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Do you really have a choice – Part II

Last week, we saw that the circumstances that unfolded at the arrest of Jesus led to the disciples abandoning their stated free wills. The fear inside of them caused and made (and yes, FORCED, if you will) them to change their will.

And Jesus Himself told them that they would change their wills, so how pray tell could it have been otherwise? Yet I suppose that some are so spiritually stubborn that they will still insist that the apostles did not need to change their wills, that their wills were yet free to stay loyal in the face of these fearful circumstances.


When we argue with God like this, we demean Him. God has a plan, and God brings about His plan. God is not stupid. God knows exactly how to cause man (all mankind) to do exactly as He plans for them to do. Few students of the Scriptures have learned the truth regarding God’s stated WILL and His PLANS or INTENTIONS. They are clearly not one and the same.


They operate completely differently for different purposes. First, we should understand that God’s will is used both as a noun and a verb. As a noun, God’s will is virtually synonymous with His GOAL. It is usually not too hard to tell in Scripture whether the word "will" is used as a noun or a verb. In the Scripture we used from the Epistle of James, it demonstrates that things only happen "if God will." Here, it is used as a verb. And whenever God uses His will as a verb, then it absolutely will be fulfilled and carried out at the time and place that He wills it.


 If, however, God is speaking of His will as a noun, meaning His ultimate goal, then it does not immediately come about in totality at the place and time that He states it. A perfect example of God’s will as a noun and it not coming to total fruition at the place and time stated, is in what is popularly called "The Lord’s Prayer." "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come.


Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:9-10). I don’t think too many would argue that God’s kingdom and His will have not totally come to this earth as it is in heaven. This is a goal—it will happen. It just hasn't fully happened. And so man’s will is almost always at variance with God’s stated will as His ultimate goal for the human race. But God’s day-to-day willing of events to carrying out His plan is never ever contradicted or thwarted by puny man.


Paul understood this principle perfectly. Here, let us look at a classic Biblical example of the assumed free will of man versus the will of God. Did Pharaoh have a free will? We will now look at some of the most profound and yet most misunderstood and not believed Scriptures in the entire Bible.

"For He says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion" (Romans 9:15). Just who is in control in this statement – man or God? Man’s will is not free to contradict what God says He WILL DO. "So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but OF GOD that shows mercy" (Ver. 16).


What man "wills" has absolutely nothing to do with what God WILL DO. "For the Scripture says unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised you up, that I might show My powers in you, and that My name might be declared throughout all the earth.

Therefore has He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardens" (Vers. 17-18). Pharaoh did not harden his own heart—God said that He hardened it. It's there in your Bible in black and white. Paul stated it. And, quite tellingly, the subject is so deep that Paul did not even attempt to expound on it. When he should have done so, he opted to appeal to the sovereignty of God! Instead of addressing and unpacking the subject fully, he simply chose to say that God can do whatever He wants to do and nobody can call Him out on it. Case closed.


Remember I said that God has a stated will as a goal and an active will in the plan or process of obtaining His stated will. Right here we can see this principle in action: God states His will: "Then the Lord said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh, and tell him, Thus says the Lord God of the Hebrews, Let my people go…" (Ex. 9:1). "And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh and he hearkened not unto them, as the Lord had spoken unto Moses" (Ver. 12).


There is God’s stated will—He wants Pharaoh to "Let my people go…" But does God expect or even want His "will be done on earth" at the time that He declares it? Obviously not. In fact, it is God Himself, Who prevents Pharaoh from doing God’s stated will of letting His people go. Most Christians just plainly refuse to believe these very simple Scriptures. Yet the ramifications of these Scriptural truths are enormous.


Notice what God did with Pharaoh. First, God tells Moses to tell Pharaoh to "to let My people go." And Pharaoh would have let the Hebrews go. Sure he would, had not God Himself intervened. Why would Pharaoh let them go? Because Pharaoh’s heart was both soft and weak. A soft and weak heart was no match for God. Pharaoh would have caved in and let His people go. But God did not want Pharaoh to let His people go. He asked Pharaoh to let His people go, but He didn’t want Pharaoh to let them go that easily.


Next God has to do something in order to prevent Pharaoh from letting His people go. God actually wants Pharaoh to go against His stated will. God’s stated will is "let My people go," but God doesn’t want Pharaoh to do God’s stated will at this time. He wants Pharaoh to resist God.

God has not changed, God still wants mankind to resist Him. What? Take a sip of water. Ready to proceed? Good. Pharaoh (just like the rest of humanity) is too weak and soft to resist God.

So what does God do? Two things: "And I will harden [Heb: qashah—to make hard] Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay My hand upon Egypt, and bring forth Mine armies, and My people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments.


And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch forth Mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them." "For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness has shut them in. And I will harden [Heb: chazaq—to make strong and courageous] Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord. And they did so" (Exodus 14:3-4).


Pharaoh was naturally too soft of heart to resist letting the Hebrews go, and so God hardened his soft heart so that he would resist and would not let the people go until God first made a great display of His strength to the Egyptians. And after Pharaoh did let the people go, God wanted Pharaoh to try and follow after them and kill them. But this time we find that Pharaoh’s heart was too weak. And so again, God strengthens and gives courage to Pharaoh’s weak heart, and Pharaoh charges after Israel only to be totally defeated by God in the Red Sea. Well, there it is.


How hard is that to understand? But who will believe it? From Pharaoh’s birth until his death, God had a purpose for Pharaoh’s life, and God controlled every aspect of it. Pharaoh had no "free will" in any of these events. God changes not; He operates the same way in everyone’s life.

You will either be a vessel of honor or a vessel of dishonor, and it is ALL UP TO GOD! In our previous example with the disciples, not only did they change their emphatically stated wills, but, they did so against their stated wills. Even when they willed to change their will, they did so against their original desired will.


 Peter did not want to deny Christ. But he was made to deny Christ by the mere fact that the alternative (fear) was greater than his desire to remain loyal. And so, how was he "free" to remain loyal? He wasn’t! Peter was no more "free" to not deny Jesus any more than he was "free" to be loyal in his original choice. Both choices were caused, and once something is caused to happen, it could never have been otherwise. Once the cause is set in motion, the effect must follow. This is true Science and this is the truth of Scripture.


Clearly God brought about circumstances that caused, made, and indeed forced Peter to do what he didn’t want to do. How then, can such a forced will, be free? Peter did not will to deny Jesus, but he was clearly caused to do so. This is an example of how God causes men to change their will even when it is against their initial will to do so.

How much easier and unrecognizable are the millions of choices we make in which we very willingly make the decisions we do, because they often appear to be pleasant, profitable, and desirable choices? Does foreknowledge contradict free will?


This example of the disciples forsaking Jesus is so important to this study that we are going to stay with it a little longer. Can we believe that Jesus could have told His disciples the following: "And Jesus said unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night, but then again, maybe not all of you will be offended, seeing that all of you have a free will to will against My pronouncement…."

Or maybe this to Peter: "And Jesus said unto him [Peter] Verily I say unto you, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shall deny me thrice, but then again, maybe you won’t deny Me three times, seeing that you have a free will that does not need to deny Me even once. It doesn’t depend on what I say, or circumstances brought about by My Father, or what God declares, but rather on your own free will."

Sounds a little silly when we look at it logically doesn’t it? I can't help it but chuckle! Yet this IS the contention of those who believe in "free will." Maybe Peter will, but then again maybe Peter won’t. Almost sounds like blasphemy, doesn’t it?


 To argue that when God prophesies, states, and intends that someone will do a particular thing, that the person is still at liberty because of his supposed free will, to NOT do what God has said, is absurdity on the highest level. Yet this IS what the theory of free will demands. The fact that God has a foreknowledge of everything proves that free will is an impossibility, as true free will could alter the future and therefore God could not have an absolute and true knowledge of the future.


It is idiocy to state that man has a free will that is not made or caused to do as it does, and yet state that God knows in advance the only possible choice that a person must make. How can one believe that if God states that a person will make choice A, that he is nonetheless still at liberty to make choice B? Let me restate that: Can God say that you WILL make choice A, but you can make choice B? Can God say that such and such WILL happen but that it doesn’t need to happen?

The disciples WILL forsake and deny Christ, but they have a free choice NOT to forsake and deny Him? God knows in advance that something WILL be a certain way, and yet it doesn’t have to be that way?

Am I going too fast for anyone? Not only does the theory of free will demand that man be able to think uncaused thoughts and performed uncaused tasks, but that he can in fact, do these uncaused things contrary to and in opposition to God’s preordained stated plan and purpose. He must be blind indeed, who cannot or will not see that such a haughty presumption lifts such an one’s ego to that of a veritable "god’ in his own heart and mind.

The inhabitants of the whole world believe that they possess a wonderful gift from God called variously: "free will," "free choice," and "free moral agency." Even atheists believe that this marvel is a real and actual power evolved from primordial soup in some ancient sea slime. It is believed and taught that it is this agency of "free will" that enables a person to choose good over evil and even choose his own eternal destiny, independent of any one, any cause, or even God Himself.


For if anything – anything at all – should ever cause, hinder, persuade or restrict one’s supposed free will in any way, it would cease at that moment to be "free." And so it is repeatedly stated that under no circumstances would God ever interfere with, cause, or force anyone to think or do anything against his sacred and God-given, free will.

Of course we just saw a marvelous example in Scripture where men do change their wills against their wills, thus proving that neither their initial nor subsequent will was "free" at all. I will show that free will is indeed an "idol of the heart" which needs to be repented of. And of all man’s sacred cows, free will is the most sacred of all.


It is undoubtedly the most difficult doctrine in man’s walk with God to acknowledge and give up. And though neither science nor Holy Scripture know anything of a power called "free will," most will continue to defend it even in the light of a mountain of Scriptural proof that contradicts it at every turn.

To even question the existence of such a universally accepted sacred cow that has been lauded by theologians and philosophers since Eden, is to open oneself to criticism of being either a moron or an heretic. It is rather this theory of free will itself that is moronic and heretical. Yea, it is rather idiotic and evil. God Himself calls the notion of independent free choice, evil.


There is a plethora of simple-to-understand teachings in the Scriptures that utterly contradicts the fantasy of man’s supposed "free will." That man does indeed possess a "will" there is no doubt in either Science or the Scriptures. That such a will is "free," and brings about its own existence, however, is neither demonstrable by Science or Scripture. Contrariwise, both Science and Scripture teach against such an untenable phenomenon.

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Internal party-democracy under pressure

21st June 2022

British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: “If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.”

The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties — ruling and opposition.

As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.

We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.

Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswana’s democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.

Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogae’s assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values.  This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in the Bulela Ditswe dispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.

Bulela Ditswe was an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.

Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.

We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties – ruling and opposition — have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.

These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.

Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.

The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.

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Opinions

The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022
piracy

Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.

One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumer’s piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswana’s, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.

When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they don’t imagine that their one download will do anything to the production house’s pocket or make a dent in the actors’ net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musician’s music or a short film produced locally.

The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.

The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that “illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth”.

As Botswana’s creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africa’s respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.

When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswana’s economy are being diverted.

“Why can’t our local creative industry grow?” “Why don’t we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana?” are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswana’s local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.

Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.

This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the country’s economy.

So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, it’s imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economy’s growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artist’s music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana

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Opinions

Our Strength is our Unity

18th March 2022
Craig-Cloud

Putin Chose War.  We Remain United with Ukraine.

U.S. Ambassador Craig L. Cloud

This is a dangerous moment for Europe and for freedom-loving people around the world.  By launching his brutal assault on the people of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has also committed an assault on the principles that uphold global peace and democracy.  But the people of Ukraine are resilient.

They’ve had a democracy for decades, and their bravery is inspiring the world.  The United States, together with our Allies and partners across the globe, will continue to support the Ukrainian people as they defend their country.  By choosing to pay for a war instead of investing in the needs of Russians, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine will be a strategic failure for the Kremlin and ravage the future of the Russian people.

When the history of this era is written, it will show that Putin’s choice to launch an unprovoked, unjust, and premeditated attack left the West more unified and Russia exponentially weaker.

United in Our Response

This will not end well for Vladimir Putin.  Together, the United States and our Allies and partners are taking action to hold Russia accountable.  As a result of unprecedented global sanctions coordination, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan, and Canada have removed selected Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system and imposed restrictive measures on the Russian Central Bank.

President Biden announced sweeping financial sanctions and stringent export controls that will damage Russia’s economy, financial system, and access to cutting-edge technology.  After Putin began his invasion, the ruble hit its weakest point in history, and the Russian stock market plunged.

Along with the United Kingdom and European Union, the United States imposed sanctions on the architects of this war, including Putin himself.

By moving in close coordination with a powerful coalition of Allies and partners representing more than half of the global economy, we have magnified the impact of our actions to impose maximum costs on Putin and his regime.  In response to Putin’s war of choice, we will limit Russia’s ability to do business in U.S. dollars.

We will stunt Russia’s ability to finance and grow its military.  We will impair Russia’s ability to compete in the global economy.  And we are prepared to do more.

In addition to economic penalties, this week President Biden authorized an additional $1 billion over the $350 million of security assistance he recently approved, and a $650 million in 2021, to immediately help Ukraine defend itself, bringing America’s total security assistance to Ukraine over the past year to $2 billion.

We also stand ready to defend our NATO Allies.  President Biden has coordinated with Allied governments to position thousands of additional forces in Germany and Poland as part of our commitment to NATO’s collective defense.

He authorized the deployment of ground and air forces already stationed in Europe to NATO’s eastern and southeastern flanks:  Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania.  Our Allies have also added their own forces and capabilities to ensure our collective defense.  There should be no doubt about the readiness of the greatest military Alliance in the history of the world:  NATO is more united than ever.

The United States has also coordinated with major oil-producing and consuming countries to underscore our common interest in securing global energy supplies.  We are working with energy companies to surge their capacity to supply energy to the market, particularly as prices increase.

Putin’s Unprovoked and Premeditated War

This was an attack that Vladimir Putin has planned for a long time.  He methodically moved more than 150,000 troops and military equipment to Ukraine’s border.  He moved blood supplies into position and built field hospitals, demonstrating his intentions all along.

He rejected every good-faith effort by the United States and our Allies and partners to address his fabricated security concerns and to avoid needless conflict and human suffering by engaging in diplomacy and dialogue.

Putin executed his playbook exactly as we had warned he would do.  We saw Russia’s proxies increase their shelling in the Donbas.  We saw the Russian government launch cyber-operations against Ukraine.  We saw staged political theater in Moscow and heard outlandish and baseless claims made about Ukraine in an attempt to justify Russia’s aggression.

Russia continues to justify its military aggression by falsely claiming the need to stop “genocide” in Ukraine – despite there being no evidence that genocide was occurring there.  We saw Russia use these tactics before when they invaded Ukraine in 2014 and Georgia in 2008.

And then, at almost the very same moment the United Nations Security Council was meeting to stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty and forestall disaster, Putin launched his invasion in violation of international law.  Missiles began to rain down, striking historic cities across Ukraine.  Then came air raids, columns of tanks, and battalions of troops, all riding a renewed wave of disinformation and outright lies.

We have been transparent with the world.  We declassified our intelligence about Russia’s plans so there could be no confusion and no cover up.  Putin is the aggressor.  Putin chose this war.  And now his people will bear the consequences of his decision to invest in war rather than in them.

Transatlantic Unity and Resolve Stronger Than Ever

Putin’s goal of dividing the West has failed.  In the face of one of the most significant challenges to European security and democratic ideals since World War II, the United States and our Allies and partners have joined together in solidarity.  We have united, coordinating intensively to engage as one with Russia and Ukraine, provided assistance to Ukraine, developed a broad response, and reaffirmed our commitment to NATO.

Putin has failed to divide us.  Putin has failed to undermine our shared belief in the fundamental right of sovereign nations to choose their destiny and their allies.  And Putin will fail to erase the proud nation of Ukraine.

The next few days, weeks, and months will be incredibly difficult for the people of Ukraine.  Putin has unleashed great suffering on them.  But the Ukrainian people have known 30 years of independence, and they have repeatedly shown they will not tolerate anyone who tries to take their country backwards.

The world is watching this conflict closely, and if Russian forces commit atrocities, we will explore all international mechanisms that could be used to bring those responsible – whether members of the military or their civilian leadership – to account.

Putin’s aggression against Ukraine will cost Russia profoundly, both economically and strategically.  The Russian people deserve better from their government than the immense cost to their future that this invasion has precipitated.

Liberty, democracy, and human dignity are forces far more powerful than fear and oppression.  In the contest between democracy and autocracy, between sovereignty and subjugation, make no mistake:  Freedom will prevail.

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