If Human Freedom Does not Exist

The Question of Free Will

What role does free will play in the spiritual life?  The entirety of the Scriptures presuppose human freedom. From the creation of Adam to the creation of the new heavens and the new earth, the Scriptures assume that human beings have the ability to choose between right and wrong, to obey or not to obey.

In this episode we talk about the centrality of human freedom in nearly every dimension of human experience and especially the spirituality of the Catholic Christian. We ask the general question whether it would have been better for God to create human beings with no freedom and thus incapable of doing wrong or to create human beings with freedom and thus the possibility of choosing evil.

Augustine of Hippo’s Contribution

We are not the first to address this question. From the beginning of church history, various scholars have raised this question about human freedom as it relates to the morality of human acts.

Augustine ranks among the most famous of the early church thinkers who grappled with this complex question. Augustine stated that without freedom, human beings would be neither worthy of praise for good actions nor worthy of blame for evil actions.

We note especially that for Augustine as well as for the majority of Catholic theologians down through the centuries, true freedom consists in choosing higher goods. We note that for Augustine sin always involves an improper choosing of lower goods over higher ones.

The Defining Character of Human Freedom

Human freedom is one of the defining characteristics of human nature. When human freedom is removed, human beings cannot fully actualize their nature. Jesus claimed that those who make a practice of sin become slaves to sin. Choosing to do wrong slowly takes away a human’s freedom over time. By contrast, choosing to do the good increases a person’s freedom.

A proper understanding of human freedom is critical for a proper understanding of the spiritual life. Join us this week as we provide a preliminary introduction to this question about human freedom and its impact on morality.