Why Free Will Instead of Determinism?

September 22, 2015

Leighton Flowers | Professor of Theology
Dallas, TX

**This article was previously posted by Leighton Flowers on his website www.soteriology101.com and is used by permission.

Leighton is: teaching pastor in his local church, an adjunct Professor of Theology, and the Youth Evangelism Director for Texas Baptists.

Learn more about Leighton, HERE.
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I am a dog lover. I have always had a dog since the day I was born. I cannot imagine living life without having the faithful, unconditional love of a cute, cuddly canine.  I’m sorry all you cat lovers out there, for me there is no better pet in the world than a good dog!

Unlike cats, who could not care less about the people in their home unless a can opener is involved, dogs will drown you with praise if you return home after being away for 3 months or 3 minutes. Videos of dogs welcoming soldiers home flood the internet, but can someone direct me to a cat who would ever behave like the dog below when his owner returns home from protecting our country?

A couple of year ago I had to take our families beloved schnauzer, Rudy, to the vet and have him put to sleep for health reasons. He brought over 15 years of joy to our lives. It was a very difficult day. But it wasn’t long until we brought home a brand-new white schnauzer puppy (Summer) who has become a beloved part of our family.

While there is really no comparison between a pet and a human being, I do believe there are lessons to be learned. Why would we choose to adopt another puppy into our family knowing beforehand that she would mess on our carpet, chew up our valuables, bark at inappropriate times, and eventually bring back the grief of burying another pet? It is no surprise that a pet will be destructive to the home, loud at times, and inevitably cause grief upon her death. We know that for a certainty before ever beginning the adventure, don’t we? Yet we choose to get a puppy anyway. We could get a stuffed animal that looked just like a real puppy and put him by the fireplace for us to gaze upon and pat on the head as we pass by. So why don’t we? Why do we choose to purchase a puppy when we cannot control it’s every move? Why do we make an investment in owning a dog when we know full well that one day we will be grieved by her passing?

I believe the answer to this question helps us, in our finite limited capacities, to understand some of the motivation behind God’s creation of this world with free moral creatures. It’s like CS Lewis has so eloquently explained:

“God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t. If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata -of creatures that worked like machines- would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free.

Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. (…) If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will -that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings- then we may take it it is worth paying.” – C. S. Lewis

A toy stuffed animal can be controlled and manipulated to go only where we want it to go and do what we want it to do. It never makes messes or does anything outside our will. So, why do we choose the real puppy? More than that, but along those same lines, why do we choose to have children?

Before having children parents are typically very aware of the cost, trouble and grief that will most certainly come. Yet, many still choose to have children. Why? What drives us to take such a difficult path in our lives when other options are obviously available?  The simple answer…


To some theologically minded intellects this word can easily be passed by as pure emotionalism. Granted, this word has been so abused by humanity that it is understandable for people to grow skeptical of its usage. All kinds of gross teachings and practices have been excused under the banner of love. We love our cars, our houses, and even our hamburgers, but also express our feelings towards God and family with the use of this exact same term. For many the word has lost its meaning and I believe that devastates the right understanding of God’s nature, which undoubtedly is at its very core, LOVE (1 Jn 4:8).
The scripture is replete with examples of God’s loving character. The Bible also teaches that “love does not seek its own” (1 Cor. 13). But, isn’t God seeking His own? Are we not taught that God is seeking to glorify Himself? Is this a contradiction? No. God is love and He is glorifying Himself. He is not glorifying Himself at the expense of His creation, however.  He is glorifying Himself at the expense of Himself for the sake of His creation. That is what LOVE is, after all!

There is a Christian couple in my church who recently traveled to Russia in order to adopt two baby girls.  Would anyone describe them as “seeking their own” because they chose to adopt two orphaned Russian girls?  They are about to experience a world with a lot more work and self sacrifice in order to care for these children, not to mention the financial investment. These girls will undoubtedly make messes, and cause grief.

But, every parent reading this blog also knows that these girls will make life exciting and bring inexpressible joy. So, in one way you could argue that the parents are “seeking their own” in that they are seeking to love and be loved. And there is joy in that. There is excitement in that. “It is a risk worth taking,” as Lewis described.

Because the joy of true love is so overwhelmingly worth it, the pain, grief and trouble that accompanies it seems small in comparison. Someone could have sat down with this couple before making their trip to Russia and explained to them in detail all about the sleepless nights, the arguments, the messes, and made them fully aware of all the potential grief to come, but we all know that would not have stopped them. They are going to choose love even with all the risks.

It is in giving that we receive. It is in loving that we experience joy and peace that passes all understanding. In a sense, loving is seeking it’s own because it’s in loving that we truly experience life that’s worth living. Love is giving of oneself for the sake of another, yet in doing so it is the most self-fulling, self-gratifying act anyone can possibly experience.

I suppose that for God to create a world with free moral creatures, who will cause trouble and make messes, is “self-seeking” in that God is experiencing the joy, pleasure and even pain of true love. I’m not sure we can fully understand how that works within the infinite, “omni-everything” attributes of our Holy God.  I do understand, however, why He might choose to create a world with free people rather than a world with toys. I understand because I would choose the puppy over the stuffed animal. I would choose to have a child over enjoying the carefree married life without the worry of kids. It’s a risk worth taking. It’s love.

For more on the inconsistencies of Theistic determinism CLICK HERE.

———-bonus material————-

I could stop there, and maybe I should, but I just finished listening to Dr. Jerry Walls presentation titled, “What’s Wrong with Calvinism?” In this presentation (at the 57:45 mark), Dr. Walls argues,

In a nutshell, our case against Calvinism is that it doesn’t do justice to the character of God revealed in Scripture. It does not accurately portray the holy One who is ‘compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love’ (Ps. 103:8), the God for whom love is not merely an option or sovereign choice, but who is such that his eternal nature is love (1 Jn 4:8).”

Walls goes on to make a case that God’s very nature is love therefore it is not even an option for Him to “not love His creation.”  For example, we would be repulsed by someone who breeds puppies for the purpose of torturing any of them.  Likewise, we would consider it evil for a father or mother to hate any of their own children who they chose to conceive. And, in the same way, it would appear to be evil for God to hate those who He chose to create. Walls argues,

“God cannot fail to be perfectly loving any more so than He can lie. You don’t have to have children, but if you do you take on an obligation to love them. God’s freedom was in the freedom to create, or not. He didn’t have to create. But once having created, as a necessarily good and loving Being, He cannot but love what He has created. Love is not an option with God…It’s not a question of whether or not God chooses to love, it is WHO HE IS…HE IS LOVE.”

This is not a weakness of God, Walls insists, but His greatest and most self-glorifying strength. Would you consider it a strength or a weakness that my character will not allow me to be cruel to my pets?  Is it a weakness that I am unable to willingly strangle one of my own children to death, as Walls argues? No! That is a strength! God’s inability to be unloving is not a short coming of God’s strength and power, but the greatest most glorifying characteristic of His eternal nature!  To declare God’s universal self-sacrificial love to the entire world reveals God for what makes Him so abundantly glorious!