People who ask about free will usually envision only the extremes: Either we have completely free will, or we have predestination instead of free will.
That is a false choice. A a middle ground exists in which our abilities, inclinations, environments, and third parties limit “free will.” The philosophers probably have a name for it, but I’m going to call it bounded will.
I want to hike a 28-mile route from my home to a nearby mountain and back in one day, but I’m out of shape and lack the inclination to faithfully train for it. My will has limited freedom.
My neighbor became psychologically and physically addicted to pain medication. Without intervention and medical treatment, he was unable to overcome his addiction. With respect to turning his back on opioids, my neighbor had no free will. His will was limited by his addiction.
Freedom is never an absolute for us.
The Bible teaches throughout that we deviate from God’s standard. Our addiction to that deviation limits our freedom. As Jesus said, Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The Old Testament Law, starting with the Ten Commandments, expands into hundreds of laws. As with fractals, the closer you look, the more details you see.
For example, when you view a person’s life as a whole, the law against adultery becomes a law against sex before marriage. When you extend the law beyond the physical dimensions, the law prohibits lust. (Jesus said that if you so much as look at someone lustfully, you have already committed adultery in your heart — and as people like to point out, God looks on the heart.)
When you examine the Thou shalts and Thou shalt nots, in the larger context, you discover that they’re not about helping us establish our own righteousness, but about teaching a humility that turns us toward receiving redemption.
My intent is not to throw thunderbolts at anybody, but merely to explain that the material person’s will is not free. It is limited not only physically, but also morally. Even when we intend to do the right thing, will still mess it up. So we do not, by nature, have free will.
Poetically, the cost of our errors is going to “that other place.” The question of free will usually focuses on the ability to accept or reject the Gospel, but it misses the larger picture. Without Divine interference, our end is are already predestined.
Jesus came to establish a way to free the will from its enslavement to immorality. Only by relinquishing self righteousness and recognizing that enslavement can one begin to grasp that path to freedom.
So here’s the story of some of us: In our lack of free will, we fail to achieve righteousness. This predestines us to condemnation. God permits most to carry on in their chosen path, but for some, He comes along and changes that predestination. Perhaps perhaps He presents the gospel at the moment and in a way that we are receptive to it. Perhaps He gives a gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8–9) to make us receptive.
Would it really be that horrible if God predestined the changing of our predestination?
The claim of omnipresence implies the ability to observe what happens throughout space, to know all information such as our thoughts, and and to know what happens throughout time.
In the Bible, God claims omnipresence.
Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:24)
This verse claims ability to observe every physical condition and event everywhere. In addition, many timess, God claims and demonstrates an ability to observe thought. For example,
I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds. (Jeremiah 17:10)
On a tangent: Knowing men’s thoughts is one of the proofs of Jesus’ divinity. Jesus is the only person described in the Bible to know men’s thoughts. For example, Matthew 12:25, Luke 5:22, and Luke 6:8.
Just as no condition, event, or thought is hidden from God, neither is anything that will happen. God claims this ability:
I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done…. (Isaiah 46:9–10)
Others have indicated that God foreknows because He can figure out what will happen. Although God has that magnitude of intelligence, that is not the only possible basis of foreknowledge.
If God created the material universe, then according to our understanding of physics and cosmology, He also has creative power over time and space. That implies that He exists outside of time and space, although the doctrine of the Triune God shows that He can enter into creation from any or every perspective. That is, God’s creative power makes it possible to exist as a Unity outside of time while manifesting as a Trinity inside of time.
I find it likely, therefore, that God’s omniscience is based not on logic, but on observation.
Some things are planned and brought to pass by God. Isaiah 46:10 continues, My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose…. For example, Jeremiah 1:5 demonstrates both foreknowledge and predestination:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. (Jeremiah 1:5)
And of God’s chosen, Romans 8:28 says, And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Although God does not predestine all things, He does predestine some things and interferes in history and our lives to bring them to pass.
God’s interference means that, without His action, His will will not happen. If some things will or will not happen without interference, then those things could not be predestined. The Bible gives many example of God permitting events in order to achieve a greater good.
Therefore, God's foreknowledge is based on observation, modified by execution of His plan, and confirmed by observation.
So there is no such thing as “free will.” Our wills our bounded by our nature, and our actions result in predestination to condemnation. Through the Cross, God creates a path to eventual freedom from our nature. Then He intervenes in the lives of some to change their predestination from a negative outcome to a positive one.
Copyright 2017 Richard Wheeler