For light dinner conversation my daughter asked, “Dad do we have free will?” Her English class is reading through Benjamin Franklin, “A Dissertation On Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain.” According to Wikipedia it ‘argues that an omnipotent, benevolent God is incompatible with notions of human free will and morality.’ A thought provoking discussion followed which is still percolating through my brain. Certainly we have free will in some spheres of life but God is able to move his hand to cause us to move a certain direction.
The obvious biblical example is that of Jonah. He runs from God, gets cast out of a boat and eaten by a non-baleen mammal then thrown up onto the beach at
Certainly he was still able to exercise free will at that juncture but
he was compelled by events which God ordained.
There too is the story of Samson wherein God uses Samson’s desire for
Delilah to get him to the barbershop thus guaranteeing the slaughter of his enemies. In the same way that Samson was “pressed
daily with her words and…his soul was annoyed to death,” so God moved me to the
The ex-wife put a down payment on a property in the high desert without my knowledge. She nagged and “pressed daily with her words” to move to the desert. In the end I relented in hopes that life and the marriage would change if we moved. Though I had free will in the situation I felt that the cards were stacked one direction only. The same God that knit me together stacked the cards.
So it is that though we have free will we deal with the same God that brought
Israel out of
“with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; with great terror and with signs
and wonders…” One can see how Franklin arrived at his
dissertation. Though God certainly moves
His hand to force our hand he does so that He may freely get our praise; as a result
of thanksgiving to a benevolent God not coercion by a dictator.