Do we really have Free Will?

Straight Talk

The Question

I am a big free will person and I was wondering: is there really such a thing as free will? God knows everything that we are going to do before we do it, yet he gave us a choice. Is there really a choice because he knew and knows what is going to happen? It is fun to ponder these things but I can’t quite figure out an answer that, well, answers me. I asked my Christian teacher but she didn’t really answer my question. I was hoping you could.

MB from Unknown Location

The Answer
Part 1: Maybe time trips us up

Maybe time trips us up (Part 1)

You are asking one of those puzzling questions that mankind has gone in circles over for eons. Some of us care and some of us are not bothered by theological conundrums. Many great thinkers and philosophers have tackled it—I’m sure most of them do a much better job than I can.

Actually, our human brains aren’t designed to understand fully for now. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9) God reserves mysteries.

Still, I will try to answer you on a simple basis. Whether that “answers” you or not, we will see. First, you are correct. God is sovereign and all knowing. Also YES, man does have free will. We affirm that BOTH are true even if they appear to collide and be incompatible.

So how would it be possible to know something for sure in advance and yet not affect the outcome—not have it locked in? Perhaps we look at it the wrong way. The way I see it, time is the problem. We live in time; God doesn’t. If we lift time away from consideration it might make more sense. Suppose all events were actually happening in present time, therefore simultaneously?

God created time for his own reasons and as markers for us but he is not subject to time. Think of him observing all events in present tense. As far as he is concerned the whole of history is happening right now. After all, what makes eternity eternal? Isn’t it that in eternity time falls away? Well he’s already there. “And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

Consequently, if you are about to make a decision, God is watching it transpire at this moment even if from the time perspective it is years away. He isn’t so much locking in the outcome as he is observing it as it happens. That preserves both your free will in the matter and his omniscience.

Does that help you? Maybe it doesn’t totally answer you but perhaps it will start you down a path that will bring your brain greater satisfaction. You know, this is a question that the brain enjoys but the brain (as part of your body and your soul) is not in charge of you. It is your spirit that is top dog.

Remember this as you ponder this and other unknowable questions: we “do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:4)