Free Will

The idea of free will is complicated. On the most fundamental level, it is easy to consider our lives are either predetermined or we have free will. The idea that the future…..our future….is predestined eliminates any real responsibility to make “good choices”. If we are simply going to end up in the same place, what we choose is irrelevant, right? I ABSOLUTELY challenge this notion of determinism.

It is Easter weekend and as a Christian, I am celebrating the Risen Lord. The Promise of salvation….my salvation…. through my faith in Him. But, the promise is not simply the hereafter and all of Heaven’s perfection. If, in this earthly world, I CHOOSE to live my life a particular way…..I gain grace in this life. I obtain a sliver of peace in this earthly place.

Anyone who reads Realisa often enough knows I pray a Rosary. At the end of the Rosary, there is a prayer, added in the Jubilee Year.

Let us pray, O GOD, whose only begotten Son, by His life, death and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life, grant, we beseech Thee, that meditating upon these mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Free will. I choose to imitate. I seek to obtain.

And God is prepared for our free will, even our errant choices. He knows before we know. This is the dilemma of this discourse. Philosophers, mathematicians and scientists agree that free will can exist within determinism. I think of Christ’s warning at the Last Supper. He knows he will be betrayed, he knows he will be denied. Yet, Judas chose greed over what was Right. Peter denied His Lord….three times. He acted freely. Despite Peter’s shameful choice, God builds his church on him. We are permitted…maybe even encouraged, to act freely, speak freely, fall.

What God is really looking for is how we get back up.

I am reading a series of books by Terry Goodkind. The Sword of Truth series has the constant theme of prophecy (predeterminism) chafing up against free will. Slaves have no freedom. An elegant argument is made that to surrender your free will is inherently wrong and offends the Creator. There are characters, “good guys”, that in their misguided devotion to the Creator, expect the hero of the book to surrender to Prophecy and stop acting upon his own will. So many leaders (both religious and political) throw down this same argument. But at the heart of the Christian doctrine and also at the heart of my country’s Constitution is the fundamental idea that we choose our belief. Liberty. We get baptized in the river and call upon the Holy Spirit. We ask for Him. Once we are part of his remnant, then we have to continually make good choices.

It is not easy. It is also not very easy to see how another person’s choices make sense. It is easy to judge and to condemn. But I think God continually lays opportunity in our path to assist us in getting back on track. Corrective actions. Those opportunities can be minute, like holding a new born baby and suddenly realizing the wonder of life. They can leave us fear stricken, like an earthquake or horrific car crash. They can be shame, like addiction or pornography. But…..if we have Grace in our heart….the voice of reason and love still speaks to us.

Do we turn toward that voice or shun it?

This is why I know, without doubt, that adversity serves purpose. I do not fear death or dying but I do cringe when I can clearly see a storm approaching. When I know adversity has gathered into a storm, I must prepare. I do not flee the advance. Running exhausts me. Hiding means I accept I am a slave and without free will.  Preparation and resignation that no storm lasts forever is how I face reality. And out of the storm comes new life and new hope. Granted, that new hope may be surrounded by death, destruction and mayhem, but there IS hope. I must simple look upon it and take refuge.

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