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What is free will?

It is often said that a defining trait of human beings is a free will. One of the things that makes us human is our ability to make choices. My question is what do we mean by saying that this will of ours is free? Our ability to make choices is restricted by a number of factors. for instance, we are limited by the availability of options. We only have a certain number of options from which to choose in any given decision. Our choices are also limited by our intellect. Options of which we are ignorant are not available to us. We can only choose what we know is available to us. We are also limited by our power. We cannot choose to do anything that conflicts with the will of someone more powerful than we are. If the more powerful person has chosen to do something that is in conflict with our choice, his choice will prevail. This is probably why the Bible teaches us to use the simple phrase "if the Lord is willing" when making our decisions. James 4:15 tells us "you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.'" In other words we are only free to do what does not conflict with the will of God. Our will is limited by His "in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways." (Daniel 5:23) It would seem that true freedom of the will belongs to God alone. His options are not limited by intellect nor power. He knows all things and can do all things. He does not answer to anyone, nor can anyone resist His will. "He does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, 'What have you done?'" (Daniel 4:35) Only God has free will. Perhaps we should refer to our will as "human will" or "limited creature will" rather than free. This really would be troubling if God was selfish or cruel, but we have come to know Him as infinitely good, and full of compassion, mercy and grace. Therefore we can eagerly say as our Lord Jesus Christ said, "Not my will, but thine be done."


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