When God created human beings, did he ‘program’ us to be like robots or wild beasts? ‘Robot’ in this text represents beings that are under the total control of their maker and ‘wild beast’ stands for beings that do as they please. These are the two extremes. Which of them best depicts who we are? To find out, we would have to go all the way back to Eden.
Free will is defined as one’s ability to choose his/her actions. In the Garden God forbade man from eating the fruit of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Man was deceived by the devil and did eat of the fruit. However, contrary to popular beliefs, the fruit in itself wasn’t evil. It is sin that is evil. Therefore it is the act of eating the fruit that brought calamity upon all humanity. Just like Samson’s hair wasn’t really the source of his power but the fact that he kept it uncut was the reason for his tremendous power. So the day Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they ceased being the innocent beings created by God. They had become beings who could now know what was good and evil on their own without referring to what God had said. You see, God’s plan has always been for man to look to him as the sole definer of good and evil. But since man ate the fruit, man ‘usurped’ the authority to define good and evil. Imagine a language class where dictionaries are forbidden and every student has the authority to define words as they please. Pretty chaotic, don’t you think so? Well, that is our world today. By one act of sin, we have become ‘co-definers’ of good and evil with God. No wonder in this generation, people can’t differentiate between legality and morality. How moral standards are being set in court beats me. In Isaiah 5:20 it says ‘woe to those who call evil good…’. This verse cements the point I made about the sin of Adam making it possible for man to mischievously become ‘co-definers’ of good and evil together with God. But woe to anybody who calls evil good.
The will is not evil but it is the will that makes evil possible. Without the will we are all like robots, wired to do good deeds. Furthermore, our worship and service to God would not be authentic. We would only worship God because we have no other option. Meanwhile, worship should be done by choice and not because one was created to be a ‘worship machine’. Doesn’t the bible say we are God’s workmanship created in Christ unto good works? Indeed, it does. However, because of the will, man can sometimes sway from the right path that God has put him on. This verse only means, we are God’s invention, created to do good deeds. In Isaiah 5:1-7, the prophet sings a song about a vineyard planted by God. God did everything to ensure that the vineyard would yield grapes. He built a watchtower in the middle of the vineyard. He even hewed out a wine vat in it. But when it was time to reap the grapes, he realized the vineyard had only yielded Wild Grapes. This is an allegory telling the story of God’s relationship with Israel. How he had good intentions for them. How he planted a vineyard that was meant to yield grapes but rather, it yielded wild grapes. This allegory clearly tells us that the will of God is good however the human will must be submitted to it to yield the desired results. Just like the vineyard was planted to yield grapes, we as God’s workmanship were created unto good works. Therefore if the vineyard was capable of yielding wild grapes, we are also capable of doing bad deeds because of our will. One thing is for sure, God will not violate the human will. If he wanted to, he would have stopped Adam from eating the fruit in the garden. In fact, Jesus said in Revelation, ‘I stand at the door and knock, if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and sup with him …’. This sounds to me like God wouldn’t impose anything on a person, not even his divine presence unless the person welcomes him first. Think of it as a father who wouldn’t barge into his son’s bedroom unannounced but would rather knock on the door first, though he built the entire house.
When Jesus was teaching his disciples how to pray, he said ‘Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven’. He was entreating the disciples to always enforce the will of God on earth as it is in heaven. Which means, in heaven, God’s will stands uncontested. The last time someone attempted to challenge God in heaven, he was thrown out so swiftly he fell at the speed of lightning.
Have I in anyway blasphemed by what I have shared with you so far? Have I presented to you a weak God who cannot enforce his will on earth unless human beings allow him? By saying that ‘God doesn’t violate the human will’, it doesn’t make him weak or subject to the will of man. It even further reveals how awesome he is. The fact that the omnipotent God decides not to impose himself on people like a dictator, should rather force us to our knees to worship him more. If he wanted to, he would. But this just isn’t his plan. His plan is to make man willingly lay down his will before him (God). Sometimes it is hard to look at the lives of some Old Testament personalities and reconcile their relationship with God to the fact that God doesn’t violate the human will. God made Isaiah walk around the city for 3 years naked and barefoot (Isaiah 20). God instructed Hosea to marry a prostitute so he could better understand how He (God) felt about the whorish nature of the Israelites. One thing we should note is these two were both Prophets. Therefore they had their wills subjected to the will of God.
