“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” ~William Shakespeare
Are we free? Or is the ability to choose an illusion? Why is our understanding of this subject so dim? It seems clear that we are programmable creatures, as famously demonstrated by Pavlov and Skinner. But we also have a higher consciousness or spirit that enables us to take charge of our programming (to become our own programmers), or at least the most important aspect of life: our moral choices.
The Bible teaches both. This is called an antinomy: two apparent contradictions that are both true, nevertheless. I sometimes think of it this way: God determined my fate (predetermination) at the moment of creation, knowing the choices I would make (free will). But this argument has its flaws, and in the end is merely an attempt to apprehend what I can only partially grasp.
It’s as if there were two lines stretching from earth into the stratosphere. They appear to be parallel, but aren’t: they simply intersect beyond our range of sight.
In the first century, the Apostle Paul wrote: “For now, we see a dim reflection, as if in a mirror, but then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part; then we shall know fully, even as we are fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). “Mirrors” at the time Paul wrote this were sheets of hand-beaten metal. Even the best gave extremely inaccurate representations, revealing more about the mirror than their subject.
Such is our understanding of transcendent truth.
Is much of our fate beyond our control? Yes. And yet, it is also true that if we choose foolishly, selfishly, the fault (as free Will Shakespeare tells us) “is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”
For the present, we see dimly, but eventually we will look Truth full in the face, and we will see how those two lines intersect, how the choices we made dovetailed with our fate. Fortunately, our future doesn’t depend on our level of knowledge, but on the infinite goodness of…
the One behind the mirror.