Board index Specific Bible verses, texts, and passages Genesis

The beginning of the covenant; Faith vs. Faithlessness

Joseph and free will

Postby dreamcoat » Wed Mar 27, 2019 10:41 am

I've read many of your posts, with references to Jonah and others with prophecy. You never mentioned Joseph in any of them that I saw. His dreams, and the dreams of those who he discerned for, all came to pass.

"Knowledge isn't causative, knowledge isn't determinative". You've said that in your posts. Joseph never looked to have these prophecies fulfilled, he had no control over much of his life. His knowledge didn't cause him to seek out his role for the Pharaoh, and his knowledge didn't determine his role for the Pharaoh.

"If God is timeless, and can see all things as present, then his knowledge is a matter of seeing, not of causing. Free will is still not only operative but legitimate and even necessary, and God's knowledge is complete. There is no contradiction to justify." This is another quote from the same post. Let's break this down: God didn't cause Joseph's position to Pharaoh. Joseph knew his dreams, but didn't cause his situations. The determination of where Joseph ended up also was out of his control. The Pharaoh didn't have to place Joseph in the position that he did.

I have a difficult time wrapping my head around that God didn't push things along. Josephs brothers happened to not kill him, as they spoke about, and Ishmaelites happened to walk by to take Joseph to the place that he would begin his journey to becoming the second most powerful man in the world. The baker and butler were in the prison with Joseph and had dreams that needed discernment at the perfect time for events to unfold. The most powerful man at the time has a dream that needs discernment elects a prisoner to become his number one man. Joseph brings all his brothers and father to Egypt, which would set the course of history for Moses and God's chosen people.

Please don't misunderstand, I don't disagree with you. I'm just having difficulty seeing free will in this case. It didn't seem like Joseph had much of any choice in his life plan as a slave/servant for a large part of his life.
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Re: Joseph and free will

Postby jimwalton » Wed Mar 27, 2019 4:46 pm

Wow, excellent comments and a train of thought! I had never commented about Joseph because no one ever asked, but your synthesis of various posts of mine is impressive. Thanks.

The first part of my response to you comes from the nature of prophecy itself. The predictive element in biblical prophecy has to be kept distinct from causation, or else it ceases to be predictive. Prophets weren’t predicting anything, but merely giving the word of the Lord. The prophecy is God’s message, not the prophet’s. If predicting is understood to preclude causation, then God cannot predict, for he is the first cause and the final cause. If God can see everything as present, then "prediction" is a false notion for God. He can see (in His present) what's going to happen (in our future). Rather than regarding prophecy as prediction, then, it is more helpful to consider it as "God's syllabus." The syllabus for a course doesn't "predict" what will happen in each class period of the term, but presents the instructor's plans and intentions for each period. The significance of the document is that the instructor is in a position to carry it out. Likewise, when a judge passes a sentence on a convicted criminal, he is not "predicting" what will happen to that person. Rather, he is decreeing what ought to be done and is in a position to see that it is done. In prophetic literature, God is declaring His intentions and decreeing His judgments.

Secondly, in the case of Joseph, this was an event in salvation history (where God does use His power to make things happen on Earth) that absolutely had to happen. God chose Joseph for the same reason He chose Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Daniel, S/Paul and many others: He knew what kind of hearts and minds they had, and He knew how they would respond. My son-in-law is a policeman of the highest moral bearing. I don't have to be God to tell you exactly how he will react if given a moral challenge. I know the way his heart and mind work.

I we combine God's ability to know the heart of Joseph, His ability to see all time as present, His determination about salvation history, and understand that His predictive prophesies are "intention" rather than causative, we can understand that Joseph had perfect free will in the situation, and God was not reticent to predict how this would all roll down in fulfillment.

You've raised an interesting question that I'm sure I will be mulling over for the next period of time. Think about what I've said and dialogue back with me.
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Re: Joseph and free will

Postby dreamcoat » Wed Mar 27, 2019 9:45 pm

In the previous posts we've discerned that knowledge isn't causative, nor determinative. Let's focus presently on this sentence: "this was an event in salvation history (where God does use His power to make things happen on Earth) that absolutely had to happen." This sounds like you are saying that God intervened with His power to make things happen on earth that wouldn't have happened otherwise. This would change the perspective of God giving us free will if He would then "Use His power to make things happen on Earth." Because I don't know where in specific God used His power in this story, let's just do some hypothetical situations.

