Free will is often claimed as the reason one person
accepts the Lord and another does not. People often react negatively to
the idea that God is completely sovereign over our free will and that he elects
and predestines people based purely on his desires. Instead, those who
reject God's sovereignty in this sometimes state that God looks into the future to see who
would pick Him and then He predestines those into salvation. This is, of
course, problematic because it would mean that God looked in the future to learn
something (to see what a person's free will choice would be), thereby denying God's omniscience
from all eternity. This is an obvious unacceptable position to hold.
Nevertheless, in order to discuss free will, we must first define it.
Free will is the ability to make choices. Both the Calvinists and
non-Calvinists believe we make choices and therefore, both believe in free will.
However, there are distinctions within the free will definition.
Libertarian free will states that an unbeliever is able to whatever he wants
independent of his sinful nature. Compatibilist free will states that an
unbeliever is only able to do what his sinful nature permits him to do.
The Bible says the unbeliever is a slave to sin, that
he is dead in his sins, does not seek for God and does not understand spiritual
things. Yet, many claim that he is just as free to choose God as someone who is
regenerate. I completely disagree with this.
Before a healthy discussion on what people can and
cannot do with free will, it needs to be analyzed and, hopefully, we can gain
some insight into what free will really means.
What is free will? It is the ability for a person to
determine some or all of his actions. Some consider free will to be its own
cause. Some consider free will to be independent of any other causation,
predestination, or predetermination by any other person, event, or stimulus.
Of course, this does not make sense since a person is
free to do as he wants but what he wants can only be consistent with his own
I propose that free will involves four aspects:
Conception, Desire, Choice, and Accomplishment. Conception leads to desire which
leads to choice which leads to accomplishing that choice.
- We must be able to conceive of an idea,
need, want, etc., before it can be desired, chosen, and accomplished.
- But, we cannot conceive of something beyond
our ability or nature to conceive since this would be a contradiction.
- This would violate our nature.
In this, we are
limited by our nature to conceive.
- I cannot conceive of something I cannot
- Therefore I cannot desire, choose, or
accomplish that which I cannot conceive.
- I can conceive of the ability to raise my
arm above my head.
- I can conceive of the ability to suddenly
become larger than the sun.
- I cannot give you an example of something
I cannot conceive since to tell it to you would mean I have conceived it.
- I can conceive of things communicated to me
by another even though I may never have conceived of it on my own.
- In this, I am able to conceive of the
concept, idea, thing told to me though it did not originate with me.
We can only desire what we can conceive.
But, we cannot desire beyond our ability
(nature) to desire since this would be a contradiction.
I cannot desire what I am not aware of
- This would violate our nature. In this, we
are limited by our nature to desire.
- I can desire to raise my arm above my
- I can desire to suddenly become larger
than the sun.
We can only choose what we can desire.
But, we cannot choose beyond our ability
(nature) to choose
I am free to choose to attempt to accomplish
- This would violate our nature. In this, we
are limited by our nature to choose.
We can only accomplish what can be chosen to
We can conceive of and choose to accomplish
things that are outside our abilities.
- This does not necessitate that I can
accomplish all my choices
- I can conceive of the idea raising my
arm above my head and I can accomplish it.
- I can conceive of the idea of suddenly
becoming larger than the sun, but I can not accomplish it.
- I cannot accomplish this because I
cannot violate my own nature.
We are limited by our natures to what we can
conceive of, desire, and choose.
Therefore, what we can accomplish is
strictly limited by what we are.
We are not free to conceive of anything
We are not free to desire anything possible
since not all things can be conceived of.
We are not free to choose that which we
We are not free to accomplish that which we
Therefore, Free Will requires at least that
a person be able to conceive, desire, and choose. True free will is
that which is in accordance with oneís nature. To choose to accomplish
something beyond oneís nature is not an exercise of free will but a
declaration of a personís lack of freedom ó in that area.
Does God have a free will?
Errors of belief concerning Free Will
- God can choose to do what is in accordance
with his nature.
- But He cannot violate His own nature, for
- God cannot lie
- God cannot stop being God
- God cannot make a rock bigger than He
can pick up.
- God can conceive of lying but He cannot
accomplish it since it would violate His nature.
What does the Bible say about sinful
more to come.....
- That free will is independent of all
- By this is meant that a person is
completely and totally free from all influences whether external or
- That free will will means that someone can
act contrary to his own nature.
- That free will is something within man
that is independent of God; that it is, completely manís and not under
the sovereign knowledge and control of God.
- Objection: Someone who can't choose equally between two
opposing options don't have free will.
Answer: God cannot freely choose to sin.
Does this mean he does not have free will because he can't choose equally
between two opposing options? Of course not.
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Copyright by Matthew J. Slick, B.A., M. Div., 1998-2006
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