Last Sunday Molly and I got to go to the Chiefs game at the last minute. On the way in, there were a bunch of protestors on the side of the road. They had a strange mish-mash of signs about how God hated various people, that judgement was near, and that football was an idol. I usually have to fight off anger at stuff like this because of how terribly it misrepresents God.
However, as I was feeling frustrated, I saw my favorite sign in the group. It read: “Free will is a demonic lie.” At that point I just laughed because the whole thing was so ridiculous. If I don’t have free will, why are you mad at me for going to the football game? I didn’t have a choice, right?
There is a big push right now to say that free will is an illusion. Some theology has actually been saying it for hundreds of years, but many atheists have now taken up the cry (even though they obviously reject the God part).
I think part of the reason this belief is so appealing is it takes away personal responsibility. If I didn’t have any control over my choices, then I don’t have to feel bad about any of them. Shame is a universal human experience. We’re all looking for something to get rid of our shame. Blame shifting has been an easy tactic since the beginning. When Adam messed up, he said, “It was that woman—which you gave me!” He was blaming his wife and God all in one breath. Why? Because he felt terrible for blowing it.
Today we have different scape-goats but the result is the same. If we say, “My DNA made me do it!” or “Other people’s choices predetermined mine!” we don’t have to face the reality that we may not be using our freedom in the best way.
The truth is God always gives us the power to choose things. In Deuteronomy 30:19 he says, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”
He exhorts us to use our freedom to make a healthy choice, and that not doing so may result in cursing. This was part of a covenant between Him and the nation of Israel, but the general principle still applies today. We can make choices which result in good things, and we can make choices with negative consequences. We are powerful. Believing otherwise only leaves you empty and purposeless.
For God to command that we make positive choices and then force us to make evil ones would be unjust. Punishing us for bad choices He forces us to make would be the very definition of a despot.
Even if I didn’t believe in God, I’d still argue that free will is an advantageous human belief. Without it, nothing I do has any real meaning. I’m sapped of purpose because nothing I do can alter what is already predetermined. Furthermore, there can be no real pleasure in making good choices if there is no real shame in making bad ones. It’s difficult to see how people that believe like that can go through life in anything other than a state of zombie-like resignation.
God gave us choices because He wants us to be alive and to feel the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Both are important because they both mean we’re alive. We can suffer, and we can rejoice! In short, we can be like God, in whose imagine we’ve been created!
So, the next time you see some crazy protestors, remember, you can choose not to get angry. You can choose to laugh and enjoy life (even if the Chiefs lose), because while you can’t control other people, you can control you!