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John Cronin wrote:

Hi guys,

  • If God grants us free will, how can there be such a thing as God's Plan?
  • If I have free will, aren't I free to live my life as I choose?

I can change the world and the future, all with my free will.

  • How can God have a plan, if each person is free to change the world as they see fit?

John Cronin

  { How can God have a plan for us, if each person is free to change the world as they see fit? }

John replied:

Hi John,

There is a paradox, not a contradiction, between free will and God's sovereignty. We certainly won't fully understand it in this life. Let me give you a parallel: A father can have a plan for his son's life, but his son can choose to ignore it.

Likewise, God wills that all men come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, but the operative phrase there is come to. For a man to arrive at or come to a conclusion, he requires reason and, hence, free will. Along the way, God introduces grace into the circumstance because given to our own devices we will always choose ourselves over God.

God does allow free will, and, yes; the choices we make influence others but there are limits to the extent to which God allows my free will, and yours, to effect the salvation and future of others. God does intervene and in His foreknowledge has made provision for our decisions. Moreover, grace is intrinsically efficacious, yet not irresistible as John Calvin argued, hence, God's intervention for the benefit of His Son's is sovereign.

In the natural realm, a child does have free will, but a good father exercises control over the child. He allows the child to mature and make choices. He allows his child to learn by mistakes and failures.

Nevertheless, a good father also knows enough not allow the child to endanger himself or others. He may let a toddler touch a hot oven so he learns not to get burnt. That doesn't mean he'll let the kid stick his hand into a raging flame to learn the same lesson. In fact, he might let the kid touch the hot oven so he learns what heat is, then, when he tells him to stay away from the campfire, the kid will have an experience to relate to and therefore obey his father.

God treats his children the same way. He has a perfect will and plan. He also has a permissive will, which allows man to learn the hard way.

I hope this helps,

John DiMascio

Mary Ann replied:

Hi John,

There is no short answer to the greatest mystery of creation.

Suffice it to say that you are conceiving God as existing at the beginning of a chain of events. Every moment of time is eternally present to God, and His greatness is such that His plan can take into account all free choices. No matter how great we are, and how powerful our choices to change the world, we cannot rise above God and His plan.

Mary Ann

Brian commented on Mary Ann's reply:

Hi Mary Ann,

I read your answer and think you are playing the faith card.

Your answer is totally based on faith.


Mary Ann replied:

Hi Brian,

Well, I am not playing the faith card, because any philosophically true concept of God is a God who transcends time and all of His creation, and whose will is omnipotent to the point that it includes the freedom of others, which does not limit His freedom.

Now some would say that philosophy cannot point to a personal God, but that is not true, because person is something that comes from God, therefore it must exist in a preeminent way in God who created it.

Mary Ann

Mike replied:

Hi Brian,

Let me throw in my two cents on your reply.

The Catholic faith has always embraced both faith and science. They are not at opposite ends of a spectrum but they compliment each other. The Vatican even has a sacred congregation dedicated to Science in Rome.

The question you asked was debated by scholars back in the 1500's between Duns Scotus and St. Thomas Aquinas.

What Thomas was able to show is the difference between:

  • God's Providential Will for our lives, and
  • God's Permissive Will for our lives.

Man has free will to choose. That is how God created us — with an immortal soul that has both an intellect and free will.

  • God's Providential Will for our lives consists of always making the correct or [good/holy] choices in our lives.
  • God's Permissive Will for our lives consists of respecting our free will to make [bad/evil] choices rather then [good/holy] ones.

Each person is created for a specific purpose in life. When we start making the good choices we are following God's Providential Will for our lives; when we start making bad choices we are following his Permissive Will for our lives.

Because the Lord only wants what is best for our eternal souls, He will never allow the permissive will we have to override His Providence will for us, if it's not in our best eternal interest.

I hope this helps,


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