The Bible teaches that humans possess free will in regard to whether or not they choose to comply with or resist God’s will – an argument supported by evidence in both nature and science. Regardless, humanity still enjoys freedom of will regardless of God being all-knowing and omnipotent.
The issue of free will and determinism is complex and involves questions related to causation, nature laws, time, substance, ontological reduction vs emergence, as well as human will itself.
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What is Free Will?
Free Will is a theological question that can be discussed from different viewpoints, yet remains at the heart of major religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Human beings were created in God’s’moral image’ so if humans truly reflect this characteristic they must possess the capacity to choose between right and wrong actions on their own accord.
Theologically, it is vital to distinguish between compatibilism and incompatibilism. Incompatibilism refers to the view that free will is incompatible with determinism – as such a view would make human decisions impossible without causal influence – something supported by Calvinists and Edwardsians alike.
Compatibilists believe that free will and determinism can coexist, with them both contributing to each other. According to them, God’s foreknowledge may prevent someone from choosing otherwise but does not stop them altogether from choosing. Thus if someone opts not to raise their hand at a particular moment during class it can be demonstrated that their decision was not predetermined by Him.
Categorical Analysis provides one approach for making this point. It shows how all possible worlds governed by similar pasts and laws of nature will have similar futures, so when someone doesn’t raise their hand in one of these worlds it isn’t due to a lack of freedom but rather due to being physically incapable.
Tzimtzum, an ancient Hebrew term that denotes God limiting his infinite essence so we may possess free will, is another effective argument in favor of compatibilism.
Though there is no universal agreement on this issue, most Christians believe in some form of free will. Furthermore, it should be remembered that although some Christian leaders may hold opinions that diverge from Scripture on this subject matter, most were godly men worthy of imitation and therefore it is best to keep this debate within its proper perspective in order not to cause disunity within the church.
How do we have Free Will?
Free will and Gods sovereignty is one of the central theological issues faced by Christians today. While most would agree that God is sovereign in some sense, opinions differ as to how this affects human free will. There are two primary positions on how best to reconcile Gods sovereignty with human free will: orthodox Calvinism and Arminian theology respectively.
Most Christians who follow a form of compatibilism, which combines predestination from Calvinism with free will for humans, believe that God has predetermined all events of the world and their outcomes but still leaves individuals the freedom of choice in each situation. While this view cannot fully account for human free will, it does allow for the possibility that another outcome might have been more preferable in certain instances.
Another approach, known as hard determinism, denies free will and states that all actions are caused by various forces – from natural laws to genetic makeup to personal history and experience – which make choosing differently impossible in any situation. Scientists and philosophers who doubt people possess control over their actions frequently utilize this viewpoint.
Jewish religious belief, grounded in the Old Testament, emphasizes human agency. According to this teaching, God gives human beings some degree of free will; punishing those who disobey while rewarding those who submit. This concept is known as bechirah chofshit or “the gift of free will.”
Hinduism holds various views regarding free will. Advaita (monistic) schools believe in fate-based approaches while Dvaita (dualistic) schools favor free will theories.
Vivekananda was a disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahansa who believed in free will for humans but also acknowledged karma and Gods providence in human affairs. According to Vivekananda: “Gods omnipotence and omniscience require Him to bring about whatever has been foreordained; however, due to mans free will He must allow some options – such as immortality – within His providence.”
How do we know we have Free Will?
Debates over our free will are among the oldest in philosophy. They stem from religious and philosophical thought as well as scientific investigation of human behavior and neuroscience. Some scientists and philosophers contend that a belief in free will is implied by quantum mechanics and brain functioning or by an idea that one’s actions are not fully controlled or predestined by physical causes; others maintain it is essential for moral responsibility, without which systems of morality would collapse completely.
Philosophy’s primary interest in free will lies in its relationship to determinism and indeterminism, as well as whether believing in free will entails moral responsibility. Hard determinism denies free will altogether while other schools such as incompatibilism, soft determinism (or compatibilism), libertarianism recognize it in some form; these schools vary as to its relationship to determinism but all acknowledge humans possessing the ability to select between alternatives.
Philosophers arguing for either incompatibilism or compatibilism often turn to randomness to provide the “elbow room” libertarians insist is necessary, while accepting some form of event-causal determinism in which choices are affected by past events but are not fully determined by them. Other philosophers have proposed non-reductive physicalisms like deliberative indeterminism, centred accounts and efforts-of-the-will theory as possible solutions.
Monotheistic religions have often struggled with reconciling human free will with God’s omniscience and omnipotence. Some religious traditions, like Hinduism and Buddhism, recognize some form of determinism through karma while also emphasizing human free will; how these two ideas can coexist is still an ongoing debate. Furthermore, behavioral science has revealed how people’s behaviors may not always be fully under their own control even when making conscious decisions – prompting philosophers to find logical counterarguments against claims that choice must prove freedom of will.
How do we know we are Free Willing?
Philosophers, theologians, psychologists, and physicists have long debated the free will issue, with profound ramifications for understanding God, ourselves, the universe and everything else that makes up our existence. Modern developments such as science, technology and social philosophy have extended this debate further; in particular three key findings have had an influence:
Science has had an immediate effect on the free will question by illuminating how deterministic nature laws are, creating incompatibilist views of human freedom and driving away supporters of them.
Science has made another contribution to the free will debate by showing how physical and psychological events can have an effect on people’s decisions, leading to event-causal accounts of incompatibilist free will involving ordinary randomness as an umbrella under which libertarians may demand “elbow room.”
Science has had an important influence on the free will debate by studying human behavior, which has revealed that most individuals believe they possess some degree of freedom in how they choose to act. As a result, theories have been developed in attempt to explain why so many believe they possess some measure of autonomy when making choices about how they should act.
Philosophers have proposed various answers to the free will question from incompatibilism to compatibilism and libertarian free will. Incompatibilism rejects determinism while affirming human freedom while compatibilism serves as a middle ground between them both; libertarian free will holds that people possess an ability to do what they please (except where constraints exist).
Some scholars have asserted that free will is impossible due to God’s omniscience, as an all-knowing deity would need to know all possible outcomes of every decision and action taken – this concept is known as hard theological determinism or predestination.
Other scholars have proposed that this problem can be addressed by considering what the Bible teaches about God’s sovereignty and divine providence. They contend that while He reigns supreme over all creation, He also has plans for it that are fulfilled through Divine Providence.