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DO YOU REALLY HAVE A CHOICE?

We make choices everyday. And, for the most part, they are freely made, independent of any external causal factor. Or are they? One of the fundamental teachings of Christendom amongst Evangelicals is the teaching that man is a free moral agent.

We are taught and reminded over and over that we have free will. In fact, I dare say that soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) is based on the assumption of free will. Without free will, we are only left with the extreme Calvinistic position of predestination. Calvinism has five pivotal pillars upon which it rests. Of the five, perhaps the most contentious is the doctrine of predestination. At its core, this teaching effectively nullifies man's independence to choose.

Here are the pillars of Calvinistic theology: The five points of Calvinism can be summarized by the acronym TULIP. T stands for total depravity, U for unconditional election, L for limited atonement, I for irresistible grace, and P for perseverance of the saints. Here are the definitions and Scripture references Calvinists use to defend their beliefs: Total Depravity – As a result of Adam’s fall, the entire human race is affected; all humanity is dead in trespasses and sins.

Man is unable to save himself. Unconditional Election – Because man is dead in sin, he is unable to initiate a response to God; therefore, in eternity past God elected certain people to salvation. Election and predestination are unconditional; they are not based on man’s response because man is unable to respond, nor does he want to. Limited Atonement – Because God determined that certain ones should be saved as a result of God’s unconditional election, He determined that Christ should die for the elect alone.

All whom God has elected and for whom Christ died will be saved. Irresistible Grace – Those whom God elected He draws to Himself through irresistible grace. God makes man willing to come to Him. When God calls, man responds. Perseverance of the Saints – The precise ones God has elected and drawn to Himself through the Holy Spirit will persevere in faith. None whom God has elected will be lost; they are eternally secure. In this submission, my main interest is informed by Calvin's second point – Unconditional Election. It has grave implications on the subject matter at hand – free will.

In Calvin's theology, there is no such thing as free choice. Man cannot choose for himself. God has already decided or, if He hasn't, influences man's choices. We are reduced to mere pawns without any independent decision-making capabilities. Moral free agency is at the heart of the salvation message. Man, the doctrine goes, has the ability to determine his own fate – eternal fate – by his free choices.

Whether he ends up in Heaven or in Hell is entirely up to him, the belief in moral free agency posits. This is very critical. In Calvinistic theology, this stance is obviously refuted. Man has no free will to control his fate. But what is free will? It is useless to have a study on this term "free will" unless we stick to a strict, concise and precise definition of the term. As will be seen from our dictionaries, "free will" does not have for a concise or precise definition the ability to "make choices." Yet this is the way it is often defined.

The American Heritage College Dictionary: "free will n. 1. The ability or discretion to choose; free choice. 2. The power of making free choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances or by an agency such as fate or divine will." My Meriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary/Eleventh Edition has an even more precise definition: "free will n. freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention." Notice that our dictionaries are specific in stating that it is "FREE choice." That is the definition of "free will," rather than just "choice" alone. To be an expression of "free will," choices must also be free. Free from what?

There are six fundamental areas that must be satisfied: 1. Free from PRIOR CAUSES. 2. Free from CONSTRAINT. 3. Free from EXTERNAL CIRCUMSTANCES. 4. Free from FATE. 5. Free from DIVINE WILL. 6. Free from DIVINE INTERVENTION. Those who would argue for free will, however, refuse being held to these precise and concise definitions. They want the mere ability to "make a choice" to be considered an act of "free will." Well, it is nothing of the kind. It cannot possibly be so. That would be a very narrow and misleading definition. Making a choice has absolutely nothing to do with the doctrine of "free will." This is easily demonstrated by an example. Computers can be said to make "choices."

They can make trillions of choices per second. It would take a trillion people to make that many choices in a second. All that these marvelous machines do is make choices. Now then, will anyone contend that computers have un-programmed and uncaused, free wills? So, now we have proof that making choices is not the same as "free will." Just as computers make choices, billions of them, but cannot be said to have free wills. Computers do not have "free wills," yet THEY CAN MAKE CHOICES. But those choices are anything but free.

