The concept of Free Will is used in defending Gods lack of intervention in many human events. That God esteems Free Will, elevating it to a position in which it must be preserved at all costs. But can Christianity stay consistent in defending Free Will, both practically and pragmatically?
Why would God have put that horrendous tree in the Garden of Eden in the first place? If but a small act would unleash death, sin, and destruction upon the world to such an extent that God Himself would have to die, and even then only abate a portion of the effects, it was self-defeating to allow this travesty to occur.
The most common response is “free will.” However one chooses to philosophically debate and define it, there is some broad concept out there under this cloak—free will—by which God determined it was necessary to provide humans with a choice between morality and immorality. Reflect on what an awesome usurpation of reality this free will is.
We see pictures of the genocides of the past century, and what humans can do to do to other humans, and are physically repulsed by these events. Yet somehow God determined that free will makes such atrocities necessary. We watch events unfold as nature destroys homes, and cities, and countries, and pour our sympathy to the people affected. Yet somehow, there is hierarchy in God’s domain that requires these calamities to cause devastation in order to preserve this essential Free Will. Many Christians believe regardless how one lives their life on earth, for a mere 100 years, if they fail to get it right, God will punish them for billions and billions and billions of years by eternal torment. And the reason for this endless punishment? The exercise of Free will is of greater import than horrendous pain inflicted upon humans.
Over and over we see this idea thrown back as a defense to the reality provided by the Christian God.
Why let the snake and Tree in the Garden? Free Will.
Why eternal punishment? Free Will.
Why the Problem of Evil? Free Will
Why can’t God show Himself? It would impair Free Will.
Why allow sin in the first place? Free Will.
Very Well. If the theist desires this idea to be the all-encompassing defense to these varied problems, then it is high-time to give it the proper place of propriety. Obviously Free Will is of greater concern, and more important to God than the exercise of immorality itself!
But wait a minute. God does not hesitate to impair, reduce and even eliminate Free Will. Starting right at the Garden. God did not limit the snake from being in the world, even though He certainly could have. Humans must have Free Will. God did not limit the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, even though he certainly could have. Humans must have Free will.
Yet, after the exercise of Free Will, God steps in, and declares that Humans must no longer have free choice to eat from the Tree of Life. And places a barrier in the shape of a sword to that Tree. (Gen. 3:22-24) What happened to “Free Will”? Does God only grant Free Will to humans when it harms them, and not when it is beneficial? Why couldn’t humans exercise Free Will to eliminate sickness and death?
Or the Tower of Babel. Humans exercised their Free Will to gather together in a social community, and avoid being separated across the face of the earth. They mutually entered into production, and engaged in a peaceful cooperation. Everything we wished humans could do today. God reviewed it, and intervened in their Free Will. He confused the languages. (Gen. 11:5-8) Again, we wonder why God superceded Free Will at the moment it was beneficial to humanity.
“God, God, Adam is about to introduce sin, cancer, plague, earthquakes and death into the world”
“Sorry. Nothing I can do. Must allow Free Will.”
“God, God, Humankind is working together in peace and harmony. They do not want to be separated from each other. They have peace.”
“Whoops. Can’t have that! Time to invade Free Will.”
Of course, the most famous individual incident of God impairing Free Will is Pharaoh. God gives Moses the heads-up that He will be interfering with Pharaoh’s Free Will. Even when Pharaoh wants to let the Hebrews leave, God will harden Pharaoh’s heart. (Ex. 4:21, 7:3, 9:12) In fact, God determined to impair Free Will so that God could perform signs and wonders. (Odd that God then erased every trace of these Plagues from happening, but that can be discussed another time.) Again and Again, God hardens not only Pharaoh’s heart, so they no longer have Free Will, but God also hardens Pharaoh’s servants and army’s heart as well. (Ex. 10:1, 10:20, 10:27, 11:10, 14:4, 14:8, 14:17)
Throughout the Tanakh, God steps in and moves events, places people in situations, provides insights, prods and pushes situations, all of which are designed to affect Free Will. In the New Testament, God is directly interfacing, performing miracles, teaching, ridiculing, and appearing in visions, all molding and shaping Free Will. “Inspiration” itself involves some impact on Free Will.
