Many people are familiar with the classic atheist question, “Can God create a stone that he can’t lift?” The answer to that, of course, is the same as the answer to a question like, “Can God create a square circle?” What is a square circle? It’s nonsense; and so is “a stone that God can’t lift.” There is no such thing; there couldn’t possibly be such a thing; from a Christian perspective, there couldn’t be such a thing because God is Unchanging Truth – logical and consistent.
So what about the question, can God create a being that He cannot control? Is it parallel?
Having considered these two radically different definitions of the term “free will” in parts one and two, we now have to decide what to do with them. Which definition has a better right to the term? And more importantly, which definition, if either, describe an actual state of affairs?
Before we jump into the discussion, let’s recap the definitions for you.
Definition number one: Free will is the ability of a rational being to act upon his circumstances in accordance with his own character, without direct alien interference between his character and will.
Definition number two: Free will is the self-determining character of the will whereby without regard to motives, emotions, and previous character a rational being can under any given circumstances act in either of two mutually exclusive ways.
Not too long ago we looked at a very specific definition of the term “free will” in The Bondage of Free Will, Part One. Today, we have another, very different, definition to consider!
As we move on to the second definition of free will, instead of starting with the definition, we will start with the general position. Succinctly put, it is “power to the contrary.” This is free will in the most radical sense of the term. What it means is that the same exact person in the same exact situation is perfectly free to choose either of two options. And not just any two options, but even two mutually exclusive options – for instance, good or evil.
Free will. If you’re ever looking for a can of worms to open, there’s one for you. The subject is fraught with confusion, contradictions, and complications. Do humans have free will? If so, can their acts be predicted ahead of time? Could an omniscient God know what a person with free will would do next? Could an all-powerful God plan what a person with free will would do next? And on the flip side, if a person has free will, doesn’t that mean that he is responsible for his actions? If he doesn’t have free will, can he claim freedom from responsibility?
Does free will – the power of choice – mean the same thing as ability – the power of doing? Is the human will self-determining, or is it determined by the person’s character?
These questions are not irrelevant or unimportant. Our answers to them will define our ideas of God, of man, of life, and of death. To be confused on this subject is to be confused about who you are, why you are here, and where you are headed. Whether you believe that you’re a chance group of atoms, purposeless and without a destiny, or whether you conclude that you’re a human created in the image of God, set on earth for the purpose of glorifying Him and standing before a future of eternal life or eternal death, you had better evaluate both sides and make pretty sure that you’re on the right track!