Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Free Will: Introduction

Man absolutely has the ability to choose what he wants

My next few posts are going to revolve around my thoughts on free will. Honestly, this is a concept that I struggle with, so this will be a challenge for me to clearly articulate my thoughts. There are many different directions these posts can take, and I don't have a clear path set out yet on where I want to go or how I want to get there. I'm just going to enjoy the ride.

Much of my current understanding of free will comes from R.C. Sproul and his Chosen By God Audio Series. For the Arminian readers, I want to quickly point out that I am not sold on the doctrine of predestination as established by the Reformers. That being said, I do not wrestle with any theological issue more than with the relationship between our free will and God's sovereignty. At some point, I am going to read and study the Jonathan Edwards work The Freedom of the Will.

The first thing that should be done is to define what free will is. My definition, at least right now is that man chooses what he wants. It's a simple, straightforward definition that doesn't have a lot of technical jargon. According to this definition, does man have free will? The answer is obviously yes. Man absolutely has the ability to choose what he wants.

This means that our free will is driven by our desires. Our wants and desires determine our choices. Maybe our will isn't so free after all. Even if you put what you think is your strongest desire aside and choose differently, it is only because at the moment of choice the desire to go against your strongest desire is really the strongest desire. The strongest desire we have at the moment of our choice is the choice that will always be made. When we sin, it is because our desire to sin is stronger than our desire not to sin at the moment we sin. If this were not the case, we would choose not to sin.

Some interesting questions now get raised. Since we choose according to our strongest desire, can our strongest desire be God? Can we choose on our own, unaided from God, not to sin? Are we born morally good, neutral, or sinful? These are important questions, since our desires are reflected by the choices we make. These are questions I will try to hammer out (for my benefit) in future posts.

Other Posts on Free Will
Free Will: Introduction
Free Will: Humanist Perspective
Free Will: James 4
Free Will: A Reflection of Our Sinful Nature



  1. Randy in Nebraska said...
    I've thought about that too. I think man is born basically good but has the ability to make bad choices. that is what free will is all about.
    Brett said...
    I doubt I will have time to post today, but we will get in to your topics. For now, ponder this question: If man is born basically good, and if man chooses according to his strongest desire at the moment of the choice (this is my current understanding, and the premise of this post) then wouldn't he always choose good?
    Anonymous said...
    so you are saying that a person can't choose something that goes against his desire? I dont think I agree with you. That is what free will is. The ability to make choices. If what you said is true, man can never make a choice, but must always do what his strongest desire is. Do I understand correctly?
    Anonymous said...
    one more question. Isnt a person who chooses not sin making a choice that goes against his strongest desire? I may have more questions in a little bit. I am asking serious questions, I don't want to argue, but to say that a person has to choose something sounds like a paradox to me.
    Brett said...
    The fact that our choices are driven by our strongest desires does not mean that the will is not free. In fact, it is the very essence of free will. It is not a paradox. Man can do whatever he desires.
    I am saying that man cannot make a choice that goes against his strongest desire. This does not mean that there are not other desires, only that the strongest desire wins out. I have the desire right now not to sin. However, at the moment I choose to sin, my desire to sin is greater than my desire not to, so sin wins. I may feel guilty and remorseful afterwards, and then 10 minutes later do the same sin again.
    On the other hand, if my strongest desire when I am tempted is not to sin, even though I may have a desire to sin, I won't sin.
    Here's another example. Suppose you want to prove me wrong, so you make a choice that you would not ordinarily make, just to prove that you can make a choice that is not your strongest desire. I argue that your desire to prove me wrong, or to prove that you are right at the moment of the choice was stronger than your desire to do what you would normally do.
    I am still thinking about my future posts, so don't want to ramble too much. Keep asking questions. I don't claim to have all answers, but this is my current understanding. Good discussion and debate help me learn.
    Anonymous said...
    You are absolutely right. Great post. Man has free will, but the will is driven by our desires.

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