Advent Day 17: Free

Advent Day 17: Free

Today’s topic is “Free.” This is a picture of one of the habitats at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, the nicest zoo I have ever visited. The habitats are created to be as natural as possible and give lots of space to the animals, and there is a strong emphasis on conservation, science, and education rather than just gawking for entertainment.

But I wanted to use this to make a little comment on a cherished Christian concept, “free will.” When I was Catholic, I held on passionately to the concept of free will because it’s the closest theologians have ever come to answering the problem of theodicy, or why evil exists, while preserving the notions of a deity who is all-powerful, all-knowing, completely good, and loving.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny.  The good news is that once you let go of the shopping list of concepts you wish to hold on to and prop up with the help of “free will”, it really doesn’t matter. Free will is not a useful concept in this form once religion is taken out of the equation; instead, responsibility, information, and context now matter.

The photo was taken with my trusty Holga toy camera.

Image by Sophie Lagacé 2005, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.

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One thought on “Advent Day 17: Free

  1. Very interesting… I would say in response that no one thing or concept (like freewill) should ever be used to fully explain a reality. While it’s true that human freewill partly explains why people do what they do, for good or for evil, there is– for Christianity, at least– the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. Thoughtful Christians need to hold both ideas in tension and wrestle with it.

    I often think that the religion of Christianity has done itself a grave disservice by offering simplistic, black-and-white explanations for everything. Critically thinking people will see right through their flimsiness, as they should. And it also makes us look awfully arrogant, hiding behind a matchstick fortress of simplistic doctrinal walls. On the one hand, there is some rich theological thinking that goes much, much deeper than the average bumper sticker sayings that most Christians spout off, but on the other hand, there is so much that we cannot explain away- tensions, questions, things that seem to be at odds with one another in a world that likes nicely contained categories.

    Maybe acknowledging more of that will help set us free?

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