Throughout each day, we are faced with choices such as “What am I going to eat?”, “What am I going to do?”, “Where am I going to go?”, and “With whom am I going to interact?”. Many of the choices we face are minor in significance, while others, such as “Where am I going to live?”, “What career should I pursue?”, or “Whom shall I marry?”, have long-term consequences. But regardless of the significance of any particular situation, we make many decisions each and every day.
There is much controversy surrounding this topic. Are we capable, of our own volition, of choosing one option over another when faced with a decision, or are our lives such that we could never do other than what God chooses for us to do? If God is in control of all things, how are we responsible for any of our actions? If we are capable of freely selecting from available options when presented with a choice, how could God be in control of all things?
If you are unfamiliar with the concept of possible worlds, allow me to pause here and provide a brief explanation. Imagine a subset of 100 individuals out of the billions who have ever lived on the earth. God had to choose when and where each of them were to live. In one possible scenario, all 100 would live at the same time in history, reside in the same little town, and attend the same church. This is one possible world. In another possible world, none of the 100 individuals would live at the same time and place as any of the others. Some possible manifestations of our earth are very similar to each other while others are very different. With billions of people and thousands of years of which to account, the number of possible combinations of people, places, and times is essentially infinite for our finite minds to comprehend. Contrary to the concept employed by many science fiction franchises, there are not multiverses or alternate manifested universes existing in other dimensions. There is only one manifested and created universe in which all life exists. All others exist only in the imagination of God and man who is made in His image. God is omniscient and is capable of knowing every combination of variables, and out of the multitude of possibilities, He chose the one that we can assume is the best possible world for fulfilling His ultimate purpose.
Within each possible world, individuals have the freedom to choose according to each one’s personal will or volition. Each life experience and associated decision, from the moment of one’s birth, along with any resulting consequences influences the development of the personality of each person. Over time, an individual develops preferences and desires that are called upon when presented with choices. But in every case, the individual has the ability to make a decision and choose one way or another based on one’s heart desire at the moment of decision. For instance, one consequence of my disability is a difficulty staying warm. For those of you familiar with my story, you will remember that I enjoy sitting in the sun for the warmth. Today while writing this post, I observed the sun coming in through our front door and chose at that moment to take advantage of the opportunity to do some reading by the front door rather than to continue writing. The outcome of the decision was not one that I’d make every time the sun is coming through the door, but on this occasion, I decided that I needed a break from the computer.
So if this is true, how is God in control? God could have created a world in which we do not have the freedom to choose, but this was not his plan. His desire was for individuals capable of making decisions. For now, I will simply state that it was important to God that people be able to make choices. In a future post, I will delve into why it is important to Him. But because free will is important to God, He placed each individual in the time and location where his or her free choices produced the end results that God desired. He was in complete control of the natural world and the placement of each and every person capable of making free choices. Each freely made decision an individual makes is simultaneously according to God’s plan and originating from the desires of his or her heart. All life was predestined prior to the creation of the universe, but God’s in-depth knowledge of all things enabled him to create a world in which every decision made by every individual is one that is freely made. There is no distinction between free will and predestination. God is in control and uses the free choices of individuals in predetermining the entire time line of our existence.
Your article on free will was very well done. When discussing topics such as this, definitions of terms are critical. For some, free will involves compatibilism. By free will, do you mean libertarian free will? Or do you mean as some determinists would say “Non-free Free Will” Wilson, Ken. The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism (p. 55). Regula Fidei Press, LLC. Kindle Edition.
I think very little in the Bible makes sense unless people have a real, libertarian, meaningful free will. God’s sovereignty does not require determinism. God is powerful enough to accomplish his purposes even though He has chosen to create us with a free will.