Freewill and the Future

I thought I would post again on the argument of freewill. In my first post I had some responses and carried on the discussion on another blog you can find that here. What I would like to talk about is a point that came out of that discussion.

The point that was made was our basic definition of the word “future” points us in the direction that we have no freewill. By using the word future we are saying that something will happen. It was also pointed out that atheists, agnostics, and religious people in general all would have to believe that they have no freewill, by the mere fact that our whole explanation of what we believe the future is.

Now I do not believe this at all. Future or our idea of what the future is has nothing to do with if we have freewill or not. The fact of the matter is that we have this word future which means things that have not happened yet but will happen. By using this word we are implying that the events are going to happen but not that they have to happen. For example in the future, lets say tomorrow I will go to work, sit at my desk, and type a letter to a friend. Now I know I am going to do this because I said it will happen in the future. We can go into the argument saying I am destined to do this but we are not to this argument yet. I will first dismiss the fact that the word future or our idea of the future has anything to do with freewill.

So tomorrow rolls around and I wake up and feel absolutely terrible. I call work and tell them I am not coming in. The future has changed. I no longer did what was set for me in the future. (This is not the best argument but it is a simple demonstration of the principle that there are infinite amounts of possible futures.) Our idea of the future has no bearing of the physics of what is really happening. This means that we can dismiss the argument that just because our idea of the future implies we do not have freewill then we do not have freewill.

I could also get into the argument that the future really doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as the future. We know there will be time in front of me but it is blank. It is the absence of anything. I think when this argument was made against me for freewill some of this was mixed in with our definition of the future. But if the case is that there is no such thing as a future then there cannot possibly be an omniscient being and there is no possibility of a freewill argument.

You see, if there is the absence of anything in “the future” then we cannot have a freewill argument. The fact that nothing is written out “per say” means that we will do anything at anytime. There is no way to know what will happen so there is no possible way we do not have freewill. Now you can say we do what we do and there isn’t a possibility of that changing. That argument now has no bearing because once we do something it is the past. Once something is in the past thats it, it has been solidified and is never changing. That in no way says that we would have always done it that way because then you are implying that there is “the future”.

No I am in no way arguing the fact that true Christians do not have freewill. If someone is educated on what Christianity trully is they will have no choice but to agree that they do not have freewill, only the illution of such a thing. What I am arguing is that someone that does not believe in the christian ideal of a god still has the possibity of freewill. I believe that this post argues the point very well and I invite challenges to the idea that a athiest or agnostic does not have freewill.


Published in: on January 6, 2008 at 2:21 pm  Comments (4)  
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  1. Nice points. Beliefs vary from total free will to “we are robots”. It’s hard to believe there is so much variation in belief from reading the same Bible. The problem is “cherry-picking” scripture and taking scripture out of context to make a point. The thinking of man is apt to pollute spiritual truth. The other problem is reading a translation of the Bible in English without considering the meaning of the original text. This used to be difficult to research. Today, anybody can do some basic work by downloading e-sword and using the Strong’s numbers to get a basic understanding of what the original text says. There is no excuse for ignorance or taking what the misled say at face value.

  2. Ruth, I wish it were that simple to resolve the dispute, but the fact is that advocates of all side of the freewill debate can quote Hebrew and Greek texts ad nauseum. But sometimes ignorance of the true exegesis of scripture can contribute to the problem. In addition to this, bringing one’s presuppositions into the reading of a text can hinder our ability to understand it. Of course, each side accuses the others of committing this error.

    Bigfix, in some philosophies the future is set against freewill and the destruction of one or the other is necessary. But in Christian theology, this is not the case. If it was predestined for George Bush to be the 43rd president of the U.S., then it was also predestined that a majority of the electoral college would vote for him. Some number of millions of people pulled the lever for their candidate in full exercise of their free will, and directly affected the outcome of the future, but in so doing they only brought about the results which God had predestined. In other words, God decrees the ends as well as the means to that end.

    In Augustinian/Reformed/Calvinistic teachings, which I obviously follow, freewill itself is not an illusion – it is the assumed powers of freewill that is an illusion. For example, I can not grow feathers and lay eggs no matter how willing I may be to do so. I am not a bird. So I may be free to will, but my will has no power to effect.

    Of course,this is an absurd example, but through absurdity we see that it is equally absurd to assume that freewill is totally free. Once we’ve established that there is a limit to freewill’s power, the question becomes “what are it’s limits?”

    The limits we find is that the will is only free to the extent that the person’s inward nature permits it. In other words, no one is free to will something they do not desire. For example, if a cow were offered fried chicken or hay to eat, the cow would always choose the hay, because the cow is not willing to eat meat, because according to the cow’s nature, she does not desire to eat meat. So the cow has free will to eat grass, but does not have freewill to eat meat.

    Likewise, a sinner is a “servant of sin”, and therefore is not free to be righteous. He sins of his own free will, his choices being in accordance with his desires, which are in accordance with his “heart”, or nature. So we say that he does not have “libertarian” freewill. The sinner can not choose to be righteous becausse he does not desire righteousness, and the reason he does not desire righteousness is because he has a corrupt nature.

    Only a change to that nature can empower a sinner’s will to turn to God in repentance and faith. This change of nature is called the new birth. This is a supernatural act and can only take place by the will of God.

    Okay, that was pretty long so I’ll stop now. !!!

  3. Joel I am not sure I agree with your example that we do not will which we do not desire. The fact of the matter is that is the beauty of being human. An animal will not eat if it is not hungry. But a human has the choice to eat or not to eat. Even if we are not hungry we can still choose to eat, even though we do not to eat. The same goes if we are full, we can still choose to eat. The choice is on the table and can and will be made. Even if we do not will it. Addiction may be a good example of this point. We may will not to smoke or drink but we do because of addiction.
    This was a point I have seen before. Human nature is the fact that we can see our choices and make them. An animal on the other hand makes choices by instinct which shows us they may not have freewill. We, humans, on the other hand can take the choice into a higher degree of understanding and do what we choose.

    I am very interested in your argument for having freewill and being christen. I am well aware of certain sects of the faith having freewill, but I would like to get a detailed explanation of why that is. (Don’t get me wrong freewill is a very, very important thing to have because if we do not have freewill we cannot place blame.)

    I hope to hear from you because I would like to see the logic behind the argument for freewill.


  4. Bigfix, thanks for inviting me back to comment, I don’t want to wear out my welcome. Your reference to the differences between man and animals is important because one of the ways we distinguish man from animal is that he is a “rational” being. He “thinks” about his choices. But you have to remember that the choices we make are usually between two or more competing desires – something we desire vs something else we desire. In either case, it is something we desire. In the case of the addict, perhaps his rational mind despises the addictive substance, but his body craves it. So on one hand he has a rational desire to be free from the harm of the addiction, but on the other hand, he has a strong bodily desires for the pleasure the addictive substance brings. When his bodily desire defeats his rational desire, this defines him as an addict. But the point is, his choices are driven by his desires. So while he freely chooses of hiw own will (nobody forces him to take drugs), yet his will is not truly free, for it is compelled by his own internal desires.

    The majority of Christians today believe that they can please God by acts and choices of their own free will. But the Bible teaches us that man is not free, but is a slave to sin. Just like the addict can not free himself from his craving for a drug, mankind can not make themselves free from that which he loves – namely, sin. Man must be set free, as Jesus said “if the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed”. The freedom to turn to God with a repentant heart comes from God, who imparts His Spirit into those whom He has chosen to redeem. Faith is a gift given to us by God to bring us to Himself. We can not take any credit for our salvation – it is wholly the work of God.

    Hope this helps.


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