Monday, July 22, 2013

Freewill, God's sovereignty and other nifty stuff

"For we know that He is able to work all things together for good, for them that are called according to his purpose". Romans 8:28 

Big surprise on the above verse, huh?

I'll just be honest and get to the point... I don't think understanding how a loving God could give us the ability to make free decisions at all conflicts with the same God having the ability to 'control' or pre-destine the ways and means of the events of life.

One day, as I was considering this, this example came to mind...

  1. To start, I ask that you pick a number... any three digit number greater than 100...
  2. Now, order the numbers of the number so that they are in descending order.
    For example, if you had thought "294", the order would be "942"...
  3. Next, reverse that number and subtract it from the number you came up with in step 2...
    For example, 942 minus 294
  4. Now... reverse that number and add it to the number you came up with in step 3...
If you followed these instructions, your answer should be.... (scroll down)

>> 1089 <<

Pretty neat, eh?

If your number is NOT 1089, I bet you make a free will choice to leave or try again right about now :) Hopefully you'll try again.

In the above example, you had the ability to choose between 900 or so choices... you freely made your decision without any input or action on my part. I simply put you in circumstances where the choice could be made. Despite your free ability to choose among 900 numbers, I already knew that combined with some additional circumstances I provided to the mix, you would ultimately arrive at the conclusion that I determined in advance - long before you even read this article!

Perhaps the grand dilemma of how free will verses predestination is similar? I mean... I make decisions every day - on my own, by my free will. Yet at the same time, I can also recognize that God is actively and sovereignly at work in the circumstances of life, and the outcome of my decisions - even the not-so-good ones! There are things that happen to and around me that aren't the result of my decisions - they may even have the opposite (ahem... 'reverse') affect of what I had chosen. Circumstances are added and removed to the plans I had made for myself - mostly out of my control. The summation of all these events leads me somewhere - a somewhere that sure feels like it was my doing, because I made one or more choices!

However, just like the above, maybe the decisions we make, that feel like free choices and are free choices are nevertheless made within a set of 'rules' that govern their outcome - much like the above?  Maybe the ebbs and flows of life circumstances are like some of the steps above that manipulate the decisions we make toward a certain pre-determined outcome? Would this not allow God to control outcomes and yet not be the author of all decisions and perhaps not all the minutiae of every detail of life - or even all the big ones?  If that were the case, he would certainly not have coerced or forced us to make sinful decisions despite being able to determine the outcome. I believe this also explains perhaps how God can be causing good outcomes without causing bad circumstances. 

So can one say that free will or predestination are a one-or-the-other sorta thing? I think not, nor do I see a need to even consider it a dilemma. Perhaps for all the dogma out there, both are essentially true. If not, I'd like to hear someone explain the above to me and show me how I had either no choice or that it was entirely pre-destined :)

Hope this brings you some things to consider and a joyful response toward a favorable view of a good God! For you theological nincompoops who will take undoubtedly take umbrage with the idea that both freewill and predestination have merit... take these ideas for a spin for a while and see what happens.