Free will is the power of making choices that are unconstrained by external
circumstances by an agency or divine will or fate. Generally there are 3 main
views in response to free will; hard determinism, soft determinism and
libertarianism. Hard determinism rejects free will, soft determinism means
some of our actions are determined but we have free will to choose with them
what we want, libertarianism accepts free will and responsibility.
Traditional Christian view is that humans are autonomous agents and are responsible for their actions.
In Genesis, Adam and Eve exercise free will in choosing to eat the forbidden fruit, God did not order
them or instruct them to, with a lack of knowledge they themselves decided what to do. Many Christians
suggests that we are free to choose good or evil and that this is an important part of our human dignity.
Therefore humans are made in the image and likeness of God but it is up to each human to accept
God's invitation in a living Christ existence. If we do this we have freely accepted God's grace.
THE THREE SAINTS
St. Augustine of Hippo disagreed. He believed that because of the fall of man, humans were no
longer free to choose between good and evil. For humans to choose to do the good, he thought
they must behold God's grace. In his theology of the fall he thought the story was the literal truth
and his entire philosophy of salvation, grace and evil stem from it. One of the central tenents
was that man was created to be immortal, and that 'morality might have been swallowed by life'.
His overall view was that free will was given by God and you can choose to do evil with it but it
wouldn't morally be your fault because everyone is born with sin inherited from Adam. When
people choose to do the right thing, he believes this is God saving them from the sin.
On the contrary to St Augustine, St Pelagius believed the fall was a good thing. He didn't
think that human free will was damaged by the fall and did not think that original sin was
inherited from Adam. He thought human beings were created mortal, death being a natural
process, thus it was not Adam's sin that caused death, rather death is a natural cause of the
world God created. Therefore humans were completely responsible for their actions and
their free will remained making them not damaged by the fall, but in actual fact gain freedom
to achieve salvation. He thought it was our own efforts that gained us a place in heaven and
we must strive to be so good that when we use free will we choose to do the good things
and become good people.
St Ireneaus saw God's creation as good but incomplete, humans were made in
God's image but not in his likeness and so must grow into his likeness during the
course of a lifetime. This is why humans are given free will so they can grow to
make choices that reflect God and allow us to be closer to him.
Hindus believe in karma which indicates humans have free will. Karma is not fate, for they act with what can
be described as a conditioned free will creating their own destiny. They believe the self-determinism and
accountability of the individual soul rests on its capacity for free choice, this is exercised only in the human
form. Whilst in the lower species such as animals, that atman takes no moral decisions but instead is bound
by instinct. Therefore, all species of life are subject to the reactions of past activities, such karma is generated
only in the human form. According to Madhva, one of the Hindu Gods, although he has control, he does not
interfere with mans free will; although he is omnipotent does not mean he engages in extraordinary feats. They
think God enforces a rule of law and gives them freedom to follow their own nature.
Predestination is every divine decree by which God has
appointed and ordained from eternity, all events occuring
in time, especially those which directly proceed from or
at least are influenced by mans free will. St. Augustine
believed each man could be saved by the grace of God
and that 'heaven' stands for the whole spiritual creation.
The Catholic Church considers his view to be consistent
with free will. He often said that anyone can be saved if
they wish. While God knows who will be saved and who
won't be, with no possibility that one destined may be
lost, this knowledge represents God's perfect knowledge
of how humans will freely choose their destinies.