Wednesday, February 15, 2006

On Free Will (Continued)

May the Grace and the Peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ be with all who read this.

A fellow Christian has asked me to go deeper into the discussion about Free Will. In my comment section, he left a lengthy rebuttal to my initial post and comment. In order to better organize my thoughts and ease of use (regarding hyperlinks, etc.), I will respond in post form.

1. Biblical foundation for Free Will.

In my comment section, I noted that man has intellect and free will as he is formed in the image and likeness of God who has intellect and free will. Free will and intellect (I would classify "thinking about thinking" as intellect) are what separates us from animals (along with a soul which I carelessly forgot to mention in my comment). Animals act instinctively and we have the tendency to act instinctively as well.

Anyhow, regarding Biblical foundation, there is Biblical foundation for this
thought and it's found in Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus) 15:14.

" When God, in the beginning, created man, he made him subject to his own free choice."

For those of you who aren't familiar with this book, it's because it is not generally found in a Protestant Bible. It's part of the Deuterocanonical /Septuagint books (or Apocrypha). Why it's not in the Protestant Bible, I don't know. It was generally accepted as Scripture at the time of Christ...anyhow, I know that some of my Protestant brothers in Christ don't accept this as Scripture and that's fine. I do. I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this point.

Additionally, me being Catholic, I'm not bound by the Sola Scriptura philosophy. Two Doctors of the Church, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas adequately argue on Free Will and the Catholic Church accepts their arguments as Catholic Doctrine. I won't reiterate their arguments but have hyperlinked their names to their thoughts on Free Will.

That being said, I stand by my thoughts regarding Genesis 1:26. Am I reading my free will view into the text? Possibly...as did the author of Sirach. I admitted that my beliefs color my reading of Scripture in a previous post as it is inherent in our humanity.

Without Free Will, the Bible would not make sense as there would be no sin. How can we sin against God if He programmed us to do it? That cannot be what God wanted. He had to want man to freely choose Him or else the whole of the Bible does not make sense.

That's all for now...I'll continue on my response hopefully tomorrow.

God Bless.

8 comments:

Gordon Cloud said...

Without Free Will, the Bible would not make sense as there would be no sin. How can we sin against God if He programmed us to do it? That cannot be what God wanted. He had to want man to freely choose Him or else the whole of the Bible does not make sense.

This is a good thought. We demonstrate love to God by our obedience. Love that is coerced is not love.

Joseph said...

Wow, you're getting deep!

The protestants started the free will confusion as they contemplated God’s knowing all things. Predestination was the result. Then since all the future is already played out and known to God, in their mind there was really nothing a person could do to change things… hence the overall absence of free will as determining one’s salvation.

The most they could then do was wonder if they were one of the “elect”, and look for signs in themselves and their neighbors of the future displaying itself.

Our living in time, whereas God lives outside time, leaves us with a poor ability to think from God’s eternal perspective, since eternal does not mean “forever”, but rather “always”. We just have no personal experience to think from an eternal perspective.

Although the thought exercise is somewhat like determining the number of angels sitting on the head of a pin, it is all still true. It is our free will that has determined our salvation. The fact that God already knows the outcome has no bearing on our moment by moment free will decision that makes up the future. It is still our free will that determines the future, although a select few Persons have already read the book.

What a great definition of the word “mystery”.

TheDen said...

Gordon,

Thanks for your comment. I'm not a scripture scholar and I'm learning a lot through writing these posts and reading my Bible. It's also getting me to think a lot more about what I believe in.

Joe,

How are you doing? I've been well although I was in North Carolina for the last couple days away from my family.

"The fact that God already knows the outcome has no bearing on our moment by moment free will decision that makes up the future. It is still our free will that determines the future"

I couldn't have said it better myself. I, like my Protestant brothers in Christ, have also struggled with the predestination/free will thing. I discussed it with a Priest who had to take a long time to get me to understand that God's knowing and me doing are totally independent of each other. My small brain wasn't grasping it very easily.

BTW...I liked what you said in my previous post about want vs. need. Interestingly enough, that was the thought in my head before I wrote the post on prayer. My friend was struggling with prayer and my direct words to him were, "don't ask God to give you what you want, ask Him to give you what you need..." That thought generated my post.

Peace always my friends.

Mike Garner said...

Well this is going to make discussion on this matter interesting.

However, one thing I am thankful of is that you think that the best place to argue for the Free-Will doctrine is from the Apocryphal literature (I apologize if the name offends you but it would be disingeuous of me to refer to them as dueterocannonical).

This should really make the Protestants who hold to the view think twice.

