To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. (Revelation 3:21)
For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17)
A man sits behind bars, locked up for many years to come. His horrendous crime haunts him. His soul replays it in his dreams. His mind is clouded every waking hour. His conscience strikes him with guilt. But he shakes it off. He tells himself what he has always told himself. He repeats the only message that makes him feel better about himself. The man says, “I am a victim of my circumstances. I couldn’t help myself.”
A woman and man share a drink after work. They know their families are waiting for them to come home, but they just have to celebrate. They have just landed a huge account, something they have worked for months to get. Now, it’s time to unwind. It’s time to party. A few hours later, the man has a sparkle in his eyes, and the woman has a gleam in hers, and they find themselves in a cab going home together. The next day, they tell themselves, “One thing led to another. We couldn’t help ourselves.”
A woman stares out the window with a blank expression on her face. Her children sit on the sofa behind her. They are crying. Again. She has vented her rage on them yet again. She feels horrible. A thousand times she has promised God she would never go off on them like that again. And a thousand times, she has failed. “I have a bad temper,”she tells herself. “It’s in my DNA. I can’t help myself.”
Every time any person says or thinks or believes “I can’t help myself,” they are expressing Determinism. In its extreme form, determinism says that everything in life is predetermined.
It sounds like this:
“I am a determinist. I basically believe that at any one point in time it is completely the configuration of molecules in the universe and in particular in your brain that mandates what you do and that you could not have done anything other than what you did. In other words, you don’t have any choices. You think you do, and it looks like you do, but you don’t really.” [Dr. Jerry Coyne is a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago. He writes frequently for the New York Times and USA Today.]
It is completely the configuration of molecules in the universe and in your brain. That is what controls everything. It is determined by biology. By science. By energy. By random chemical reactions.
Most people aren’t as extreme as this. But still, it’s something we need to think through.
Because determinism has infected so much of what the world just assumes is true today. And it is wrong, and depressing, and makes us limp beneath our dignity as royal children of God.
DETERMINISM is a philosophy of life in which everything in our lives and in our world is governed by physical laws of cause and effect, so that free will is only an illusion.
Everything is caused by something else. Every relationship. Every emotion. Every belief. Every action. Everything is a chain of cause and effect. Your prayers. Your beliefs. Your loves.
These are not your choices.
These are not your beliefs.
Not your passions or your dreams.
These are nothing but the outworking of biological imperatives, and the physics of molecules and energy interacting in your brain.
Getting married. Having children. Caring for aging parents. Generosity. Kindness. Love. It’s all nothing but long, complicated, linked chains of cause and effect.
And in that chain, YOU are no more or less important than any other link. You are just another part of the giant chemical machine called the universe.
You are a puppet, and other forces are pulling the strings.
Determinism has a little sister called Fatalism.
FATALISM is the belief that we’re stuck with what will be will be, since all events, past, present, and future, are determined by causes beyond our ability to influence.
Greek mythology depicted three sister goddesses called the Fates. They were blind, and ugly, and ancient. For every life, and every being, the Fates spun a thread. One sister spun the thread of life. One sister determined how long the thread should go. And one sister, when the time was right, cut the thread with her shears, and that was the end.
The fates were even stronger than the gods, because nobody can escape the Fates.
You might laugh at that today, but fatalism and determinism are nasty viruses that have infected so much of what most people believe today.
In this episode of God Stuff, Bill Giovannetti is joined by Todd Skinner to talk about Determinism and Free will.
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Two great resources for more on this topic: