Getting to the right question took a while. It was a grand process. For some one who is insatiably curious and loves to dive headlong into any subject that stirs my interest (rarely do I find something that doesn’t), the whole idea of “free will” sent me on a merry chase. The debate about whether “free will” exists and if it does, how can it be defined and/or determined has been around for centuries. It has been argued philosophically and theologically. Standard dictionaries define “free will” as voluntary choice or decision; freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention. Within Free Will Baptists’ salvation theory, God grants immediate free grace and resulting free salvation the moment that someone takes Jesus Christ as his/her Lord and personal savior. This free grace instantly assures salvation (based on grace rather than good works) and eternal rest – life eternal – only it seems to come with a potential pitfall: free will. They believe that God has granted them free grace and free salvation provided they use the free will to choose and choose again moment by moment to embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior. They do not believe in “once saved always saved,” so failure to recommit consciously and constantly could result in inadvertently repudiating faith in their Savior.
This delightfully deep topic stirs up a raft of questions: Am I solely an expression of the Divine? Does Spirit in me as me control me? Is there something of me that is in addition to me as a spiritual being? If I spend a lifetime in spiritual journey trying to get me out of the way so that I am fully experiencing the Divine, would I reveal an unfortunate truth that I was just a puppet after all … that free will (volition) was just a delusion. Or is free will simply the power to resist divine wisdom? Are we really free to choose? How much of my thought is guided by spirit within? How much is determined by my fear of perceived consequences? My head is spinng as I ask and attempt to answer, only to unveil more questions. This eddy of questions is rather mind boggling.
Maybe, because I am well enculturated, I have a conscience that points me toward checking in with Spirit within or simply defaulting to my societal mores. My societal standards say I can exercise conditional free will. Osama bin Laden’s societal standards declare that he too was granted conditional free will, however the free will he was empowered to use seems at least at the surface to differ from mine. Whose is right? Remember, Osama like Hitler and many others did not act alone. They were headliners with large followings … people who exercised their free will to follow and perpetrate violence. What prompted or led them in such a direction? If there is only the One (as I believe), then Spiritual Logic would assert that values would apply uniformly to all … wouldn’t it? Are we arrogant or self righteous enough to assume that our enculturation guides us to the will of god and that Osama’s enculturation points away from spirit within? I don’t think so. How can free will, used in opposing directions, all be “sanctioned” by one God? It seems obvious that the use of this enormous power is not being monitored so it would seem that free will really does exist and that we have the ability to use it to cause our own extinction. We have been running amok with free will.
Contrary to many teachings, Spirit does not appear to be a guardian that is there to intervene on our behalf. It does not protect me from me or from my bad choices. It’s not something on the outside that is going to make everything okay. Instead, it is something immeasurably powerful on the inside that enables us to make enormous changes in ourselves and our world. We do have free will which enables us to align with our highest perception of possibilities. We do have free will to envision a world that works for everyone.
Applying Spiritual Logic to this conundrum does not resolve it. it highlights the need to ask some different, I would say better, questions. If, as I believe, we are expressions of the Divine, the question is not whether there is free will, it is how can we use free will to the greatest benefit of the largest portions of Divine Creation? We are assured by various wisdom teachers that there is a power for good in the universe and it is ours to use. By observation we know that that same creative process can be used to bring about chaos. The question again arises: given that free will exists, how are we to use it consciously and consistently to bring forth the greatest possible good? How am I to use this amazing power of choice?