The fallen nature of man is beholden to nothing but base desires and appetites and passes away as quickly. We who serve Christ are given cessation to those desires and needs, but only the edge of them. Consider, that before Christ, the only real choice an unsaved man can make is the acceptance of Christ or not. Any and all other choices fade with time. Those like the author of His Dark Materials are puppets dancing to their sinful appetites. They do not actually do anything to show free will through their rebellion to God.
The choice between McDonalds and BurgerKing or even between eating at home or eating out can be traced back to previous non-choices and to non-choices before that. The desire to diet isn’t itself a choice, but rather, the decision to overcome your deficiencies because those deficiencies became too much for your subconscious to bear.
To provide an example. If you are driving to work (which is by no means a statement of free will as you will not take the consequence of being fired for not showing up to work to demonstrate free will and you are not about to hike into the forest and live as a wild man) and are hungry, and a McDonalds shows up. Because you have previously associated McDonalds with Fast and Acceptable, you choose it, thanks to the marketing of others. You order from the drive through because, again, you are on your way to work. You eat on the way. Such thing is a matter of expediency, I’m sure. The choice of McDonalds over Burger King or others is meaningless because you are not trying somewhere new.
Even when you try something new it is because you have hit some marker in your subconscious that states you are tired of the same old. The choice to choose different was already made. What is a bit of a coinflip is what restaurant you enter, but if you have had no spicy food in a long time, it is reasonable for a man to choose a place that sells such. Then, simply by looking at ones wallet, ones spending habits, ones taste in restaurant, anyone can pin it down what you might choose with enough information. A man of middle class taste and wallet, but a desire for the familiar, will choose such a restaurant as to be a Mexican chain restaurant, or one his friends have already put into his mind in some conversatoin. A woman saying, “I just HAVE to try something new!” Likely already has what she means in mind and it is because someone she feels a need to emulate or equal has done that thing already. Or even baser, to one up the person who wanted to try that thing by having it first. They are no clockwork automatons, for those would not care about the spice of their food, but the choices they could make are predictable. They do not surprise the omniscient, and, honestly, they do not surprise those who know something of human nature.
When it comes to day to day living, I am utterly unconvinced the average man shows nothing that could be interpreted as free will. You might counter: “But he did not make such and such a choice, but another” The choice to not make a choice is not a part of free will in your day to day life. If you say to me, I could become a serial murderer but I didn’t! I will laugh at you, straw man, for your weak heart is incapable of psychopathy. A psychopath would read this and nod somberly, having already accepted the more extreme version of my thesis.
The only time an unsaved man may make a real choice beyond the mundane life is when the Holy Spirit as Conscience or the Still Small Voice works on him and turns his heart to things above or better. He might be turned aside to give charity. He might give a bigger tip out of pity or because the worker chose to be better than an automaton in his job. He might give an encouraging word instead of looking inward. He might choose Christ!
When the choice of Christ is made, the game changes from 2D to 3D, in a way. Now, you are not choosing along a line of depravity, but rather, the choice of the sublime or the subterranean. Take the choice for those who engage in sexual sin. For the unsaved, unless Love moves them, they are only seeking self-sexual gratification. Or, even baser, the woman seeks to trap the man with a child. The choice not to comes down to self interest, which is predicated on the thousand things you have done before. A habit of screwing club sluts means that you are likely not going to not screw club sluts if given the opportunity, until your subconscious gets tired of the repetition. I have not even gone into those who are ruled by society’s mores! That is simply more of the same, except instead of selfishness, it is based on how much shame or ridicule you can bear in your choices.
BUT! Say you are a Christian. Besides the infinite benefit of not going to hell, you are also given a stronger feeling of right and wrong. Rather than serve selfish interest or the selfish society, you serve Christ, God and the Holy Spirit. If you study, and even if you don’t, you will be given direction of a sort. Not the literal direction, I won’t promise that, but rather, the nudging and guilt that comes with your actions. Because you now know something of right and wrong, it adds depth. God is Holy, and because He is Holy, He has rules. Not the limiting sort of rules, but the rules that comes naturally to a station and to His Nature.
