The free will/determinism debate is central to my sense of self and any real notion of moral accountability or salvation by Faithand surrender to our Maker’s Divine Will. If all is predestined, moral accountability makes no sense. Freedom only makes sense in a world where Man is left some discretion even in the face of determinate epistemeological factors. For this reason, before we can claim to be moral, we need to achieve some understanding of the bounds and nature of the free will-determinism debate.

This said, the genesis of any perceived problem in the concepts of free will or determinism is rooted in our human frailty and epistemological blindspots. In other words, there are things that we simply cannot know because of our limited human disposition. It is also likely the case that God has limited our perception in order that we might be able to demonstrate a responsible stewardship over the gifts He has given to us. There is also an inherent problem of the inaccessibility to a language adequate to describing the subtle truths that we do claim know. Even so, Martin Luther, came extraordinarily close to giving a good description of what the problem with free will really amounts to.

Luther essentially upheld a loose doctrine of predestination. He was logically bound to accept this position since he believed that faith is a gift from God that cannot be derived from the human condition ab initio. For Luther, the human condition is inseparably bound to sin. Paradoxically, however, Luther did feel that Christians were truly free in the earthly world since they are spiritually bound to serve no worldly leaders.Any possibility for free will must exist at the level of one’s spiritual attitude toward their human condition and existence.

Luther’s position is naturally consistent with his opposition to salvation by works since indulgences and works are, by their very definitions, voluntary acts of the will and subject to weighing by the scales of moral accountability. Indeed, the importance of the acts of the will were made the subject of the Bull of Pope Leo X at item numbers 4, 5, 9-14, 17-22, and 31-32.

Indeed, Catholicism, EasternOrthodoxy, and similar frameworks rely on the notion that we choose to act toward our salvation and that condemnation comes through the voluntary decision to disavow a commitment toward good acts. The sacrament of confession furthers the belief in freedom of the will by encouraging the idea that priests can voluntarily participate in the absolution of sin and can voluntarily control the contrition process.

In many ways, Luther forcefully took away the free will of both priest and penitent. No longer could either justify themselves before God: God would have to justify them before any act, however great or minimal, would be ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ “Since then works justify no man, but a man must be justified before he can do any good work.”

Naturally, the above theological dilemma leaves one to ponder several key issues. They are as follows:

• If God predetermines everything, can He or does He therefore participate in the process of evil to the extent that He knows of every evil act before its commission?

• Can God be held to a moral accountability for that which He created?

• Is each person condemned to predetermined selection to the ranks of those who are to go to heaven or hell? In simple terms, are we all unknowingly labeled as being bound for heaven or hell?

• Does our Maker’s omniscience completely preclude any substantive notion of human free will? How can one make any meaningful deliberate and free choice where our choice is already known by a higher being?

• Can God exist in a state of scientia media or does his omnipotence require a state of static scientia visionis? Do both God and Man possess and regularly utilize simple intelligence (awareness of possibility / simplex intelligentia) to the exclusion of higher forms of omniscience or knowledge?

• How can we be held accountable for moral decisions where we have been given no choice as to the ultimate/known outcome of our worldly existence?

• Is the Divine Will of God mutable by human choice? In other words, can the omnibenevolence of God in the act of creation and its aftermath be simply overcome by man’s simple will?

• Can faith be a voluntary act of Man by which moral accountability might begin?

• Can Satan have a meaningful existence where Man has no freedom of the will? What purpose could evil have if all is done and said in the omniscience and infallibility of our Maker?

• Most importantly, is Faith a surrender of the will for a higher liberty afforded by the Grace of God?

Simply, free will is a highly elusive concept that defies pragmatic, material or spiritual explanation.

Firstly, to the extent that we are caused by something other than ourselves, free will can only be an involuntary effect or happenstance. True freedom would have to exist separate from its cause or origin. We did not choose to have free will and thus cannot claim to have any objective understanding of it, assuming that such a thing existed.

Secondly, most of our actions are inexplicable and it would be arrogant for us to take credit for whatever thoughts or actions we might take. Any true choice assumes the existence of deliberation. If something has been deliberated, the deliberative process can be remembered and reiterated. Most of us cannot explain our actions, words or beliefs by reference to conscious deliberation. In any instance where we cannot explain our actions, we are hardly in a position to make a claim of human volition as a motivator or primary cause.

Thirdly, a material or atomistic view of the world compels one to the belief in determinism. Seemingly, free will cannot be derived from the workings of individual atoms no matter how complex their arrangement with each other. Even if free will could be the byproduct of our biological/atomic composition, we are still not free from the fact that we could not have chosen it. As such, freedom is clearly bounded at best and cannot be attributable to human origin or derivation.

Lastly, just because we may be able to imagine the existence of free will (i.e. God’s Will) we cannot lay claim to true freedom for ourselves for the foregoing reasons. Our ability to envision a state of being is simply not the same as being able to possess it. Our human limitations are so obvious that it, again, seems arrogant that we should even remotely believe that we are free.

In sum, in order to make sense of whether or not humans have free will, the only possible source of an answer comes from thinking about that which must have created us. In other words, coming to understand moral accountability can only be derived through contemplation of the source of our morality. God is the source of all morality and Faith is the only way by which any man can come to knowledge of what is right and wrong.

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