“In everyday life, do we actually do and accomplish what we typically think we do? Do we think about what we do and accomplish in an accurate way? Are we the kinds of agents we think we are?” – Jason Runyan
What is the Theology?
The free will vs. determinism conversation has been going on in Christianity for centuries. Some streams in Christianity emphasize the sovereignty of God, believing that God controls everything that happens in the universe. Others emphasize human freedom, believing that God largely stands back and observes without interfering in humanity’s freedom. Most fall somewhere in the middle, affirming the sovereignty of God while also taking into account human freedom. This is wrapped up in our understanding of who God is, how God works in the world, and what it means to be made in the image of God. Runyon asserts that our religious convictions and personal experiences should be brought into conversation with scientific research before we draw conclusions about whether or not we have free will.
What to Consider
- In your tradition, how is the sovereignty of God understood? How does the sovereignty of God interact with human freedom?
- What does it mean to be morally culpable if physical processes in our brain contribute to our actions? What about if these processes determine our actions?
- How does this article affect your understanding of sanctification? What role might processes in the brain play in one’s sanctification?
How to go Deeper
- Preach a thematic series on the theological beliefs of your tradition. Discuss such doctrines as the sovereignty of God, divine action, human depravity, and sanctification. Use this article throughout the series as a conversation partner with these historic doctrines.
- Share this research about the brain with the congregation. Put it into conversation with Genesis 2-3 and the doctrine of original sin.
- Gather a group that is interested in ministering to addicts. Read an article such as this one on how the brain contributes to and is changed by addiction and put it into conversation with your theology. Consider taking a field trip to a local recovery center to discuss how you can minister to addicts in your context.
Aeon – “The Free-Will Scale”
Closer to Truth – “Big Questions in Free Will“
BioLogos – “Genes, Determinsm, and God“
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