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Monday, March 13, 2006

Free Will is on the wane: US Soldier's rape sentence cut due to Iraq stress

So do we have free will or not? Are humans truly capable of making their own destiny? This is obviously a very complicated topic that theologians and philosophers have grappled with for ages.

Our society is now grappling with this issue and strangely enough, the side of determinism seems to be winning.

For almost 200 years, Western society has stood strongly for the idea of free will. The very concepts of democracy and capitalism are inextricably connected to free will.

Yet over the past twenty to thirty years, the pendulum has shifted.

This article on CNN.com last week illuminated the current state of this debate. Last week, a US soldier in Italy was given a lighter sentence in the rape of a Nigerian woman in Italy. The reason given for the lighter sentence was that this soldier has experience such trauma in action in Iraq. In other words, because this soldier had undergone such a traumatic experience, he should no longer be held accountable for his actions because he cannot help himself.

Is there not a huge cognitive dissonance in the mind of the post-modern? On one hand our society constantly affirms the ability for people to make their own choices, to make their own lives, and that nothing but their own will determines them? Yet we constantly see this line of thought rejected, particularly in issues of justice.

Fortunately Christianity gives us a way to start thinking through this apparent paradox. St. Paul gives voice to our dissonance, not only as a society but individually:
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. (Romans 7:15-20)

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