As I wrote the title, “Free Will,” it struck me the double humor of the title of the movie, “Free Willy.” I wonder if that was intentional. In any case, that’s not what I came here to write about. Free will is a topic of debate all over – Christian and non Christian circles alike. Does man have free will? Are his steps preordained? Does God know what we’re going to do before we do it or is He the puppet master?
I’m going to say that yes, man does have free will. Now, once I say this, we may immediately get to the discussion of salvation and does man choose God or does God choose man? A friend and I were recently looking up the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism (for a chart of the two, click here). Typically, I’d describe myself as tending more toward the Calvinist end of the spectrum (if psychology has spectrums, why can’t theology?) and my most recent look at the differences confirmed that. Over and over again in scripture we see the word, “chosen.” “In Him we were also chosen…” (Ephesians 1:11), “You did not choose me, but I chose you…” (John 15:16). And also, it seems that we must make the choice to believe, to trust, to surrender.
Now my purpose isn’t to go deep theologically into this, because you can read any number of commentaries by theologians on this topic, but I came to understand this a little better last night while reading a Young Adult Fiction novel. Scott Westerfeld, in his trilogy about a young girl named Tally Youngblood, creates a fascinating future world where at the age of 16, all humans are made to be “Pretty.” The purpose of this is to make everyone look similar so that there are no differences so that there is no jealousy, arguments, and war. They do this by tweaking everyone’s body so that they are (a) symmetrical, (b) proportionate, and therefore (c) beautiful. Also, they are given an incredible immune system and skin that heals itself faster than ours does now. Can you imagine? Turning 16 and you get to rid yourself of zits and baby fat and look beautiful while never getting sick! Fantastic, right? Wrong. (Warning: Spoiler alert!) When they do this surgery, they also create lesions in your brain to keep you from thinking critically and deeply. You now “think pretty.” This is authority’s way of controlling their society – everyone lives on the surface, and everyone is happy – and no one knows the difference.
The second book (entitled Pretties) tells the tale of Tally and her friends trying to keep themselves thinking “bubbly” rather than “pretty” in order to escape and save their town from this control. They have a cure. But one of Tally’s closest friends (Peris) does not want to be cured. Here’s where we pick up the dialog, just as Tally is about to escape.
“Why are you so unhappy here?”…
“Why am I unhappy?” Tally repeated softly. “Because the city makes you the way they want you to be, Peris. And I want to be myself. That’s why.”
He squeezed her shoulder and gave her a sad look. “But people are better now than they used to be. Maybe they have good reasons for changing us, Tally.”
“Their reasons don’t mean anything unless I have a choice, Peris. And they don’t give anyone a choice.”
Now I know the connection isn’t an exact one. But this hit me: If God just changed me *BAM* like that, would it mean the same if I’d chosen to be different, to change, to become more like Him? And He gives me this choice. It’s kind of the opposite of the book, though. I could choose to stay surface and strive to be happy OR I could make the choice to go deeper and receive real JOY. But God doesn’t change me without me wanting to change, without me making the decision to surrender all that I am and all that I have to follow Him. And I think it means more because I DO have a choice.