There are a couple of common, recurring comments that always get my eyebrows to exercise a bit.
The first is when avowed atheists, those I’m-not-ashamed-to-admit-that-I-hate-God,-no-what-I-mean-is-that-I-don’t-believe-in-God-yeah-that’s-it twirling spewers of confusion who from time-to-time really go off the deep end and challenge those who they don’t like to explain why they don’t behave like Jesus.
Why aren’t you good? they demand. Why don’t you act like a Christian?
It is the kind of question that sits just outside the circle of the those that can be answered.
Then there is the I’m-a-theologian-except-I’ve-never-read-the-Bible,-or-go-to-church-but-I-can-tweet person who likes to explain the universe to other people. Here is where free will becomes the panacea for all those who question God in the face of suffering: Well, these terrorists, the every-theologian expounds, they are acting from free will.
And there’s so much of this free-will spouting these days that I’ve become quite intolerant of it.
Because there’s man’s seemingly infinite confusion about what is and what is not free will, and there’s God’s understanding of free will.
Here is what I “know”:
Free will exists within the realm of God.
Not outside it.
I define evil as: the inability or disinclination to care about the suffering one has caused.
So evil can be the act of harming someone and not caring, or it can be the passive indifference to the suffering on one’s doorstep.
Or, it can be the force that inspires someone to harm another.
All of this, anything that does not use respect, courtesy, and gratitude as the posts to tie the tent of our lives to, lies outside of God.
Not that evil acts cannot be forgiven, that an evil-doer cannot repent his action at any time and atone for his grievousness. However, the evil act was not done from a place of free will.
Perhaps an argument can be made that repentance is an act of free will, perhaps the first and most important act of free will, but that’s not how I see things.
Free will exists within the scope of God.
You pray for guidance. You feel that you have received that guidance from God.
Free will is the sitting back and making a choice concerning that guidance. Do you go with it? Or do you take a friend’s advice instead? Or do you go a whole other way that you’ve decided on your own?
That’s free will.
What is significant about free will is that it is not something that will, down the road, bring you to a place of consequence.
Not that it’s insignificant.
Think of Abraham. Take Isaac up that mountain and slay him, instructs God.
Now Abraham is a man. And men have free will.
Abraham could have said, No.
For this decision, there would have been no consequence to Abraham.
The bottom-line for God in this case, it seems to me, is to prove to Abraham that he (God) can be trusted. It was an act of proving himself to Abraham.
And an opportunity offered to Abraham to prove himself to God.
Saying, no, I just can’t do it at this time, is not something that will bring down the hammer of God onto someone’s head.
That is free will.
In my experience, doing this just means that God will bide his time and try again later. Or try something else out on you. Or go on to other things.
It’s like a relationship between a husband and wife. The wife may ask the husband to do something, and he may choose not to do it. If these are reasonable people in the marriage, neither will end the marriage based on this refusal.
But that’s not to say that the wife will not try again on another day. Or try to accomplish it on her own. Or eventually give up and hire a professional.
We live in a world of choices.
God is not Big Brother who will do whatever it takes to force us to do his will in every instance.
Thus, free will.
It is given to us freely and we can use it freely.
And this does not account in any way for someone going off the rails and harming someone else.
That is not freedom.
It is, ultimately, subjection to an actual abusive dictator, who will keep at you until you have, literally, no free will left to choose out of a destructive lifestyle.
Free is to be with God. In the manner that you choose.