In this post I will argue why the definition of Free Will as “the ability to consciously choose to do something” is best.
I think man can be manipulated and at the same time be free–provided we understand the word manipulated in a certain sense. By manipulated I do not mean that man is free for the most part and then at certain times God chooses to intervene. This view would hold that man and God are equal metaphysically: an impossibility. What I mean by manipulated is God’s activity as first cause. God is the first cause of everything since he preserves everything in existence. Everything else–and man is no exception–is a second cause. But the first cause and the second cause operate on different metaphysical levels. Man is fully free precisely because he operates on a level to himself (a level in which God does not randomly intervene or “manipulate”). At the same time God manipulates man in the sense that God allows for man’s ability to choose in the first place. So overall man is free to do what he wants in his level of reality but, on a deeper level of reality, God is allowing man to do this free choosing in the first place.
One strong argument for agreeing with this definition of Free Will is the idea of the Beatific Vision. We know that man still remains man even in Heaven and thus that man still holds his natural powers in heaven. Therefore man still holds free will in heaven. What does this free will consist of? In heaven man has no choice to fall back into sin–he is forever sinless in heaven. Thus in heaven free will does not involve having the ability to choose between two things since there is only once choice possible. So in heaven free will is simply about consciously choosing to do something, in this case beholding the Beatific Vision. If it is so in Heaven so it must be on Earth since man is still man on earth or in heaven. Thus even on earth free will must consist of simply having the ability to consciously choose something.