"Do We Have Free Will?"
June 2, 2023, 11:43 AM

“Do we have free will?”

The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

If I was asked to make a list of the ten worst questions to ask in church this would be on that list. It might even be near the top! I want you to read my entire article, so permit me to refrain from giving my short answer to the question.


When seeking to answer a question, especially one that is fundamental to human nature, it is necessary to clearly understand the meaning of terms. Man’s will is the faculty of the mind by which choices or decisions concerning a course of action are made. The word free means unencumbered, not enslaved, or not controlled by obligation.


Rephrasing the question with the meaning of the words results in this rephrased question, “Does mankind have an unencumbered mental faculty by which choices are made?” Still every person that answers this question will give a response based upon their own personal opinion.


In light of so many opinions, we ought to seek the only one that matters. In other words, what has God said, if anything, concerning the issue of man’s will?


As an exercise, using the concordance of your Bible, try to find instances of the words “free” and “will” used together. The closest example is documented in Genesis 2:16-17. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely (also, freely) eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’”


Adam and the woman, later named Eve, ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. At the end of Chapter three of Genesis, we read that God “placed the cherubim (mighty angels) and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” God insured that no man would be able to eat of the tree of life and live forever, Genesis 3:22-24.


Several chapters later, Moses recorded God’s view of all of mankind. He surveyed all mankind and declared “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”, Genesis 6:5. Further, the prophet Jeremiah spoke for God and said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” The New Testament is consistent with the Old Testament. Men have not changed. The Apostle Paul wrote, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” Romans 3:10


God’s view of man’s will is that it is in bondage; it is not unencumbered. Yes we will do whatever we desire. One of the greatest, possibly the greatest American Theologian, Jonathan Edwards wrote a book entitled, “The Freedom of the Will.” The basic premise of his book is that men do whatever they want to do. The problem is that before God regenerates a man or woman, the only thing that they desire is sin!


The reality revealed by the word of God is, “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us … while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son…” Romans 5:8, 10. Man’s will is in bondage to sin! Jesus said that “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32.


All this may strike you as just some philosophical rambling, but this truth is much more. Understanding our human nature is essential if we are ever to know the depth of God’s grace.


So then, do we have free will? Even in a purely physical sense, we are limited. No one can honestly claim that he can do whatever he wants with impunity. We all have restrictions placed upon us. Yet, we all do what we want at any given time. The problem is all that the unregenerate person wants is to run from God. The natural man suppresses the truth in unrighteousness, Romans 1:18.


We have all inherited Adam’s sin. When Adam sinned we all sinned, Romans 5:12. We are naturally children of God’s wrath, Ephesians 2:1-3. We deserve hell. Apart from God’s action we will stand before Him and face His perfect judgment. The good news of God is that He regenerates a sinner and makes him a saint. He gives that sinner the gift of faith causing him to run to Christ!