No Free Will Outside of God

I was just thinking about something that I read by Simone Weil and I hope I didn’t misunderstand her.

She said that without God we are reduced to just matter. And like matter we are at the mercy of an indifferent/mindless universe just like any other bit of matter bouncing around the universe since the Big Bang. But, with God’s grace we can rise above matter and become free beings that can choose freely. Basically, free will is a supernatural gift from God.

It kind of makes sense to me but I was wondering if this is in line with Catholic Philosophy/Theology. It helps me make sense of the idea that through obedience to God we can become free (which I tend to not really understand all that well).

Sorry this isn’t thought out more but I was hoping to hear others thoughts on it.

It’s a beautiful idea but kind of difficult to understand. From my point of view, God gives the grace of free will to every human being, it doesn’t matter if the person believes in Him or not. But I would say that a person who lives in obedience to God is more free that someone who doesn’t, because she is free from sin and other impulses that drag us down.

Hi J_Peterson,
Free will is not a supernatural gift from God, it’s a natural gift. It is a part of our human nature. God created us in His own image, i.e, we have the spiritual faculties of intellect and free will which belong to our soul. Grace is a supernatural gift from God. You will find this information in the CCC.

Those who worship science practice a marked reductionism. Man is just another animal so his morality should be based on observation of nature and not Divine Law. The mind is just chemistry and is not particularly imbued with any supernatural force. Quantum mechanics explains the apparent randomness in our environments which should never be attributed to an intelligent God. These are all errors stemming from an obstinate denial of our Creator. To me it is impossible to observe nature without seeing a plan and a mind and a will behind it all. To all of us it is impossible to fully comprehend the nature of God, so for scientists who demand to know everything, God is a paradox that cannot be admitted to their world view. God must be written out of the equation at all costs, but in order to write the equation, we introduce an unknown quantity instead. Some of us understand that science and religion can truly be harmonized if we all give due respect and weight to both disciplines and their ability to explain the world.

Perhaps she was speaking metaphorically. I think I was taking the thought to literally. I’m now thinking that maybe she meant that by not accepting God (using free will), you turn yourself into mere matter. Sometimes I need to write things out to realize I’m wrong. I think I need to revisit that essay.

It’s tough to not think in materialistic terms though, especially after a long bout of athiesm. Thanks for the reminder Elizium23.

In John 8:34, Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”

So, the author you quote is right.

I would essentially agree with her on this.

Free will, I think, is a kind of “interface” between what we are and the fullness of being found in God. In Thomistic terms between potential and actual. At creation, humanity was “raised” from the earth, informed from matter by God. Grace is the impetus that moves humans to “rise up” and become fully what we were meant to be, but any movement in either direction depends upon our act of will. Cooperation (obedience to or collaboration with) with grace, as an act of will, raises us up. Noncooperation leads to privation and reversion to a less capable state (sin or addiction.) Grace empowers or increases the capacity towards greater freedom.

I agree, but I was misundestanding and was thinking of free will as something given to us like grace but free will must be in place to accept grace or reject it.

This is wrong. Without God we would be nothing at all, not even matter. Free will is a gift of God like everything else we have, but it is a part of human nature. Our wills respond to partial goods in such a way that we are not bound to choose them. Grace operates on our wills to make obedience to God both possible and (sometimes) actual, but free will itself is something natural rather than supernatural for us.

It seems to me that this Simone Weil may be bordering on a sort of Gnostic concept of God as that which liberates us from matter.

There is “no” God.

In other words…

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