Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Free Will?

In the aftermath of the Newtown catastrophe - and thinking about Ivan Karamazov's argument against religion - I've been thinking about "free will."  And the more I think about it, the more I think the notion itself an artifact of another era - that it doesn't really have the relevance today that it might at one time have had.

Because that argument depends, as far as I can tell, on the belief that God created human beings "from scratch"; there was no notion of an evolutionary element in human development, or any of the implications of that.  So, imagining that human beings were created at one time (perhaps "about ten thousand years ago"!), as we are today, with all our reasoning and moral faculties as we have them today, etc. - well, that just seems like a mistake now, to me.  It was an axiom that simply no longer holds.

And if the idea of "free will" depends on that notion - then as far as I can see it cracks and falls apart if that underpinning is pulled out.  Because the facts are very different; the reason human beings sometimes behave like wild beasts is because we are wild beats - or at least, we started out with software written on top of "Wild Beast 1.0" hardware.  God didn't give developed human beings "free will" or "the ability to freely choose evil"; choices that we read as evil in the human endeavor (at least, in our own context - whatever that happens to be at the moment) are a feature, not a bug, of "Wild Beast 1.0."  (And, of course, there are some theologians who question whether we even possess "free will" at all - and had actually gone to this place long before there was any understanding of evolution.)

Faith in God - in "the Law" - came along to help us out of our wild state into something better.  "An eye for an eye" was an improvement in jurisprudence (which, BTW, never meant that eyes would be literally gouged out; it was always a metaphor, and meant, simply, the punishment should fit the crime)."An eye for an eye" superceded the blood feud, in which entire clans could be made targets of vengeance, and made retribution a part of the "boring secularism of due process...which would otherwise have tended to exciting lynch deaths."

There is still a mystery here, of course; one could ask why God created the world this way; why the evolutionary process?  Why not create human beings "from scratch" - perhaps as angels who could never do harm?  And that answer is truly a mystery of the mind of God; we don't and can't know the answer - but the answer doesn't make any difference, frankly.  One way or another, human beings needed a new Law.   One way or another, human beings still need a way to upgrade the software.  One way or another, Christ (as Christians believe) had to become incarnate and redeem us.  With God, or without God - the answer is the same:  religion is a software upgrade and way out of violence.

So:  "free will" is a retrograde and superfluous argument at this point.  Isn't it? 


Mr. Mcgranor said...

Pelagius was correct and so is Arminius. A will without direct relations with Christ, is damned and destructive. Although The World's sting never ceases--to at least sting or try to sting. Without a direct relationship with Christ; one has a natural relation with God. Thus Natural Law also takes man's will as a factor. We choose God, even though God does elect. We are free in action even though God does predestine. Any man can do a good work. Even a heathen can receive God's direction. Only Christ can save and make a man.

Mr. Mcgranor said...


Satan manipulates the will. Was he forced by Satan? Compelled by God? Was he a product of biological determinism? Either way, his will was not free; but licentious and tyrannical.

Free-will in Christ.