God's Will and Free Will
By Sue Liskowski
Our Women's ministry, led by Michaelyn Sloan and Linda Kopulos, hosted a
retreat on Saturday, February 7, 2004. Women from our parish, as well as several other
local churches, began the day with fellowship over coffee and rolls. Then we got down
to the serious business of discussing our theme of the day: God's Will/Free Will.
We were graced with the presence of two speakers who clearly put a
lot of time into researching the topic. In case you are not a woman, or could not
ttend, here is a summary of some of what was discussed.
First up was Cindy Bastounes-Wierzba, who is working on a Master of
Divinity degree from St. Vladimir's Seminary. The second speaker was Helen Jonas, who
has a Master of Divinity degree from Holy Cross Seminary.
The presentation began with a clarification of the topic. Free will
was defined as the ability to choose between good and evil. It brings up the question:
Can a human being's free will thwart the will of God?
To answer this question, Cindy led us back to the Old Testament. We
learned that man's distrust in God was what angered God in the Old Testament. The
following reasons were outlined:
It's an affront to the absolute goodness of His character. He hates
it when we don't trust Him. It means we doubt His absolute goodness. We distrust the
eternal knowledge of God, as if we know better than Him. This was Satan's strategy against
God, to pervert His will.
Why did God create us when He knows that we will disobey and mistrust
Him? What is the use of our free will?
Maybe even God's will isn't free...Out of nothing, God created us,
of His own free will. If nothing compelled God to create us, what made Him do it? The
answer is Love. Love is freedom itself... everlasting, unconditional.
The fruit of God's will is love. Creation cannot be separate from
God's love. The relationship between our will and God's will is love, our bowing to His
will. By His love He is sanctifying and transforming our creation in anticipation of His
We are commanded not to lean on our own understanding, but to trust
in God instead. In Eden man lost his ability to trust in God and discern evil. God set
boundaries on Adam and Eve's freedom, for their own good.
Sin is the misuse of that which is Good - it has no substance of its
own, just as darkness is the absence of light. Sin does not exist in nature, apart from
free will. Evil resides in our choice to reject the light.
Why do I do what I don't want to do?
The knowledge of good and evil infected us. We lost the freedom to
trust in God. God's will is always good, in the hope that creation would be free from
self-centeredness, and free to love God.
Helen Jonas, the second speaker, focused on the Beatitudes.
She said that each Beatitude is related to an attitude that is
important in how we live our lives.
There are attitudes that allow us to become partakers of the divine
nature. Attitude is a state of mind. It is not earthly, it comes from God as a gift from
Him through our constant communion with Him as we strive for Theosis. The more we live
according to His will, what happens outside of our control doesn't bother us so much.
A total change of mind and heart: Repentance means we receive a new
attitude. We recognize what is sinful, acknowledge our need for the Savior and surrender
our control to Him.
The Beatitudes are a description of the attitudes of those who will
receive His kingdom. The blessedness of the Beatitudes is the happiness of those who
experience God's presence - His reign in the world to come. To be blessed you have to
use what God gives you for doing His work.
Some examples of the attitudes manifested in the Beatitudes:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: Humble, conscious of sins and
dependence on God.
Blessed are those who mourn: We mourn over our sins and the sins of
others. We are dependent on God to forgive and heal.
Blessed are the meek: Not weak, but humble, gentle and tolerant when
dealing with others.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness: Once
we receive Christ, we are satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful: God wants us to forgive one another and
ask for mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God: Your intention
must be pure and genuine. Instead of chasing earthly success, be concerned with
Blessed are the peacemakers: Those who want God's will to be done,
and are in accord. By your presence, by your attitude, people can be brought to God.
After a break for lunch, we came together again for interactive
discussion. The topic was very complicated, but the discussion was lively and thought
provoking. In the end, it was concluded that God does not will evil. Because of His
great love for us, humans were given free will, which is the ability to choose good
or evil. He wants us to win the battle, and choose good. But because God is sovereign,
all-powerful, and purely good, He will use evil as an instrument for goodness.