Their choices are all a matter of pre-programming. They cannot think and act independently of "causes." Neither can man think or do anything outside of the realm of "causes." In order for an effect to be present, there must first be a cause, and once something is caused, the effect must follow, and neither could have been prevented.

By "unconditional election," Calvin meant that some are elected to Heaven, while others are elected to Hell, and that this election is unconditional. It is wholly God's prerogative and without any condition. By unconditional election, Calvin meant that God has already decided who will be saved and who will be lost, and the individual has absolutely nothing to do with it. He can only hope that God has elected him for Heaven and not for Hell.

This teaching so obviously disagrees with the oft-repeated invitations in the Bible and indeed in our evangelical circles to sinners to come to Christ and be saved that some readers will think that I have overstated the doctrine. So I will quote John Calvin in his "Institutes," Book III, chapter 23, "….Not all men are created with similar destiny but eternal life is foreordained for some , and eternal damnation for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say, he is predestined either to life or to death."

So Calvinism teaches that it is God's own choice that some people are to be damned forever. He never intended to save them. He foreordained them to go to Hell. And when He offers salvation in the Bible, He does not offer it to those who were foreordained to be damned.

It is offered only to those who were foreordained to be saved. As should be obvious, even from a cursory reading of Calvin's position, the idea of a free will simply does not hold. Indeed it cannot. This teaching further insists that we need not try to win men to Christ because men cannot be saved unless God has planned for them to be saved. And if God has planned for them to be eternally lost, they will not come to Christ, no matter how much we preach to them.

In other words, it cannot be their fault for not responding to the gospel because God never gave them the power or willingness to respond. They have no choice! There is the Bible doctrine of God's foreknowledge, predestination and election. These are Biblical terms. Paul introduced them to the New Testament.

Most knowledgeable Christians agree that God has His controlling hand on the affairs of men. This cannot be denied. They agree that according to the Bible, He selects individuals like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David as instruments to do certain things he has planned.

Most Christians agree that God may choose a nation-particularly that He did choose Israel, through which He gave the law, the prophets, and eventually through whom the Saviour Himself would come – and that there is a Bible doctrine that God foreknows all things. Did it ever occur to you that nothing ever occurred to God? God, in His foreknowledge, knows who will trust Jesus Christ as Saviour, and He has predestined to see that they are justified and glorified.

He will keep all those who trust Him and see that they are glorified. But the doctrine that God elected some men to Hell, that they were born to be damned by God's own choice, is a radical heresy not taught anywhere in the Bible. Nowhere does the Bible teach that God wills for some to go to Heaven and wills others to go to Hell. No. The Bible teaches that God would have all men to be saved. Second Peter 3:9 says that He is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."

First Timothy 2:4 says, "Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." Those who teach that God would only have some to be saved, while He would have others to be lost are misrepresenting God and the Bible. Does God really predestinate some people to be saved and predestinate others to go to Hell, so that they have no free choice? Absolutely not! Nobody is predestined to be saved, except as he chooses of his own free will to come to Christ and trust Him for salvation.

And no one is predestined to go to Hell, except as he chooses of his own free will to reject Christ and refuses to trust Him as Saviour. John 3:36 says, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." Nothing could be plainer.

The man who goes to Heaven goes because he comes to Jesus Christ and trusts Him as Saviour. And the man who goes to Hell does so because he refuses to come to Jesus Christ and will not trust Him as Savior. This is what the Bible teaches. But let's come back to the myth of free will. There is not one example that can be presented by a scientific method that can demonstrate that man’s will is free from causality.

Neither is there an example in all Scripture that can be shown to be the exercise of a will that is free from causality. And that certainly includes all that our Lord Himself ever thought, said, or did. We will explore this shortly and at great length. Up until the very last day with their Lord, the apostles all believed that they possessed the power of free will, which could enable them to choose their own destiny, and that they could and would have the strength of self determinism and free will to maintain that course.

