Oedipus Rex: Are Fate and Free Will Mutually Exclusive?

***I am not always the best at keeping things in a straight line, but I have done my best here. These are my thoughts today when I was thinking about fate, destiny, action, and free will. I am not an authoritarian on anything, but this is rather the truth as I see it and what I believe God has shown me.***This is something I wrote in one of my FB notes***

The paradox that is presented by foreknowledge and free will is one that would seem to be a nice contradiction to the idea of prophecy and free will or an All Knowing God and free will. Determinism vs. free will seems to always take into account that because something CAN be, it SHOULD be. For example, if God said to me that I was going die in a car accident on Tuesday, my human nature would tell me to avoid getting into a car on Tuesday. More than that, I could even take it a step further and opt not to leave the house at all on Tuesday. After all, I could be in a car accident where a car hits me as I am walking down the road right? Yet even if either or other alternatives are good alternatives that may prevent the foretold death, does it mean I should take those routes?

Every logical thinking person would say yes. After all, we don’t want to die, right? But can you say you would have thought of all of the possibilities to avoid the death that is ‘fated’ you? Did you think of the fact that a car could come crashing through your house and kill you? Sure you did, right? So you’ll stay on the 2nd floor all day. But what if someone came into the house and pulled you out by gunpoint? Impossible right? Else God would have told you that part too…right? As improbable as the examples may get to be, they are no more improbable than an All Knowing God.

First let’s stay on the examples of different possible scenarios that could lead to your foretold death. Has no one ever heard of a car crashing through a house? Has no one ever heard of a person being taken by gunpoint from their own home? Why then could these things not happen to you?

In “Oedipus Rex”, the characters are motivated by the oracle’s words on their fates. They attempt to prevent their foretold futures by intentionally changing their ‘paths’. And yet still they end up fulfilling the fates they tried so hard to avoid. Does this mean that free will is an illusion? That determinism in the end is what truly dictates our life? After all, if no matter what we do, we still end up with the same results, how are we truly free?

Yet the true question is not ‘how are we truly free’ more than it is ‘why can’t we free ourselves from our fates?’

Trouble is, we have created this idea of ‘fate’ such that if it is destined or meant to be, it will be ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. There is always more than one path to the same goal/end so for us to believe that we can change our ‘fate’ based on our foreknowledge is putting a lot of stock in our abilities.

But “[we] can do all things through Christ who strengthens [me]“, right? Include “moving mountains”? Well, let’s not jump ahead. We’ll get there.

The whole theory that we could change our path if we truly had free will is first off based on the idea that God would tell us that X,Y, and Z is about to occur in our life. After all, how can we presume to change our ‘fate’ as we call it if we do not know what our ‘first fate’ is? It is also based somewhat on the idea that our foretold fate is foretold based on what MAY happen if we were to continue as we are, but seems to forget to factor in our actions based on the new knowledge of our predestined fate.

Did I lose you there? Stay with me just a little longer:

We have all heard the saying that ‘hindsight is 20/20′ right? But have you have ever played a hand of hold-em poker and folded it only to see your straight flush flop on the board? And you think to yourself ‘damn! I knew it! I should have called!’? Had someone told you with absolute knowledge that you were going to get that straight flush, you most certainly would have called; especially if that someone were God, right? Sure! God knows everything! So had you known, you would have called and won money rather than folded and won nothing, right? Thereby changing your future.

Notice first off that I said your future, not your fate. But before we address that, let’s address God telling you that a straight flush will form on the board. First of all, whether He tells you or not, it’s going to happen. You see that it did even though He didn’t tell you, but if He did and you acted on that knowledge, you would have been just that much richer.

But that is also something up to you to decide: to act on that knowledge. You could trust that you are hearing the God you worship and that He is telling you this and go all in. Or you could second guess God and still fold. One action makes you richer while the other does not. Two different futures, right?

Futures. Again, first off let’s address that idea. Future vs. fate. You would think they are the same right? I would argue they are somewhat different. Your future can change depending on your decisions, whereas your ‘fate’ is just the result of your decisions. Same difference right? Ever heard the saying ’six to one, half dozen of another’? It implies that you are saying the same thing in two different ways. Yet mull on the ideas for a minute:

1. Future: if you make decision a, you will lead to future b. If you make decision b, you lead to future c.
2. Fate: the result of your decision whether it is a, b, or c. What could be translated as then your future, but doesn’t change like your future can.

So now you are going to want to address a fate that doesn’t change. But hold on just a while longer and we’ll get to that too.

Say God told you that you would get a straight flush. And because of that very knowledge, you go all in and you win a big pot that changes your life. You could go on with the rest of your life arguing that armed with only that information alone, you changed your future. But you are missing one HUGE aspect here: the straight flush. Regardless of whether or not God told you it would be, it occurred. Regardless of whether or not you chose to go all in or fold, it occurred. God’s information to you that a straight flush would form on the board was not altered by your actions or foreknowledge.

