I am 39 years old and I have very little grasp of the concepts of free will or free choice. I can understand free will and free choice in a limited sense, for instance if I wake up at 7 am and I am still tired, I have the choice of getting out of bed or going back to sleep. Or if I see someone in a car broken down on the side of the rode, I can choose to stop and help them or keep driving. I can grasp free will and free choice when it comes to everyday options that we are given in the lives that we lead. But did a paraplegic choose to get hit by a drunk driver? Does a woman with breast cancer choose to cause her husband and children great sorrow? Now maybe these last two examples are just referring to things that happen to us that are outside of our control. But if there are things about our lives that totally outside of our control, then does that not somewhat undermine the idea that we have some absolute free will or free choice?
For instance, if a man goes into a Best Buy to buy a television and the saleswoman tells him that she has two TV’s left both of which cost $1000 and so the man buys one of the $1000 television sets. But what the man did not realize was that in the back of the store there were 100 $500 television sets which were of better quality than the $1000 television set which he bought. Did the man have free choice to choose the best television set when he only had a partial amount of the information to make that choice? What are the component parts of free will and free choice in the absolute sense of these words? What has to be present for free will to be present and for free choice to be present.
From the Christian standpoint, the idea that free will is the major reason why most people will spend eternity in hell just seems to test the limits of logic more than any other concept I have ever heard. Going back to the television example, it seems that in order for a true choice to be present an individual must be asked to choose between two courses of action which have known consequences and wherein the consequences are described in detail. Where there is an asymmetry of information, it seems to be that true free will is curtailed by deception. So if an evangelist walks up to two people and says to them, “Jesus is Lord. If you believe in him you will go to heaven but if you reject him you will spend your eternity in hell.” Where is the free choice in that scenario? First of all, what evidence do either of the two people who are hearing the evangelis’ts words have that Jesus exists, let alone that he is Lord. Similarly, how much information does either man have about the nature of heaven or the nature of hell or if these two places truly exist to choose decisively. And without the evidence that Jesus is Lord and without a sense of the nature of hell and heaven and maybe even some idea what it would be like to dwell in them FOREVER, how can either of these two men operate in free will or free choice? It seems that what they are really choosing between is not the scenario at hand, but maybe and rather between whether the scenario at hand is real or just a contrivance. It seems to me that what most converts to Christ experience is not free will or free choice, but the emergence of an awareness that makes them believe that a choice really exists. There is no choice, without an awareness or faith that the choice exists. That is why it is faith and not choice that saves. For once a person really knows the stakes that some Christians present as real are real, then the choice is easy, it is buying into the parameters of that decision set that most people find difficult. For instance, I simply do not believe that our Loving God is going to put anyone in a place of torment forever besides maybe the devil. So I do not believe in the description of the consequences for not choosing Jesus and so in that sense I cannot make an informed decision in that scenario, because I do not accept one of its parameters as true. It seems to me what many evangelical Christians are talking about when they say that many people reject the gospel out of free will, is really a refusal to believe in the veracity of the choices being presented and so they really struggle with a faith problem, not a choice problem. And beyond that even, is evil character a choice, a congenital characteristic, or both? Absolute Free Will and Absolute Free Choice like most notions that try and generalize something beyond its intended limits are in my opinion fallacious fictions that do more to obscure what our lives are really like before a loving God than they do to justify erroneous concepts like eternal hell.