1) If God knew Joseph's brothers would sell him into slavery instead of killing him God intervened to have Ishmaelites pass by so that he could be sold not killed
2)When Joseph was with Potiphar, he could have had Joseph killed, maybe God intervened to have him put in prison
3)When Joseph was in prison with the baker and the butler, dreams were given to BOTH of them that would determine their role/fate in the coming times. God may have intervened to have them in the cell near/with Joseph
4) I already mentioned the Pharaoh deciding to give Joseph the number 2 position by his side when he didn't have to

Point being, we don't know where God intervened during this story, but by intervening He "pushed" things along by using His power to make things happen. I do believe that Joseph had free will to choose to do things, and go along the righteous path with Potiphar's wife, but how he came to rise to power after his dreams still doesn't ring "Free Will" to my ears.

As far as your syllabus reference goes, you've confused me more. I take it that God would be the instructor in this narrative. You state that "the instructor is in a position to carry it out." This also seems like a predestination formula. If God is carrying out the syllabus, or the intentions for each period, He would be actively making sure that things were going as planned, much like a teacher. Granted, a teacher in real life, doesn't know what will happen each class period, but God certainly would. A teacher guides the class discussion to fit their class lesson. Maybe a syllabus analogy isn't the best to use, because it certainly has thrown me for a loop trying to figure it out.
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Re: Joseph and free will

Postby jimwalton » Sat Mar 30, 2019 10:26 am

This is a great discussion. Thanks.

I'm looking at what we know—the specific parts of God's involvement that we wouldn't know other than by revelation:

    * It's safe to say God gave the dreams to Joseph (Gn. 37.5-11). Interestingly, though, they are not represented as divine revelations, but neither can we take them as random. Dreams were often thought, in the ancient world, to offer information from the divine realm, and therefore they were taken seriously and often as omens. But we do have to be fair and recognize there there is nothing specific in the text indicating that the dreams were a theophany (though it would be the first dream in Genesis that was not a theophany). Here there is no divine speech or revelation. But the dream if obviously prophetic. See what fun this is already?
    * It's safe to assume God protected Joseph from death (as you mentioned, though the text never specifically says). How he was protected involved numerous elements (Reuben's influence [37.21]; the caravan of Ishmaelites [37.25], which may have happened frequently [I really don't know]). These seem to be free-will actions that played into God's protective intent. It's really difficult to isolate these factors, isn't it?
    * Was the sale to Potiphar God-ordained, pure free-will that worked out fortuitously, or pure free will that God then worked with? The text doesn't say.
    * We do specifically read that the Lord was with Joseph and he prospered (39.2, 5). This doesn't imply God had created the situation, but was possibly working within the situation that humans had created.
    * Joseph made some decisions (presumably free-will, 39.6b-20). The Lord doesn't seem to have created the situation (there is no indication of that), but was seemingly working within a situation the humans had created (39.21-23.
    * It's safe to say God gave the dreams to the butler and baker (40.8-22), though it also seems apparent they had gotten to prison by the free-will exercise of the Pharaoh (40.4a).
    * It's safe to say God gave the dreams to Pharaoh (41.1-8).
    * With certainty we can say God gave the power to interpret the dreams to Joseph (41.16, 28, 32).
    * Joseph credits God with blessing him (41.52), which seems to involve protection, granting success, and the ability to interpret dreams.
    * For the next several chapters, the brothers and Joseph, by all appearances, are playing out their own decisions. There is little mention of God's activity, though they tend to blame God for misfortune (42.28). (There is no indication God is involved in their misfortune.)

In chapter 45, we learn more about Joseph's spiritual perspective.

    * 45.5, 7, 8: God sent me ahead of you to preserve a remnant
    * 45.8, 9: God made me father to Pharaoh

    * 50.20: God was able to turn around what they had done and use it for good to accomplish His ultimate purposes

God appears to Jacob, affirming the free-will decisions Jacob is making (46.3): "Don't be afraid" to do what you are thinking and planning. I will use it to make you into a great nation.

What we see going on is an intricate mash-up of human free will and divine activity, which is possibly not a bad way to think about all of our lives and all of human history. It's quite the mash-up, and pretty difficult to separate out what is human choice and behavior and what is not. It seems to me that free will is at work through the whole thing, but God is intricately involved to accomplish His purposes. In no place does he seem to interfere with free will, but He is never just a passive force.

