Many today say that humans do not have true free will. They argue that free will is an illusion and our choices are dependent on our biology, circumstances, and randomness. This kind of thinking leads to one place. That no one is really responsible for their actions. So if I was to have all my atoms replaced by that of a murder, then I would be that murder.
This argument is usually based on the idea that we cannot control our thoughts. To have free will over our thoughts is not true. Thoughts just spring up out of nowhere. They just appear. If we had control over this process, then we would have to think whether we wanted to think that thought first right, and that would involve that thought coming from nowhere. Sounds logical enough. And I have to agree that thoughts do spring up in our mind that we seem to have no control of. This view has a number of holes in it however.
Firstly, free will is not the ability to think what we want. It is the ability to choose what we want among the available options that are presented to us. We don’t always choose what we prefer either. Sometimes we choose to do things because we take others into consideration. Sure we cannot control or choose all the options. I cannot choose to go to Mars for example. And yes, I cannot always choose the thoughts that arise in my mind, but when presented with something, I can choose to do the best, mediocre, worst in any situation. Free will is the ability to choose freely and act upon that. I may not have control over the options which may even include thoughts that spring into my mind. But when I choose one thing or another in my mind, then I own or disown the thought.
We see examples of free will every day of our lives. Will I eat here or there. Will I do this or that. Will I ring my friend, watch TV, or do some work. The fact that I can own a thought, choose an option, or act upon a thought is what makes me a conscious entity. My will is perhaps what is uniquely me. My body may be made of recycled atoms, but my will is my own and no one else’s. I am my will.
In scripture we see plenty of examples of men and women who chose God and others who rejected him. We see people choosing good over evil and evil over good. We see good men do bad things and bad people seemingly do good things. We are also taught that we are rewarded by God for good things we do and we are also held responsible for the bad things we do which is why repentance is important. Quite frankly, if we did’t have a free will, then it would be unjust to punish us for mistakes and bad things we do. Why would God hold us responsible for things that we have no control over? Why should God be disappointing with us if he knows we couldn’t have chosen better? I would say the very reason that God holds us responsible for our actions is because he has given us free will. He gives us the ability to align our will with his or to go our own way.
Yeshua of Nazareth so clearly demonstrated this to us when he said in Luke 22:42
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
Video on free will