Because He is Holy, He cannot be unHoly. Because He cannot be unHoly, those things that are Holy may be defined by Him. Consider these verse from proverbs 6:
“16 These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”
These things are clear, an early look into the seven deadly sins. I like this better for an example because these are straight actions rather than a concept like ‘greed’. Basically, when you serve God, you have the choice to do these things. You know lying is wrong internally and externally. Internal is the soul and conscience, while the External is society, which teaches guilt and shame for actions and cannot bestow true freedom.
Adam and Eve had been given in the garden the most basic knowledge of good and evil. Twist the words to: “Eating of this tree is evil and will bring evil. It is the only evil thing you can do.” I use evil rather than sinful for clarity, but the words are about the same. Their freewill was binary. They did not have to make the choice, as by not doing it, they were keeping the commandment, and some may think that millions of years may pass between this statement and the snake tempting Eve into changing the binary choice of good to evil without being a heretic.
From them the choices expanded, but they are still binary. There is an insurmountable difference between good and evil. The only choice that matters beyond appetite is salvation, to the unsaved. Nearly every choice falls under a spectrum on whether it is in line with God’s Holiness or not. The unsaved may make a ‘good’ choice, but they never really break the chains of sin that bind them to hell. Consider that Catholic Dante puts the Virtuous Pagans in hell despite their virtue. Virtuous Julius Caesar may have crossed the river Rubicon to reach Rome, but he did not cross the stream called Forgiveness of Sins into the city Salvation.
The Christian may choose his higher nature or lower nature. Gluttony may now be thought of as being more than a way to ruin your good figure. Lying does more than hurt society and your relations with it. Greed is more than hoarding. Each of those things separates us from God. Free will becomes expanded. Now, instead of making choices based on the ‘choices’ that were made before, we can break the cycles of sin and separation from God.
The Pagans and unsaved can choose between non-pleasure and pleasure based to their nature. They can choose to do things that benefit society (good) or they can harm it (evil). But the saved now has that and the Holy Spirit. The formula changes to do those things that is to God’s Nature and His Desires (Good) and those that are against God’s Nature and separates us from Him (Evil).
Those who choose evil, saved or unsaved may be powerful for a time and may seem to exercise free will by defying society, but in reality, they made one choice, and now the choice is continued. But! Their choice is incontinent and barely lasts beyond the lifetime of the doer. Consider Hilary Clinton, her foundation has crumbled. Her dreams are crushed. They are putting up her daughter as if she has even half the ruthlessness her mother had. There is no hope but Christ for her. For her evil, may she be punished now or in the hereafter, as God wills, but let, even at the last breath of her life, she be still given the choice to beg forgiveness for her sins. And she is merely the most famous of the arch-villains of our time.
Counter point are the works of all the saints and the many missionaries. The dividends of the good works of the disciples ripple through society for all believers. The investments of good of the missionaries like James Hudson Taylor still gain great amounts of interest as the Chinese churches are bright lights before God. And he saw so very little of it himself! Those like George Whitefield, John Newton and Jonathan Edwards still shine like torches even after all these years. How many Catholics and others have been reinforced in spirit by the saints who came before?
They chose to serve God and because they chose to serve God, they have gained eternal rewards that shall not pass away from collective human record unless all reality is wiped clean, and not one scrap of their sermons, songs or works remain. Hilary Clinton sees the falling apart and collapse of all she works for in her lifetime, but the man who wrote Amazing Grace still rejoices in heaven with those it brought to salvation for all eternity.
See the difference in scale. See the difference in the use of their free will! See that the works of man fade and the works of God do not and grow greater. It is strange, as if the consequences for things have far reaching effects. As if we are no longer governed by our sinful appetites and given the choice to do more and do better. We can lay entangled in the roots of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, where we sleep matrix style. We can stay in the cave, where men guess at shadows. We can be content in only knowing what Pandora’s Box has left in it, or we can open it up! The knowledge of God and His Holiness is that hope that remained after all evil was released.
Repent, sinners! Embrace free will and save yourselves from Hell through the Blood of Christ Jesus! Rejoice, freedmen! We are not automatons governed by our base natures, but we have the higher and the greater!