Christian explanation that aligns with the scientific understanding of free will

After watching this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCGtkDzELAI

I’m trying to find a Christian explanation that aligns with the scientific understanding of free will.

Cross-posted here: Am I Just My Brain?

Related RZIM Articles / Resources I’ve explored:

Hi @lapolonio, sorry I did not reply fast enough on the other post. I did listen to the first video this time, but if I returning to your original question, I wanted to place it here for reference.

First of all I want ask you few questions or make statements about few things.

  1. In regards to your question, does the Christian explanation have to align with the scientific understanding? Are you saying that the scientific explanation is right or cant be wrong?
  2. Also, what is the scientific understanding you are referring to. I dont want to assume since the video talked about libertarian free will vs hard determinism. In determinism, it talked about the biological state of mind determining what we do.
  3. What exactly in the videos is bothering you or what are you convinced by.

I will try to listen to the other video and also the audio while you reply to this.

In the mean time, I will also leave you with this video. It might give you a different insight.

God Bless.

I’m saying that equating our “mind” with our brain due to biological states makes sense, and points to humans not having "free will.

I’m convinced that God exists due to cosmological arguments and known events:

  • our universe had to be started by something outside of space and time (due to big band and theory of relativity)
  • when non-living matter turned into the living matter (creation of the first cell)

My understanding is feel will is needed to support moral evil. The story of Adam and Eve points to this. One can ask “Why did God put the Tree of Knowledge in the garden, in the first place?” and it’s because there is no love without choice, Adam and Eve had to choose to follow God’s will, and of course, God knew the eventual outcome and all the events that followed.

Well, that actually sounds pretty good, @lapolonio. I’d say you’ve got it pretty well on target.

As for the scientific angle on all of this, just remember, there is no amount of PhDs that can confer infallibility on a scientist - in this area, they are largely working with theories, many of which are trying to demonstrate that God is dispensable. There is a strong secular bias in many academic circles.

So I would encourage you to use your Biblical understanding of free will as your starting point, and evaluate all science through “Bible-colored glasses” rather than evaluating the Bible through the lenses of various theories.

Keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen - I Timothy 6:20-21.

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From https://www.rzim.org/read/just-thinking-magazine/think-again-deep-questions

the three tests for truth must be applied to any worldview: logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance

I guess I am scientist at heart and rely on Correspondence theory of truth
I really like when our experiences and understanding of our existence align with the Bible.

There should be many paths that lead to the truth. If a path is cut off because the Bible says so. That leads me to think the Bible isn’t truth.

Actually, there are many more paths that lead to error than truth. If I ask you, “What is 2 plus 2?” How many wrong answers are there? How many right?

The Bible is an indispensable guide to help you sort truth from error.

This is not to say that accurate science has no value. On the contrary, the Creator does indeed reveal many things about Himself through His creation. The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth his handiwork - Psalm 19:1. Accurate science will always corroborate what God reveals in the Bible.

The Medieval rabbi Maimonides correctly observed that, “Any conflict between the Bible and science will always result from a misunderstanding of one or the other.”

Since the same God authored them both, He will never reveal one thing in His supernatural Word that is inconsistent with what He reveals in His natural world. They will always correspond. So being a scientist at heart and relying on the correspondence theory of truth is no problem.

The problem only comes when one accepts what I Timothy 6:20 describes as science falsely so called, and unfortunately, there’s a lot of that going around these days, because of the growing secular bias in some academic circles.

A century or two ago, the vast majority of scientists were educated people who believed the Bible, and they recognized that any inconsistencies between the Bible and science implied a misunderstanding of one or the other. They would have never said that if something was wrong because the Bible says so, it would lead them to think the Bible isn’t true. That is exactly the error that I Timothy 6:20-21 is warning against - people who accept science falsely so called will err concerning the faith.

Today, there is still a majority of scientists who believe in God, but it is not so vast as it once was. And so one must be more careful about swallowing every new “scientific theory” that comes along. If a theory “is cut off because the Bible” (correctly understood) “says so”, that should lead you to think the theory isn’t truth.

May God’s word make you wise to see creation through His eyes!

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Can you point me to evidence outside of the Bible that we have free will?

Sure - did you freely choose to ask me that question?

No. The decisions I make are a result of my environment and my past experiences.

Specific to your question:

  • I am driven to ask that question because
  • I am driven to understand the nature of human existence because
  • I am skeptical of the bible because
  • they are words in a book written by man.

The way I think about it is:
Take a decision you have made. How far back would you have to rewind time to make a different decision? I think it would be the beginning of the universe.

Then you can never be held responsible for any decision you have ever made. You could not help making it any more than an animal can obey his instincts - or a rock can obey the law of gravity.

No one belongs in any jail anywhere on earth. It wasn’t really their fault - they’re just human rocks obeying cosmic gravity.

No one should expect to face God in any kind of judgment - we couldn’t help it. If He had just hurled the Big Bang forward with a little extra top spin…

Is this what you are meaning to say?

