Election, predestination, free will are complicated, but probably more complicated because we make it so. Kind of like kneading dough, if you do not know when to stop you mess it up and the bread is not good. What we do in going over and over and over these doctrines is that we make a mess of them. In a sermon on Jacob and Esau, Charles Spurgeon said God “saves man by grace, and if men perish they perish justly by their own fault. ‘How,’ says some one, ‘do you reconcile these two doctrines?’ My dear brethren, I never reconcile two friends, never. These two doctrines are friends with one another; for they are both in God’s Word, and I shall not attempt to reconcile them.” That is a good approach.
The Bible uses “elect” and “election” more than “predestination” or “free will”. Free is never used in the King James Bible as an adjective that modifies will. Almost every time it is an adjective – “freewill” – that modifies offerings, and once (Ezra 7:13) a noun that refers to Jews making a choice to go back to Jerusalem as opposed to the king decreeing which individuals would return. In the case of offerings, the offering that is “free” or chosen by the offerer as opposed to making an offering prescribed by law.
Elect does not always refer to the same kind of thing being elect. Sometimes it refers to the Jews as a chosen people, sometimes to the saved, and sometimes to Jesus Christ (Isaiah 42:1). There may be other types of references as well. Predestinate is used in the Bible four times, but the same idea also appears in words such as determined before, foreordained, and ordained before. We can tell from the Bible that there are things ordained beforehand (predestinated) by God. The chief argument among Christians seems to be over whether God predestinated only a select few (the elect) to be saved and then passed over the rest. Those who emphasize predestination say, “Yes.” Those who emphasize free will say, “No.” Somehow, this all works out in the mind of God – whose thoughts are higher than our thoughts – and will remain a mystery to us as long as we are in the flesh trying to figure it out. This is an intriguing discussion. We can discuss it “forever” – because we never figure it out. There are some obnoxious people on both ends of the spectrum who have it all figured out (to their own satisfaction) and think all the rest of us are Lilliputians.
Concerning free will, to a large degree Americans are influenced by our social constructs around freedom and liberty, and want everything to be fair in a way we see as fair. Biblically, mankind cannot be said to have a free will. That only applies to God, who can do anything he pleases. Man operates within the confines of his nature, which is sinful. Therefore, the Bible teaches than man is sinful, does not please God, does not seek God, and so on. Man, by both his nature and his will, is a child of wrath. If God did not seek man, man would never seek God. Yet, man is not absolutely passive in salvation, as some versions of predestination hold him to be. Rather, when God seeks man, convicts him of sin, and draws him by the Holy Spirit, man can seek and find God. He can repent and believe in Jesus Christ.