This seems to go along with other similar kinds of scenarios:

    * Pharaoh had hardened his heart long before God actively did things that made it even worse.
    * Jer. 18.1-12: God responds to human free will to change his "syllabus".
    * God has a right to respond to human free will to change his "syllabus" (Jonah 3.)
    * Judas had free will to do what he did, and he is accountable for all his actions, and yet it was the purpose of God that Jesus is betrayed by one of his disciples. Judas was a betrayer long before Jesus picked him as a disciple. He was chosen as a disciple as a betrayer.
    * Romans 1.24, 28 indicate that God does not interfere with our free will, even to our own detriment (1.29). And yet God is also active in "giving them over" to various sinful states, acting in the direction their free will has taken them.
    * Romans 9 makes clear that humans have free will in salvation, but it is enabled by grace. Romans 9 contends that we have total free will to the extent that we are completely accountable for every action, and yet the sovereignty of God is strong throughout the chapter.

It's pretty tough to say with certainty that "God intervened with His power to make things happen on earth that wouldn't have happened otherwise." The "what-if" question is always impossible to answer: "What would have happened differently if..." It's impossible to answer that question. Did God really force the brothers to mistreat and sell Joseph? Maybe not. They were jealous of Jacob's favoritism to Joe, jealous of the coat (and the favored position in the family that gave him)—who knows? They might have done it anyway. Meanwhile, however, God inserts 2 dreams for Joe for several reasons, but we can't really be sure what would or would not have happened otherwise. You know what I mean? It gets pretty tough to sort out and to make specific claims.

> As far as your syllabus reference goes, you've confused me more.

Just so I'm clear, the syllabus analogy refers specifically to God's prophetic activity, not necessarily to his involvement in the steps of our lives. I brought it up because Joseph's dreams seem to be prophetic, and so I thought the analogy might help us discuss the issues of prediction vs. causality.
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Re: Joseph and free will

Postby dreamcoat » Mon Apr 01, 2019 12:19 am

My pleasure to get the gears churning. It is a very good discussion, and I thank you for your response.

I understand what you are saying throughout your response, and I agree, but I am getting tied up on this: "What we see going on is an intricate mash-up of human free will and divine activity"

Let's focus on the divine activity, and let's keep it focused on Joseph for the analogy. I can see free will in the choices that Joseph made in his life. He sounded like a noble, honest man, with great virtue and faith. He, as God would know, would make the honorable choices. You had mentioned that Joseph's free will played into God's protective intent. Intent by definition means resolved or determined to do, or purpose. If then by your own words, if I may counter your phrasing, God determined, or purposed Joseph's "free will," which is the opposite of free will if it was already determined. It is difficult to isolate all the factors involved, which is why this really is a good discussion on free will. Because there are so many factors in real life that determine our train of thought, and how we think in our daily activities, it's hard to know how our free will actually plays out.

Could our everyday building blocks for our emotional responses be built in for when we have a decision to make, we make one that has the intent for God's use? Or is it a random hodge-podge of daily occurrences that God has seen in our past and present which will eventually lead to the destruction of the world?

I don't know.

They say hindsight is 20/20, so it's easy to know what is the right thing to do after something has happened, but it's hard to predict the future. But God knows the future, so He would also know where things would need to be changed to create the outcome of His choosing. If He were to intend things to happen a certain way He could alter the circumstances for free will to take it's course, in that way not perceptively changing our free will, but therefore altering the course of history. It's tricky, and starts getting a little sticky in places.

For instance, you mentioned where Joseph said "45.5, 7, 8: God sent me ahead of you to preserve a remnant." Joseph may have been giving his spiritual perspective, but also might have truly believed that God "SENT" him. Again, going on vocabulary, being "sent" isn't passive. I also recognize that being told to go somewhere also involves decision to be sent. My wife could send me to go somewhere, but I could go elsewhere.

I guess my question is where do we draw the line between where my free will ends and where God's will begins? But I guess that's also the age old question of free will in the first place.

Tag. You're it.
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Re: Joseph and free will

Postby jimwalton » Mon Apr 01, 2019 10:38 am

Excellent discussion! Thanks for your continuing replies.

Here's where I'm going to focus: "Intent by definition means resolved or determined to do, or purpose. If then by your own words, if I may counter your phrasing, God determined, or purposed Joseph's 'free will,' which is the opposite of free will if it was already determined."

