Welcome everyone to a new category on the blog: ‘You asked’.
I have been thinking for some time about how to answer the questions that We don’t quite get to on Friday youth services (I have the question box on my desk here) and the occasional email that I get. Moreover, I have always believed that there’s always someone else maybe struggling with/thinking about a similar question but has been too afraid to speak up and ask it.
So, this one came via email and I thought it would be a great way to kick of the new category.
The question that came through to my email last week was:
Given that God has a free will. Is it possible for anyone else to have one?
I think any time we ask questions ultimately pertaining to God, we have to be aware that we are doing so from within a mortal perspective and therefore limited understanding. My first and simplest answer to this question would be ‘Yes’ – but only when we alter our understanding of what human (created) free will is.
I believe that the Sovereignty of God means that by definition his free will is an unrestricted free will. It must be, it’s an uncreated one. It is boundary-less, in time, in insight, in perspective, completely without constraint whatsoever.
Humanity’s free will is not boundary-less. We are free to a point. Everyone agrees on this whether they are people of faith or not. I am not free to choose to live in this body forever. I’m going to die. That’s a fact beyond my control. However, there are freedoms within that life, many have been afforded to me by the time and place that I was born.
Perhaps we could say that air molecules inside a football are free to move about inside that ball. However, if that ball is kicked through a goal, those molecules can’t choose to no longer be in the ball, they’re going through the goal too! Whether they want to or not. However, as the ball is flying through the goal, those molecules may totally rearrange themselves within the ball.
Like it or not, we occupy our own ball called earth. I’m not free to pack-up and live on Venus, I would melt instantly. Nor can I live in a different age. Thus so, I am constricted to a time and place and therefore, so are all my ‘freedoms.’ God however, is the ‘goal-kicker’ which is why it’s useless to resist him. In short; God’s freedom exists over and outside of the space time continuum!
I have written elsewhere on the Biblical picture of human free will in a previous blog here but just to recap: it is interesting (and very formative for my theology) that God places humanity in the Garden of Eden and gives the instruction: ‘You may eat the fruit of any tree but not of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.’ Notice that this would therefore include the tree of life.
It matters that God does NOT say: “you can eat from ONLY this tree, all the others are mine…so don’t touch my stuff.” The obvious point here is that God’s will is a garden. Ie: within God’s specific will there is life, variety and exploration. It’s actually in exile where life merely seems like a desert. This is why Cain immediately goes off to build a city. We always want to rely on others to fill the God shaped hole. Of course these are the very things that Satan in trying to reverse in the minds of the first couple when he sows the idea that God is trying to keep something from them.
So that for me is where I tend to leave it. I don’t know the intricacies of how the divine and human will(s) play out, but I believe that to be in God’s will is to be in the garden and to choose against it is actually to be in exile and in one sense the last free choice I make.
Maybe we could say, that the ‘limitations’ that a being as vast as God put’s upon our free will, are still more spacious than we could ever want, need or imagine. In fact, I’m not sure we ponder that enough.
I feel that to go any further is an attempt to flatten out mystery into the explainable. Thomas A’Kempis said that if God really is God, then it would be natural that his attributes be ultimately foreign to human understanding. Paul says as much when he tells the Corinthians that since God cannot be known through human wisdom, where then is the philosopher of the age?
Unflinching and remaining mystery is a key tool of God, to keep the believer humble and reliant on him for their very faith.
So, in short the answer I believe is yes we (even angels) have a measure of free will, but the precise degree to which I think we’ll never know as it will always be in comparison to God’s truly infinite freedom- which we do not have the capacity to know nor measure.
Bless ya:)…and feel free to discuss in the comments section below!
Next week: do homosexuals go to hell?