Weblog of a Christian philosophy student

Weblog of a Christian philosophy student. Please feel free to comment. All of my posts are public domain. Subscribe to posts [Atom]. Email me at countaltair [at] yahoo.com.au. I also run a Chinese to English translation business at www.willfanyi.com.

Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

If we have free will then why is it so hard for people to change? The 'settling' aspect to free will

People often point out, if we have free will, then why do we almost always stay the same? Introverts don't suddenly wake up and become extroverts, and evildoers tend not to become saints. As people get older and more mature there is some change, but it's hardly ever a 180 degree personality shift. Yet this should be possible if we have free will.

I think something that people often miss in free will is that it involves a really strong 'settling' ability. Part of free will is the ability not to be constantly 'up in the air' about what you're going to do, but to 'settle' your choices in a certain personality trait. So instead of 'umming' and 'ahhing' about whether to be nice, a nice person can choose to 'settle' their choices in niceness, and an evildoer can 'settle' their choices in evil, so they no longer think about changing. When we choose to 'settle' our choices and not constantly go over and rethink them, those choices become our personality that our friends easily identify (e.g. extrovert, quiet, etc.)

So free will is sort of like a snowball rolling down a hill, gathering up snow. We mostly decide what personality to have when we're young, and then at some point we 'settle' into a groove and almost never change - although we theoretically can.

Perhaps free will is a little bit like a train. The front of the train is a person's values. Someone might value bravery, trust, shrewdness, being outgoing, polite, etc. There would be values corresponding to every personality and character trait. Your actions follow after your values like a boxcar after the front of the train (unless you have an unwanted personality trait, somehow). If your values change, then after a long period of time your actions change in response. It may take a while, though. That is how people change.

It should be pointed out that despite the 'settling' aspect to free will, no personality or character can be 'settled' outside of God's grace. If people are saved by grace alone, then personality and character traits (works) can't give anyone an advantage over others when it comes to accepting Jesus, or give anyone a disadvantage there, at any stage. So the only way someone could 'settle' their choices outside of God's grace is by rejecting it directly (Matt 12:31). You can't do such a thing any other way, because works (i.e. personality, character) do not earn (and thus do not block) salvation (Eph 2:8-9; Rom 11:6).

Also, God changes character, not personality. By definition, if something is personality and not character then it is neither good nor bad, but is simply the way someone chooses in a certain 'non-moral' area of their life. God is interested in changing our character, and will use all aspects of a person's personality to His glory in the body of Christ (1 Co 12:13-31).

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