In Christianity one of the things we're first taught is that God loves us "all", but that he allowed man to be "free agents" of choice, to choose God or to reject Him. This seems like a reasonable and fair thing to accept (at least it was to me for many years) since the idea of a tyrannical dictator God forcing us to love Him just seemed preposterous. How could God ever expect us to love Him if he didnt give us the free choice to choose so? And I think the average human is already under this assumption that they have "free will" to do and choose as they please(consequences abiding of course).
But do we truly have this thing called "free will?" Did God create the world in such a way in which he has control over everything, except our hearts? Does God want all of us to be saved but is simply unwilling to infringe upon our human right to choose eternal damnation over eternal life?
I think the short, non-philosophical answer is: Yes...and no. Consider the following verses:
Romains 8:29 "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers."
and a verse from last week Ephisians 1:11 "In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,"
The greek word thats translated "predestined" is the word "proorizo", which means "to determine before" according to Strong's Hebrew and Greek dictionaries. And according to the modern day Church, these verses mean that those who come to Christ are those that God determined before hand...since the beginning of time. So already we see our "free choice" being infringed upon by God "hand-picking a few lucky bums to get the grand prize of infinity nights in Gods sky hotel". But wait...I thought we had a "choice"? How can humans truly have a choice to become saved if God decided who would be saved from the dawn of time? Doesnt make any sense huh?
For so many years I looked at things, as many Christians do. Like humanity is a huge mob of hampsters that God bought one day, and sat down in a cage and said "now be good little pets!". He didnt give them shots so they all got rabies and he knew this, but he hid the vaccination amoungst his appartment hoping all the hampsters would find it. But they immediatley started rioting and tearing up His house while he was gone at the store because they just wanted to be evil hampsters. And then God came home and he was like "I TOLD YOU HAMPSTERS TO BE GOOD, BUT YOU DISOBEYED ME!" and then God had to shoot all the little hampsters with a shotgun except for a couple fearful good hamsters that found the cure, and so they hid in the corner.
But then I realized that God wasnt like that, and nor was life that black and white (nor were their hampsters, but beside the point). He was the mass orchestrator of it all, and he wasnt just going to shoot the majority of His holy hampsters that he loves and sold His son for!!! He may punish the naughty hampsters, but he has bigger things in store than dead hampsters that didnt choose to love and obey him, or find the cure in time.
Though some would argue "well, he reveals himself to everyone and they have a choice to choose Him or not" But is that really the case? Lets look at what Jesus said:
Matthew 11:27 27"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." (also look at Matthew 16:16-17)
So right here we are told that it is actually God that chooses to reveal himself to us. We may have a measure of free will to choose him once hes revealed himself to us...but without that revealing of Gods choosing there is simply no way for us to choose Him.
Another thing I would like to point out is its not really us that choose the circumstances we are born into, that ultimately shape every choice and road we take in life. God allows them for whatever reasons he feels best. So to say that a man who grows up in Muslim saturated culture his entire life, is expected by God to somehow drop all his beliefs at the name of Jesus is simply unrealistic. Is that beyond Gods power? Definitly not. But the point is, is that our attitudes and choices are based on the very things that God placed us in, and our selection of Him as Lord and savior is dependent on that...and even more so on Gods choosing to reveal himself to us.
With that said...I think its fair to say that God has only chose to reveal himself(to the degree that we can "choose" him) to a small percentage of humanity. So is God merely impartial to the rest of humanity? How can God "so love the world that he gave His only begotten Son" if he only chooses to reveal himself to a fraction of us in this life? Could the answer be that his love and revelation extend beyond the grave enough so that every human to ever exsist truly has a clear "choice" to accept him as is in our very design to be complete?
I think we have free will...the ability to choose...but its firmly guided, pre-planned and placed in the enviroment that God ordains. And since He does all he wills and desires, He will lead us all to our intended destiny eventually, even through death and judgement.