What is free will?

by Matt Slick

Free will is the ability to make choices without external coersion.  There are debates as to what extent this free will is to be understood as it relates to people.  There are two main views:  compatibilism and libertarianism.

The compatibilist view is the position that a person's freedom is restricted by his nature as is described in Scripture.  In other words, he can only choose what his nature (sinful or regenerate) will allow him to choose.  Therefore, such verses as 1 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 3:10-12; Rom. 6:14-20 are used to demonstrate that, for example, the unbeliever is incapable of choosing God of his own free will.

Libertarian free will says that the person's will is not restricted by his sinful nature, and that he is still able to choose or accept God freely.  Verses used to support this view are John 3:16 and 3:36.  Two subdivisions of libertarian free will would be "open absolute free will" which says that man's choices are not knowable by God until they occur and "non-open absolute free will" which would state that God can know man's choices but he cannot determine them.

The biblical position is compatibilism.  Since the Bible clearly teaches us that the unbeliever is restricted to making sinful choices (1 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 3:10-12; Rom. 6:14-20), then we must conclude that anyone who believes in God (John 3:16; 3:36) does so because God has granted that he believe (Phil. 1:29), has caused him to be born again (1 Pet. 1:3), and chose him for salvation (2 Thess. 2:13).

All the cults and false religious systems teach the libertarian view of free will that salvation and spiritual understanding are completely within the grasp of sinners (in spite of their enslavement to and deadness in sin).  For them, salvation would be totally up to the ability of the individual to make such a choice.




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