For the elevator speech, click here. For the 5 minute summary, read on.
“Divine determinism is impossible,” millions assert, “because of freewill.” However, the types of freewill that are incompatible with predestination, such as libertarian freewill, are not only false, but undesirable. Instead, if one looks closely at how we actually make decisions, a conception of freewill emerges which Jer calls “My Room Freewill;” we make our decisions based on everything that we are: good, bad, messy, courageous, generous, and bratty. No part of us can be missing.
This view of freewill is compatible with causal, logical, and divine determinism, which is good as they are all true. In all three forms, we might not be able to decide differently from what we end up deciding, but we are still making those decisions based on who we are and not anything else.
Furthermore, My Room Freewill remains resilient in the face of what we typically think of as coercion. Gunmen cannot take it away with threats, brainwashing cannot stop us from choosing out of who we are, and hypnotists are impotent as well. Even deities cannot violate My Room Freewill.
With the main objection to divine predestination neutralized, it is safe to discuss God and the type of predestination that the most basic God-claim entails.
Monotheists everywhere agree: God is quite smart and powerful. Even if we drastically underestimate God’s intelligence and ability to affect the world, God is still responsible for every detail of this world. In other words, God chose this world specifically, and thus, he has much to answer for.
How do we respond to a god who chooses a world like this one? We can reject his choice, we can embrace it by grudgingly deferring to his judgment, or we can embrace his judgment by using our own; we can try to see for ourselves why God made the world and insofar as is possible agree with him that it was the right thing to do.
“The practical consequences of living out this last option has changed my life and the lives of my friends. It has made me want to be a Christian. It makes me love Jesus. There is indeed a titanic mass of reasons for why God created the universe, and we should try to catch glimpses of them. I see beauty in leaves. What do you see?” — Jer
Table of Contents
Foreword………………………………………………Shirley Mullen Ph.D., President of Houghton College
Introduction: Lester, Land-mines, and the Train to Elation
Great fear surrounds the freewill discussion and directs one’s moral compass to quarantine areas of thought with yellow hazard tape. Fortunately, I am masterfully undisciplined in following my moral compass. This vice uniquely qualifies me for the job of stumbling onto gold in minefields. And I have.
1: What Makes Deciding Possible?
Randy sits down to decide between raisin bran and cheerios for breakfast. When pig excrement falls from heaven onto the bran, it only helps if he cares.
Many of the reasons why we are the way we are lie outside of our control. This is a problem if you ascribe to “Mt. Olympus Freewill,” that the only culpable beings are self-made gods entirely uninfluenced by others. But this is impossible and undesirable.
3: Libertarian Freedom
Libertarian freewill is also impossible and undesirable. Instead, I believe in “My Room Freewill,” where we make all of our decisions in the fullness of everything that we are.
4: A Factfull Future
A person is morally culpable even in the face of no alternatives just as long as the only option available is the one chosen on the basis of one’s “Room.” Causal determinism actually rescues us from logical determinism; the future might be immovable, but our unchangeable futures are the ones we pick.
5: Normal People, Brainwashers, Hypnotists, and Deities
My Room Freewill stands up fine when faced with gunmen, brainwashers, hypnotists, and even deities.
6: A New Assumption
I have no proof that God exists, only a short story I heard from a concentration camp survivor, which is better proof than most proofs anyway.
7: Clouds Follow
As we walk through life, a cloud of responsibility surrounds us, the boundaries of which are the limits of our ability to affect the world. As our powers and locations change, the limits change too, causing the cloud to morph, shooting out of windows along paths following our line of sight and down alleyways as we walk past them. Likewise, when God takes a turn through the world his abilities form a cloud of responsibility, too, but one so vast that it engulfs the entire created order. Two traits in particular, his power and intelligence, make him responsible for everything that happens.
8: God Knew What He Was Getting Us All Into
If God did not know what he was doing when he made the world, then my father would have to sit him down and explain, “Son, there are consequences to your actions. You just can’t go creating worlds willy-nilly.” Fortunately, he likely knows the future perfectly.
9: A Freak
Every 45 seconds a woman is raped in America, usually by one guy. I am by no means the most formidable guy in the world, but I stay in shape, I wrestled in high school, and I’m feisty. In an effort to save God’s integrity, are we seriously willing to make him more weak and incapable than me? In truth, God is freakishly powerful and, correspondingly, incredibly responsible for what happens.
10: Three Options
How do we respond to someone who chooses a world like this one? We have three possible responses and living out one of them has changed my life.
11: An Account
God’s decision to create this world was real and it may have gone something like this…
12: A New Kind of Christian
There is a titanic mass of reasons for why God created the universe, and we should try to catch glimpses of them. I see beauty in leaves. What do you see?
Epilogue: The Subway Incident
Last April I pulled a stranger to safety who had fallen onto the subway’s third rail and was being electrocuted. The incident and its aftermath gave me a new glimpse into the “titanic mass of reasons” why God created the universe. I had to share.