I need to first preface what I’m going to write here by saying that while I am no longer a Christian, a practioner of Christianity, a Christian spiritualist, or bound by any Christian standards of morality, I recognize that following the dominant themes of Christianity, as is true of most religions, will cause one to lead an “upright” life. That said, my intention here is not to debunk Christianity at all. Be careful to note that I do not offer my beliefs on the subject here, but I want to pose a question that was spurred by a slew of conversations I’ve had with Christians.
Is there truly a such thing as free will?
Without getting too metaphysical here, I want to give you the whole. So, according to Christianity, god has ordained all that we see and don’t see. That means that in a very practical way, all that has happened has been planned. That I type this post right now is a part of god’s plan. In a very real way, god has made this happen. This moment has been planned, created, manufactured, and appointed by god in the beginning of the beginning. Now, a typical complaint of atheists (of which I am not) and agnostics (I’m not this either) and non-Christians (this is me) is that Christians attribute all the world’s good to god and all the bad to the devil. There is a disconnect there because, again, god has ordained these things to be so. The Afrikan (yes with a “k”) holocaust, the genocide in Darfur, Rwanda, and in Eastern European countries, the HIV/AIDS epidemic throughout Afrika, your child dying of SIDS–all of these things and more are ordained by god according to Christianity. You were fired–ordained by god. The Cavs swept the first round of the playoffs–ordained by god. Literally, all that has happened and will happen is a part of god’s plan regardless of whether we understand it.
But. If all things have been ordained by god, if god has set all things in motion and animated all things according to his will, do I really have free will? What choices do I have here? Am I really ever making a choice, or am I simply living according to god’s plan? For example, I planned for my son and I to see the new X-men movie yesterday. I knew he wanted to see it, and so did I. Nothing he said or did was going to influence my plan one way or another. He could’ve begged me to go for hours (a form of prayer perhaps), or he could’ve expressed that didn’t want to go at all. Either way he was going because–in a practical way–I ordained it to be so. He often asks me where we are going when driving to and from places. I almost never tell him because really, it doesn’t matter if he knows because we are traveling according to my will. The choices he made are irrelevant. While this example is very simple (as it should be), I expect that you get the point. If the parameters for life’s possibilities have been set before you even begin, and all that you do or don’t do are happening exactly according to god’s will, wherein lies your choice? Say I set a rat on a track that meanders but nevertheless always progresses forward. There is no deviating from this track, and there is no going back for the rat because there are trapdoors that close behind the rat as the rat makes progress through the track. Along the trap I have laid cheese and other goodies, and at other points, I have laid Siafu (look it up) other stumbling blocks or instances of baddies. The rat has not chosen any of what happened to it. I have ordained the rat’s track through life in a certain way. That rat could pray to me and beg and plead, but there is no deviating from the course. In the end, I have set up a super strong rat trap, and there is no escaping that either.
Do you see where things fall apart for me? How can it be that god has planned for certain things for me AND I have the choice to do what I want? Does that mean that I can change god’s plan? What then is the use of prayer? If god has already decided whether I will get what I’m praying for, why do I need to pray for it? A mantra in Christiandom is that we ought to allow god to have his way–that we should live our lives according to god’s plan. Why, then, should any of us pray for certain things? This same god already knows the desires of my heart, so who am I fooling by asking for certain things?
…a little help down here