Physics, chemistry and biology (and culture) seem to set up a kind of bell curve of freedom over the course of any individual human life. The capacity for self-determination seems to emerge from invisibility, develop, climax, decline and disappear as we journey from zygote, foetus, infant, toddler, adult, mature adult, and finally at death.
The bodily equipment we possess does not provide us with complete and total freedom. We will never be free to do anything. Being fully human doesn’t need that anyway, it only needs freedom to do things that embody full humanness. But at any rate, human nature and human culture have not combined to get us to perfect freedom. The top of the bell curve may be a bit higher in some lives than others, but it never gets to perfection.
In this context, the question ‘do we have free will’ is easily answered: of course not. We are slaves – at least to some degree – to all manner of things, both in our nature and in culture. Processes, limitations, desires, needs, others, etc.
In Christianity, there is the tension between slavery to ‘sin’ and slavery to ‘righteousness’ (or Christ). The great irony is that the more ‘enslaved’ we are to the latter, the more free and truly human we are. The more you ‘chain’ yourself (through practicing and creating habits of mind and heart) to, for example, loving others as yourself, the more free you are to be human. Like all kinds of growth, growing in slavery to Christ is a process. Freedom, like all other aspects of salvation, is not experienced fully in the here and now. Every habit created, every neural pathway nudged – and re-nudged, is one more step toward the hope and goal of full freedom in a freed and recreated cosmos.
…because the creation itself also will be delivered from the slavery of corruption into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Romans 8:21)