Monday, November 06, 2006

Coffee Talk:

This week’s discussion is basically an extension of last week discussion on sin. However, this week we will be addressing the long debate of Free Will vs. Predestination.

Free Will
"Man is a being with free will; therefore, each man is potentially good or evil, and it's up to him and only him (through his reasoning mind) to decide which he wants to be." - Ayn Rand

Everyone wants to believe in free will, that he or she is totally in control of his or her own destiny. That we can do anything we want, believe anything we want, and end up exactly where we want. One of the more well-known religious figures to support the free will argument is St. Thomas Aquinas. In his work "Summa Theologiae", he had this to say; "Man has free will: otherwise counsels, exhortations, commands, prohibitions, rewards, and punishments would be in vain". The verse is the he is referring to when he say counsels is Ecclesiasticus 15:14 (not a book in my Bible, but you can check yours. See also: Sirach) "God made man from the beginning, and left him in the hand of his own counsel". Erasmus wrote "By free choice in the place we mean a power of the human will by which a man can apply himself to the things which lead to eternal salvation, or turn away from them".

Biblical references:
Genesis 4:6-7
Isaiah 1:19-20
Deuteronomy 30:15,19

Is it arrogant to believe that you have the ability to control your spiritual destiny? Are you given a choice or are you chosen to serve? In Romans 8:29-30 Paul offers this to the discussion, "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified".

I have heard many relatives say "God has a plan for me.", and "I was put he for a reason.", and I suppose that as humans, as Americans, we can choose to accept or deny God's plan. The phrase "God's plan" means that God is omniscience, he knows the past and the future and can see both at all times (alpha and omega, see also: Revelation 22:13-14). The Muslims faith believes Allah to be atemporal or independent of time or space.

There are several branches of Christianity that believe in predestination. The Protestants follow a school of thought called Arminianism, named after Jacobus Arminius. John Wesley, founder of the United Methodists, relayed the message to his people in the form of the word TULIP.

T - Total depravity
U - Unconditional Election
L - Limited Atonement
I - Irresistible Grace
P - Perseverance of the Saints

Luther also spoke of depravity when outlining his views of "Free Choice", "Scripture, however, represents man as one who is not only bound, wretched, captive, sick and dead, but in addition to his other miseries is afflicted, through the agency of Satan his prince, with this misery of blindness, so that he believes himself to be free, happy, unfettered, able, well and alive".
For more of the debate between Luther and Erasmus go here (highly recommended!)

Biblical references:
2 Thessalonians 2:13
Acts 2:23
Acts 13:48

Ok, that’s is a lot of information to digest, and it took me awhile to collect it, but here is you chance to debate Free Will vs Predestination. I will post my personal beliefs in the comments section and you may or may not (your choice) do they same. Talk amongst yourselves.


Jason said...

My personal belief falls somewhere in the middle of these two principles. I believe God has a plan for everyone, and that He is all-knowing and all-powerful. However, I believe that He allows us to make choices in our lives, but He knows how we will choose and what the ultimate outcome will be. The whole concept is really difficult to comprehend, and not all that easy to explain. However, I have always had a hard time believing that my actions (be it action or faith) can secure my place in Heaven. I have been raised to believe in faith, and it is my faith that will save me. I am begining to believe that it is a combination of grace and faith that will save us. I just don't think I am powerful enough to save myself. I seem to selfish to believe that we can choice to whether or not we will go Heaven. There has to be grace invovled somewhere along the line.

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