Sunday, 20 December 2009

Freewill and automata

If there is a God, why does he allow so many bad things to happen? But wait a minute, what would our lives be like if God kept intervening to ensure that nothing ever went wrong? Which is a more effective way to show my love for my children? Should I step in any time there is a risk of something bad happening or of them failing and remove them from that situation or should I in love allow them to experience the good and the bad, the successes and the failures that they might learn and grow stronger. That is precisely the decision that God has to make in His love for people. Should He surround them in cotton wool and stop them doing things that might hurt them or others or should he give them the freedom to make their own choices and to fail from time to time?

Barclay in commenting on Luke 7:30-35 makes it clear that God has chosen the way of love and giving men freewill. The difficulty is that men through their freewill choose ways that frustrate God's plans and hinder the implementation of his plan. The passage describes it as God's plan for them.

Each day, we are faced with choices. We can seek to know God's path of love but often we look for the ways that bring personal satisfaction rather than service to others. In the work place do we seek personal satisfaction or do we seek to serve others? Reflecting on my own work, often it is personal satisfaction rather than serving.

Barclay closes his commentary with the statement “Had God used the force of coercion and laid on man the iron bonds of a will that could not be denied, there would have been a world of automata and a world without trouble. But God chose the dangerous way of love, and love in the end will triumph” (pp 92-93).

Providing this freedom of choice is what brings differences in understanding. Each of us has the freedom to interpret what we read or hear according to how we perceive it. As a consequence, teaching doesn't deliver a single understanding, it delivers a diversity of understandings based on the way that the learner experiences the teaching and relates it to their current understanding. We work in a world of diversity that provides its interests and its challenges.

Without that diversity, in a world of automata, the interest and challenge would be removed. We would be little more than mechanical robots repeating tasks each day. The freedom to choose is what gives interest to life but it also leads to the uncertainty and struggles.

My preference is for freewill over automata.


Barclay, W. (1975). The gospel of Luke (revised ed.). Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press.

No comments: