Free Choice vs Free Will

(Kenny) #1

First and foremost, a big thanks for RZ for availing us to so many good resources (especially the online videos), so that the tough questions can be answered.

So I recently came across a question which I have issue addressing, and I was hoping maybe to get additional insights from others on this. A slight disclaimer is that I am not an academic in theology, and this is coming from a POV where my friend and I belong to a non-denominational church (which is more inclined towards protestant teachings).

This topic is not exactly the question of free will vs determinism (there are so many great resources online on this already), but a slight derivation from it.

My friend recently shared that he does not believe that human beings have free will, but instead free choice instead. To break it down further, free will is defined as being able to do whatever you want, unconfined by the limits of choice. Free choice is defined as the liberty to decide amongst a set number of choices presented to you. The constraint has been pre-determined from the start.

Biblical supports include:
1) For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)
2) We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

Despite it seeming semantics in nature, we both agree that it is crucial in better understanding this area so that we can present it more accurately.

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So to share a little about how the conversation went:

  • I felt that the fact that free choice is in a degree, leaning more towards determinism, that it will thus have the same flaws as determinism (self defeating, unable to make a truth claim, question of where morality comes from).

  • My friend felt that it was still a form of freedom nonetheless.

  • I shared that if I am given A and B, and choose C, then I would have selected outside of what has been determined.

  • His claim is that C would’ve been considered as one of the choices provided from the start.

  • I then added that the options were defined from the start when offered, and then the person can choose outside of these choices.

  • The reply was that, God with his infinite capacity would be able to cover the list of options available, but with our limited capacity, we are only able to think of some of the options (which will still fall into the category of constraints in choices).

  • So from there I shared that such a train of thought (without knowing what limit has been set in choices) isn’t that much different from having full reins, but my friend felt that it is not a strong enough case.

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So I believe the framework to be:
Highest Level - God - Free Will
Mid Level - God’s perception to Man - Pre-Determined
Lowest Level - Man - Free Will

But he feels that the framework should be:
Highest Level - God - Free Will
Mid Level - God’s perception to Man - Pre-Determined
Lowest Level - Man - Free Choice

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2 examples he gave me was:

1) In the garden of eden, if Adam wanted to eat Eve instead of the apple, isn’t it impossible?

2) If man wills to become God, is it possible?

His standpoint is that man can think it, but he cannot will it, and it is not within the set of choices given to him.

I am still leaning towards man having free will, but to be fair, his argument sounds justified as well. I am not sure if there is something I am overlooking, and hope that the community can help point me in the right direction. :slight_smile:

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Ask Alex Stark (March 25-29, 2019)
(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #2

Hello @Kyrie

This is an ongoing debate that I’ve had trouble with understanding. Currently I’m an agnostic on this issue but here are a few links that have helped my understanding of this issue:

These links come from different angles that I hope will be helpful

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(Russell Stewart) #3

Hey Kyrie,

It’s great to hear that you and your friend are discussing Biblical issues. Gotta admit though, it doesn’t sound simple to understand. In 2 Cor. 11:3, the Apostle Paul corrects the Church there in Corinth because they were being diverted away from the “simplicity” which is in Christ Jesus. I have adopted the philosophy that if Salvation becomes too difficult for a child to grasp, then we made it too difficult. I find the simplest answer to be the one I can find in the scriptures. Concerning “will”, I see the mention of only 2 kinds of will. Self will and God’s will. Lucifer exercised self will over God’s will 5 times. Adam excecised self willmover God’s will with similar results. Jesus excercised God’s will over His own will when He prayed in the Garden, “NOT my will, but Thine be done.” Super simple. If self will is excercised, it enslaves us to our own desires which means we don’t have free will but enslaved will. If God’s will is exercised, then we operate in power over our own desires and choose submission to God over what we may want. That’s true freedom of choice. Yielding to self will is slavery to self. Yielding to God’s will is dominion and freedom from self. Nuff said.

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(Kenny) #4

Thanks @O_wretched_man and @Kahu.

Just thought I share the reply by Alex Stark from RZIM:

2 Likes
(Robert Anderson) #5

Very interesting. I think however that freedom does require limitation. If we had no limits whatsoever, we might be free from all constraints but we would not be free to do anything. Think of an astronaut. He might be tethered to his spaceship but because of this first limit, he is free to float around the ship and do what he needs to do. But say he was a complete anarchist and hated all limitation. He might cut his tether loose to free himself from all bondage and free float through space, but would he really be free? In fact, he’d probably desire the limits of earth so he could be free to live his life.

So to your friends point, I do think we have constraints and freedom to make choices but I don’t see those constraints as binding but rather freeing. In the same way, God gives us rules and boundaries, not so we can be enslaved, but so we can live free.

“If you abide in my word you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31

Not sure if that answers your question but just my first thoughts.

1 Like
(LaTricia) #6

I really like this question. This is something that’s been discussed by at least a couple of people that I really respect from my life outside of the internet.

I am of the mind that we have free choice or freedom to choose from a plethora of options. Free will implies that there’s nothing to impact our will - including preferences when we make decisions. There are a plethora of options we choose from daily, but from the moment of birth, we have stimuli that informs our preferences and choices multiple times everyday.

Also, the way that will is being used in the examples of your friend there seems to be two different matters being addressed in the way that the word will is being used. In the first example, it is being used in regards to choices - Adam could have chosen to eat Eve instead of the apple. However in the second example if man can will to become God is a matter of power to make a thing happen which is a different and speaks to the power that man possesses to make a thing happen after a decision has been made.

In the case of the second example, it’s true, man can think it but not be able to will it because he doesn’t innately possess the power to make it happen. In the case of the first example, a choice can be made, but because of any number of reasons, even if the power and means are present doesn’t mean that one will follow through on that decision for any number of reasons that influences the final choice to follow through initial decision or not. It may seem like semantics in a way, but I don’t think it is, maybe the line dividing the two is finer.

To reiterate, the human will isn’t “free” as we like to think it is because of the multitude of influences that have informed it since the day we entered the world. It’s been shaped through experiences that have created a set of preferences and dislikes all along. However even in that, we do have the freedom of choice which plays a part in how we move forward in the world, especially in regards to operating from a salvation standpoint. We either make choices that support and nurture the process of sanctification or we make choices that leave us immature in our salvation.