My Jewish Learning

Free Will Quiz

The paradox of human free will and God's infinite knowledge and power has troubled Jewish thinkers at every point in Jewish history. How much do you know about this debate?

Question 1. Who believed that free will doesn't really exist, but human beings need to believe it does?
 Ludwig Wittgenstein
 Yeshayahu Leibowitz


Question 2. True or false: At his famous show-down with Ahab on Mount Carmel, the prophet Elijah insinuates that God purposely led the hearts of the sinning Israelites astray.


Question 3. What is the most significant problem that modern science has contributed to the free will question?
 Science has isolated a single "free will" gene
 Some contemporary scientific thinking attributes much of human behavior to biological and psychological factors
 Chaos theory has shown it is impossible to predict human behavior
 Both science and religion have agreed that free will is a basic factor in the human brain


Question 4. Who said that "everything is foreseen [by God], yet man has the capacity to choose freely"?
 Rabbi Akiba
 Shimon bar Yohai
 Hanina ben Hama


Question 5. Which of these modern scientific advances challenge the Jewish idea of free will?
 Sigmund Freud's suggestion that our behaviors are guided by unconscious drives
 Genetic science about the extent to which our lives and inclinations are programmed into our biological constitution
 Discoveries about organic aspects of our personalities
 A & B only
 All of the above


Question 6. True or false: In antiquity, the different sects in Israel (Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes) all agreed about fate and determinism.


Question 7. What does Abraham Joshua Heschel believe about free will?
 The self does not belong to the physical world, and it possesses and controls the will
 The laws of Judaism reflect a conviction that the human power to choose is weaker than is generally supposed
 Humans have come to look at life as completely predetermined, and they need to free themselves from this view, whether or not it is true
 All of these
 None of these