Thomas Merton on Free Will

Motivation at a low in recent days.

I’ve spent the last week working on a passion project; A typographic animation of a lecture by Thomas Merton on Free Will.

I posed a theological dilemma to our parish deacon a few days ago. In tongue and cheek I asked him how someone could be held accountable for his or her actions if that person was brought up in an environment that provided more opportunities to choose a life of gangsterism than opportunities for education and employment. Who’s to say that person would have turned out the same if he was given the same opportunities and privileges that I have had in my life?

He replied by asking me how Cain new it was wrong to kill Abel. In the moment I didn’t have an answer. How did Cain know it was wrong to kill Abel? He was essentially the first murderer and he had no “preconception” of right and wrong. After a bit of thought, the answer seems to be that Cain had the knowledge of what is right and wrong already written in his heart. We know he knew he had done wrong when God questions him he responds, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”. Having God’s law written on his heart may not be the most satisfactory answer but when I think of someone born into a situation where gangsterism seems like an appealing life choice, that’s the key: It is still a choice. A harder one than any I’ve had to face, but a choice nonetheless. Does God take that into account?

I’d like to believe that.



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