Description: We have free wills and can choose to accept or reject God
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
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
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
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.