We are left with this conundrum of, on the one hand, God holding the Free Will of Humans in such high regard that He must allow sin, sickness, and death into the world at immeasurable rates (even His own death will not extinguish the effects), but on the other, interfering without apparent rhyme or reason with Free Will. Yet another aspect of God in which we have no parameters to gauge when God will or will not act. Yet another problem left unresolved by the mysterious God.
Frankly, it looks more like an excuse, rather than a defense. As if the Christian sees the problems presented by the issues, the Problem of Evil, the Tree, the perpetual punishment, and whips out what appears to be a convenient excuse at the moment—that God holds Free will in such esteem it must not be interfered with on these specific occasions. But there is no reasoning behind that. No demonstration as to why God can’t interfere with Free Will. Especially in light of how many times God does anyway. Even more especially in light of how much the Christian asks God to do it!
How many prayers are requests for God to step in and intrude on Free Will? One of the most common is prayer for employment. Are they asking that God encroach upon the hiring individual’s complete freedom of choice, and give the Christian the “nudge”? Or are they asking God to become involved in the Christian’s own Free Will and “give them the right things to say”? Either way, it is God involving Himself in Free Will.
Christians have no problem with God meddling in Free will when it comes to a pay raise. But meddling when billions will suffer for trillions of years? How brash to make such a request!
Another common prayer is for healing. King Hezekiah was assured by God he was going to die. One prayer, God intervenes, and he lives for another 15 years. 2 Kings. 20:1-6. James states that prayers will heal the sick. James 5:15. Thousands of times, I have heard, “God, give the doctors wisdom and guidance in this surgery…” Whoa! Isn’t that imposing on their Free Will? Shouldn’t God let their hand slip, if it chooses to do so, or let their mind forget, if they are having an off-moment?
Think of the irony of a child dying with leukemia. The only reason the child has this horrible disease (according to the Free Will Defense to the Problem of Evil) is that God holds Free Will as of more value, of more important than the unfortunate effects of disease. God may not like the disease, but its existence is necessary, due to the allowing of Free Will. And the Christian by the bedside prays that God provides insight, a flash of brilliance, an imposition on the medical team’s free will to develop a cure. Sure, the disease was necessary for some “ultimate” God-sized Free Will problem. Just not for one individual situation. Why isn’t the Christian thankful for the demonstration of how God holds Free Will in such high regard? Because that is merely a defense to an observed problem, not a reality to the Christian.
In every stadium, one-half are praying that the God will involve Himself on the Free Will of the Home team, and the other half are praying that God will involve Himself on the Free Will of the away team. People pray for monetary assistance, for mental assistance, for love, for physical help, for spiritual help. All of which requires God to interact. Many situations, requiring God to manipulate Free Will.
Jesus said that whatever you ask in pray, believing you will receive. (Mt. 21:22) He had no problem with impinging on Free Will at request. He said to pray that one’s Faith would not fail. (Lk. 22:32)
Fascinating that Jesus prayed God would keep “those who you gave me” from the evil one. John 17:15. Now why wouldn’t Jesus have prayed that for Adam? Certainly Jesus has enough faith to believe, and what He asks would come true! Jesus is watching the events unfold in the Garden of Eden. He knows that eventually he can only save a few that he will be asking God to keep away from the evil one. If it is acceptable for God to impose and “keep” people away, what was the problem in the Garden?
Paul prays that the Corinthians “do no evil.” 2 Cor. 13:7. Is this a request? If a petition to God, how is God supposed to put it into effect? Remove temptation? How much interaction can God do before it is too much? That the same Free Will that could not be violated in the Garden of Eden appears?
And what of those of us that voluntarily requested God to suspend our Free Will, and provide some proof of His existence? Odd that for us ex-Christians God could not impede our Free Will when we asked him to show some proof, but Christians find God giving a person the “right things to say” perfectly acceptable. We asked for wisdom, (James 1:5) but that would be infringing on our Free Will. Why, then, couldn’t we ask? Oh, I know the claim we were “doubting” so God didn’t have to give wisdom. We were to ask “in faith.” Clever defense. God only provides answers to those that already know the answers. If you don’t know the answers, God won’t give you them.
Why—would it infringe on Free Will?
God imposed Himself on Free Will all the time. With little hesitation. There is no reason He could not have equally imposed in the Garden of Eden. “Free Will” is a handy defense, brought out to convince other Christians there must be some reason why God allows travesty, and then quickly discarded when faced with life’s troubles personally.