or to state it in the opposite way, if one is a human being, he or she has an immortal soul. We also believe that God created man with the potential for free will. So what is the significance of this?

Because man is created with an immortal soul, he will not end with death. Because he is created with free will, the consequences of his choices will exist beyond death. Because he is created with free will, he does have choices he can make, for which he is responsible.

(Excursus: The Question of the Mentally Disabled

I would like to pause here to address the issue of the insane or mentally disabled, who through birth defect or accident or age, are unable to make use of the free will which exists in all men. Does this mean such a person is not a human being?

I would say this would be as wrong as to say that a female who, through birth defect, injury, old age or disease, is unable to bear children is not a woman. The potential is there, though some individuals wind up with the inability to make use of such things because of these circumstances.)

So Why Did God make Man with Free Will?

The common claim here is that if man had not been created with free will, then he would not have been able to sin. Perhaps this is the case. However, man would not have been able to do good either. Essentially we would be not much more than two legged cattle.

Now, if God is perfect (which Christians do believe), then it follows God does not need anything. If He needed anything, it would indicate a lack. Yet the deist concept of the Divine Clockmaker is also illogical. If God merely sets the clock in motion and then ignores everything, the question then arises, “Why make the clock?”

We need to remember the statement, “God is love.” (1 Jn 4:16). Now love is not sentimentality and indulgence. It desires the true good for the beloved. Sometimes this must involve “tough love” to help us. Now since man was created with an immortal soul, it follows that the good God desires for us must take this into account.

Christians believe that God created the universe with the human person in mind, and that He created the human person out of love with the desire of giving us the eternal good, not temporal goods.

The Lover and the Beloved

Now, if this good is something which must be received, it cannot be achieved by man’s own effort because man is a finite creature. Only by being offered the eternal from the eternal God can it be received. If it is to be offered and not forced, it requires a free acceptance of the gift God offers.

So why does God not simply remove free will and give us this eternal good? This is because love is not a one way street. There is the lover and the beloved. Scripture uses many images of God as the lover wooing us, the beloved. The lover never forces himself on the beloved. If the beloved spurns the lover, God will not force the beloved to accept Him. However, with this in mind, the beloved who spurns the Lover has no cause for complaint when they have no part of the life of the Lover. Since God is the eternal lover and we are created with an eternal soul, if we spurn His love, we must spend eternity apart from Him.

So in short, God gave us free will, because we are not merely constructs of God, but people whom He loves and wants to share in His love.

This is the divergence between the one who says God set man up to fail and the Christian belief. We were not given free will so we could choose sin. We were given free will so we could choose to accept what God offers.

Parent and Child

In terms of creator and created, God does have the authority to make behaviors required of us.  However, a parent can at times leave to the discretion of the child when one wishes to teach responsibility as opposed to standing over the child with the immediate readiness to punish.  CS Lewis discusses this in his work Mere Christianity:

…anyone who has been in authority knows how a thing can be in accordance with your will in one way and not in another.  It may be quite sensible for a mother to say to the children, 'I'm not going to go and make you tidy up the schoolroom every night.  You've got to learn to keep it tidy on your own.'  Then she goes up one night and finds the Teddy bear and the ink and the French Grammar all lying in the grate.  That is against her will.  She would prefer the children to be tidy.  But on the other hand, it is her will which has left the children free to be untidy.  The same thing arises in any regiment, or trade union, or school.  You make a thing voluntary and then half the people do not do it.  This is not what you willed, but your will has made it possible.

It is probably the same in the universe.  God created things which had free will.  That means creatures which can go either wrong or right.  Some people think they can imagine a creature which is free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot.  If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad.  And free will is what has made evil possible.  Why, then, did God give them free will?  Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the thing which makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.  A world of automata — of creatures which worked like machines — would hardly be worth creating.  The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water.  And for that they must be free. (pages 47-48)

The parent who wants a thing to be done can of course stand over the child with a whip and make sure it is done this way.  However, the parent who wants the child to understand the importance of doing a thing so the child chooses to do a thing of his own free will must take a different course.  We believe this is the case in our relationship with God.  Since God loves us and wants us to choose the good, He must make us free if doing good is to have any meaning at all.

The Error in Denying that Free Will Exists.

Now it follows that if Love is a choice we must make, the possibility of spurning God is there. The risk of rejection is always there in love. God being the perfect lover will not betray us, but we can betray Him. Adam and Eve did, and so do we. He will always offer it, but will not force us to accept it.

Certain groups of Christians fear the idea that if man has to accept, it means God is not fully in control, and it puts the emphasis on man (Calvin and Luther for example seem to have leaned this way). Such individuals try to argue that the one who God chooses has no say in the matter, and the one who God rejects can never be saved because he was rejected from the beginning. Such a view [known as Double Predestination] is, I believe, blasphemous, as it makes God responsible for all evil done.  If one is predestined to be saved, we cannot call his actions good.  If one is predestined to be damned, we cannot call his actions evil.  Such a one is merely doing what he is predestined to do.

It also confuses the issue by ignoring that without God’s acting to begin with, the man has nothing to choose to accept. What God offers is so far beyond the ability of man to do on his own, that unless God offers it, man cannot receive it.

I think it would be interesting to see whether the "God set man up to fail" argument had its roots in the claims of double predestination.

Misusing Free Will Has Consequences

Now, if will is free, it follows that a person may choose to act in a way which is in violation of what was intended to be. He can do this in the sense that nobody forced him to do something in violation of what he chose to do. However, this does not mean it is good to do so, and in acting against what we were called to be, we do ourselves harm. Sometimes in the temporal realm, sometimes into eternity.

I am able to drive drunk if I choose to. However, it is not permitted for me to do so, and if I do, there will be legal or even life threatening results which will affect me in time or even eternally (if it kills me). I cannot say in response that the law, in not physically preventing me from driving, is to blame for the result.

Likewise, our using our free will to act against God is possible, and because He made us with free will, He recognizes some of us can use our free will for evil instead of for good. However, it is not God’s fault we do evil, because He gave us the ability to think on our own.

The Flip Side of Freedom

What is often forgotten today is that freedom is part of a package deal. The other side of the coin is responsibility. If a person has free will, the person has the responsibility to use their free will in a way which does not harm themselves or others. He, and not the lawmaker, is to blame for failing to act responsibly. The idea of responsibility indicates it is something we can control. If a person slips on the ice, nobody blames him because the law of gravity forces him to the ground. It is only when the circumstances are things we can control that we can be blamed for failing to do so.

Looking at Adam and Eve

Now Adam and Eve were given free will, and they were given the responsibility in using it rightly. Moreover, with original grace, they had the ability to resist temptation to do evil. In other words, they had the free will to control their own actions, and they had the responsibility to make the right use of those actions. With the ability to resist the impulses to choose wrongly, Adam and Eve could not claim that their actions could not be helped. The reason they were judged was because they were able to resist but chose not to.

So from this, we can see that in failing to resist temptation, their actions were because they could have but did not refuse the lies of the devil.

Conclusion: The Direction Next Time

I have given a demonstration of why Christians believe we have free will. However some individuals have a hard time contrasting God’s omnipotence with our free will. If God knows what we will do, does this not mean we are fated to do these things?

The short answer is no.

The longer answer will be covered in part III of this series.