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Time to Choose

In 1902 a famous lawyer spoke at the Chicago County jail. He told the inmates, “There is no such thing as a crime as the word is generally understood. I do not believe there is any sort of distinction between the real moral condition of the people in and out of jail. One is just as good as the other. The people here can no more help being here than the people outside can avoid being outside. I do not believe that people are in jail because they deserve to be. They are in jail simply because they cannot avoid it on account of circumstances which are entirely beyond their control and for which they are in no way responsible.”

That attorney later defended John T. Scopes in the famous evolution “Monkey” trial in Dayton, Tennessee in 1925. His name was Clarence Darrow.

Do we choose between good and bad? Or does our environment cause us to behave as we do? Are we masters of the universe or victims of circumstance?

Men have debated the question of free will for thousands of years. In ancient Greece the Stoics believed that what people do is determined by the external world. But then they urged people to live a virtuous life and have an indifferent attitude toward the changing circumstances in life. That is quite absurd. How can people do either of these if they have no choice?

In the first century the Jewish historian Josephus said the Jews had different opinions about this issue. The Sadducees believed that all men have free will and choose what they do. The Essenes said everything is a matter of fate, not choice. The Pharisees said life is affected by fate but not controlled by it.

In modern times the debate continues. Humanistic psychology denies that we have free will. Pick up any psychology textbook and see if you can find anything in it on free will. In secular psychology, it’s all a matter of nature or nurture, heredity or environment—anything but free human choice. This leads us to ask: then why give students in these classes a grade? Why pass some and fail others? And why have rules about cheating on exams?

The Bible is clear. God made us to choose. Joshua said, “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

Moses told the Israelites in Deuteronomy 30:19, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.”

Jesus said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matt. 23:37).

The book of Hebrews says, “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:24-25).

James wrote, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:13-14).

At the close of the Bible, John pleads, “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).


West End church of Christ bulletin, February 11, 2024


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