On Divine Will and Free Will

[Homer] does introduce divine agency, not to destroy, but to prompt the human will; not to create in us another agency, but offering images to stimulate our own; images that in no sort or kind make our action involuntary, but give occasion rather to spontaneous action, aided and sustained by feelings of confidence and hope. … Certainly we cannot suppose that the divine beings actually and literally turn our bodies and direct our hands and our feet this way or that, to do what is right: it is obvious that they must actuate the practical and elective element of our nature, by certain initial occasions, by images presented to the imagination, and thoughts suggested to the mind, such either as to excite it to, or avert and withhold it from, any particular course.
–Plutarch “Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans”

The Platonist philosopher Plutarch’s exposition of divine inspiration, the mysterious relation between divine agency and man’s free choice of will, approximates my understanding of the relation between grace and free will. However, I cannot fully comprehend nor articulate the mystery: The divine will does not destroy nor override free will, but instead, it enables and enlivens free will and free choice of man.

Choice is a constant theme that runs throughout the Scripture, both the Old and the New Testaments. The reason is simple: without choice, there is no free choice of the will. At the very beginning, man was presented with a choice, the Tree of life or the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In a sense, God in His humility has presented Himself as a choice to Man, either trust and obey Him, or doubt and reject Him. Adam was at a crossroad with two paths extended before him. Both paths were open and available before he made his choice, but as soon as he chose and embarked on one, the other was closed, that is, as soon as he chose the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil, the access to the Tree of life, to God Himself, was denied him. As it is written, “So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.”

Jesus says, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He came into the world to open for man the way to the Father again, the way that was shut because of Adam. God set Man free by giving him a choice, and enabling him to choose that which is Good, sustained by feelings of confidence, as Plutarch writes, or as the Scripture says, faith and hope.

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