How Free Are We? The Fate of Free Choice

Is the story of life a monologue, where the G-d is like an author talking in many different voices to Himself through us, His characters, and our lives are totally determined? Or is the story of life a dialogue, where we the characters interact with G-d the author and contribute to the story through our free choices?

The answer is yes and yes.

Free choice and determinism both exist simultaneously — the story of life is beyond either/or.

In the creative process, most great writers testify that, in their most luminous passages, their writing took on a life of its own. The characters came alive and contributed to the story.

And this is the mystery of history. It is both a monologue, so to speak, within G-d, scripted down to every detail and, yet it is paradoxically also a dialogue between G-d and us, His characters — a drama co-written by G-d and us.

The secret is that when we lift the veil of the mystery of free will vs. determinism, we find a paradox. This paradox is symbolized by the two names of G-d used most frequently in the Torah: Y/H/V/H, the unpronounceable name of G-d known as the Tetragrammaton which we explained earlier, and Elohim, the name of G-d which is also used to mean “judge.”

Y/H/V/H, which is an amalgam of is, was, and will be, suggests that G-d is the absolute reality — there’s nothing besides Him. Thus, the whole story of life has to be a monologue within the Divine.

But then there’s the name Elokim, representing G-d as the creator of human beings in His own image — G-d Who empowered us with choice and who judges our choices. According to this truth about G-d, the story of life is a dialogue between man and G-d. History is a drama co-written and produced by G-d and man.

Both sides of the paradox are true. Life is a monologue, pre-determined and written by G-d. But mysteriously it is also a dialogue written by G-d and us through the free choices we make. It’s beyond the either/or.

We experience the truth of this paradox. We feel, somehow, the perfection of how every scene has been written. Yet, on the other hand, we feel that we’re contributing to the scene, that our choices make a difference. How can this be?

Imagine a fly walking across a painting. Although the painting is already complete the fly has the freedom of how he chooses to walk across it. There are infinite possibilities of how that fly could explore the painting and the fly’s experience will be totally different depending on the route it takes. However, when it finally flies above the painting, the fly will see that there was a set picture but its choices determined the sequence of events as it experienced them.

According to the new physics’ theory of the time-space continuum, time is a dimension and all of history is as if painted on a canvas. We, however, only see a narrow slice of the whole picture. And we are free to choose how we view the picture that is already determined. Our choices create our unique and personal vision of the ultimate picture that already exists.