Defining Free Will
I apologize for not having posted lately. I haven’t abandoned the blog but have decided to take it easy for a while until I build up some enthusiasm for writing again.
Last year I wrote some posts about Molinism which holds that God can be sovereign and mankind can have free will at the same time. Of course Christians seem to either love or hate this teaching and I happen to be one of those Christians who love it.
When I recently went back through my posts on Molinism I realized that I hadn’t defined what is meant by free will. Definitions are really handy things to have and I decided that I needed to remedy the situation and get a good definition posted to my blog. Believe it or not it isn’t easy to come up with a good definition because the topic is so heated (I once found a Calvinist blog that called a definition of “free will” like the one I am about to provide “heretical”).
Without further ado here is the definition courtesy of Dr. Bruce Little:
This term carries baggage that proves unnecessarily confusing and requires too many qualifications in order to convey its exact meaning. Therefore, the term/phrase of choice here will be libertarian freedom. To affirm that the will is free is difficult to defend, if used in the absolute sense. In general, libertarian freedom as used here means that man has the power to choose to the contrary, and in so doing has the power to cause events. It acknowledges that antecedent choices and events may influence and/or limit present or future choices. In some cases, such choices may determine an unalterable course of events which cannot be reversed by another choice, such as jumping out of a window on the thirtieth floor of an apartment building. Libertarian freedom, however, maintains that man has the ability to make authentic choices from the options permitted within his circumstances and God’s providence. His choices may be limited, but not ability to choose. There are times when his choices are other than they would be under different circumstances (as when there is a gun to your head in conjunction with a command to give the gun-holder your wallet), or his choices may be limited, yet he still has the ability itself to choose. Even when there is a gun to your head, you still have a choice. Consider that Christians have often been called upon to choose the unnatural simply in obedience to Christ.
The word “choice” implies two things; in order for choice to be authentic, there must be at least two possibilities that are equal in possibility, but not necessarily in desirability or workability. For example, one may require more energy or sacrifice. Furthermore, there must be corollary consequences for each choice. When taken as a whole, libertarian freedom affirms that God has given man true ability to choose between two or more possibilities where man can refrain from one and choose the other. Authentic possibilities from which to choose require moral judgment, which is part of libertarian freedom. From each choice, certain consequences follow. The consequences may vary, may be direct or indirect, immediate or delayed, and may affect the individual as well as others, but consequences do follow. Man is morally accountable for those choices; that is, he bears moral responsibility.
God, Why This Evil?
Bruce A. Little