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?
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