Yes. In theory.

I believe we are in the counter-intuitive situation where we are responsible for the actions we had no choice in making. I didn’t choose my DNA. I didn’t choose my family. I didn’t choose to be born into a broken world, etc.

I think the responsibility falls on the system designers to make a system that promotes the desired choices through incentive alignment.

Do prisoners choose to go back to jail? I think they were put into situations that forced them to perform crime to survive.

Did the police officer choose to kneel on a black man’s neck? I think that decision is a product of his experiences growing up, the family that shaped him, the experience of being a police officer, the fellow police officers, and system that covers up “bad” decisions with no accountability.

Did the husband choose to beat his wife while angry? The husband was probably abused as a child and doesn’t know how to handle his emotions, and is just following the patterns he saw and experienced.

etc.

Most people have a reason for a decision, either conscious or unconscious. How can the system designers push the people to have the reason that leads to the desired outcome?

In practice, free will is very hard to scientifically explain. (I just found out)
From Philosophers and neuroscientists join forces to see whether science can solve the mystery of free will:

Q: What questions are you asking?

A: The important thing is that right now we are trying to go beyond Libet-type experiments. Rather than asking do we have free will, we are trying to get at more nuanced and better-defined questions. How does the brain enable conscious causal control of our actions and decisions? How do our conscious intentions lead to actions? A third question is about purposeful actions. We try to see whether the results of these Libet-type experiments [involving raising hands or moving fingers] generalize to more deliberate decisions, which philosophers would tell you are more pertinent to moral responsibility. Those are the ones we care about. Who would take you to court for raising your right hand and not your left for no reason and no purpose? It’s meaningless. So, the fact that I can predict that based on some symmetry breaking signal in your brain … well, can I also [predict your actions] if you’re faced with a morally charged situation? Say, there’s a car that’s burning and a baby is inside. Are you going to run to the car, even though it might explode, or are you going to just stand there? Those are the kinds of decisions I think would be interesting to look into. Of course, we’re not going to create that horrible kind of scenario, but things that mimic these types of decisions are what we’ve been trying to look at.

Okay - so through no choice of your own, you’ve decided (is that the right way to put it?) to believe that “we are responsible for the actions we had no choice in making.”

Also, through no choice of your own, you’ve decided that “free will is very hard to scientifically explain.” It takes philosophers and neuroscientists to join forces the see if science can solve the mystery.

Now, big question here, because we’re getting really close to the original point - are the scientific theorists who are arguing against free will predominantly Christian in their outlook, or are they predominantly atheistic and materialistic?

Yes and Yes. My brain drew conclusions based on the information presented and was determined based on how the information was processed.

I don’t know. I don’t think facts are inherently Christian or atheistic or materialistic. Those are interpretations and meanings added by humans.

My original question/request was for a

Christian explanation that aligns with the scientific understanding of free will

Hey, @lapolonio! I’ve been reading over a this and other threads where you’ve engaged. This is will be a short response as I have to dash, but in trying to understand ‘free will’, it would seem that we need to grasp a couple of other concepts as well.

  1. As you’ve noted above, there probably is not quite as firm a ‘scientific’ explanation of ‘free will’. It is still as much a philosophical question as it is a ‘scientific’ one. As an aside, how do you understand ‘science’ and ‘scientific’? I tend to think of it very basically as ‘what we know through testing’, but I often think that the word ‘know’ is problematic, as again you’ve noted, a lot is interpretation and deduction.
  2. Can we accurately say there is a ‘Christian’ explanation? I tend to believe that there will be at the very least several different ‘Christian’ explanations, as there are various interpretations of Christianity that lead to different beliefs about human and divine action.
  3. How do you understand the concepts of ‘freedom’ and ‘the will’ and their interplay with each other? Both of these are massive philosophical concepts, as you may have seen from your research. In my (limited) understanding of it all, freedom is generally paired with its opposite: necessity. This leads to questions like ‘Is God a necessary or free being?’ and ‘What is the effect of God’s necessity/freedom on humanity?’ In what sense is humanity free to exert agency in the world, and in what sense are we limited or in bondage? Another site that you might find interesting is Closer to Truth. So many great theologians, philosophers, and scientists are contributors to that site, and Free Will is one of their big topics.

If human ‘will’ is thought of in terms of human action and decision, then my short answer is, no, we do not have totally free will. However, I believe that our choices, though limited by a great many things, do not have to be determined. Humans do have agency (which I see as different than free will), even if that agency is (to use Pauline language) ‘enslaved’ or in bondage…which gives it a fatalistically determined feel/look to it.

I don’t even know if any of this makes sense. I just am aware that this is a massive topic and I don’t even know where to begin! :smile:

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Yeah I just found https://youtu.be/9uRTjfhIf4M (from Closer to Truth funded by https://www.templeton.org/) and https://www.templeton.org/discoveries/free-will

An interesting bit from the video is discussion about “when” is free will exhibited. From the view point of scientists the short term actions are “determined” (evidence from Libet experiment) but over a longer period, when “consciousness” is used to make a decision, is where “free will” could reside.

