Can we say that mankind truly has a free will?
What exactly is free will?
As I began to type this post, I decided to Google “What is free will?”
The first link that came up in my search was from Princeton University’s Wordnet (a lexical database for English). It defined free will as “the power of making free choices unconstrained by external agencies”.
Dictionary.com defines “free will” with the following two definitions: “1. free and independent choice; voluntary decision. 2. the doctrine that the conduct of human beings expresses personal choice and is not simply determined by physical or divine forces.”
Wordnet gives a very solid, accurate, and concise definition of free will. Let’s use that definition for this discussion.
“the power of making free choices
I absolutely believe that mankind has the ability and privilege of making choices. Choices are an important part of being human. However, that said, I do not believe that mankind is able to exercise free will as defined above.
Every single choice we make has been influenced by something that has touched us in our lifetime. Every single thing that we have ever heard, seen, felt, and experienced in this earthly world has influenced our thought processes and the choices that we make. Even before we breathed one breath of air and could hear, feel, or see the world, there were things which were ordained entirely by God that have played an immense role in every decision we make. Those preordained things are the foundation for all the experiences that we face after we are born.
When we were conceived and formed in our mother’s womb, we had no choice and no control over:
the day of our conception
the circumstances surrounding our conception
the genetic make-up of our parents
if we would be male or female
what time period we were born in
the exact day we were born
in what location of the world
what we would look like, “attractive” or “not so attractive” to the human eye
the color of our skin, our hair, our eyes
the shape of our body
if we would have all ten toes and ten fingers and be of sound mind and speech
our personality or talents
into what family we would be born in
the behaviors, traditions, or beliefs of that family
what kind of parents we would have
if we would have any siblings and what their personalities would be like
or the day we will die
“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” (Psalm 139: 13-16)
All those factors were ordained by God before we were ever born. We had no control, no choice, and no will in determining any of them. Yet, all of those elements are a tremendous influence in who we are and in our choices. Before we are born there are “external agencies” already affecting our lives that will constrain the choices we make after we are born.
Once we are born, there are other influences heaped upon us each and every day. All that we hear, feel, learn, and experience from every source we come into contact with in our lives becomes an influence in the present and for the future. I could type a countless list of all the things that affect us each day, but I don’t believe it is necessary to do so.
“Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see."
I wholeheartedly agree with that quote. Every experience and every person that touches our lives is placing a mark upon us. I do not believe in accidents or random chance; I believe in God-incidence. God has paved the path for every experience I have ever faced and every person that has been a part of my life. Whether we see it as “good” or “bad” makes no difference at all. The fact is that we are uniquely touched in some way and affected one way or another in the present and the future. Everyone is affected differently by earthly circumstances and people based on the factors God had ordained before they were ever born.
With so many influences upon our lives, we cannot say we have “free will”. Every choice we make has a strong influence and a reason behind it; therefore, it is not truly free.
The God Who makes the world and all that is in it, He, the Lord inherent of heaven and earth … He Himself gives to all life and breath and all. Besides, He makes out of one every nation of mankind, to be dwelling on all the surface of the earth, specifying the setting of the seasons and the bounds of their dwelling, for them to be seeking God, if consequently, they may surely grope for Him and may be finding Him, though to be sure, not far from each one of us is He inherent, for in Him we are living and moving and are…” (Acts 17:24-29)
God has been sovereign over the course of this world and over our lives before we were ever born, and He continues to be sovereign whether we believe it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not, and whether we like it or not. The choices we make are interwoven within His plan. God does not have a Plan B. He is still on Plan A. We can somehow convince ourselves that man’s will is more powerful than God’s or that man’s choices can mess up God’s plan. But if we do, we merely deceive ourselves. The creation does not supersede the Creator.
Great God of all, "I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)
What is Truth
What is Truth