I doubt not that this is what they had been taught and believed with staunch orthodoxy. It was a beautiful illusion as they were soon to discover. They firmly believed that they could choose their fate independent of any external causal factor. But Jesus told His disciples that they would all forsake Him. In other words, Jesus was foretelling events that would cause (yes, even ‘force,’ if you will) them to change their wills, against their previously stated wills.

They of course, all denied that Jesus knew what He was talking about. "And Jesus said unto them, all ye shall be offended because of Me this night; for it is written, I shall smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered" (Mark 14:27; Zechariah 13:7). The disciples all said that they would remain loyal. They no doubt believed it. But Jesus said that they would all be offended because of Him.

Was there a reason for God causing the disciples to will loyalty to Jesus and then in the same night to will to deny Jesus? Does God do anything in vain without a reason? This was all part of their conversion process. God totally humiliated them by proving to them that their own will was not free to do what they wanted, but that "…it is God [not man] which works in you BOTH TO WILL [God causes us ‘to will’] and TO DO [God causes us ‘to do’] of His good pleasure" to bring about His intentions (Philippians. 2:13).

In just one night God smashed the presumed free will of all the disciples. They lost confidence in their flesh after that night. James later shows us just how well he learned this lesson of so-called free self determinism: "Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow.

For what is your life? It is even a vapor, which appears for a little time, and then vanishes away. For that ye ought to say, if the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that" (James 4:13-15). Free will? Where? James dismantles it here! He plainly states that man's will is subject to God's will.

James certainly agrees with Scripture and Science that man has the ability "to will." But he also fully recognizes that there are two factors that constantly oppose and change the will of man, so that it cannot be said that the will is free to will its own destiny for even a day or an hour. Man can will, but his will is not free. It cannot be. What are these two factors over which man has absolutely no control whatsoever?

1. CIRCUMSTANCES: What did the Holy Spirit of God inspire (cause?) James to explain as a major factor in what determines the true outcome of man’s will? Answer: "Whereas you know not what shall be on the morrow." God changes the minds and wills of mankind around the world, a billion times a minute, through circumstances that "you know not" are actually the cause of your choices and your changed choices. We are often, if not most of the time, completely unaware of what actually caused us to do or say or think as we do.

We only flippantly, and sometimes ignorantly and arrogantly, believe that nothing caused us to think, say, or act in certain ways; that it was all us. How did all the disciples will to remain loyal to Jesus no matter what at one moment in time, and in the next moment in time they all changed their wills to forsake Him? What changed their wills? Circumstances.

One moment they were at ease and safe in the upper room, and at a later moment they were in the garden surrounded by Roman soldiers! Fear was the circumstance that caused their (un-free) wills to change. So, it was the presence of certain circumstances that caused the disciples to will as they did.

But what caused the circumstances to be as they were to ensure that they would will appropriately to fulfill Christ’s prophecy concerning their denying and forsaking Him? 2. GOD’S WILL: Notice the second thing that the Holy Spirit inspired James to write regarding what will or will not happen on any given day to any given person. "…if the Lord will…" Who was in charge of all these circumstances, which caused the disciples to change their wills? Why God, of course! They did not want to change their wills.

They did not desire to deny their Lord and Savior. They did not wish to make liars and fools of themselves.

They did not want to be shown that they were all cowards. Well then, why did they change their wills if they did not wish to change their wills? Were they free to not change their wills? No, they were not free. Or, were they? Someone might say, "Of course they were free! They could have stuck it out even if it meant being arrested with Jesus."

But is that really the case? I don't think so! Remember, Jesus (God), had already told them how things would play out. If the disciples willed themselves through the incidents of Gethsemane and followed Jesus anyway, He would have been proven a liar. Can God lie?

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Opinions

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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