Do you believe in free-will?

I have had an interesting comment on a recent blog, Has the sermon had its day?  It (The comment, not the blog) raises the question of whether all in life, and especially in death, is predetermined or whether we have free-will and whether the answer proves or disproves the existence of God. I have put the comment and my reply below. For those of you who find this debate irrelevant, I will say something more down-to-earth in my next blog.

The comment.

John, how can we have free will and an omnipotent God? If this life is a test to gain entry to a heavenly afterlife then an omnipotent God would know the results before the entrant sat down to take the test.

Conversely, if we have free will then there can be no God as we know him because he cannot know the results before the entrant sits the test. Anything short of an all-knowing, all-powerful God really cannot be considered a god at all.

If there’s a preacher out their who can break the paradox, then the sermon lives on. If not, the sermon is dead, as is religion.


My reply.

Hi Karl,
The question you raise is one which has taxed greater minds than mine down the ages. Among Protestants, John Calvin, the reformer, writing in the 16th century, is the most famous proponent of predestination. The free-will view is sometimes called Arminianism, presumably after someone called Arminius. In the Catholic Church, the debate broke out in the 17th century in France, where the predestination view was propounded by Jansen, whilst the Jesuits held the free-will position. Both sides find plenty of scripture to support their position.
Moslems, Hindus and Jews have all recognised and found ways of resolving or living with this dilemma too.

Do Atheists believe in free-will?

If you think Atheism is the answer, think again! I have heard debates among Atheists where some believe all is predetermined, and others that it is not. This raises problems over accountability and punishment, among other issues.
Most modern Christians, and many before, accept that both views are true in a way. Some have tried to intellectually reconcile them. Most leave that problem to God. We believe in God for lots of reasons and are not put off by philosophical issues we can’t resolve. I can’t explain what electricity is, or light, but I do not deny their existence or refuse to benefit from them. Try it. With God, I mean, not electricity!