MAN’S FREE WILL AND ITS ORIGIN
The source and use of our free will can best be understood by observing the biblical account of man’s creation. Man was not formed from matter alone as are animals, for matter which lacks freedom, cannot possibly give freedom to man. Freedom can only come from the source of freedom which can only be found in the Creator of heaven and earth who possesses absolute freedom. According to Holy Scripture, God gave freedom to angelic creatures, and man who was created from the earth. Moses gives this account regarding man: “God formed man out of the clay of the earth. And breathed into his person a spirit of life and the man became a living soul.” Thus it is the free and divine spirit breathed in the beginning into man which enables him to freely become the living image of God, bearing divine characteristics.
The cogitating mind of man is derived from the grace of divine Spirit. The Gospel of St. John declares that “He (Logos of God) is the true light, that lightens every man who comes into the world.” The Logos who became incarnate is the moral light of the world, guiding our freedom in the correct direction, for freedom is not doing what we want, but doing what is right before God and man, and this is not possible without the true Light.
As God the Logos is born from the Father Mind, so our individuals logos comes forth from our minds in the form of our ideas, thoughts, speech, decisions and plans. It is the divine spirit which endows man with cognition, affection and the freedom to make decisions. The Father being perfect Mind with perfect Thought endows us with a mind. As God continuously rejoices He gives us a heart, or affection, that we may also rejoice and be glad. The Theotokos expressed this divine joy, after the Annunciation: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” The joy felt in the spirit of the Virgin is beyond our ability to describe, for it is divine joy! God’s will is perfect and He gives us a free will and a law to exercise our freedom wisely. God enjoys absolute freedom and bestows freedom upon mankind, to choose good or evil. This freedom needs sanctification and thus St. Paul says in his first letter to the Thessalonians: “May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely; may your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”. (Thes. 5:23).
Thus man created in the image of God is first aware of his own existence, then of the world around him, and by reason he ascends to knowledge of the Creator, with whom the first man conversed. From Him he received a law which would require a decision of his free will. He is also aware that he has the ability to choose between good or evil, right or wrong, and that this freedom is inviolable, for it is God-given. He gave man a simple law eating of all the trees except a certain tree, and keeping that law would prolong his immortality, while breaking it would bring about his mortality.
Every law presupposes a lawgiver and a free person subject to such a law, with penalties or rewards for obedience or disobedience. Laws can only be ordained to govern free men, who realize that their obedience or disobedience has rewards and penalties, and who reasonably desire to obey the law for their own advantage. The original law given to man forbade eating of the tree’s fruit, which does not mean that the fruit was bad. Man, needed to properly exercise his freedom and comply with the commandment by not eating of the forbidden tree.
The woman, who first contemplated the tree and saw its fruit, was then deceived, after the evil one questioned her and then trapped her in her disclosure, he urged her to eat and she ate then offered it to her husband who also ate. They both became abusers of their own God-given freedom and violators of the one and only law. She listened to the serpent’s advise instead of that of God, and Adam listened to the woman’s advice, so they were both to blame. Because they broke the law, God as a just Judge, necessarily enforces and applies the penalties. After this tragedy, death with all its accompanying sorrows entered into the world. Sickness, diseases, crime, injustice, murder, wild animals, severe storms, earthquakes, raging seas, and poor soil. etc. were brought suffering on the violators and their descendants, for they lost Paradise and the calmness and tranquility of nature.
This infliction was not from God but from the serpent who deceived Adam and Eve into breaking the law, and to this day he continues to deceive mankind. He is the source of all evil, but can only spread evil through the freedom of man, first by beguiling men, then keeping them in ignorance, robbing them of their inheritance, and causing all the evils that man suffers. God is the Lover of man, but the Evil one is the hater of both God and man.
But was it their own idea to break God’s law? No, for the woman, although engaged in contemplation of the forbidden fruit, was beguiled by the evil one, who slandered God, opposed his law, and made false promises to the woman asserting that she would become like God if she ate the forbidden fruit. Confused and befuddled, the woman ate, and gave to her husband, who ate of the forbidden fruit. The first thing they realized was their own nakedness of which they were previously unaware. They were confused and deceived by the serpent, as well as by their own illicit desire. They broke the law of God and thus needed to be penalized. A trial was held, and the penalties of the law were applied, changing everything in their lives. Everything rapidly deteriorated, as the man and woman and nature changed, vegetation changed, thorns, and barbs appeared, creation was never to be the same. The former daily visits by God in the cool of the day, were gone for they were banned from Paradise, a flaming sword barring their entrance. The loss is terrible, the tragedy is great, the suffering begins, but hope is not completely lost, for God is good and the Lover of man, and will act in the fulness of time.
Sadly, they not only lost Paradise, but also became subject to sickness and death. Creation itself turned from continuous delight and peacefulness a mixture of good conditions with violent storms, failure of crops, and the arousal of various passions.
The free will of man is clearly seen in the general history of men, which records benevolent and malevolent actions of men and women, of rulers and the ruled. The will cannot make decisions of itself but decides according to two things or advisors. First, the mind thinks of something it wants, second, the heart (feelings) agrees and likes the thoughts, the will then acts accordingly. On the other hand, the mind may think of something that is bad, the heart or feelings disagrees, not liking the idea of something bad. Now a battle arises between the thinking and the feelings regarding it. This battle between the feelings and the thinking, can end up as a draw, with no action taken, or a decision against or in favor. Which ever is strongest will affect the will to act accordingly. If the mind thinks of doing something evil and the heart likes the idea of that evil, then the will does as instructed. Such is the free will of man endowed upon us by our Creator. Using our freedom for doing good can result in a good end. Using it for evil can result in an evil end. Our freedom is wonderful but our responsibility is enormous, for every man and woman will be required to stand trial one day.
When Jesus Christ came into the world, He declared of himself: “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.” Were the sun to black out for only a few moments, we would bump into each other, fall down, be trampled upon, and be in the greatest of danger, for without light we all become blind and unable of normal functions. But there is another light which lightens men’s souls to do good and avoid evil. Christ is the moral light of the world, guiding us to make proper choices in regards to God, man and the world. The laws of Christ are fair and just: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” If observed by all men, this one law would render society more peaceful, eliminate many jails, reduce law enforcement facilities, and promote joy among men. But when we do the opposite, doing to others what we dislike for our selves, by cheating, lying, slandering and harming others, them misery reigns and society becomes chaotic, with misery everywhere. These vices become a way of life, and causes chaos, suffering, injustice, and misery.
Christ is the solution to peace and happiness in this life, and is the firm promise that we will be judged for what we have done in this life when we are resurrected. As surely as Christ is risen from the dead, we too shall arise, and will stand before the dread judgment seat of Christ. We will have to answer how we used the freedom which He gave us. If we chose faith in Christ and good works stemming from that faith it will lead us to the greatest hope of all hopes, but unbelief and failing to keep His commandments will lead to the most miserable of miseries. We must remember our freedom is given by the Lord, and we must certainly answer for how we used or abused that God-given freedom.