I would say we have to make a distinction between "intent" (what I meant by it) and "determined" (how you defined it). When I intend to go to the store today, it expresses a wish and a plan, but nothing set in stone. I may be resolved to do it, but such resolve could span a continuum of weak to intense, and "intent" would still be the term used. But my resolve to do it has no association with an inviolable course of determination (lack of free will). I have a list of things I "intend" to accomplish today. Whether I will succeed is anyone's guess. My intention is an expression of a desire rather than an immutable course of action set in stone.

When I say that God intended certain things, I mean that He is expressing a wish and a plan, but not an inviolable course of determination that voids Joseph's (or anyone's) free will.

> Could our everyday building blocks for our emotional responses be built in for when we have a decision to make, we make one that has the intent for God's use?

I don't see it this way, and I don't see where Scripture paints it this way. Instead I see that our emotional responses are truly expressions of our free will assembled by genetic predisposition, environmental constructs, and our experiences. God is perpetually "running the algorithm" of responding to our decisions to bring about His desires, which could span a continuum of weak (He doesn't care which grocery store I visit) to intense (He will push harder, perhaps, to set up the possibility of a particular conversation or to bring an opportunity across my path—it will still be my choice how to engage with this conversation or opportunity).

> But God knows the future, so He would also know where things would need to be changed to create the outcome of His choosing.

This is true, but in Scripture the only event where I see this particularly happening is in salvation history. God has a plan for the salvation of the world pertaining to the predictions of Christ (the prophetic word given to the OT prophets), the life of Christ (a determined existence; Jesus only said or did what God told him, and the Cross was inevitable—it was determined and would not fail), and the eschatological events, which we are told will conform to a plan and timeline.

Allow me to speculate. God spoke to Abraham (Gn. 12.1-3), and Abe responded (v.4). What if he hadn't? Then I think God would have spoken to someone else. I think it's altogether possible that God had spoken to Abe's dad, Terah (Gn. 11.31), who had not responded appropriately. So God found someone who would respond.

I think the same possibility exists with S/Paul. Granted, it was a pretty heavy-handed revelation (Acts 3.3-6). But Paul had a choice of response just as Jonah had (Jonah 1.3). So did Ananias (Acts 9.10-17). These are obviously more towards the "intense" side of the continuum, but there is always the choice to continue to resist, as we see with Pharaoh (Ex. 5-12—he eventually caved to the pressure but still never submitted to the Lord, as we see in Ex. 14.5).

> I guess my question is where do we draw the line between where my free will ends and where God's will begins?

I think the idea of "ends" and "begins" lead us in a false direction. Free will is always operative; it has no "end." God's will infiltrates, reveals, draws, persuades, and guides, but it never forces. Even in the case of Judas, as I mentioned, we get the idea that he had a free choice all along. God has intentions (2 Chr. 7.14; Jer. 29.11), but they are contingent (Jer. 18.1-12).
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Re: Joseph and free will

Postby dreamcoat » Mon Apr 01, 2019 11:35 pm

I do understand where you are coming with with your distinction between intent and determined, and I agree with your assessment, although I was referencing the dictionary definition of intent as resolved or determined to do.

As far as my quote "Could our everyday building blocks for our emotional responses be built in for when we have a decision to make, we make one that has the intent for God's use? " It's hard for me to rule this out. I understand your argument that our emotional responses are truly expressions of our free will assembled by genetic predisposition. But later in the paragraph you state "God is perpetually running the algorithm of responding to our decisions to bring about His desires." This seems contradictory to me. He is using our decisions to bring about HIS desires. Let's use the ice cream scenario that you used in another one of your posts. If God's desire is for me to pick anything but vanilla, but I love vanilla ice cream and would only choose anything else if vanilla wasn't there, I would assume God would then make it so there would be no vanilla. This then allows my free will to choose something else, with the facade of free will. But I WOULD have chosen vanilla if I HAD the choice.

I would like to see that "our emotional responses are truly expressions of our free will." The reason that I'm having difficulty thinking this way is the many things that bring about the environmental constructs, and our experiences, is that our lives are built block upon block of experiences. Sticking with Joseph, the reason I wrote the post, his experiences built his determining will to create the man that he became. Let's assume that God did use his power on earth to guide Joseph to his position with Pharaoh. That would mean that Joseph's free will was assembled by God's power guiding Joseph. Which would seem to me that Joseph had free will, but because of how God guided his life, when it came to certain decisions his free will wasn't exactly free. Am I making sense?

