Since humans began to think and reason, they have
tried to gain more control over their lives.
Whether you believe this came about as a result of an evolutionary
process or the actions of a higher power, human beings are unique life forms. We have the capacity to change ourselves and
our environment, at least up to a point.
The big questions are what do we change, how do
we change and how much can we change? Philosophers
and theologians have grappled with these questions for millennia. Since the Enlightenment, scientists and
humanists have joined them in the search for answers. And, indeed they have discovered some answers.
Today we know quite a bit about human behavior. We know that genes and body chemistry greatly
determine who we are as well as what, how and how much we can change. We have more understanding about the impact
of our environment in determining who we are and what we are capable of
Yet there remains significant disagreement with
regard to exactly “what” we can change, “how” we can change and “how much” we
can change. How much of our life is
determined? To what extent are we
destined to live a certain life? Do we
have free will and, if so, to what extent?
For theologians the disagreements
revolve around God’s sovereignty vs human free will. For the scientists and humanists it’s a question
of physics, biology and environment vs free will.
So do we have free will and, if so, to what
extent does it matter? As a Christian, I
believe that God is the creator of all that exists and I believe that he is indeed
sovereign. In the end, His Will shall be
done. But, I also believe that he gave
human beings a measure of free will. Certainly
enough to make us accountable for where we will spend eternity. Yet I must admit that my salvation is not of
my own doing. It is by God’s grace, a gift
which I do not merit. But while it may not be of my "doing"; is it of my "choosing"?
Still there are those “strings” that pull us
forward or hold us back. Ties that bind
and ties that are loose. Our lives are
very much a product of our genes and the choices of our ancestors whose lives
were also a product of their genes and those who went before them. We are shaped not only by who and what we are
but also by what we experience. We don’t pick our parents, where we are born
or how we grow up. If as a child you were well-loved and well-fed, that was not
of your doing...or choosing.
If you have a good education, how much credit do
you deserve? You might argue that you studied,
you applied yourself, you earned it. But
where did the educational opportunity come from? Why do you have the ability and the will to
study and learn? Why do some seize the opportunity
and others do not?
For the Christian who has come to the faith and
found salvation, how and why did that happen? And why does it happen for some and
not others? Does God speak to everyone in
the same voice? Why do some hear and
others do not? Why are some given so
many opportunities to respond and others are not? And why does anyone respond at all?
How much free will do we really have? It’s a question that remains unanswered and may
very well be unanswerable. We may agree that
in this life we must play the cards we are dealt? But we’ll never fully know why we were dealt a
particular hand. And how we ultimately play those cards is a mystery.
Do we play as we choose or are the plays chosen for us?
"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known." - 1 Corinthians 13:12