Do humans have free will or are our decisions entirely products of chemistry, physics, and genetics? Is there a difference between the brain and the mind? Could a neuroscientist with enough knowledge of our brains know every decision that we’ll make? The answers to these questions cut to the heart of what it means to be human.
Pastor Todd of Crossroads Community Church deals with a very tough theological thorn of free-will and God’s sovereignty. Yes. I have believed this for years and consider it somewhat of a mystery, just like the Trinity. I added some graphics (Scripture verses read) for the casual viewer so they can follow along with Todd. As an unimportant aside, the first time Scripture explicitly mentions Pharaoh hardening his heart is in Exodus 8:15.
Here are two quotes that came to mind during the sermon:
Free will and God… Dr. Lennox give a great anecdote between the “how” and the “that.” We do not have to explain “how” something works in order to know the comparability with the best explanation.
Great short apologetic response.
(H/T ~ Debunking Atheists)
See more at my post: Evolution Cannot Account for: Logic, Reasoning, Love, Truth, or Justice
This post is a response to a question posed to me via my email by an atheist.
I brought up the idea of Native-Americas (N-A) not hearing the Gospel with my dad. It seemed, to me, unfair that they should not be afforded at least some clarity in an opportunity to be judged before their maker. My dad shared his thoughts on the matter, and it started with a reading from Romans:
- 18 For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, 19 since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse. (The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. [Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009], Ro 1:18–20.)
- But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. (Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language [Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005], Ro 1:18–20.)
He explained that the tribes that were very “war-like,” like the Comanches, acted in rejection of what they knew to be God’s creation and how they should treat their fellow man and nature via the attributes they could clearly interpret via nature. The Sioux were at other times feared as well.
Peaceful tribes – not perfect mind you, but they had a deep understanding of their Creator and how to care for their own and other Native-American tribes they encountered — would interpret nature’s revelatory aspect of Whom they were to worship, and how. The Hopi tribe is one example.
To be clear, when theologians say that God is ultimately sovereign in his decisions over his creation, I am down with this. God — in classical understanding — IS the “Good” and would have a larger view of the panoply of history (since God would be outside of it and viewing it as a whole… the Eternal Now type stuff). So His judgement would necessarily be a Just one. I am not questioning this. I am saying that there are views within orthodoxy that struggle with the boundaries of those who have lived by law seeing that redemption of nature and themselves was somehow woven into nature and never hearing the Gospel (Hebrews 11:9-11). …continuing….
So using the Romans understanding of “The Book of Nature,” and the basis for “unsaved” people seeing – yes, even God’s attributes – something metaphysical and not just material, and looked forward to this hope. Also, these stories of creation and serving a God were handed down from the beginning of mankind. Some people across the earth held close these ancient stories although changed with time.
Combine this with the story of Abraham’s Bosom (Luke 16:19-31) and what Peter tells us about Jesus preaching to these lost souls (I Peter 3:18-20). I would posit — staying within the lane-lines of orthodoxy — that those in the world [pre and post Calvary] who have not been afforded a good explanation of the Gospel message may be afforded an opportunity to respond. This is not me arguing for universalism, but for justice being metered out in some form that was communicated to the Hebraic peoples that is hinted to in the New Testament.
I marry this understanding to a view I have sympathy for via William Lane Craig, a name you may be familiar with is on the opposing side of Christian apologetics. He has a view on Molinism I enjoy a bit. Here is what he says, and I will emphasize the important aspect I wish to highlight:
The doctrine of Molinism seeks to reconcile God’s sovereign predestination with man’s free will. Through His divine middle knowledge, God can know all possible outcomes of any world that is feasible for Him to create, including all the circumstances required for an individual to come to a saving knowledge of Him. But what if the saving of one individual means the loss of another? Does Molinism provide answers to such a dilemma? In this article, Dr. Craig answers questions on the how God would act if his choices were bound by damning either person A or person B arbitrarily.
Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/molinism
I see the solution to your query in your first question in the above. [And the few videos immediately below.]
And it is the same question[s] I struggled with and struggle with. This does away with the contradiction you see. I do wish to note however, that you are taking a moral position in your premise, Saby. And without God, this cannot be the case. Jesus would HAVE to be intimately involved in all of the above scenarios… intimately. None of the above take away from this fact.
I do not know your worldview you operate from, but I can assume atheistic in its presuppositions. But truth (absolute ethical statements are included in this understanding of truth) is something of a fiction to the atheistic evolutionist. Here are some quotes and audio/videos to make my point:
AND THE BELOW is taken from another post of mine:
I wish to start out with an excerpt from a chapter in my book where I use two scholarly works that use Darwinian naturalism as a guide to their ethic:
- Dale Peterson and Richard Wrangham, Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence (New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 1997).
- Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer, A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000).
