Last week I wrote a bit about free will and now I want to do so a little more. Specifically, I want to talk about the nature of choice.
Choice is a tricky beast, partly because it is a holistic process. The Nature vs Nurture camps can debate all they want but as far as I’m concerned the issue is settled, neither nature nor nurture can be said to reign supreme in shaping our lives (though Proverbs 22:6 does give a big nod to the effectiveness of appropriate nurture). We are as far as I can tell composite creatures, shaped by father Adam’s sin and the sin of our immediate fathers, shaped by upbringing, by knowledge and by experience, by things both physical and spiritual. We are shaped by all of these things, and coupled with the specific circumstances from moment to moment we approach every decision in our lives. And we do not possess the ability to separate these things from who we are and how we choose.
The problem is, if you accept this, then God must walk a very careful line of interacting with us, lest He tip our scales one way or another. In fact, if one were to take this seriously, the list of areas where God would not be allowed to exert His will would be incredibly large. And if He did choose to act, He would have to nudge us back towards perdition every time He did something that pushed us in the direction of redemption, lest He be accused of making our choices for us.
And this leads us to the problem of understanding the nature of choosing. How much chance has to exist that a person will choose either option for it to be properly called a choice? We know that all decisions aren’t 50/50. We know that there are many days that given the choice to live or die (and don’t we almost always have that option) there would be no thought involved, our choice is already made. “But I could have chosen death,” you say, “if I had really wanted to.” But isn’t that part of a choice? Yes, we choose what we want, but many little somethings have gone into making us into the sort of person that wants some specific thing. And how many of those little somethings bear the mark of the work of God? None? One or two? All of them?
I’m not trying to say there is no such thing as free will. I’m trying to say that we have defined it in such a way that it cannot exist with a God who wants to do any specific thing. It cannot co-exist the way we have defined it with a passage such as Romans 9.
Does that make sense?