Fate vs. Freewill: Did Jesus have a Choice?

300px-Buddy_christThe fate vs. freewill discussion always fascinated me, it was one of the few discussions I enjoyed in my high school English class, and I was quite curious how it applied to Biblical lore: Adam and Eve had a choice to disobey God – I always found that poorly planned on God’s part, but that is a post for a different day.

I was an inquisitive child. My father encouraged my questioning and actively encouraged me to read and question, particularly when it came to religious matters. I was given free reign to read whatever I could get my hands on, and took similar liberties with my parents collection of records.

For whatever reason my father had the 4-record set of Jesus Christ Superstar which I listened to (loudly) in the living room until my parents got me the two-CD set so I could listen to it in my room and not disrupt the entire house.

Being the Good Little Sunday School attendee that I was, I was reasonably versed in the Jesus story: the Old Testament tales that foretold of his coming, the virgin birth (which still makes me uncomfortable), his mission, healing, teaching and the last supper, betrayal, crucifixion and resurrection.

Questions in Sunday School where all the grades are in one big, echoing room, are dangerous things, particularly when I was the one asking them. So when a 1970s rock-opera made me question the official Jesus story my Sunday School teachers were less than thrilled.

What was this awful question I was asking? I thought it was simple:

Did Jesus have a choice?

My Sunday School teachers were not really prepared for this question, nor did they ever have an adequate answer. It brought up more questions:

  • Is Jesus simply a very inspired man? Is Jesus actually God in human form?
  • If Jesus did not have a choice, what does that say about God’s need for a human sacrifice, and God’s role as loving Mother/Father?
  • If Jesus did not have a choice then what about us? Do we truly have free-will or is everything ore-ordained by some Divine plan?
  • If this is all simply the “Adam dream” as Ms. Eddy refers to it, than what does it matter? Jesus was no more real than the table we were sitting around, and it is all an allegorical story.

The line of questioning about Man/God and fate vs. free will usually caused the Sunday School teachers to panic and have the Sunday School Superintendent come over to “talk” with me about the need to “stay on topic.” On topic meant whatever was in that week’s Bible Lesson, or worse, going over the 10 commandments again.

I was rather upset, in my secular English lit classes we could talk about Fate vs. Freewill in the context of literature, why was it frowned upon in my Sunday School class where we were supposed to be learning about the Nature of  and our relationship with the Omnipotent Mother/Father God?

Occasionally one would say something about the need to “fulfill the prophecy” or that JC needed to “die to prove that death was an illusion.” Prophecy fulfillment brings back the free-will/predetermined issues, and “death is an illusion” doesn’t really answer the question. I agree, nothing is lost when we die, our energy remains, albeit in a very disorganized form, but “death is an illusion” is side-stepping the question.

One Sunday School teacher finally asked me “does it matter [if Jesus had a choice]?

If you’re using Jesus’ death and resurrection as one of the key features of a religion I think it makes a difference.

*The scene that made me question the most comes from the garden at Gethsemane where Jesus questions if he really has options, God says nothing, and Jesus resigns himself to his fate – lyrics in full under the cut

I Only Want To Say (gethsemane) :

[In the garden at Gethesmane]
I only want to say
If there is a way
Take this cup away from me
For I don’t want to taste its poison
Feel it burn me,
I have changed I’m not as sure
As when we started
Then I was inspired
Now I’m sad and tired
Listen surely I’ve exceeded
Tried for three years
Seems like thirty
Could you ask as much
From any other man?But if I die
See the saga through
And do the things you ask of me
Let them hate me, hit me, hurt me
Nail me to their tree
I’d want to know
I’d want to know my God
I’d want to know
I’d want to know my God
I’d want to see
I’d want to see my God
I’d want to see
I’d want to see my God
Why I should die
Would I be more noticed
Than I ever was before?
Would the things I’ve said and done
Matter any more?
I’d have to know
I’d have to know my Lord
I’d have to know
I’d have to know my Lord
I’d have to see
I’d have to see my Lord
I’d have to see
I’d have to see my LordIf I die what will be my reward?
If I die what will be my reward?
I’d have to know
I’d have to know my Lord
I’d have to know
I’d have to know my LordWhy, why should I die?
Oh, why should I die?
Can you show me now
That I would not be killed in vain?
Show me just a little
Of your omnipresent brain
Show me there’s a reason
For your wanting me to die
You’re far too keen on where and how
But not so hot on why
Alright I’ll die!
Just watch me die!
See how, see how I die!
Oh, just watch me die!Then I was inspired
Now I’m sad and tired
After all I’ve tried for three years
Seems like ninety
Why then am I scared
To finish what I started
What you started
I didn’t start it
God thy will is hard
But you hold every card
I will drink your cup of poison
Nail me to your cross and break me
Bleed me, beat me
Kill me, take me now
Before I change my mind

Photo credit: Buddy Christ via wikipedia

3 thoughts on “Fate vs. Freewill: Did Jesus have a Choice?

  1. Perspective Collector says:

    I’m fascinated by this question too and will probably write a post about it. I can’t believe people are so hostile to questions. I’ve heard a range of views, and it’s all very interesting. One person I know said that he didn’t have a choice, but it didn’t make his life any less amazing, because he still agonized over everything. Whereas humans tend to agonize then give in too easily because it’s too much for them, Jesus agonized more than any other human because he couldn’t give in. I’m not sure if I agree with this view at all, but it makes me think – and that’s what I love.
    And that song, my goodness, the vocal range is amazing. I saw the latest one with Ben Forster or whatever his name is and he reached some killer high notes.

    • kat @ kindism says:

      I can’t believe people are so hostile to questions.

      Most of my questions were seen as subversive and an attempt to undermine the authority of the Sunday School teacher… to some extent they were probably right, but if you can’t hold your own with a high school student you probably shouldn’t be teaching Sunday School. Also, Jesus is sort of important in the whole Christian-religion-thing, so I think it makes a difference.

      • Perspective Collector says:

        Actually to an extent, yes, a teacher should be able to hold their own, but I also like to think of teachers learning from their students no matter what their age. And for students to learn from other students. That’s really great teaching. Questions help to facilitate learning and should always be encouraged.

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