Libertarian Free Will (LFW) is the idea that man is able to choose otherwise than he will choose. It’s contrasted with Compatiblism Free Will (CFW), the idea that free will and determinism are compatible. These are alternative views of the will; both can’t be true about a persons’ will at the same time.
The descriptions “libertarian” and “free” distinguish LFW from CFW, but are otherwise redundant. For those holding to LFW, the will is always at liberty, and is always free, else it’s not a will. Arminius put it: “the will cannot be forced”.
The bible says people have wills and make choices. Since LFW and CFW are alternative views and LFW is reducible to biblical phrase, “the will”, the question is which is right: LFW or CFW? If LFW is coherent and CFW is incoherent, LFW is biblical and CFW isn’t. Jonathan Edwards realized that the converse is true as well, and that’s why the bulk of “the Freedom of the Will
” attempts to demonstrate the incoherence of LFW. I argued that Edwards’ view is inconsistent here
, and plan on addressing Edwards’ arguments later. But since LFW is about to undergo a detailed inspection by Edwards, I thought it might be helpful if we first described LFW. Contrast is helpful, so let’s start with what LFW is not.
What LFW is Not
LFW is not:
1) The ability to choose between good and evil – the fall disabled man from doing good, but fallen man is able to choose among evil options
2) The ability to avoid the consequences of our choices
3) The ability of our body to accomplish anything we choose – choices are mental resolutions which start the bodies action, whether or not the action is completed. If someone pulls a gun on you and says your money or your life and you attempt to escape, you made a choice to escape whether you get away or not.
4) The ability to choose both alternatives simultaneously – you can’t have your cake and eat it too
5) The ability to change the past – causation works forward in time – there’s no going back
6) The ability to create ex nihilo – We require God’s providential concurrence with every phase of choice
7) The ability to falsify God’s foreknowledge – We can, but will not do the opposite of what God foreknows. Foreknowledge and the future event are logically related, so if we suppose we will do the opposite, we must also suppose God foreknew that event.
What LFW Is
Choice is the action of the will selecting one alternative over another. The will is the faculty within man’s soul that’s able to choose either alternative. Being able to choose either option implies both options are possible, which implies neither option is necessary. When we say the will is free, it’s free from necessity, and it’s free to choose either alternative. With respect to time, the ability of the will precedes the will’s choosing. At one moment we have a choice, the next moment we actually choose.
Part of a Critique of Jonathan Edwards’ Enquire into the Will at Arminian Chronicles.