We have seen several threads wound together into a cord, and these include love, and free will, and the potential for evil. In other words, it is free will which makes both love and evil possible. One could not love without the faculty of free will – it would not be love if it were automatic, determined. However, since it is a choice to love, it is also a choice not to love – and this is the way that leads to evil.
Free will has remained at the periphery for most of this series, and even as it has come up, it has not been dealt with head-on. We should consider it now, since we saw in the last post how it marks a divergence in the use of our analogy – that is, the author cannot really bestow free will, while God can.
I should also say, in brief, that I am simply taking it for granted that free will is real. That argument – free will vs. determinism – has been alive for some time, and I have no ambition of settling it here. It is settled, to my mind, for the obvious reason that no one takes determinism seriously; moreover, to take it seriously is a bit of a paradox. After all, if you wanted to get serious about determinism, what would be your first step? (Of course you would do that).
I also take for granted that an author, whatever her considerable talents may be, cannot really bestow free will. She may indeed have a character acting in ways the reader may not expect, as though untamed; she may present the character with a dilemma, and no clear choice; the character may seem to be entirely original; yet ultimately, the author herself decides.
Now, the divergence is apparent. Has our time been wasted, then? Is the use of the author analogy invalid?
I don’t think so. It is, again, like any other analogy – useful to a point. The components do not all line up exactly, nor should we expect them to. We are only looking for a guide, a device, even a working model through which we might understand things outside of our immediate experience. You know, it’s just an analogy.
Furthermore, there is a kind of exception here, which fits within the analogy, though it departs a bit from our original parameters. Consider some fantastic, true story in which you were the main character. Now, place yourself in our hypothetical closed system – your mind, and nothing else – and tell the story.
As you do, you’ll describe some of the actions you took, some of the things you said – in other words, you’ll relate the free choices you made in the story. The question is, does your perfect knowledge of those decisions, as you tell the story, in any way challenge your free will as you made the decisions, within the story?
The answer is, of course not. Assuming you were free to make those decisions in the first place, it makes no sense at all to argue that your decisions have been “determined” as you tell the story.
But this is a little like a snake biting its own tail, so let’s de-couple the author from the character: Imagine you are telling a story about a child. These stories often feature the remarkable, charming, silly things that kids do and say, which adults do not do or say. As the child was acting and speaking, he was making free decisions.
As you tell the story an hour later to your friend, the decisions may have the appearance of being “determined” since they are now fixed parts of the story. But it would be nonsense to take this appearance and apply it to the original actions of the child, simply because the story now is fixed.
Very well so far. It is clear that this all ties back to the apparent conflict between God’s omniscience (knowing all things that can be known) and our free will. The challenge usually starts, “If God can know all of our decisions and how we will act, then we are not really free to choose.”
Obviously, knowledge of how a person did act (in the past) does not challenge his free will whatsoever. So much for the past tense; the challenge, it would seem, is in the future tense.