Do the slaves of God have free will?
Not an easy question and perhaps not the important question.
Seminaries are full of students and professors who spend hours debating the writings of Augustine and Pelagius on the question of whether man has free will, the free will to choose salvation. But in the end, I have observed that no one ever convinces another to change his mind, so much for the logic of philosophers and the Biblical texts proofs of theologians.
Perhaps the more important question for the Followers-of-Jesus is this: what is the extent and limit of our free will?
Our free will has limits.
Regardless of where we stand on the issue of free will, we can likely all agree that free will has some obvious limits. Our free will is limited by our genes, our time and our space environment, as well as, the actions of others.
We can choose whether to wear the red dress or the blue dress, but we can’t choose to be pretty. We can choose whether to cover our mouths when we cough, but if we get a common cold, we can’t choose to make it go away in a day. We can choose to live in peace with all men, but if we live in a land torn by war and famine, we cannot choose to be safe and well fed.
Acting within our free will has unavoidable consequences.
Our free will also appears to have unavoidable consequences. We can make a free will choice to consume crack cocaine, but if we do, we cannot choose to avoid addiction. We may have the free will not to study for a final examination, and we may have the free will to live a life of dissipation. But in either case there are consequences. Try as we might, we can do little to change the consequences of our free will actions. Stated differently, we may have the free will to act, but once the free will action is taken, the resulting consequences are outside of our control.
A good heart and an empty head are no excuse to unavoidable consequences.
Will an erroneous intent or the lack of knowledge excuse the unavoidable consequences of our free will choices? No, unavoidable consequences are just that, unavoidable. A child who plays with matches may have neither the intent nor the knowledge, yet he will get burnt just the same. All of which to say, once we take an action, there are no excuses, defenses, or exemptions that will protect us from the unavoidable consequences of such an action.
Simply being human has unavoidable consequences.
We are men and women under the curse of Adam. We are not free to live forever. As Followers-of-Jesus, we are not free from the Judgment Seat of Christ. And, we are not free to change the plans of God the Father.