I don't know anything about Terah, but I am a little confused about what you were saying. God's chosen people, the Jews, were the descendants of Abraham/Israel. If Abe didn't respond (Nor any Jew for that matter) would God then knowing that would be the case have had a different plan? Granted this is all speculation. And as far as Jonah goes, he had a choice, and he fled. When he was thrown (vs 15) into the sea the men who threw him (and probably Jonah, too) thought that they were throwing him to his death. In verse 17 God PROVIDED a fish to swallow Jonah, which would then spit him out at Nineveh. The free will Jonah had was changed when the whale swallowed him. In the Whale Jonah prayed to God inside the fish, God then directed the fish to spit him out where He wanted. If Jonah hadn't been swallowed by the fish would he have survived and said that prayer?
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Re: Joseph and free will

Postby jimwalton » Wed Apr 03, 2019 3:05 pm

This is such an excellent conversation. I thank you for it.

> "Could our everyday building blocks for our emotional responses be built in for when we have a decision to make, we make one that has the intent for God's use? " It's hard for me to rule this out.

I don't see anything in the Bible (1) that all of our desires, experiences, behaviors, thoughts, etc. are predetermined. What I often see is that people act as completely free agents, that God expects us to use our brains, that we are accountable for our choices, and that God is responsive based on what choices we make; and (2) that the cause-and-effect continuum is a farce. In other words (on the latter point), God created the world to run in its cause-and-effect way and relationships, and he most often lets it run that way. His "interference" in things abrogates neither free will nor normal cause-and-effect.

Specific to our conversation, i don't see anything in the Bible claiming that God orients the particular genetic makeup of each individual, that he determines both the foundation and course of our lives, or, therefore, that our emotional responses are divinely built-in to follow God's intent. Instead, I see that the inclination of our hearts is evil (Jer. 7.24; 11.8; 16.12; 18.12). It seems to me that if we go with "our everyday building blocks for our emotional responses" are "built in" so that "we make one that has the intent for God's use," we have a large problematic gap. If God has jimmy-rigged the responses of our hearts, then He would be to blame for all the sin in the world, which is untenable (James 1.13-14).

Let me know if I'm not understanding your question properly.

> But later in the paragraph you state "God is perpetually running the algorithm of responding to our decisions to bring about His desires." This seems contradictory to me.

I didn't think so. As I've said, I don't think our emotional responses are either programmed (determination) or jimmy-rigged (at least in a certain direction to conform to God's intent). But God comes in afterwards, in our experiences and circumstances, and woos our hearts and minds toward him. When I was dating the woman who was to become my wife, I did everything possible to lean her heart in my direction. But mine was actions and influence for present and future love. I couldn't do anything about her past, and very little about her circumstances, but that didn't stop me from trying to woo her in my direction (which obviously ultimately worked! YAY for me!).

Let me try at least a few real situations. Ok, so my dad was dying (which he was), but God puts it in my heart to celebrate his life and his future in heaven. He didn't have to mess with my genes or with the circumstances to do that. He just teaches me truth so that I approach Dad's death with a particular mindset. Or suppose my snows born with a congenital heart defect (which he was), and we learn to look at his life-long heart troubles as something that makes him the man of courage and determination that he is today. God's responses to shape my attitude, thoughts, and consequent behavior don't contradict the idea that I don't believe He rigged my system, so to speak.

Don't know if that helps.

> If God's desire is for me to pick anything but vanilla, but I love vanilla ice cream and would only choose anything else if vanilla wasn't there, I would assume God would then make it so there would be no vanilla. This then allows my free will to choose something else, with the facade of free will. But I WOULD have chosen vanilla if I HAD the choice.

Great analogical illustration. Let's work with it, because it's realistic.

First, on a basic level. God's desire is for me to pick anything but sin, but I love sin (John 3.19) and would only choose God if something pretty dramatic happened. God didn't make it so that there is no vanilla; instead, He showed me that tastes and preferences can change, and if I would just taste cherry-vanilla, I'd like it.

Second, on a preferential level. God desires for me to pick, say, monogamy, but it seems we're programmed for lust and many partners, and I would only choose monogamy is there was only one woman. God didn't make only one woman, but instead he taught me the values and virtues of monogamy to motivate me to conquer my lusts, ignore my "evolutionary" tendency to breed with multiple women, and I control myself by my own free will.