My incorporation of these works into my book (quote):
“Lest one think this line of thinking is insane, that is: sexual acts are something from our evolutionary past and advantageous; rape is said to not be a pathology but an evolutionary adaptation – a strategy for maximizing reproductive success….. The first concept that one must understand is that these authors do not view nature alone as imposing a moral “oughtness” into the situation of survival of the fittest. They view rape, for instance, in its historical evolutionary context as neither right nor wrong ethically. Rape, is neither moral nor immoral vis-à-vis evolutionary lines of thought, even if ingrained in us from our evolutionary paths of survival. Did you catch that? Even if a rape occurs today, it is neither moral nor immoral, it is merely currently taboo. The biological, amoral, justification of rape is made often times as a survival mechanism bringing up the net “survival status” of a species, usually fraught with examples of homosexual worms, lesbian seagulls, and the like.”
(pp. 7-9 of Roman-Epicurean-ism-Natural-Law-and-Homosexuality)
Now, hear from other atheist and evolutionary apologists themselves in regard to the matter:
(h/t: TrueFreeThinker) – A Statement Made by an atheist at the Atheist and Agnostic Society:
[side note] You may also be aware that Richard Dawkins stated, “What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question.”
- Stated during an interview with Larry Taunton, “Richard Dawkins: The Atheist Evangelist,” by Faith Magazine, Issue Number 18, December 2007 (copyright; 2007-2008)
From the video description: Atheists Trying to Have Their Cake and Eat It Too on Morality. This video shows that when an atheist denies objective morality they also affirm moral good and evil without the thought of any contradiction or inconsistency on their part.
This is from the video Description for the Dan Barker video below:
The atheist’s animal-level view of “morality” is completely skewed by dint of its lack of objectivity. In fact, the atheist makes up his own personal version of “morals” as he goes along, and this video provides an eye-opening example of this bizarre phenomenon of the atheist’s crippled psyche:
During this debate, the atheist stated that he believed rape was morally acceptable, then he actually stated that he would rape a little girl and then kill himself — you have just got to hear his psychotic words with your own ears to believe it!
He then stammered and stumbled through a series of ridiculously lame excuses for his shameful lack of any type of moral compass.
To the utter amazement of his opponent and all present in the audience, the gruesomely amoral atheist even goes so far as to actually crack a sick little joke on the subject of SERIAL CHILD-RAPE!
Meanwhile, the Christian in the video gracefully and heroically realizes the clearly objective moral values that unquestionably come to humanity by God’s grace, and yet are far beyond the lower animal’s and the atheist’s tenuous mental grasp. Be sure to keep watching until the very end so that you can hear the Christian’s final word — it’s a real knuckle-duster!
Atheist dogma™ not only fails to provide a stable platform for objective human morality for its adherent — it precludes him even the possibility. It’s this very intellectual inability to apprehend any objective moral values that leads such believers in atheist dogma™ as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Dahmer to commit their horrific atheistic atrocities.
Any believer in atheist dogma™, given sufficient power, would take the exact same course of action that Hitler did, without a moment’s hesitation.
Note as well that evolutionary naturalism has very dogmatic implication, IF — that is — the honest atheist/evolutionist follow the matter to their logical conclusions, via the ineffable Dr. Provine:
Atheist and staunch evolutionist Dr. William Provine (who is often quoted by Richard Dawkins) admits what life has in stored if Darwinism is true. The quote comes from his debate here with Dr. Phillip E. Johnson at Stanford University, April 30, 1994.
Ethics and propositions that include ethical choice is one that rejects naturalistic origins. Some more quotes to make the point:
Frank Zindler (Editor of American Atheist Magazine and Director of American Atheists Press), denies the existence of free will. In an article he wrote for the American Atheist magazine, he writes this:
Although I risk inciting to disaffection many of the people who have expressed admiration for some of my previous articles, I must now focus my ‘Probing Mind’ upon the question, “Can will be free?” Let me answer the question straightaway with a firm “no,” and then attempt to support my conclusion.
The Center for Naturalism is strongly advocating for widespread rejection of free will:
We should doubt the little god of free will on the very same grounds that atheists doubt the big god of traditional religions: there’s no evidence for it.
I hope this helped and challenged you to know the variability within faith (while remaining orthodox) as well as bringing you face-to-face with your own premises in your worldview. Remember, if you disagree with the above ethics portion, you are not arguing against me but arguing against fellow atheists (if you are an atheist… I would hope you are a soft-agnostic). I also hope you asked your questions in a manner that is in line with you truly seeking a solution to these sticky issues. I will respond to your other challenges (honest questions) at a later date,
This is a topic I know a bit about, as, it is a common feature required to make distinctions in philosophy and science (and the philosophy of science) regarding naturalism and its influence on epistemology and if we can know truth, moral truth or otherwise. As we read the article we come to a small paragraph that shows me John is traipsing into territory he knows nothing about but makes sweeping statements as if he does. We read:
- Acceptance of an assumption that there is no free will would remove everyone’s responsibility for his or her behavior, and nobody could be condemned to jail or death. Such a thesis also would deny the influence of DNA and of experience in life.