So you may say that example is dumb. Well excuse me, but if you are allowed to use logic, why can’t I?

Or you may say that what if God said I would never be rich in the future? To which I would say ‘why would He say that if wasn’t true’? To which you may say ‘but if He did, and I called that straight flush, He’d be wrong’. To which I would say ‘but you wouldn’t call it–you already proved that in your initial scenario when you didn’t call it. Furthermore, would you really go all in before the flop if God told you that you won’t be rich in the future? Wouldn’t that knowledge alone make you want to not lose your chips just so you can stick it to Him?’ No matter what way you look at it, God is right. So you may say ‘well what if God told me a straight flush was going to form and I was going to win big, and I decided to fold?’ Human nature dictates that you in all reality would not do such a thing, but if you want to go to the most extreme of hypothetical situations, I would also have to say a few things to that as well:

1. Maybe He didn’t mean you would win big on that hand.
2. I think God is smart enough not to say something that isn’t true. Just because something CAN be said doesn’t mean it WILL be said. Like I said in the beginning, just because something CAN be, doesn’t mean it WILL be.

Thing is, you want to present a situation where a paradox can be created and God can’t win. That’s what you want so you try your best to develop it. Problem is, your scenarios are more extreme and improbable than mine first of all. But second of all, I think He who has absolute knowledge will always be a step ahead of you.

Now let’s get back to moving mountains and a fate that doesn’t change being in conflict with the idea of a free will:

If we can do all things through Christ and move mountains, we should be able to do that which opposes the nature of God. And we should be able to do nothing and still receive the same fate because, after all, if it is not going to change, nothing we do or do not do will change it, right?

First off, you are still going on the assumption that God will tell you what your ‘fate’ is. But let’s assume He does for your argument’s sake. How realistic is it that you will do absolutely nothing for your whole life just to prove God wrong? Not very realistic at all actually. Is it then not possible that the interactions and day to day on goings that you do have will lead to the fate that God foretold? But let’s say you want to contradict me when I say that God would not say it if it were not true and just totally contradict God’s ‘truth’. God tells you that you will be a wealthy husband of two. You then do everything in your power NOT to make money. NOT to get married. NOT to have kids. You have successfully contradicted God. How logical is that again? I mean, because you would voluntarily give up your happiness here just to prove God wrong? Ok. Just checking…moving on then: God wouldn’t say something like that. Plain and simple.

So you are now mad because I’m saying that God wouldn’t say anything along the lines that may support your whack theory, right? But really, who do you think you are? You want to come at me with pure logic and ’sense’ and expect the same in return, but when it gets down to it, you end up making the least amount of sense!

Yet if God told you that you would be a married, wealthy, father, couldn’t you take more than one path to get there? Couldn’t you get married first, have kids, then win the lottery? Couldn’t you build an empire for yourself, get married, then have kids? Couldn’t you save, and save, and save until you are a millionaire and have a family later? Are there not endless possibilities that lead you to that same fate? And aren’t you free to choose which ones you want to utilize?

But you are saying because the end is still the same, the means carry no weight? Why?

Besides the fact that God is outside of time, life is like a movie: No matter how many times you watch it, the scenes never change and the end is always the same. No matter if you would like for there to be a happy ending or not, the movie will always end the same. God has watched our movie over and over; He knows the ending. Just because He does, doesn’t mean we have any less of a role in it. Nor does it mean He has to tell us how it ends!

We keep debating free will and determinism and fate and prophecy based on the idea that some day God is going to tell us what’s up with us–-how our movie is going to play out. But He’s not; in the very least, not in the way we would like it play out.

Take the betrayal of Simon Peter the day Christ was arrested: even having the foreknowledge that he would deny Christ three times before the rooster crowed, he did nothing to stop himself. He didn’t stay in his room all day until the rooster crowed, and he certainly didn’t NOT deny Christ when he had the chance. Yet you may say that because Christ foretold it, he had some sort of control over the opportunities presented to Peter; that he made way for the betrayals by having the situations present themselves as they did. Yet you cannot accept that perhaps He saw this part of the movie before? And was just telling it like he saw it? May have spoiled the movie a bit for you, but just as anyone else spoils a movie for you, did it not come to pass as they said?

Many think of Oedipus Rex as a clear example of fate being devoid of free will–-that they are mutually exclusive (meaning they cannot co-exist), but I contend that there are many paths to the same ending (what we think of as ‘fate’); how you get there is up to you (free will).

2 thoughts on “Oedipus Rex: Are Fate and Free Will Mutually Exclusive?

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