The same could be said with the rejection of Sola Scriptura. One must ask the Protestant who holds to this view where they get it.

However, your appeals are slightly baffling. Augustine and Aquinas are two of the greatest forerunners for the Reformation doctrine of "Calvinism", so much so that the same system of beliefs is often called Augustinianism. I agree that Augustine agreed with the Roman church largely when it came to the role of the Church, but must disagree strongly when you suggest that he would agree with you here on this matter.

Joseph seems to take the error quite a bit further by suggesting that Predestination was a Protestant invention. I would urge him to read Augustine's Treatise on Predestination. It can be located and downloaded for free online. It is about 50 chapters so it might take a little while, but it is worth the read.


Without Free Will, the Bible would not make sense as there would be no sin.

I have not suggested that we do not make choices. We very much make volitional choices. The question is whether we commit them freely (that is in an autonomous sense where we could equally have chosen not to) or whether we sin because we are sinners. Said otherwise, are we enslaved to sin as the bible states and were we all made sinners via Adam (as Paul asserts in Romans 5).

How can we sin against God if He programmed us to do it?
To use this terminology is either to misunderstand or misrepresent the position I hold. This may be a sort of hyper-calvinist view, but it certainyl is not characteristic of the my view.

That cannot be what God wanted.

Allow me to ask a question. Did God want Jesus to be murdered on the Cross? Think carefully about this one. If God did want Jesus to be murdered then we have God wanting sin (which you have just said is impossible). However, if we have God not wanting Jesus to be murdered then we have lots of theological problems not to mention the clear contradicting of Scripture.

He had to want man to freely choose Him or else the whole of the Bible does not make sense.
Now that is a remarkable statement (especially considering the lack of support). I think that the Bible clearly does make sense without maintaining such a view. I think the Bible is about God redeeming people enslaved in their sin by His Grace that His glory might be made manifest. To take the "main character" away from God and assign it to Human Choice is in my opinion to commit Spiritual Pride. Must we always think that everything is primarily about us? Let us put God first and give Him the preeminence that He deserves.


Also, if you'd like to discuss Apocryphal sources then I would be happy to do so. I think you have committed some historical fallacies in your discussion of what the early church believed (in addition to other reasons that would lead us to reject the cannonicity of these books).

However, if nothing else, I do thank you for this post because I think that it really must make some of your Protestant readers who hold to Free-Will-Theology to think twice. Clearly we cannot suggest that you have made an arguement for Free-Will here that any Protestant could hold to. Hopefully you'd be willing to admit this much.


In Christ alone,
mike

TheDen said...

Mike,

Just to clarify some things. I am not asking you to agree with me. I am stating what I believe.

The reader has the freedom to agree or disagree with my thoughts and that is okay with me. It's also okay to disagree with me in my comments.

My objective is not to convert Protestants to become Catholic. My objective is to turn people to God.

If you choose to follow Sola Scriptura then so be it...but do it out of love for God. I'm not challenging the Protestant view of Sola Scriptura. In my post, I'm stating that the Catholic Church doesn't follow it...not that the Protestant viewpoint is wrong.

Regarding predestination, I cannot speak for Joseph but I think you misread what he wrote. He didn't say that predestination is a Protestant invention. Catholics believe in predestination as well. We have believed it since the dawn of Christianity as it was handed down to us from the apostles. What Joe said was that there was confusion. I can understand that confusion as I was very confused about predestination too as a Catholic. I have not read Augustine's book but know that his views are fully in line with the Catholic Church.

As far as historical fallacies regarding the Deuterocanonical books, (it would be disingenuous for me to call them the Apocrypha), I don't know where the fallacy is.

Arguing about the history of the Septuagint or Sola Scriptura is irrelevant because it takes us away from God.

If you want to be Protestant, be Protestant but do it because you love God and not because you hate Catholics because I know that is not what God wants.

Regarding the rest of your statement, I do plan on writing more in future posts to address all of it.

Yours in Christ,

Dennis

Mike Garner said...

Hey Dennis,

Allow me to interact with your comment:

Just to clarify some things. I am not asking you to agree with me. I am stating what I believe.

The reader has the freedom to agree or disagree with my thoughts and that is okay with me. It's also okay to disagree with me in my comments.


Indeed. I would hope that we both believe what we are writing and would allow for another person to disagree with us. I'd also like to hope that we believe that it is the Truth and that it would be better for the other person to agree. Are we on the same page here? I think so.

If you choose to follow Sola Scriptura then so be it...but do it out of love for God. I'm not challenging the Protestant view of Sola Scriptura. In my post, I'm stating that the Catholic Church doesn't follow it...not that the Protestant viewpoint is wrong.

