A Catholic Weighs In On “Free-Will”

The Rich Foundation of the Body of Christ

The following was discovered within a little booklet by Dennis, Sheila and Michael Linn entitled “Good Goats” by Catholic publishing company, Paulist Press. Their take on the topic of “free-will” is extremely insightful. Especially given that official Roman Catholicism traditionally upholds the doctrine of the free-will of man.

One amazing blessing we have experienced as we have traveled this journey toward embracing the Body of Christ as a whole is learning from so many outside our tradition. As we have said before, “None of us is as smart as all of us” and we have been exceedingly enriched by, most recently, the trinitarian focus of the Eastern Orthodox as well as the incredible minds and passionate hearts who have walked and presently walk within the Catholic tradition.

Does Man Possess A “Free-Will”?

The primary objection to the idea of Ultimate Restoration coming from the majority of Christendom is that it violates man’s free-will to choose. But is this a valid point? Was that even the point of the tree in the garden? We need to keep looking at this so-called free-will we are defending and recognize that we don’t have a free-will to defend but rather we are in need of freedom! Jesus said that when we “know the truth, the truth will set us free” and that “He whom the Son sets free is free indeed.” Freedom is something the Bible explicitly says we are in desperate need of not some sacred power we use to set God free so He can love and forgive us. Nor is it something we withhold from Him so that He loses His freedom to fulfill His desire to set us free! For God has said “He is not willing that any perish, but all come to repentance.”

One Catholic’s Response

Here is a soundbite from a small representation within the Catholic Church who are believing God’s “love will never fail” and “His mercies will never come to an end.”

The Linns reveal how our separation from the Source of all true freedom does not spell “free-will”!

“Does Jesus’ decent into hell to be with those who seem to have rejected God violate free will? Or, could it be that by his loving and healing presence to those in hell, Jesus restores free will? Free will has often been defined as the capacity to say “yes” or “no” to God. However, Karl Rahner and other theologians suggest that free will is the capacity to choose God in a God-like way. Thus a truly free person paradoxically, like God, can only choose the good. Saying “no” to God is not a sign of free will but rather of how a person still needs healing in order to become free. Once healed and truly free, that person, like Jesus, can only say “yes” to God. Thus, summarizing Rahner, John Sachs writes,

‘… Human freedom is simply and most radically the capacity for God, not the capacity for either God or something else. Human freedom is created for one end alone: God. Only God finally “defines” the human person. Therefore, it would seem that human freedom can attain real finality only when it reaches the definitiveness for which it is specifically created.’”

There are many ways to address and answer this question and we are grateful for the brilliant insights these Catholic brethren have provided here. For more discussion on the topic of free-will see the following articles:

Thoughts on Free-Will: Part One

Another Look at “Free-Will”

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