“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Paradox of Free Will and Predestination

…Another paradoxical facet of our humanity is the fact that we have free will, yet God is in sovereign control of our lives. This is not a contradiction, but there is definitely a dynamic tension – a practical tension that can affect the way we live – between knowing that God has given us the ability to make free choices (to step out on our own two feet, apart from God’s determining guidance, as C. S. Lewis describes in Perelandra), and knowing that God brought the universe into existence knowing all our choices, orchestrated them into his divine plan for salvation history and the telling of his story, and predestined our eternal fate from eternity past (see, for example, Ephesians 1:4-5, Romans 8:29-31, Acts 13:48). I am inclined to think that God, foreknowing our free choices in any possible situation, structured history around them, in so doing found a way to accomplish his purposes (including his sovereign guidance in each individual’s life), while preserving our freedom. We must learn to embrace this paradoxical tension in life, realizing that although God knows the future and is in control of it, it is often through our free choices (which he foreknows) that he brings about what he knows will happen. We ought not stumble into lazy inaction, justify wrong choices, or downplay the importance of free choice just because it was all “meant to be.” Nor does our free will throw the future out of God’s hands (he is not that small – he’s God!). Rather, we must make the most of every opportunity in life (Ephesians 5:16) while at the same time resting in the peace of knowing that God holds all things in the palm of his hand, including the effects of our choices.

Free will is an essential quality of humanity. Without it we would be machines, almost animals, but in giving us the freedom to choose God raised us to a new level of value and dignity as his children, made in his image. Our moral responsibility results from this essential mark of humanity. Consequently, far from being a degrading insult, God’s discipline and punishment of those who do wrong testifies to their dignity as morally responsible human beings. In treating us for who we are, creatures made in his image whom he loves (see Hebrews 12:6), God respects us. C. S. Lewis writes that in disciplining us God is training us to be who he intends us to be: “We may wish, indeed, that we were of so little account to God that He left us alone to follow our natural impulses – that He would give over trying to train us into something so unlike our natural selves: but once again, we are asking not for more Love, but for less” (The Problem of Pain).

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