Choice leads to slavery, not freedom. At least, it most certainly can, and our ability to choose, or the necessity of choice, may mean that we are to be pitied more than it means we are free. Ever wanted to smack the dude in line in front of you at Subway because he is taking forever to decided between flat-bread, Italian Bread, Honey Oat, Parmesan/Oregano, Sourdough, or go with the wrap? Have pity, he is enslaved to choice. He cannot figure out which choice is best, and so he stammers and holds up the line.
Those who love to trumpet "free will" love to revel in the fact that we can choose. Pelagius, that ancient heretic, said that man was able to choose between good and evil by his own will. Man could choose good or man could choose evil, and if you take away that choice, you take away freedom. Man becomes a robot if he isn't free to choose. Our choices determine who we are, after all.
What if I told you that the opposite were true? What if I said that the dilemma of choice could be the best indication that we are a broken, pitiful people? What if I told you that the problem of choice demonstrates, better than any philosophy I know, that man is a finite, confused being?
Augustine is Pelagius' better. He triumphed over Pelagius by Scripture and by reason, but not in the way that many today would think. Augustine saw what Pelagius couldn't, that is, choice is not the ultimate qualifier of whether or not the will is free. Indeed, choice indicates that something is wrong with the will. Freedom of the will must excel simple choice, freedom is greater than the ability to choose. Choice indicates a shattered mind, not a whole one.
Man, when faced with a "moral dilemma", must make a choice. Augustine taught that, if we were perfect and unfallen, then there would be no "choice" to make. If it is 32 degrees outside, and I say that you may go outside with a coat or a t-shirt, a wise man takes a coat. It isn't a choice, it is obvious. If I tell you that for lunch, you may have rat poison or you may have a T-bone steak, you would certainly choose the latter over the former. Freedom, then, lies not in the power of choice, but in clarity of thought. The fact that we are traumatized by moral choices means that we do not see clearly, we cannot tell what the ultimate good is, so we stammer and stumble.
I think of this when someone says that we are "free" to choose or reject God's Son, Jesus, then they insist that it is this very choice that makes them free. This is like saying freedom consists in the liberty of shooting one's brains out with a shotgun or not. Man doesn't reject God and the gospel because man is free and is mighty to choose, man rejects God and the gospel because he is a suicidal maniac who cannot tell right from wrong. Man doesn't need to be free to choose, man needs to be freed from the shackles of madness that make evil choices appealing in the first place.
Freedom does not lie in the ability to choose. Freedom comes when choice is married with proper affections for that which is good. If God would only fix our wicked hearts, choice would vanish and we would be free to act unfettered. Why? Because anything other than holiness would simply be unthinkable, or if you must, a non-choice.
Oh God, rid me of my choices by shackling me to the good and true. Free me from inaction by showing me the path most pleasing to you. Unite my divided soul by the beauty of your truth. Let anything other than what glorifies you be a non-choice in my sight so that Christ may receive the most glory. Amen.
I am a pastor serving in my hometown of Albertville, Alabama. The greatest evidence of God's grace in my life are my wife, son, and daughter. One look at me and then my wife will tell you that her "yes" was a modern day miracle. Otherwise, I am almost completely mundane.