Romans 7:21, 25 – So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (NIV 1984)
Humanist View – Man makes choices spontaneously. Nothing prior to the choice determines the choice. This is not a Christian view.
• Moral Problem – If purely spontaneous, there is no reason, motivation or intent for the choice. Thus, it has no moral significance. God considers the intent of choices. If there is no intent, there is no moral significance.
• Practical Problem – Without motivation or a reason[ing], is it really a choice? What does it matter? Why make a choice if there is no reason to? Choice without a motivation is like an effect without a cause, which is a practical impossibility. You cannot have something out of nothing.
Jonathan Edward’s Law of Free Will – Free will is the mind choosing. Choices cannot be made independent of the mind. Free (no coercion) moral agents always act according to the strongest inclination (desires) that they have at the moment of choice. There is always a reason for every decision.
• Coercion – Outside forces (forcing is not free will) affect choices against our will. Strongest inclination in this instance is likely not our strongest inclination absent the coercion.
• Desires Change – Our strongest desire absent temptation may be to please God, but when temptation to sin comes our strongest desire may be to give in and we make that choice freely.
Calvin’s View – If free will means that fallen man has the ability to choose what he wants, he has free will. If free will means that fallen man has the moral power and ability to choose righteousness, he lacks free will, because he cannot always do so.
Paradox View (Sproul) – Every choice that man makes is free and every choice that man makes is determined. Paradox because free and determined (caused by something outside man’s will) are generally considered to be mutually exclusive.
• It Is Not Determinism – Things happen to man solely due to external forces.
• It is Determined – If choices flow from a man’s dispositions and desires, which are internal forces, and if man’s actions are an effect that have causes and reasons behind them, these internal desires determines man’s personal choice.
The question is: if my desires determine my choice, how can I be free?
Because what determines my choice is me (choices are both free and determined). This is called self-determination, which is not the denial of freedom, but rather it is the essence of freedom. Not only may we choose according to our desires, we do (perhaps must) in fact choose according to our desires and inclinations. The essence of freedom is to choose what you want.
This leads to fallen man’s problem: fallen man sins because they want to sin, which means that man sins freely. Sinners reject Christ because they want to (freely) reject Christ.
In order to choose Christ, fallen man must want (have a desire) to do so.
The question is: Does fallen man retain in His heart any desire for God?
Moral Ability versus Natural Ability (Edwards) – Moral ability means the ability to be righteous or sinful. Man was created with the ability to be righteous or sinful. In his fallenness, man lost his ability to be righteous in and of himself because he is born with a sin nature. He has lost the ability to be totally righteous. Natural abilities are abilities we have by our nature (Man has the ability to think, reason and stand upright. Man does not have the ability to fly unaided). In his fallenness, man lost the natural ability to be righteous (what is natural is to sin). Will is inclined to evil and disinclined to righteousness.
Notes from: Chosen by God, R.C. Sproul