Philosophers, theologians, geneticists, psychologists, fatalists and consequentialists, and other such ‘luminaries’ have argued about the existence of free-will since time began (that is time as a human invention!).
Now, I believe in free-will. I find it difficult to conceive a God, who Scripture defines in terms of love, limiting the objects of His love to that which is predestined. This would, in my mind, leave us as subjects, in the worse sense of the word, of something other than love. But, I am getting off my point……….
Because, my biggest concern within the free-will debate is not whether free-will is something with which we are imbibed but an excessive emphasis on the idea of ‘will.’
Will, it seems to me, is a highly individualistic word, it also implies that only that for which we truly strive is worth having. Another danger is the implication that through sheer effort, or psychological manipulation, we can become masters of our own destiny, creating our own preferred world, where …. doesn’t happen, (well it does, and we can’t). One final danger is that of ethical and moral relativism; if a given choice is the consequence of my free-will then it must be okay, whatever the consequences on others. We must always remember that free-will, just like democracy (the political manifestation of free-will) is perfectly capable of willing bad, appalling even, results. Will and grace frequently appear at odds with each other.
So my main concerns are not the extent to which free will truly exists but, rather, what is the point (or in philosophical terms telos) of our God-given free will and, the practices by which we can ensure that our free-will achieves its stated desire.
The stated desire, for a Christian, is not and cannot be self-expression, or the ‘right’ to accrue ever more exotic spiritual experiences (see 1 Corinthians 13 where St. Paul nails this point). Instead the aim of our desire must be perfection and union with God, Matthew 5, 48 makes this abundantly clear: ‘Be perfect just as your Heavenly Father is perfect.’ The manifestation of free-will is the beatitudes, (Matthew 5, 1-10). We are called by God, to use our free-will to literally be-those-attitudes (not simply to aspire to them.)
The prophet Micah urges the faithful to do:
‘Only this (so let’s stop adding further stuff on top), to do what is right, to love loyalty and to walk humbly WITH (NOT SIMPLY ALONGSIDE BUT IN PERFECT UNION WITH) your God.’ If we are not doing this (back to St. Paul 1 Corinthians 13) everything we do will be simply noise; it might sound holy (and many noisy / lively churches do), but……
So how do we get to the point where are free-will is brought back, directly in alignment with His, free will, for this is our calling?
I don’t know the full answer! But, I suspect that one things we must do is to sit quietly with God, allowing ourselves to be restored, by the Holy Spirit. Restoration is after all a great act of love and, in the physical world the objects of restoration remain passive (think of antiques or classic cars.) So too with us. We must sit passively before the Great Restorer, allowing ourselves to be restored through Grace. This may be the work of a lifetime but in doing so we might just allow ourselves to become a small part of the answer to the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Thy will be done, thy kingdom come on earth as in heaven.’
Are you allowing yourself to be a restoration project?