The Meaning of Life: We are Created in God’s Image with Free Will
In our quest for the meaning of life, we asked, “Who are we?” The biblical answer was that we are creatures created in God’s image. Then we listed some of our God-given attributes. Today we add one more item to our list: Free will.
We’ll look at this thing called free will and attempt to reconcile it with God’s sovereignty—because both exist simultaneously.
Because God created time itself, he sits outside of and is unbounded by time. He knows the future before it happens. So he knows what each person will think and do before they do it. But when God created this being called man, God gave man a quality that he too possessed—the ability to choose freely.
God is, of course, sovereign and he ordered the universe for his purposes. Nothing happens that God doesn’t allow to happen. Yet fundamental to God’s plan for the universe is the free will he gave to this race of beings called man. And without free will, God cannot fulfill his plans for the universe.
So how can we reconcile the two? How can God be sovereign, while at the same time God endows mankind with free choice?
My answer to that question borrows somewhat from a 16th century theologian, Luis Molina: Because of God’s independence from time, even “before” he created the universe, he knew the nature of each person before they were born. He knew every thought and every decision they would ever make with the free will he would give them. And he knew this for a nearly infinite set of the possible universes he could have created. From this impossibly large number of universes, he chose the one universe that would accomplish his purposes. And he made all those decisions in one instantaneous “moment”. (Of course because time didn’t exist yet, we cannot talk about “moments” before time.)
Why is free will necessary for God’s grand plan? Why didn’t God just “predestine” our fates? In one sense I grant that God did “predestine” us. In our solution, God looked at the nearly infinite multiplicity of possible universes with their trillions upon trillions of individuals—each with a lifetime’s worth of thoughts and choices. Then he discarded all those that didn’t fulfill his plans. He kept only the one world where the combined set of free choices, made by all the individuals that ever were born, from the first man and woman to the last, would achieve his purposes. But I wouldn’t call that predestination, because in the end, each person still has free choice. Mind boggling, no?
Why wouldn’t a world of robots do just as nicely? Such a world, where each person’s choice was determined in advance, is an amoral world—one in which there are no moral choices to make. Such a world is obviously inferior to one in which free creatures choose God through his Son.
What was God’s grand purpose? The Bible tells us it’s this: God is creating a people for himself who will love him, whom he will love, and among he will dwell. And this people will be comprised of those who—through the free choices God gave them—believe in and follow Jesus as God’s Son. On earth this people is called God’s church, what he calls his household. And in the next life they will live on into eternity in God’s presence.
That future world will be the best of all possible worlds. But we can only get to that place through the suffering of this world.
Yet this thing called free will brought us something else—evil. We examine that in our next post.