by Matt Slick
Yes, Adam had free will. Free will is the ability to make choices that are not coerced. It is the ability to act according at one's discretion, according to one's desires. It is a voluntary choice, not one that is forced or restricted by a threat. In light of this, Adam had the free will to choose to sin as well as choose not to sin. He could choose either one because he was not fallen in his nature as we are.
But this does not mean that people today, in particular, unbelievers, have the same extent of free will that Adam had. Unbelievers have free will because they have the free choice to be able to do whatever they desire to do. But their desires will be consistent with their fallen natures. This is why unbelievers do not have the ability to not sin. They are perfectly free to choose to behave in a manner consistent with their fallenness. No one is forcing them to choose to rebel against God. No one is forcing them to sin. They sin on their own and act in a manner that is consistent with their fallenness.
The Bible tells us that the unbeliever is a slave of sin (Romans 6:14-20), does not seek for God and can do no good (Romans 3:10-12). He is dead in his sins (Ephesians 2:1), is by nature a child of wrath (Ephesians 2:3), cannot receive spiritual truths (1 Corinthians 2:14), and his righteous deeds are filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6). Such a person is certainly free to make any choice he or she desires, but those choices will be consistent with his fallen nature.
I hope this is not confusing. But the fact is, a person can only freely choose to do what a person can choose to do. If a person is not able to do something, it does not mean he does not have free will. For example, I am not able to flap my arms and fly to the moon. This does not mean I have no free will. I'm free to want to flap my arms and fly to the moon. But I'm not free (because of my nature) to accomplish it. Yet, I still have free will. I'm not forced by any external means to choose to fly to the moon or not choose to fly to the moon. So, free will choice does not mean we also have to be able to accomplish it.
Adam had a non-fallen nature
Adam was not like this in the beginning. He was not a slave of sin, nor was he dead in his sins. He was created good by God (Genesis 1:31). He had the ability to both sin and not sin, where the unbeliever today only has the ability to choose to sin freely.
Again, free will is the ability to make choices without being coerced. Unbelievers are not being coerced to sin. They freely choose to do this on their own. But, as the verses above reveal, the unbeliever cannot please God and can do no good (Romans 3:10-12). This is because he possesses a fallen nature. He is still free. He still possesses free will. But he can't freely choose to desire something he is not capable of desiring. We must, therefore, define free will is the ability to make uncoerced choices are consistent with one's nature.
Adam had a non-fallen nature and was freely able to choose to sin as well as not to sin. The unbeliever today has a fallen nature and is freely able to choose to sin, but he cannot freely choose not to sin.
So yes, Adam had free will. He had the ability to make choices that were consistent with his non-fallen nature. No one forced him to sin. He freely chose to rebel against God. But we do not have the same non-fallen nature that Adam originally had. We are fallen, and we will act in a manner consistent with our fallenness. It is only through the grace of God in the person of Christ who has redeemed us and regenerated us (John 3:3-8; 2 Cor. 5:17), that we are then enabled to choose to freely follow God's will.