Published by Worldview Publications
October 2010 

“Ye Shall Be Free Indeed”1

“Free will” is traditionally defined as “the power or discretion to choose . . . [and that] man’s choices ultimately are or can be voluntary, and not determined by external causes.”2

For centuries scholars have vigorously debated the concept of human “free will.” On one hand, some have claimed that God willfully predetermined all that Creation and, particularly, mankind would actually do. Furthermore, they have contended that God willfully predestined certain created beings to live eternally and others to forever suffer or die. On the other hand, some scholars have believed that all human beings are endowed with “free will” apart from God’s intervention, so that human decision and destiny are entirely self-determined.

The History of “Free Will”

When God decided to create the universe out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo),3 his own free will was limited, for he necessarily had to create by command, possession and power (Psalm 33:9).4 Although God granted Creation “free process” — which led to natural disasters, disease, predatory violence and death — Creation was devoid of consciousness and therefore incapable of free will. Even when God gave human beings self-consciousness about the time of David (ca. 1,000 BCE),5 the world continued to be ruled by command, possession and power. Thus, mankind either dominated or submitted to “others.”

When God became incarnate as Jesus Christ, he constituted the Corporate Person who represented all humanity.6 He then accepted the consequences of command, possession and power.7 Though he freely and willingly took these to Calvary and to death, even his professed followers have generally persisted in employing command, possession and power with respect to “others.”

Nearly 2,000 years have now passed since Jesus Christ expressed his own free will and fully bore the painful consequences of Creation. The expression of the human will apart from the imposition of, or submission to, command, possession and power remains largely absent. Nevertheless, there are manifestations of proleptic (anticipatory) free will in the charitable lives of such individuals as the Good Samaritan, Mother Teresa, and numerous unsung heroes who have given of themselves for “others,” expecting nothing in return. These expressions are evidence for the silent presence of the Risen One to, for and with all humanity. 8

Tragically, in this present age such virtues often are not highly regarded. As a number of scholars have stated, “No good deed goes unpunished.”9 Not surprisingly, most assumed assertions of free will have been met with derision, contempt and rejection. As the American author, William Durant, declared, “Free will is an egotistic delusion.”10 The English/Australian scholar, John Carroll, emphatically stated, “There is no free-will in any important sense of the term.”11 Julian Jaynes claimed, “ . . . [We] have no ‘free-will’ unless we believe we have.”12

The Future of “Free Will”

The fact is that God purposed for human beings — human selves — to ultimately be constituted and freely exist only in communion with “others” — with God himself and with “neighbors” (Ephesians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:9).13,14 Thus, the ultimate expression of human free will fundamentally depends upon the reception of the incarnate gift of free will from God as the Corporate Person. One cannot freely will to give unless one is first freely willing to receive. As we near the Parousaic (Second Coming) appearance of God and the ultimate disclosure of free will, let us be grateful that —

If the Son . . . shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. — John 8:36.

With the ultimate disclosure of free will, God’s purpose will be fully realized to give conscious Creation the privilege of freely choosing the limitless and eternal good, the bright and the beautiful. This choice will be freely made with God as the ultimate “Other” and with all “others” as well. Creation can then declare:

Freely . . . [we] have received, freely [we will] give. — Matthew 10:8.


  1. John 8:36. (go back)
  2. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1976). However, in this current essay the concept of “free will” is almost exclusively restricted to positive, gratuitous choices involving “others.” Perhaps this should be called “good will”! (go back)
  3. “The earliest unequivocal statement of the idea of creation out of nothing is in the apocryphal Second Book of Maccabees (2 Maccabees 7:28), but the emphasis in Genesis 1 on the dependence of all upon the sovereign will of God for its existence (‘And God said “Let there be . . . ”’) is certainly consonant with the central significance of creatio ex nihilo.” — John Polkinghorne, Reason and Reality: The Relationship between Science and Theology (Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1991), p. 72. (go back)
  4. See “The Gospel for the Postmodern World III: The ‘Other Side’ of God,” Outlook (January 2008); “The Divine Struggle for ‘I’ and ‘Thou’ III: Command,” Outlook (December 2009); “The Divine Struggle for ‘I’ and ‘Thou’ IV: Possession,” Outlook (January 2010); “The Divine Struggle for ‘I’ and ‘Thou’ VI: Empowerment,” Outlook (March 2010). (go back)
  5. See “The Divine Struggle for ‘I’ and ‘Thou’ V: Self-Consciousness,” Outlook (February 2010). (go back)
  6. See Corporate Personality in Ancient Israel A Book Review,” Outlook (February 2009). (go back)
  7. See “‘For Judgment I AM . . . ,’” Outlook (September 2010). (go back)
  8. See “The Divine Struggle for ‘I’ and ‘Thou’ VII: Silent Presence,” Outlook (April 2010). (go back)
  9. Attributed to Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) and to a number of other scholars. (go back)
  10. William James Durant, quoted in Bruce L. Gary, Quotes for Misanthropes: Mocking Homo Hypocritus (Hereford, AZ: Reductionist Publications, 2007), p. 15. (go back)
  11. John Carroll, Humanism: The Wreck of Western Culture (London: Fontana Press, 1993), p. 228. (go back)
  12. Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1976), p. 345. (go back)
  13. . . . [T]he Self . . . is not just a solitary individual, but . . . also includes the Other . . . ” — Ryszard Kapuscinski, The Other (London: Verso, 2008), p. 37. (go back)
  14. “For the triune God, the Self is always Other and the Other is always Self; living in the image of the triune God thus means learning to recognize ourselves in others and others in ourselves.” — David S. Cunningham, These Three Are One: The Practice of Trinitarian Theology (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1998), p. 271. (go back)

Last Revised September 2011

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