Free Will vs. God’s Will

April 20, 2005 at 8:33pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

I read an article over lunch that generated some questions for me. In the article, the Pope’s brother said:

“I am very concerned. I would have thought [Benedict XVI’s] advanced age and his health which is not very stable would have been reason enough for the cardinals to pick someone else,” said a visibly moved in an interview on German television after the election of his 78-year-old brother.

“But the cardinals made their decision and that is the will of God,” said Ratzinger, himself a prelate.

It was the last line that got me. How does Mr. Ratzinger know the will of God? In his mind, his brother being selected Pope is the will of God by definition. The Pope is the Pope because, ultimately, God chose him.

That’s all well and good—well, except for the fact that it’s all incredibly tautological—but what does that say for the notion of free will? I’m not familiar with the ins and outs of Catholic doctrine, so maybe somebody can explain to me the Catholic church’s position on free will. Mr. Ratzinger is saying that God enacted His will through the actions of the cardinals. That, to me, seems antithetical to the notion of free will.

More generically, are free will and God’s will compatible? Is it possible for free will to exist in a universe in which God can superimpose His will on humanity?

In one sense the notion of God’s will is comforting. It implies a God active in our daily lives. It means He is watching (or looming) over us, ensuring that life goes according to His (hopefully benevolent) plan. And it means we are all living out God’s purpose.

On the other hand, if God’s will supercedes human free will ... well, that’s a little freaky. It implies a world in which humans are little more than God’s playthings. Am I really writing this stuff on my own, or

rather am I writing exactly what God is commanding me to write?

Any thoughts, anyone?

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The Comments

Mr. T April 20, 2005 at 11:56pm

See. Its obvious you have been partaking in 4/20 “activities” this afternoon because you are clearly exhibiting classic, clinically-recognized symptoms:

Phase 1: Pondering deep philosophical questions about God, existence, and the meaning of life.

Up next - phases 2 and 3:

Channel surfing at home. Then hit the drive through at Taco Bell/KFC later.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

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