Too simplistic or the wrong angle? Let me try again.

If Joseph is supposed to go to Egypt, God jimmy-rigs events so that he's sold to Midianites, sold to Potiphar, winds up in Pharaoh's prison interpreting dreams, is elevated to Grand Vizier, and voila! The prophecies are fulfilled. God makes it so that "vanilla" (a calm life on Jacob's ranch) isn't one of the choices. Except that we see Joe's free will threading through the whole narrative, so the analogy falls apart. Joe chooses to tell the dreams to brothers. Brother have choices to kill him or sell him. Joe could have screwed Mrs. Potiphar (and probably would have been killed for it). Joe could have become bitter in prison and refused to interpret the dreams. He could have suicided. He could have tried to escape, or led a rebellion. Who knows? But he didn't. He seemed to see God's hand in all the other flavors, and learned to see the best scenario in them.

> That would mean that Joseph's free will was assembled by God's power guiding Joseph.

I don't think it means his free will was "assembled" by God's power, but rather that God presented future opportunities based on the decisions Joe made. OK, it wasn't Joe's fault that Daddy Jacob favored him, but that's the way it rolled down. But then Joe made it worse by sharing his dreams (free will). Brothers now very angry and going to kill him. Possibly Reuben acted on his own ("Don't kill him, but put him in this pit"), but possibly God planted that thought in the mind of a sensitive man's conscience), and Reuben chose to act on it. If he hadn't, God would have tried something else. Joe is sold to a passing caravan (seems random enough, but most caravans in the region were probably heading to Egypt, the dominant economic presence in the area)—it could have happened all on its own without God's making it happen. Joe is sold to Potiphar, very possible a major "employer" in the region. Joe was healthy and handsome, and a likely sell to the throne. Again, it could have happened on its own. What I'm saying is that it can't be necessarily true, or even maybe mostly true, that God was messing with free will. Opportunities were presented based on what people were freely choosing. That's how I see it, anyway.

> I don't know anything about Terah, but I am a little confused about what you were saying. God's chosen people, the Jews, were the descendants of Abraham/Israel.

Yes, but there was no prophecy or anything about Abe. Possibly God's chosen people would have been the descendants of Terah if he had obeyed, but since he didn't, God found someone else, and now we look back to Abe instead of Terah. It's speculation, I know, but it's impossible to know for sure. And, yes, I'm saying that if Abe hadn't responded, God would have found someone else. God moves with those who obey. Why David instead of Saul? Dave obeyed, Saul didn't. Why Jacob instead of Esau? Esau had a compromising heart, but Jacob's was moldable.

> Jonah

Yep, God gave him another chance. For some reason unknown to us, God wanted Jonah to do it and made that clear. Same with Moses in Exodus 4. But Jonah always had another choice. He could have run again. God's hand is pretty heavy with him. But, as I said, it was heavy with Pharaoh also, but Pharaoh never turned. Jonah did after the first "plague," so to speak. It was always free will. Same with the Pharisees. They had one opportunity after another, but only a few turned to Jesus.
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Re: Joseph and free will

Postby dreamcoat » Sat Apr 06, 2019 9:50 pm

I had written a response, but for some reason it never posted. This is take 2 with different, but similar thoughts

>If God has jimmy-rigged the responses of our hearts, then He would be to blame for all the sin in the world, which is untenable (James 1.13-14)

This is a difficult one for me. God steers things to go in the direction He has laid out, so he jimmy-rigs the situations, but not the responses. Those responses could then set a chain of events off that build how others think and believe. Without God steering, those thoughts would have never been made. God is "living and active," and without activity He would be hands off. If He is active, He is playing a role in this world, which logic would dictate that God has something to do with our lives. With the quote I used, I don't think that God is to blame for all the sin in the world, but can you see where the lines start to blur.

Let's use an example you provided about your son. I don't know your son, or your family, so I hope I don't offend with anything that I say.
Your son was born with a heart defect. This molded him into the man that he is today. If he hadn't had that defect, would he be the same person? I think it's safe to say that his world, and yours as well, was changed forever with the issues he faced. I don't know if God had a part in "giving" your son this issue, but that would be an example of God steering His will. If your son never faced the issues he has, he would have turned out differently. God would have seen how that would have played out in his life, and in knowing that He could have altered his will (decisions and the way by which he lives his life he would have never have encountered) by imposing His will. Imposing may not be the right word there, but the example remains.