Then there is the controversial topic of “Predestination” in the bible. It is all over the bible. In Romans 9 alone we see this topic illustrated at least 3 times. Verses 16 and 17 say ‘it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth but it is the Lord that showeth mercy’. Then it went on to say this is the reason why God RAISED Pharaoh just to show his power. These two verses indeed project the sovereignty of God. It is not the will of man that makes anything good possible but it is the mercies of God. Even in verse 13 it says “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated’. Isn’t this a bad testimony to God because he calls himself love? Why hate one person and love the other from birth? God told Jeremiah also that ‘before you were a clot of blood in your mother’s womb I knew you and ordained you a prophet unto the nations’. Doesn’t this mean Jeremiah didn’t have a choice as to what he would become in life? This verse pretty much says that God had decided what Jeremiah would be in life way before the prophet was conceived in his mother’s womb. Doesn’t predestination completely cancel out any chance of man having a free will?
One of the most profound revelations I have received in recent times is, predestination is preceded by foreknowledge. Let’s look at what God told Jeremiah again, he said before Jeremiah was a clot in his mother’s womb he (God) KNEW him and ordained (PREDESTINED) him to be a prophet. Foreknowledge preceded predestination. Also, in Romans 8:29 – 30, it says:
For those whom he FOREKNEW he also PREDESTINED to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
There you have it again, foreknowledge preceding predestination. What this means is, God knows how we will all turn out even before our birth. Predestination is a result of God’s omniscience. Those who will receive the word into their hearts to become believers are already predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ because God knows them before they are born. So predestination and free will can coexist because God doesn’t strong-arm anybody into becoming something, he just has foreknowledge of those who would heed to his voice and let him in. So he predestines them to play specific roles in his kingdom. He also knows those who will not heed to his voice, yet he knows how to use the evil they do to carry out his plans. God is that painter who can use the mess created by his brush to make the beautiful painting he has always intended to make. Predestination doesn’t mean God created some people special but it means he knew which ones would heed to his call hence he drew a plan for their lives before their birth.
“You will carry OUT God’s purpose, however, you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John” – C.S Lewis. Such a profound statement. To many, the fact that human beings have a will implies the idea of a weak God whose creation is totally out of control. That is far from the truth. As a matter of fact, God is in control. He is so in control that he is seated on his throne and not pacing up and down agitated by the evil his creations are doing. What C.S Lewis means by the quote is, we are all still pawns in God’s grand game of chess. The good, the bad, the saint, the sinner … all of us are pretty much still under the control of the Jehovah. The only thing is, we get to choose which roles to play but it is the chess master who decides how things turn out eventually. In a nutshell, John was as much in the plans of God as Judas was. Because without John we wouldn’t have received the book of Revelation, and without Judas Jesus wouldn’t have died (all things being equal). John and Judas both chose their roles. God knew the roles they would choose and he equipped them and used them as such. All Lewis is saying here is, you have the choice, but please choose to be a ‘John’ and not a ‘Judas’. In God’s grand scheme, both robots and wild beasts are under his control.
Another thing about free will we must all know is, when you take the decision as to which side you are on, you cannot detach yourself from the consequences. You are at liberty to leap from a window on the 47th floor of a skyscraper, but you don’t have the liberty to decide your fate afterwards. This is what people must know. We must learn from the numerous stories of adamant people in scripture and not repeat their mistakes. Free will is the reason there is hell. Other than that we are saying God created people as sinners and yet he intends to punish them for what he created them to be.
We have free will but we are expected to lay it all down before the master and submit ourselves to his will. By creating man, God invented a device that could betray the original purpose for which it was built. Let’s say a toaster that can choose to behave like a microwave. But God expects the toaster to daily read the manual and interact with him (the inventor) so it can discover its true purpose and walk in it. Believers are a bunch of wild beasts tamed at the cross and expected to submit our wills to God daily as we become his robots.
(Do comment below with your opinions and questions so we can interact)