A Message from Pastor Craig: 12-19-2021

The Atlantic magazine produced two articles that I read in reverse order about the “death” of free will. The first one was written in 2016, the second in 2019. As a Christian pastor, the conclusion arrived at by a secular rag intrigued me. “What do they mean, and what do they care?” I thought. In my mind the paradox of free will versus predestination belongs to the realm of religion, not science. It’s a discussion about the omniscience of God in my mind, but why neuroscience?

The second article I read (just Google “free will Atlantic” and you can find these articles) explained where the idea came from. Apparently, in 1964 a couple of German scientists concocted an experiment to find where in the brain signals come from to cause an action, in this case tapping your finger. People would go in and have all these electrodes hooked up to their scalps, and then tap their fingers X number of times in a certain time frame. My question was, in 1964 would you let ANY German scientist hook electrodes up to you?

Anyway, they found the source, and found that an electronic spike showed immediately before an action was taken. I don’t understand why, but neuroscientists started to believe that those signals preceded your actual will to do something, and then you did it. They then arrived at the conclusion that everything in our bodies is predetermined by whatever evolutionary forces have allowed us to do any given action.

The first article I read cited this study as the reason why free will was dead. It then explored all the people who have studied how important self determination is to performance – either in work or study or socially. When people lacked a sense of free will, they got discouraged, or less engaged, and then just did less.

They went on to discuss the implications in philosophy. They quoted philosophers who said it’s very dangerous to let people know that there is no free will. They will stop doing altruistic things, hard things, anything unpleasant, because, well, who cares? “It’s not my fault and I have nothing to do with it anyway,” was the philosopher’s thought. They felt dealing with the reality of the illusion of free will is a most depressing way of thought, and don’t encourage anybody pursuing that truth.

The thing is, turning back to the article I first mentioned, it turns out that in 2012 some neuroscientists debunked the German electrode guy’s conclusions. They determined (pun intended) that the implications of that study were wrong. And in an instant, neuroscience (but not the rest of inteligencia) dismissed the idea that free will was disproven by that study. Go figure!

So what does this have to do with Christmas? Or anything for that matter!  Well, I don’t care how
Calvinistic you are, you have to respond to God’s invitation by your own will (which is, by the way, a grace from God). The stories you hear in Church, this year read from the book of Luke, are just stories until you accept them by faith. You have to truly believe that God decided to visit this one little planet in a vast universe to then accept the gift of redemption that the birth of the Christ ushered in. You can’t claim some primordial evolutionary predetermined action for salvation, no, it’s an acceptance by a free will that saves you.

The story of Jesus’ birth has been fun to recount this Advent. I hope you will read or listen to it Christmas Eve with new ears, fresh imagination, and a robust faith, a faith brought on by God’s gift to you to choose to love, to hope to have joy.

Merry Christmas!

Craig

Now faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty of what we do not see. This is why the ancients were commended.  Hebrews 11:1,2