How free is my will?

How free is my will?


If by “free will” we mean the ability to choose what we want, then it is abundantly evident that we have free will. We were not created as robots, but as volitional creatures that walk and talk and think. But what determines what we “want”? The humanist viewpoint is that we have the ability to make choices that are not determined by any prior inclination or motive, i.e., that we are “neutral”. But this produces a logical absurdity: an effect without a cause. Without some motivating factor, we would be paralysed. This is not free will but lack of will.

The fact is, even our simplest choices are conscious, even if we don’t stop to analyze the reason for them. America’s great theologian Jonathan Edwards said that free will is the mind choosing. The Bible tells us, further, that it is not just what we do but our motive for doing it that matters. This is related to the biblical concept of conscience. Edwards’ “Law of Free Will” states that free moral agents always act according to the strongest inclination they have at the moment of choice.

The problem is that we aren’t neutral. God created man with the moral ability to choose between good and evil - free will. But he [Adam] chose to sin, and we have inherited that fallen nature. We are not just morally sick, but spiritually dead in our transgressions and sin (Ephesians 2:1), utterly incapable of righteousness [being perfectly good].  We sin freely, because that’s what we want to do. Every desire of our heart is rooted in our inclination to evil, and it is impossible for us in our sin nature to want to choose life, to choose Christ. “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:10-11 NIV).

God uses many means to bring us to see the truth of our slavery to sin, but gives us only one means by which we can be set free—the Saviour Jesus Christ, who said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). Only when we are regenerated by the work of the Holy Spirit, born into spiritual life through faith in Jesus Christ, are we free to want to do good that is pleasing to God. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Recommended reading:

The Potter’s Freedom by James White ($16.15 from Amazon)

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