On one hand, theists claim that god gave man free-will and that this omnipotent divinity does not assert its power over ones will and choices (because if it did than one would not have free-will), while on the other hand, some theists simultaneously claim that god answers prayers, performs miracles, and in general, intervenes. I find that these two claims are not compatible. Let’s first define some terms and then look at the relationship between these two claims and what the implications are of an omniscient god intervening in our affairs.
It is considered that a person has free-will if they have the ability to decide to do otherwise in any given situation, that a person exercises control over their actions, decisions, and choices. Theists claim that god gave them this ability and therefore each individual can be held accountable for their actions.
A miracle is considered to be a perceptible interruption of the laws of nature, such that can be explained by divine intervention. Some suggest that God may alter the laws of nature to perform what we perceive as miracles. Divine intervention is characterized as a direct and obvious intervention by a god in the affairs of humans.
The consequences of divine intervention
If a god were to answer prayers, perform miracles, meddle in the affairs of man and nature, alter events that would have otherwise turned out differently had it of not of intervened, the consequences of such interactions are much more far reaching and significant then just a momentary revision of a single event. For every action, there is a reaction. You change one thing, then you have changed the course of all events that follow it. This affects everyone. The change ripples down through causality and eventually affects everyone. For a god to answer a prayer or to perform a miracle, it is not a single change, but a change in everything.
Let’s say a man prays to god that god guide him to successfully hijack and crash a plane into a building in an attempt to kill all the residents of the building and the passengers on the plane. For whatever reason, the man believes the people in the building and on the plane deserve being destroyed. God hears this prayer, agrees, and answers it. God guides this man to successfully hijack a plane and crash it into the building filled with people killing every except for a small fraction of people in the building that managed to escape. Now, while on the plane, the hijacker makes it known that god is guiding him even though it is totally against the will of the people on the plane, the people in the building, the flight attendants, the pilots, etc… and anyone else that doesn’t want the plane to hijacked, crashed into the buildings, and lives lost. Despite their best efforts to stop the hijacker, he succeeds.
The victims free-will has been compromised because god has intervened and anything otherwise then this divine intervention cannot be freely-willed away. In the homeland of the hijacker, people celebrate this event as a miracle crediting god for their victory. In the land where the building was located, locals similarly consider a miracle has occurred, that a few survived. Unbeknownst to them, the survivors was no miracle due to the hand of divine intervention, but a “miracle” by a different definition. Yet, curiously, the locals still credit god for the survivors yet do not credit god for the deaths of the victims and pains that follow.
The event changes the world forever. It changes the course of all events and lives that follow the event. Security is increased, the hijackers homeland invaded, people frightened, sad, and paranoid. These are not actions freely-will, but determined through the causal chain caused by the will of a god that made a single intervention that has eternal consequences. Nobody could have willed the events any other way, nor do they have free-will over the chain of events that forever follow.
Free-will cannot be had with divine intervention. As there can be no single narrow change in an intervention, everything and everyone must be changed. With these interventions, the divinity asserts its power over the will of men. So how is it that a theist can claim to have free-will and suggest that divine intervention occurs without addressing this contradiction? I suspect there is a lack of understanding of causality and its implications. While I can argue against the concept of free-will even without the idea of divine intervention, this was targeted towards these specific theist claims that also do not support the idea of free-will.