Guest post - Agency vs. Choice
D-Train |Tuesday, January 03, 2006 | E-mail this post
The following was submitted by LagerJager, occasional commenter and proud owner of De Rerum Natura
. He decided to start this little blog just before the holidays. Now that he's returned from his travels, I expect him to begin posting in earnest. He's a bright lad with an interest in classics and a major to prove it. Another of my gaggle of former roommates, expect insightful and occasionally insulting thoughts from him. We've linked him on the sidebar, so just run on over there from time to time.
The Greek philosopher Epictetus wrotethat we are in control of only three things: Our mind, the thoughts that spring forth from our mind, and the actions we take as a result of those thoughts. This basic understanding of agency was impressive for the time. We speak a lot about agency in the church, but I was always bothered by one statement. The idea that by giving up our will to God that we gain agency seems counterintuitive and silly. The thought of it always reminded me of a conversation I had with Mike. We were in the grocerystore and Mike saw a box of veggie burgers which discussed how once you give up meat you will realize that you have even more food choices than before.
A few months ago I got to thinking about this. Agency is not just free will, but enlightened free will. More knowledge means more agency, all other things being equal. But all other things aren't equal, because my choices become fewer. It is important to recognize that the meaningful choices we make in life are those that relate to our obedience to God's will. I think that that includes nearly all choices. With the knowledge that I have now, it is often difficult to tell whether my actions coincide with God's will. As I gain in knowledge, the decisions will become easier because my understanding of morality and the increased presence of the Spirit give me aid. At the point where someone gained a perfect knowledge they would onlyhave two choices. Perfect obedience to the will of God, or anything less. So it is true. We do gain agency because we gain knowledge of the consequences of our actions.However, we do lose choice. Both in the sense of losing some of the gray areas between what is and is not the will of God, and also in the purely sociological sense of free will. We have just as much "choice" as we always had, but our understanding of the consequences, be they social, spiritual, or something else, cause us to be less likelyto transgress, thereby eliminating most real choice.