When you look at life in its variegated events and things, and degrees of attainment by the generality of humanity, you will be certainly impressed by the innumerable differences that define our stations in life, and the quality of life lived by us.
From the plush, royal dwellings of the affluent, to the rats-infested hut of the poor and “scum” of the earth, there exists every conceivable state of life that could be lived by us.
Is our state of life determined by us, or is it the aggregate of external forces over which we have no control?
Admittedly, no one has control over one’s parentage, place of birth and time of birth.
Apart from these, all other things are issues of choice, and these choices determine various outcomes, and these outcomes create our destinies.
We shall explore the trinity of free will, choice and destiny in this essay.
Man is a moral being. He is free to make choices; to think for himself and decide what he wants to do.
And it was that free will that made Adam and Eve disobey God in the garden.
The question has been asked whether God, who created Adam and Eve, and knew all things, could not foresee that they would use their free will to disobey Him, and thereby forestall the seduction by the serpent.
The reasoning here is specious. We could not be created in God’s image and be automatons, or robotic in our relationship with the Creator.
The immensity and infinite varieties of created things show the exercise of divine free will at its best.
In much the same spirit, God would like us to relate to him in a spirit of freedom.
Your free will makes you choose one school over the other; to choose one vocation over the other; to marry that person and not another, to be a homosexual or not, and so on and so forth.
We can thus say that today is the product of the choices of yesterday, and tomorrow would be the choices of today.
It is one unbroken chain of cause and effect.
Whereas Ghanaians are unhappy about the state of the country, we must know that the decisions we took in the past, or the choices we made, have created the state of today.
A careful thoughtfulness in setting things right requires a corresponding intelligence in making the right choices today, so that our tomorrow would be a happy one.
Observation teaches us that men and women who have made history and bequeathed the best of civilisation to us made choices that affected humanity in one way or the other, and most times, at the cost of their lives.
Every department of life has its pantheons of persons who impacted our lives by the choices they made.
Space does not allow elaboration of this point, but an example or two would help.
• John Wycliffe and William Tyndale, who translated the Bible from Latin into English for you and I to read, were burned by the Catholic Church for their stance.
• Kwame Nkrumah decided to leave the UGCC to form CPP, and he led Ghana to independence.
• Martin Luther King Jnr was shot and killed on April 4, 1968 for fighting for racial equality in America.
• Explorers like Ferdinand Magellan, James Cook, Ibn Battuta, Vasco Da Gama hit the oceans without a shred of knowledge of what awaited them, and sometimes where they were going, and through disasters and death opened up the world for us.
The famous people of history took momentous decisions regardless of the consequences; they dared. So can we.
It all begins with taking the right decisions that accumulate to destine us for great things.
As against man’s exercise of free will are those who think man’s life is fated; that is, already determined.
Much as I am not for fatalism or determinism, I shall admit that some events of life give the impression there are forces that are greater than we can control, and determine outcomes in our life.
The story of Isaac, Jacob and Esau shows how God determined that the blessings of Isaac should fall on Jacob, and not Esau, and how that came about through the trickery of Rebecca. (Gen 27). Determinism is also seen in the life of Moses and that of Joseph.
We inherit a moral universe where we generally have a sense of right and wrong.
In law, therefore, the exercise of free will is a necessary determinant of the outcome of a case.
For example, when you read a document, and freely append your signature to it, you cannot be allowed by the law to resile from that position when the results of the agreement tend to be unfavourable.
On the other hand, in criminal justice, the law will step in to defend and set free a person who commits crime because of insanity or mental delusions.
It is apparent that a mentally deranged person exercises no free will in his actions.
The paradox of free will is that it allows society to evolve through the imaginative and creative works of man; at the same time, society also imposes controls lest a run-away exercise of free will subverts the social order and leads to chaos.
The opposition against all forms of sexual perversions spring from this principle.
Apart from the tangible decisions that we take, free will also operates in the psycho-spiritual realm of thought where, within the privacy of our mind, we think what we like and imagine what we please.
Since thoughts are energies, it follows that the nature of energy sent out will attract its like consequences; thus the sound admonition in Phil 4:8 that we focus our thoughts on things that are pure, noble, praise worthy, lovely and just.
What we feed our mind on answers to our will, and the results determine our place on the scale of life, and degree of happiness and fulfillment.
Our free will is a tremendous power and we must be careful how we employ it in our choices, because the results will certainly confront us, for better or for worse, personally or nationally, and determine our destinies in life.
The writer is a lawyer.