The Consequences of Free Will

I’ve been teaching summer school for a couple weeks now, teaching the same material that I teach during the year, but just cramming a full semester into 11 days. This means that, most of the time, I have to go without the in depth discussions from a normal class set up. Every now and again, though, we get caught up in a good one. This week, I’m not sure how we got there, but sure enough, we spent a solid hour on free will.

There are a lot of questions that tend to come up with free will and high school students. Sometimes, the questions are about how God can know what we’re going to do if we’re free to do something different. Other times, it’s as straight forward as wanting to know why God would give us free will since it allows us to sin. This time, though, the question was mostly about whether it’s really fair for God to give us free will and then punish us if we don’t choose the things He wants us to.

While it sometimes seems like a contradiction, I’d say it makes total sense. In order for us to be actually free, there have to be consequences. At the very least, if our freedom is meaningful, it requires consequences. If God were to give us free will, but no matter what we chose, we wound up in heaven with Him, that would be an empty freedom. It would be a bit like a parent telling their child that they could pick their breakfast and then telling them that their options were either pancakes or flap jacks. They are allowed to choose precisely because their choice doesn’t change anything. It’s a false freedom. The free will God gave us is a real gift. Our freedom is real, and so, if we choose to reject Him, he allows us that choice and the consequences that come with it.

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