The science of making a decision is not well understood because it emerges from “consciousness” and even Libett proposed a 2-stage model where the agent can “veto” an initial decision.

The video points to “free will” actually existing as a spectrum which is a contrast to the court system (a binary guilty not guilty and the “need” for mens rea).

I also listen to a podcast called hi-phi. https://hiphination.org/season-4-episodes/

Thanks for the resources I have a lot to dig into.

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It’s true that facts are neither this way nor that, but what we’re talking about here aren’t proven facts – they’re just theories - opinions.

And since you’re unsure about which opinions materialistic atheists tilt toward, I’ll help you out on that one. They overwhelmingly insist that everything is predetermined exactly as you’ve described.

Which was the point I was making earlier. With the growing influence of secularists in academia, you cannot just blindly accept whatever a PhD tells you. As I said, secularists are heavily biased toward interpretations of the world that make God dispensable. Their interpretations of nature will conflict with what the Bible says - because it’s what I Timothy 6:20 calls oppositions of science falsely so called. Their unbiblical theories are not science at all - they’re pseudo-science, and they cause those who follow them to err concerning the faith . Your decision to view their theories as facts and prioritize them over the Bible is a perfect case in point.

Which is exactly why I said that you need the Bible to sort sense from nonsense is such discussions.

You say that your original request was for a Christian explanation that aligns with the scientific understanding of free will. I think there are two problems with that original request.

  1. There is no common scientific understanding of free will. There are competing theories, but that’s all they are. You’ve chosen the one that claims free will does not exist, and you’re speaking as though this is the “real” scientific explanation which you present as an established scientific fact. But it’s nothing more than an opinion pushed by atheistic materialists.
  2. You’ve asked for a Christian explanation, but then a few days ago you asked, “Can you point me to evidence outside of the Bible that we have free will?” So which way do you want it? A Christian explanation or an explanation outside of the Bible?

If you’ve decided to favor atheistic theories over the Bible, then I must ask if there is any evidence for free will that would move you to reevaluate your opinions.

You tell me to leave out the Bible.

You tell me that there is no morality that can be appealed to.

If I mentioned that without a free will, there can be no true love, would that persuade you?

Or how about this – instead of me taking stabs in the dark, perhaps you could help me help you. What would speak to your heart on this topic? What kind of extra-biblical evidence would you need to rethink your view?

You really should have something in mind, because no theory is really valid if it cannot be falsified. If you say, “There’s nothing anyone can say to make me change my mind,” then I would ask, why did you begin this discussion?

I cannot help but think that maybe some whisper in the wells of your soul moved you to explore this because some more rational part of you is uncomfortable with the idea of being a mere puppet of the Big Bang.

If so, I think you should really listen to that whisper, because puppets aren’t really alive. They’re just dead wood. And something inside you sounds like it wants to experience real life.

I truly hope these thoughts will help you.

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Leonardo, I have read this entire thread for the first time, and this statement and your ensuing examples struck me. You seem to be asking a question that skirts the surface of what you really want to know.

Are you really asking how God can be good if he predestines us?

God is good by definition.

I’m confused how anyone can be condemed to enternal suffering if we are predestined.

I know I didn’t design the “game” so me thinking the rules are unfair is lack in trust/faith in God’s design or a gap in my interpretation/understanding of God’s design.

If we define Hell as away from God and Heaven as with God that makes more sense.

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Which is exactly why I said that you need the Bible to sort sense from nonsense is such discussions.

The Templeton foundation gave Francis Collins, a public scientist Christian, an award. https://www.templeton.org/news/francis-collins-awarded-2020-templeton-prize
They are also accused of “mingling science and religion” on their Wikipedia page. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Templeton_Foundation#Religious_funding

If you’ve decided to favor atheistic theories over the Bible, then I must ask if there is any evidence for free will that would move you to reevaluate your opinions.

I’m asking for evidence.

If I mentioned that without a free will, there can be no true love, would that persuade you?

No

Or how about this – instead of me taking stabs in the dark, perhaps you could help me help you. What would speak to your heart on this topic? What kind of extra-biblical evidence would you need to rethink your view?

I have the opinion I need a personal encounter with Jesus.

You really should have something in mind, because no theory is really valid if it cannot be falsified. If you say, “There’s nothing anyone can say to make me change my mind,” then I would ask, why did you begin this discussion?

I’m coving my bases by engaging in a discussion with an organization I thought could be a resource and point out something I missed.

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Leo, thank you for clarifying your viewpoint. It sounds like you have a gap in your interpretation and understanding of God’s design. I will also add that I think that you are trying too hard to comprehend the incomprehensible. Have you considered the possibility that God can both predestine people and grant free will, given that God is infinite and you are finite? The Bible teaches both. Paul talks about this in Romans. Have you read Romans?