Freedom and Choice
I find it amusing how often we ask God for the bit and bridle. We Americans pride ourselves on our freedom, and hold it in such high esteem, yet how often do we feel lost, crying out to God to just show us the way; to just tell us what to do? How often have we asked God to give us the answer, or worse yet, simply asked Him to take care of a situation/problem/sin/annoyance for us? We want God to do it for us rather than show or teach us what to do. This is what I mean when I say that we want the bit and bridle. We want God to control us and/or take over, rather than have to go through the trouble of learning our lesson and growing from it.
This is why I do not understand why freedom loving Atheists go to such great lengths to deny the very freedom they claim they want. First, they say they love freedom, and want religious people to stop trying to tell them what to do. They claim they don’t need God or religion to dictate morality because they know right and wrong on they own, yet there are those among them who deny freewill, which is a much needed attribute in order to have a morality much less be able to make moral choices. If there is no freewill, there can be no accountable for the actions I take, since according to the hard determinist, I didn’t choose to reach across the table and slap him across the face, all of the states prior to the one I found myself in caused or determined that I would do so. This denial of freewill also has the consequence of removing any sort of freedom from a person, since every state of affairs a person finds themselves in was determined by prior states of affairs.
(A side note for any atheist reading this who happens to be a hard determinist: What exactly is the point of going around, bashing on religion and religious people, trying to prove them wrong and mocking and/or ridiculing them for their beliefs? If your determinism is true, they don’t have a choice whether they believe or not, and therefore it seems pointless (at least to me) to attempt to change their minds. If you are correct then they can’t help it, and in the end it ultimately doesn’t matter whether they believe or not, so why waste your time trying to change a mind you can’t change?)
Second, the freedom loving atheist who complains about the problem of evil also contradicts himself and his desire for freedom. He claims that if God were real he wouldn’t allow the amount of evil we see in the world to exist. This however, expects God to control us or prevent us from freely making our choices when we would choose to do horrendous evil(s). If they want to complain that there is still a problem with natural evils, I would want to ask why they are trying to impose their apparent lack of appreciation of and desire for freedom on God. Why should we not expect that God would allow the natural world which He created, to function as He designed, just as it does? They claim that God can perform some sort of perpetual miracle to stop all natural disasters that are harmful to humans, but why should He? They do not have the perspective to claim that God doesn’t have sufficient reasons for allowing these “disasters” to occur, and they presuppose that the world could function the way it does and sustain an environment/planet able to support life without these natural disasters taking place.
Third, to say God should do this or that to prevent natural evil and moral evil is to say you expect God to be toying or tinkering with us at all times, making sure we are playing nice and not hurting each other. It is to say that you expect God to have created a world without pain and suffering of any kind, and without choice as well. It goes back to the bit and bridle. They expect that God control everything on a micro level and prevent anyone or anything from “playing rough.”
It seems to me that the atheist who claims to love freedom will go to great lengths and surrender a whole lot of that freedom in order to try and (unsuccessfully) get around a need for God. There are many other examples of the lengths atheists go to and the things they give up in order to try and get around the need for God, but I won’t be going into them here because they lie outside of the scope of this post. Suffice it to say they are willing to lead choice-less and ultimately meaningless lives in order to have get around the existence of God, thereby attempting to avoid any accountability they have to Him, in order to have the “freedom” (which isn’t actually freedom if hard determinism is true) to do as they please for the brief speck of time known as their lives.
In summary, it seems that many of us, theist and atheist alike, have a tendency to surrender our freedom in order to try and take the easy way out. We would rather pray to God (the theists anyway) and ask Him to fix it rather than learn how to alter our behavior and attitudes in order to conform to the will of God and be molded in the image of Christ. We work hard to be lazy, and in the end that kind of behavior will lead to our destruction and unhappiness. If we instead learn to be like Christ, we will find freedom and joy in Him who died to set us free.
“The LORD says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.’
Many sorrows come to the wicked, but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the LORD. So rejoice in the LORD and be glad, all you who obey Him! Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!” -Psalm 32:8-11, NLT
Rejoice and be glad my Brothers and Sisters! May many blessings be poured out on you, may God guide and direct your paths, and may you be instruments of righteous used to bring glory and honor to God the Father, Christ the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, Amen!
Derek J. Brent