I wrote more in my last response, but I'll suffice by closing with a note about Jonah.

>God gave him another chance. For some reason unknown to us, God wanted Jonah to do it and made that clear

This sentence really bugs me. Maybe you can clarify this. This sentence sounds to me like you are having your cake and eating it, too. You stated earlier in our conversation that if you choose not to do what God wants He will find someone else. But THIS time he continued with the same person, and I believe would have continued until Jonah said yes. To me, this statement would be parallel to an evolutionist saying "Everything evolved except man." No where would they say that. So, please correct me, when you say "For some reason unknown to us, God wanted Jonah to do it" it doesn't fit the narrative that God would find someone else. Jonah could have run when he was spit out, but I think by that time he thought he wouldn't get out of it alive if he didn't.
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Re: Joseph and free will

Postby jimwalton » Tue May 14, 2019 7:35 am

> God steers things to go in the direction He has laid out, so he jimmy-rigs the situations, but not the responses.

Maybe you could think of this like a GPS. There is a direction laid out. When we make a wrong turn or choose a different path, the GPS says, "Recalculating," and it plots a new course to get us to the same end. Sometimes those courses request a u-turn, and sometimes it's just a new route. The direction is laid out, and the GPS is "committed" to getting us there, but there's never any interference in our free will. When choices are made by us, the GPS charts a new course to still get us to the goal. In response to your statement, God steers things to go in the direction He has laid out, and he sets the course (jimmy-rigs the situations), but not the responses. Then based on the responses, He sets up a new course to achieve the same direction. Does that help?

> Your son was born with a heart defect. This molded him into the man that he is today. If he hadn't had that defect, would he be the same person? I think it's safe to say that his world, and yours as well, was changed forever with the issues he faced.

Absolutely correct. We all can now look at the world through the lens of what happened, and can never look at it in terms of "well, what if it hadn't been." But I'll stick with my GPS analogy. Once we turn down a road, we can never undo that. It's part of our lives and history. But God "recalculates" to bring us in his direction.

> Jonah

Great observations about Jonah, and good thoughts. I did say that Jonah obviously responses positively (though grudgingly) after God's attempt #2, whereas individuals such as Pharaoh and the Pharisees still didn't respond after 10 or more attempts. That makes us give Jonah some credit for finally following "the GPS."

But I think your question is more to the point of: did Jonah only do it because he thought God might kill him if he did otherwise (cf. also Ex. 4.24—a text with which many people are unfamiliar). Interestingly, Moses had also recently expressed a desire not to do what God had asked (Ex. 4.13). And your point is: Did Jonah, then, really have free will in this matter? Or was God saying, "My way or to hell with you?" You're saying, yeah, while it may technically still be free will, there's so much coercion and threat that the free will aspect is moot.

These are excellent questions, and I'm not certain how to respond. I'll still say what's on my mind. It is a consistent teaching of the Bible that God is a righteous judge, and He reserves the right and obligation to Himself (and Himself alone) to judge people rightly (Gn. 18.25). We also learn from biblical history that God's people don't get a special pass. When they disobey, they are just as subject to His righteous wrath as anyone else. We are all accountable for our responses to God.

When people don't obey God, He generally acts in one of two ways: He judges them for it (Gn. 38.7, 10, et al.) or, if there is a possibility of repentance and learning, He shows mercy and gives them another chance (Ex. 4.13-24ff.). God's judgment is often aimed at repentance (Rev. 16.9, 11 et al.). I believe God's action against Jonah is to motivate him to repentance and obedience. Yeah, it was a heavy hand, but Jonah still had free will. But we all need to realize that God holds in His hand the power to judge us with death (Heb. 10.31). We are wise never to get to that point, but if God takes us to the edge, we are all faced with the same choice: choose to obey or face His wrath. His wrath is never an emotional response but always instead a judicial one. I guess to some extent this is the message of the Bible: God desires good for you and that path to blessing is trust and obedience, and those who refuse to turn in God's direction will inevitably get judged.

I don't know if that contributes to the conversation, but if it helps, I'm glad. I'll look forward to your response.


Last bumped by Anonymous on Tue May 14, 2019 7:35 am.
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