On Free Will

There are two main definitions of free will on offer in the theological world. The first is that one can choose to do something, or not to do it (to choose the opposite). These people say that in any situation, a person can choose to do something, or to do its very opposite. This is called the power of contrary choice. It is thoroughly unbiblical, when it comes to whether a person can please God or not. These people say that a person can choose God or not choose God based on their own power of free will. The problem with this is, of course, that when you come to describe God’s will, you wind up in blasphemy, saying things about God being able to sin, etc. God can only choose what it is in His nature to choose. His nature is altogether good and perfectly holy. Therefore, all His choices are holy, just, and good. Furthermore, in the state of consummation, elect humans will be unable to sin, as the last remains of the sin nature will be swept away. Free will in this sense is definitely not all that it is cracked up to be. In fact, it is heretical.

The biblical definition of free will is that a person can choose whatever it is in their nature to choose. If a person has an unregenerate nature, then that person can only choose to do sinful things. That person cannot please God (as Romans 1-3 so forcefully tells us).

Adam alone had the power of contrary choice. He lost it in the fall, making his will enslaved to sin. Hence, all his posterity are enslaved to sin. Their will also is enslaved to sin.

But God, who is rich in mercy, works a mighty work of regeneration in many people. What happens here is that the will also is regenerated, such that it can choose to please God, and to have faith in God. Indeed, a regenerated heart doesn’t really have a choice in the matter, even if it doesn’t feel coerced (as it often does not). A regenerated heart cannot help but choose to believe in God (and thanks be to God for that, otherwise we would never choose God, our sin nature being what it is!). We can look forward to that state wherein we will be unable to sin, that state of glory.

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