Firstly, popular culture weighs in on this idea that somehow DNA influences free-will?
- “Infidelity – It May Be In Our Genes” ~ Time, August 15, 1994;
- “20th Century Blues” – Stress, anxiety, depression: the new science of evolutionary psychology finds the roots of modern maladies in our genes ~ Time, August 28, 1995;
- “Born Happy (Or Not)” – Happiness is more than just a state of mind… It is in the genes too;
- “Born To Be Gay?” ~ New Zealand Herald, August 8, 1996;
- “What Makes Them Do It?” – People who crave thrills, new evidence indicates, may be prompted at least partly by their genes ~ New Scientist, September 28, 1996, p. 32;
- “Your Genes May Be Forcing You To Eat Too Much” ~ Time, January 15, 1996;
- “Infanticide/neonaticide is caused by an evolutionary imperative” ~ New York Times, November 2, 1997.
In a lecture from Stephen Hawkings (who holds the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, Einstein’s chair) at a lecture given to a university crowd in England entitled “Determinism – Is Man a Slave or the Master of His Fate.” He discussed whether we are the random products of chance, and hence, not free, or whether God had designed these laws within which we are free. In other words: do we have the ability to make choices, or do we simply follow a chemical reaction induced by millions of mutational collisions of free atoms?
Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s maxim rings just as true today as it did in his day,“If there is no God, all things are permissible.” Without an absolute ethical norm, morality is reduced to mere preference and the world is a jungle where might makes right. This same strain of thought caused Mussolini to comment,
Which brings me to the finishing statement from John, “I cannot see how any society could function without assuming we do have free will.” On this we agree, even an atheistic society must borrow from the theistic worldview. In a previous response to My Huizum, I noted Sam Harris’ thinking on ultimate ethics:
- evolutionary psychology (for instance, atheist defender Sam Harris makes the Darwinian psychological statement that “…there’s nothing more natural than rape. Human beings rape, chimpanzees rape, orangutans rape, rape clearly is part of an evolutionary strategy to get your genes into the next generation if you’re a male.”)
So, let us see some popular positions taken by “evangelical” atheists:
(h/t: TrueFreeThinker) – A Statement Made by an atheist at the Atheist and Agnostic Society:
[side note] You may also be aware that Richard Dawkins stated,
- “What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question.”*
* Stated during an interview with Larry Taunton, “Richard Dawkins: The Atheist Evangelist,” by Faith Magazine, Issue Number 18, December 2007 (copyright; 2007-2008)
Take note also that leaders in atheistic thinking and philosophers of good standing deal with the determinism found in neo-Darwinian/naturalistic philosophies and evolutionary thinking. For instance, from a debate I was in many years ago, Stan said the following:
- “The brain works by firing electric charges that then release chemicals that make others fire electric charges.”
Robots and Cosmic Puppetry: The Scientific Challenge to Freedom
Which brings C.S. Lewis to mention how he was not able to connect the idea of “evil” to the world as an atheist:
William Lane Craig, who debated Sam Harris, works through this in his post, “Navigating Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape.” One can see from Sam Harris that ethics is not something that “ought” to be adhered to. In an article and from a debate between theist William Lane Craig and Same Harris, we can zero in on what naturalism says
William Lane Craig Discusses Sam Harris’ book, “The Moral Landscape”
So we can see that even the person mentioned in John Van Huizum’s article, Sam Harris, in reality rejects his premise that free will exists. John does say though, that we must (we meaning any society, secular or not) must assume it to be true. Thus, John is borrowing from the Judeo-Christian worldview and really arguing for the coherence of it (and the incoherence of the opposite), and not of atheism… unbeknownst to him! John neglects to tell us “the rest of the story” (Paul Harvey), or more likely doesn’t know the story to begin with.
- Simple enough… as above. REMEMBER, Dr. Provine is an evolutionist… a neo-Darwinian proponent following his worldview to its logical ends/consequences.
Do you have free will? Do you have the ability to shape your own destiny? Is there a difference between your mind and your brain? Or is free will just a convenient delusion? Are you really just a product of physical forces beyond your control? Best-selling author an acclaimed theologian Frank Pastore frames the debate the outcome of which may reshape the way you look at your life.
William Lane Craig discusses the book “Four Views of Divine Providence,” to which he defends Molinism. I tend towards the ground between Calvinism and Molinism. Here are some great resources to start delineating where you stand:
A good response to deepen your understanding of this perplexing and fun theological issue is this by Gregory Koukl: