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.
This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.
The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.
The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.
Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.
We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.
More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.
The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the market.
Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.
We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?
Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?
Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?
They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?
What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?
They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?
We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?
To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?
Batswana must be made aware that the end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.
For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with the arduous imperative of analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.
Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.
Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute in Botswana is overdue.
If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.
Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.
Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.
Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication
Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.
Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.
Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.
Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.
The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.
So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.
The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.
We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.
They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.
As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.
Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme. WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org
The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.
As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.
I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.
I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?
Counting the cost of sexual harassment
Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.
It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.
Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.
The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.
Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.
By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.
Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org