I was simply allowing an invitation to dialogue over the the books referred to as "Deuterocanonical". That invitation is still out there. The decision is yours.

Regarding predestination, I cannot speak for Joseph but I think you misread what he wrote. He didn't say that predestination is a Protestant invention. Catholics believe in predestination as well.

Well, Roman Catholics believe in a form of Predestination. However, consider what Joseph said:

"The protestants started the free will confusion as they contemplated God’s knowing all things. Predestination was the result"

This seems to clearly state that Protestants started a mass of confusion by contemplating God's knowledge and that Predestination was the result. Do you see something here that I am missing?


I have not read Augustine's book but know that his views are fully in line with the Catholic Church.

That is somewhat of an interesting statement. I suppose we can talk about that at another time. However, I'd encourage you to ask yourself why you believe Augustine is fully in line with the Roman Catholic church seeing as how all of the reformers cited Augusting most(!). You can disagree with the reformers, but Augustine's work is cited by many schools, so it is probably important to look into (especially since much of it was declared Anathema at Trent).

I don't know where the fallacy is.

Right. I didn't want to derail the thread at hand. If you'd like to discuss it then we can do so on your blog, mine, or via email.

Arguing about the history of the Septuagint or Sola Scriptura is irrelevant because it takes us away from God.

Well that isn't necessarily true. If these books teach us more about God then it would bring us closer by discovering their historicity. If, however, these books are not something that God has chosen to teach about him, then studying (and quoting) these books as Scripture could actually distract us from a true image of God.

If you want to be Protestant, be Protestant but do it because you love God and not because you hate Catholics because I know that is not what God wants.

I don't hate Romans and I hope that you don't hate Protestants. I am a Protestant because I believe the Roman church feel into deep heresy when She condemned Salvation by Grace alone Through Faith alone at the Council of Trent. I am a Protestant because I believe that She has undermined the value of Scripture. I am a Protestant, ultimately, because I think God's truth is reflected in Reformation Theology and not Roman Theology. If you want to be a Catholic, do so because you believe that the Roman Catholic Church has the correct image of God, the Church, etc.

Regarding the rest of your statement, I do plan on writing more in future posts to address all of it.

Sounds Good.

In Christ alone,
mike

TheDen said...

Hey Mike,

Regarding debating about Deuterocanonicals or Sola Scriptura, my decision is no.

This is not what God is calling me to do and it's not what he expects from me. He wants me to bring people closer to Him. Debating the inspiration of Sirach isn't important to me. I accept that it's inspired. You don't.

Regarding Joe's comment. Yes, I see how you can read that it's a Protestant invention however when you read his post, he has a grasp of the Catholic definition of predestination. If it's different than yours, okay. I don't want to argue about Predestination. Or Trent. Or Anathemas. I'm not saying I can't. I'm saying that I choose not to. Here is the Catholic Church's view of Predestination if you're interested.

And I'm Catholic because I love God. Yes, I agree with everything that they say and yes, I believe that they have the correct image of God. But first and foremost, I love God.

Peace my brother.

Dennis

Joseph said...

I was wrong to mention the protestants. I have spent little time studying them, so make mistakes, especially about them. They know themselves better than I.

I had the feeling that protestants had made predestination a big thing, whereas I could care less. It never lit my fire, but for some may be interesting.

No harm meant. I wanted to say that my time bound view is so far apart from understanding eternity without a beginning, that I want to look at other things.

I thought it had something to do about the argument against a person's merit "earning" salvation vs. God deciding who would get the grace to be saved.

Anyway, if it's not a protestant thing, my mistake. I am sure our missions here is not the heal the Reformation :)

It wasn't my main point to say that protestants caused confusion. But we sure had a lot of it back then. And from what I can tell from Lutheran Reformaion Day, they are quite proud of it.

No here's something I DO find interesting...

"Did God want Jesus to be murdered on the Cross? If God did want Jesus to be murdered then we have God wanting sin (which you have just said is impossible). However, if we have God not wanting Jesus to be murdered then we have lots of theological problems not to mention the clear contradicting of Scripture."

Jesus is God. His will lead him to the cross. That is wanting will. So yes, God did not want Himself not murdered. God did not then stop sin, nor does he now. Not stopping sin is not the same as wanting sin. He gave Himself to death if that was man's will. I see no sin by God here.

On the other hand, God did not want to be murdered for murder's sake. This was his Passion, the essence of love. We murdered him, but He had something quite different in mind.

We must still be talking about predestination. Something we will never adequately put into words or thought.

Something pressed into the service of proving Salvation is by grace alone, a long sad time ago.