Robert Sapolsky, a Stanford University’s neurobiologist, just came up with a new book, Determined: A Science of Life Without Free Will. I haven’t read the book yet, but I have read the book’s review and controversy it’s created. You see, in this book, Sapolsky argues that our behaviors are governed by biological processes along with a host of other factors, such as our upbringing and experiences. Hence, we are not as free as we think; we are largely determined.
I do not know if I agree with the whole idea, but I can at least agree with the basic notion that we are not as free as we think. Yes, we have free will but who we are and how we think are, maybe not products, but at least very much influenced by how we are raised and the kind of experiences we have been subjected to. I have seen those who were raised hungry for love and approval grow up to be individuals not sure of themselves. I have seen those who became objects of wrath and putdown grow up with anger and negative views of life. I have seen, no matter how much better life is to them in later life, they continue to behave along the same trajectory.
God does not force people to change. He could if He wanted to, but no, He does not want to force people to change. But this He will do: He will supply us with whatever material we need to change, and He will give us ample opportunities to change. Jonah saw what God’s mercy could do to the people of Nineveh. Not only did they hear the warning, but they also turned to God. What a marvelous sight to behold! Thousands of people repented! God supplied Jonah with material that he needed to change and gave him opportunities to change. Sadly, he did not change; he could not stop hating them.
We are shaped and influenced by our past, but we are determined by our present. God gives us choices, but He doesn’t make them.