Sunday, May 19, 2013
Why did God give us Free Will?
A question that I'm often asked by my students concerns free will and God's omniscience, i.e. God knowing what we're going to do before we do it. The question is often posed this way:
"If God knows what we're going to do before we do it, then what's the point of free will? Why didn't God just make us all *sheep?"
*as in "an easily persuaded person with a malleable demeanour."
Before we answer that question there's something we have to understand about God's knowledge of the past, present, and future. God is omniscient, meaning He is all-knowing. God knows us as closely and as intimately as we know ourselves. God knows our pasts, our present, and our future; He knows what we're going to do before we do it. But hang on a second, if God knows what we're going to do before we do it, then doesn't that mean that things are scripted for anyway and we're under the illusion of free will? Doesn't that mean that free will is for null?
God's knowledge of all things extends to the nature of His existence. God is the creator of space and time and therefore is not bound to the laws of space and time, that is He exists outside of space and time. We exist in space and time and are therefore bound by the laws of space and time. We have a past, present, and future; our past we can reflect on, we are conscious of the present, and we our future is being made by the decisions we and those around us make and have made. God, since he exists outside of space and time and is therefore not bound by the laws of space and time, sees every moment - past, present, and future - in a single "moment". Omniscience is to have infinite and unmeasured knowledge; while it would take us time to accumulate knowledge, for God all knowledge is already present. It is truly difficult to describe how God sees a life pan out because we can only use what's tangible to us to explain it, but this is how we typically understand it.
Back to Free Will...
God created mankind so that we may enter into a loving and intimate relationship with Him, and this is made possible through Jesus Christ (John 3:16; John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:4). It is not possible to enter into this relationship without free will; man cannot love God without free will.
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me." - Revelation 3:20
Man must use his free will in cooperation with grace in order to be close to God. Heaven is perfect unification with God and the aftermath of walking with Christ in cooperating with holiness.
So back to the question: why did God give us free will?
We know very well that in life there are people that have used their free will for the good of others; they have used their free will responsibly. We are also aware that there are people that have used their free will irresponsibly and it is for this reason evil persists in the worlds today. Ultimately we are give free will by God so that we may do good and avoid evil. Our freedom to choose is described this way by the Church:
"Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. By free will one shapes one's own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude." - Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1731
"'God willed that man should be left in the hand of his own counsel (cf. Sir 15:14), so that he might of his own accord seek his creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him' (GS 17 § 1)." - ibid. par. 1743
“For you will certainly carry out God's purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain