A freedom of will

A response to recent church massacre in Texas

Illustration by Elhanan ben-Avraham

‘Thy will be done on earth as in heaven.’

‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares YHVH, for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’ – Isaiah 55:8-9

All living creatures have consciousness. From the ant to the humpback whale, from the octopus to the eagle, consciousness seems to span between all living creatures, like an ocean. Or more like a river in that it also spans and flows through distance and time. All those living creatures live their lives with their own adventures and dramas, in communities or families or alone, making their own decisions, enjoying their own pleasures and suffering their own catastrophes. Some of those creatures live alongside humankind, sharing in their lives and dramas as well. And above that sea is the fount of all consciousness- the Creator.

The Creator is known as omnipotent, omniscient, and all-in-all. Then how is it we might have free will? A Hebrew concept explaining this is called Torat ha Tsimtsum– the law of reduction or contraction, by which the Creator withdrew himself to create a space-time in which would dwell his creation that is other than himself (also defining “YHVH came down” on Mount Sinai, etc.). It is like a womb in which would be conceived a child that is not the parent, but in the parent’s image. Thus the Creator is called kadosh– separate, not part of his creation. He created the cosmos with standing laws that guide all that is in the universe, and those laws move through space-time according to the Creator’s will, but with some freedom of their own.  Then he bestowed upon his conscious creation the power and freedom and responsibility of choice. For the human he granted that power to choose between good and evil from the start. According to the Genesis account, it was not long before the humans elected to choose that which would lead to trouble, being manifest in the act of their firstborn son Cain murdering their second, Abel. It was the younger brother whose offering was found acceptable to the Creator, while that of Cain was not- apparently due to that which was harbored in his heart against his brother (as Yeshua commanded to reconcile with one’s brother before making offering to God). The Creator knew the thoughts and plan in the heart of Cain and warned him to overcome and not sin. But Cain did not heed the warning and slew his bother nevertheless. It is to be noted that God did not stop Cain, or protect his favored from being murdered. There was free will manifest in mankind.

It is this free will that produces reality, both of good and of evil.  Without that free will true love cannot exist, other than would be in a world of automatons. But does the Creator involve his great power in his created world to rescue and protect? According to the biblical accounts he at given times intercedes into the creation to cause effects for his own purposes in shaping history. Otherwise, he has given humankind enough information with which to exercise free will in choosing the good, while leaving the option of choice to do that which will have negative consequences. This was the role and work of the prophets.

“God is love”- but not only love. The requirements of the Creator establish that which will lead to life and blessing, or to cursing and destruction (Deuteronomy 30:15), sometimes brought on by God himself (the catastrophic flood of Noah, ten plagues upon Egypt, etc.). Yeshua stated, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Remain in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (John 15:10). This principle he took directly from the Ten Commandments- “for I, YHVH your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations of those who hate me, and showing mercy (hesed– grace) to thousands that love me and keep my commandments” (Deuteronomy 5:9-10).

Outside of God’s love for those who love the Creator and choose to do his will on earth as in heaven, in the outer darkness there may be “weeping and the gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12), something we have sadly seen across the history of humanity. But even those whom he loves are endowed with free will as are those who are in rebellion, and in this world therefore face tribulation. But Yeshua said, These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). This is our hope and our peace and our courage as we proceed in faith and hope in the wonders and faithful provisions of divine Providence.