A student reflection on Dr. Schroeder’s “Free Will” Seminar

by Carey Yeager, April 2006

Before listening to Dr. Schroeder’s lecture, I had never thought of the concept of free will and determinism as it applies to the miniscule levels of physics. Although I have studied determinism in previous courses, because I approach this discussion with a firmly grounded belief in free will as being essential to the Gospel, I automatically dismissed determinism as ridiculous. But, as Dr. Schroeder pointed out, there must be some level of determinism in nature, for that is what the laws of nature are—the law of cause and effect. If molecule A bumps into molecule B at a certain point and speed, B will inevitably move in a certain direction and another speed, and so on and so forth. Molecules do not choose to behave one way or another (and here I am disagreeing with Schroeder’s view of all matter having a certain level of mind). I had previously interjected that God not only controls but intervenes at various points in this cause and effect system. But, as Hamlet sighed, there is the rub, for God’s control and intervention implies a lack of free will.

I was intrigued by this idea of “quantum uncertainty,” which supposedly provides a window of opportunity for free will, where the flow of nature has a slack. My faith in free will, however, does not rest on quantum uncertainty. Man is still able to, through his soul and spirit, make the conscious decision of choice; he may be influenced by both nature and nurture, but God has granted him certain autonomy. Never would I have pointed to Isaiah 45:7 to prove that autonomy. Schroeder’s definition of creation as God pulling back his control is a fascinating way to explain him “creating” evil. Pulling back does not mean that God had to give of himself to create, but rather he took away himself. Evil, one could say, is the absence of God, because God is all life, holiness, goodness, love, purity, and beauty. None of these can exist without God, and when all are taken away, nothing is left but death, desecration, malevolence, hate, impurity, and ugliness—in essence, evil. There must be a distinction between God pulling back himself (which produces evil) and God pulling back his control (which produces free will). I could not tell if Dr. Schroeder made that distinction or even if his was able to, as I thought he was only using the one Hebraic word for creation, leaving no room for control versus character.

Another striking concept Dr. Schroeder introduced was that of God being outside of time. Time is only a phenomenon constructed by man, and yet he is absolutely unable to remove himself from that dimension. God, however, dwells in the domain of the speed of light, where time does not exist. He is able to watch everything here on Earth all at once; everything, in fact, has already occurred. God does not know the future, Schroeder claims, only the eternal present (eternal being key). There is only one reality, but man and God have different views of that reality. One central element of the seminar I questioned was the reasoning behind Dr. Schroeder’s investigations into free will. His question was “If our Creator knows the future, how do we have free will?” Schroeder solves this dilemma with the absence of time. Personally, though, I do not see this question as a dilemma at all? There is a huge difference between God knowing something will happen and him making that event occur. Foreknowledge does not necessitate control.

My follow-up question would be this: if God only knows a person as much as he or she knows him, then what distinguishes God as Creator? Schroeder’s thesis of relational knowledge, or intimacy, works well for human relationships; we do not have the physical capacity to know someone unless they “open up” to us. But surely our Creator who designed, made, and died for us knows us completely, entirely, and a thousand times better than we could ever know him in this lifetime?

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