What is the Meaning of Life
Do We Have Free Wills?
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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? Program 87 Do We Have Free Wills? By Ernest O’Neill
We are talking today about the whole problem of free will. Do we have free will? If so, why do we have free will? We are talking about it in connection with the general subject we’ve been discussing for several months now of “Why are we alive? What is the meaning of life? Why are you here? Why do we even exist?” We’ve discussed for many weeks now the documentary evidence that substantiates our respect for the historicity of that man known as Jesus of Nazareth.
If you want to examine that kind of presentation, please do send for some of the cassettes of the previous broadcasts because we have now reached the point in our discussion where we are beginning to talk about the explanation of the origin of our own lives and of the world that is given in this old book that many of us, of course, for years have regarded as just a religious myth, that is, the Bible.
But actually it’s a very sensible, down-to-earth book and is not only the basis of all the works of people like Shakespeare and our poets, but is probably more respected by the scholars of every generation than any other book. So, it is important to look at it. It’s that book we are discussing in the light of our own present experience of life.
We are not only urging each other to believe blindly some kind of myth, but we’re examining this intellectually to see, does the explanation of the origin of life, and the reason for life, and the purpose for our existence, does that, as presented in this book, make sense in the light of our own present experience? That can, at least, give us some idea of whether this is likely to be true and, above all, it may help you, yourself to work out a philosophy of life that makes some sense to you. So, that’s what we are doing.
We’ve got to the point in this explanation which was given to this man, Moses, thousands of years ago, by the Supreme Being of the universe, you remember, where the Creator of the universe decided to make us so that we would actually have a love relationship with Him. That’s why He made us.
He made us because He wanted us to be His friends. That, we said, was reasonable to believe in the light of the fact that the most valuable thing in your life is probably friendship, isn’t it? I mean, the deepest thing you have is probably your relationship with your wife or a friend or with your Mum or your Dad or with your son or your daughter. Those are the things that really matter. That’s the highest point of existence here on earth, a human love relationship.
So, it is perfectly reasonable to believe that what the Creator explained through His Son, Jesus, and through this servant of His, Moses, in the early years is true. He made us so that we could have a real friendship with Him and a real love relationship with Him that would go on throughout years and centuries in the future — in fact, through timelessness — as we were used by Him to develop the rest of His universe.
Then, we said, you remember, that because of that the Creator of the world made us “in his image”. That is, He gave us the capacities He has. He gave us a spirit capacity, intellectual capacity, emotional capacity, volitional capacity, and physical capacity. Then, you remember, we said He did not, however, make us unavoidably good. He did not make us so we couldn’t do anything else but love Him, because if He had made us this way, then we would have been a bunch of robots, or performing dogs.
In other words, love is only possible if you have free will. You’re only able to love, if you are free not to love. We have reached the point in this discussion where, you remember, we looked back to the way the Creator of the world presented this to mankind in his childhood. If you ever have a look at the Bible and glance at Genesis, chapter 2 and verse 16, you’ll see these words, “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the Garden’”.
This is a pretty clear declaration of free will. “You may freely eat of every tree of the Garden.” You may do it. You may, if you want. “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” Obviously, He was giving a clear direction. Don’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because if you do, you’ll die.
Now, you only give a command to a person who is free not to obey that command. If they are not free to disobey that command, then you don’t bother commanding them. That makes sense. So, built into that verse is a clear declaration that the Maker of the universe said to us, “Now, I’ve given you capacities that I have, but if you want to be like Me inside, if you want to become the kind of person I am and be at home with Me through timeless eternity, then, you’ve got to choose that for yourself.”
“You’ve got to choose it. I’m not going to make you like Myself. Otherwise, I’d just have a bunch of performing dogs. I am going to give you the capacities I have and then you must decide for yourself whether you’re going to receive My kind of characteristics and attributes I have; whether you’re going to be like Me inside and, therefore, find it bearable and, indeed, enjoyable to be with Me.”
Now, that was the way the Creator of the universe made us at the beginning. This is the origin of free will. If you say to yourself, “Oh, why have we free will?” You have free will because it makes it possible for you to be like the Creator of the universe and to be a fit and worthy friend for Him. That’s why you have free will.
That’s why you’re free to turn the car to the right or turn it to the left, stamp on the brake, or stamp on the accelerator at this moment. You’re free to lift your phone and phone some friend. You’re free to do what you want within the limitations you’ve begun to impose on yourself, of course. But the Creator of the universe said, “I’ve given you certain abilities you will not lose.” That’s true. You know, it doesn’t matter what you’ve been like in your life, you still have a mind. You still have emotions. You still have a will. You still have a body. You still have a spirit.
It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, you’ve still done these things. You’ve still got those things. Those are the indestructible capacities that God has. We are all in this way like Him. This is why we are able to talk to each other. It’s interesting, isn’t it? This is why it’s possible for the discussion that we are having together today to make sense, because actually we are all the same.
I mean, you have the same things in your life as I have. You have the same capacities as I have, because we are all made in the image of the being that created us. So, we can speak to each other in the same terms. We can understand each other. But He said if you want to become like me inside, and be actually somebody who will enjoy my company and whom I will enjoy, you must choose to receive that for yourself. He presented this as a tree of life we were to eat as opposed to a tree of knowledge of good and evil.
That was the choice that we had. That was the way the Creator made us. He made us like Himself, up to a point, but like Himself also, in that He gave us free will. Then, He gave us the choice of using that free will, either to become like Him or not to become like Him. The way we would become like Him, of course, He presented as this tree of life or this tree of the knowledge of good and evil. What is this tree of life? Well, it’s
really pretty close to the experience that you have with a husband and a wife.
They marry. They aren’t very like each other, but meet them five years later and you would think they were brother and sister. Meet them ten years later, and you would think they were identical twins, almost. Because, the truth is, you become more like each other the more you live with each other. You just do. It’s rather embarrassing the way a son imitates his father. It’s embarrassing to the father.
It’s embarrassing, at times, to a husband and wife when they see how the same inflections of voice are beginning to be experienced and expressed by both of them. It’s embarrassing to see how alike they are when they smile, because when you walk with a person for a long time, or you live with them for a long time, you just become like them. That’s part of what the tree of life is.
The Creator’s plan was that we should live close to Him, much as, you remember, it’s said in those early chapters of God “walking with Adam in the garden in the cool of the day”. It was through friendship and company that the Creator planned that we would become like Him. To some extent, this is part of the explanation of the tree of life.
Now, what else does the tree of life mean? Well, let’s talk a little more tomorrow and it might help you to understand the way you’re living your life a bit more clearly.