Since we have the book of Revelation, which informs us that when all is rectified the entire globe will be Edenic, we can imagine that, had humanity not rebelled, eventually the Copyright Michael S. Heiser, ; All Rights Reserved 51 perfection of Eden would have overspread the earth. How could things have gone so wrong? This is an obvious question. Acknowledging genuine free will contributes to answering other questions: How and why could Adam and Eve sin if their natures were not evil?
How did the serpent come to tempt Eve, itself an act of evil?
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The answer to these questions is that all these agents were free to make the choices they made. They were not compelled by predestination to do what they did, even though God foreknew what would happen if such freedom was extended. I raise these questions because, whether we realize it or not, their implications have a direct impact on how we view all that goes on in the invisible world and the epic battle between good and evil for the souls of humankind.
While God foreknows events he does not decree or need evil. And though it made the Fall possible, it was the best thing God ever did for us. God created us in some way like himself and like his heavenly host without compromising his own uniqueness.
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I am suggesting that we think of this common bond in terms of sharing attributes of God. Others include power, intelligence, love, etc. The critical point is this: if we are imagers of God—truly like him—then we must have genuine free will. We cannot be like God and not be free.
Because imaging God means acting as God in his place, as though he were here. We mirror God, and God is a free being. If our free will is removed, we would cease to be imagers of God.
We would not be like him or be able to function as he would with respect to the tasks he has given humanity. Free will is essential to imaging God. We Copyright Michael S. Heiser, ; All Rights Reserved 52 also need a definition that applies equally to human beings and intelligent members of the heavenly host. In briefest terms, free will is the ability to make a choice without coercion. This does not mean our decisions are made in total freedom, however. Total freedom involves 1 making choices without any external influence at all, or 2 having the power to filter all external influences at will so as to make a truly independent, self-contained choice.
Only God has such total freedom. He exercised the first when he made decisions before there were any created beings who might interact with him. The second is a power that most theologians admit God has, but they disagree as to how much God might allow our actions to influence him.
We, on the other hand, have no such autonomy. Any decision we make is made either because of some immediate influence on that decision, or because of the cumulative effect on our character by previous influences and decisions. No human being has ever been in such complete isolation that God or any other human being has never influenced them. There is no scriptural warrant for anyone being so completely abandoned by God, and no human being has survived without some environment that included other human interaction.
There is no such thing as total autonomy in decision making within the world that God has created and in which he has put us.
It must be understood, though, that coercion and influence are not the same. The former nullifies free will; the latter is in constant cooperation with it. So why is free will so wonderful? Just consider the alternative. If love is coerced, is it really love? If hate is coerced, is it really hate? Is any coerced decision really a genuine decision at all?
Not if no other option was possible because of the coercion. We all know the difference, too. When your Mom made you eat your broccoli, that was coercion, not a choice. How satisfying or comforting would it be to hear your spouse or a parent say they love you if they were not truly free to refuse to do so, but they do it anyway? We appreciate such statements all the more since we know our spouse or parent could actually decide otherwise. The viability of the alternative makes the choice precious.
For example, without genuine free will, how can we say we love God? We had to obey. The same goes for sin.
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If God foreknows you will commit a particular sin and you in fact commit that sin, how could you not have committed that sin—and so how are you genuinely responsible for that sin? How are these difficulties to be addressed? Some theologians assume that God needs to be in direct control over every decision—that he needs to be the ultimate cause of every event—in order to be sovereign. This notion is then wedded to Copyright Michael S. Our freedom in such a perspective is then defined as our ability to make decisions that God has predestined but that our desires or nature also agrees with.
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That way, we are told, we are still responsible for our actions. And since evil cannot be exempted from predestination, it must therefore exist because God has willed it to exist—he is somehow the ultimate cause. This is usually conceived of as a passive, permissive causation—God allowed evil to enter creation, but did not initiate it.
But this is like saying God allows something to conform to his predestination, which implies he could disallow something to conform to what he has already predestined—which is incoherent. On the other side are those theologians who have argued that God has taken a totally handsoff approach. They usually do not argue that humans are totally without influence in the decisions they make, since that would require quarantine from all other humans and from God. This in turn means that God does not have exhaustive foreknowledge, and so he is not omniscient, at least in the traditional sense.
Humans are certainly responsible for their own actions in such a view. And while God is not to blame for evil, we are left with the impression that he cannot control it, and so evil has a sort of independence from God. If that is the case, how can God be the conqueror of evil without being able to control it completely?
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There are two important passages to consider. The first is 1 Samuel Note the underlining carefully. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah. Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O Copyright Michael S. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up the expedition. And Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand. In this account, David appeals to the omniscient God to tell him about the future. God answers in the affirmative in both cases, David goes to Keilah, and indeed defeats the Philistines.
And 2 will the people of Keilah turn him over to Saul to avoid an attack on the city? Again, God answers both questions affirmatively. Saul is going to come down and the people of Keilah will hand you over to him. When Saul discovers this fact v. Saul never actually goes to Keilah, and therefore David is never handed over by the people of Keilah to Saul. But why is this significant? This passage specifically the second section clearly establishes that divine foreknowledge does not necessitate divine predestination.
God foreknew what Saul would do and what the people of Keilah would do given a set of circumstances. In other words, God foreknew a possibility—but this foreknowledge did not mandate that the possibility was actually predestinated to happen. The events never happened, so they could not have been predestinated, despite the fact they had been foreknown by God.
Predestination and foreknowledge are separable. The same idea comes through in other passages. For example: Matthew 11 20 Then he [Jesus] began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent.
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