Do fallen men really have “free” will?

I was discussing the issue of free will yesterday evening with Pauline, a contributor here, and I believed I might have caused her some stress, for which I sincerely apologize. The discussion was public, so my apology is public.

Nevertheless, I still ask the question, not because I want to win an argument or make a theological point, but because it’s a good question, but perhaps the wrong question to be asking.

The answer is of course a resounding yes, if we define “free” as meaning fallen men have the ability to choose whatever they want to choose whenever they are given options that require that they make a choice between those options.

The right question we should be asking is “What do fallen men ‘’want”? In the context of the Christian faith, we might ask “Do fallen men want God?” Does scripture provide answers? I think it does.

I suggest only three passages of scripture:

The first passage is from Romans 8:7-8:

“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

Is Paul talking about the ‘natural’ mind that we are all born with? Such a mind is hostile to God and unable to please God. If the ‘natural’ mind is in view, that mind can do nothing that pleases God.

The second passage is from 1 Corinthians 2:14:

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

Paul here tells us that the ‘natural’ person does not and in fact is incapable to accept the things of God because they are spiritually discerned and he cannot even understand them.

The third passage (I didn’t mention it in the discussion with Pauline yesterday) is from 2 Corinthians 4:3-4:

“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. “

In this passage we’re told that unbelievers have blind minds and cannot even see the light of the gospel!

There are many other passages that speak to the natural human condition, but I just wanted to share a few that are dear to an old man’s heart. I only want to add one short tidbit from Jonathan Edwards, a great mind from the American past:

“The will is the mind choosing”

Yes Virginia, we have “free” will. We can choose whatever we want to choose. And I ask again: How “free” is the will of fallen men?

It’s just a question for serious consideration.  

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Categories: Christianity

9 replies

  1. If we are talking about fallen Christian men or unbelievers I Truly think we all have free will. BUT yea there is a but if we are under the influence of the world our free will can and will be clouded. Let me explain I have had people in my life and are still in my life that are under the influence of drugs, alcohol, pornography, prescription drugs and the list goes on.

    This is raw to me this morning because I had to deal with a step son about his drug problem today among others. Look I will say we all have the FREE WILL to change BUT we can be influenced. I could keep going because this is a issue I talk about all the time. There is a SALVATION issue I could get into but I wont because this all will end up at the foot of the cross one day. I just pray we all take it to the cross before JESUS comes back.

    I didn’t see your other post I may look it up but I can agree with your question it is a problem we all face. Thanks for posting this I needed to clear the air this morning.

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  2. Good question

    I guess another way of looking at the initial question, “Do fallen men have free will,” would be to ask the question, which you addressed at the end, “Does the free will of the fallen man really make them free?” To that, the answer would be no, because they are enslaved to the god of this world.

    To answer your question, “Do fallen men want God,” the answer is some do, some don’t, and some are still undecided. However, I believe the Holy Spirit actively attempts to draw all men unto Jesus (John 6:44).

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  3. I agree. It’s just that their are people in my life that I wish never had free will. If they had listened to God (or even me) their lives (and how it affected me) would have turned out very different.
    Sigh. If only they would listen.
    I wonder if God is saying the same about us when we make bad choices? Does He shake His head, “If only they would seek My will and listen for My voice?”

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  4. There are people- I must proofread my comments

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  5. I think because of sin our sins is in bondage to sin. We’re not surprised by Romans 3:10 and other passages that talk about how the unregenerate man in his sin does not choose God. Hence the need for God’s sovereign grace!

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  6. Thanks for the input so far. I think we all have free ‘choice’ but the human will was severely damaged at the Fall. We freely chose whatever is in our heart to choose. I believe the passages from Romans and 1st Corinthians mean what they say. How does someone with a blind mind who cannot understand spiritual matters, who hates God and can do nothing to please Him, choose Christ? If he could turn his own heart toward God, it would be pleasing to God, would it not? But the unbeliever CAN’T please God? Do you see the problem I am having? I could add more questions, but that’s enough for now.

    I didn’t get into the issues around being in bondage to, and being in slavery to sin. Thanks to Jim for bringing it up. Those points also go the state of the human will after the fall. We are quick to agree that living apart from Christ is living in darkness. The Bible tells us that unbelievers (the unregenerate) love their darkness and sin! John 3:19

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  7. I think we have been conditioned, and conditioned so well that we assume that the state of the natural human will is something not supported by Scripture. I could provide a long list of those whose minds have been changed by reading Scripture, and by nothing else. It might have been by the passages shown above, or others (another long list).

    The point of this post was not convince anyone of anything, but to encourage to think About it and open their Bibles to see what it has to say about the fallen human will. That’s it. For some the assumption of free will is so strong they will stubbornly refuse and the light will come by some other means, like a seminary proffesor asking a single question like “What can a desd man do?”

    I hear someone say just yesterday morning that if it’s in the Bible you can take it to the bank but if it’s your opinion, take it to the Bible.

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