Do We Have Free Will?: The Reality of Unregenerate Bondage

The human will universally inherited in Adam is not born into a state of neutrality and apathy. The fallen and unregenerate human will has natural loves, passions, desires, delights and pleasures. The will chooses on the basis of these desires, which are not neutral but, instead, absolutely and universally influenced toward evil Sinners by nature desire rebellion, and thus their wills always incline toward rebellion.

Topics: Salvation

The human will universally inherited in Adam is not born into a state of neutrality and apathy. The fallen and unregenerate human will has natural loves, passions, desires, delights and pleasures. The will chooses on the basis of these desires, which are not neutral but, instead, absolutely and universally influenced toward evil Sinners by nature desire rebellion, and thus their wills always incline toward rebellion.

Fallen humanity is naturally (that is, by nature) broken and depraved. As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:3, we are “by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” This fallen nature has limitations. It cannot not sin. All it desires (wills) is sin.

This truth is foreign to modern thought. How can Christianity affirm that every action of fallen man is sinful while there exist evidenced examples of social kindness and love throughout the world? The biblical answer begins by understanding sin. 1

Sin is not merely external action, but internal affections and motivations. Helping an elderly lady cross the street, giving to charitable causes, refraining from certain behaviors and engaging in others are not good in the fullest sense of the word.

Nothing is good if not done from a posture of humble trust in God and a love for His glory. As the Bible states, anything done in unbelief (Romans 14:23) or done without respect to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) falls short of righteousness.

Fallen humans love sin. They desire sin. They will sin. They delight in sin. They crave sin. They prefer sin. They choose sin.

We abhor the glory of God in lustful craving for our own exaltation and autonomy. We want to glorify ourselves, not our Creator. Because we will (desire) sin, we will (do) sin. We are “willing” participants in sin, and all we can do is sin.

The question is not, “Can we do what we want?” but “What do we want?” Unless and until we come face to face with the radical depravity of fallen man, we will never truly understand who we are and what God has done in bringing us to Himself. As long as we conceive ourselves as neutral in our longings and desires, we will assume a false foundation for understanding the nature of our freedom or bondage.

The biblical depiction of fallen mankind is desperate, dark and dire. Consider the following descriptions of an unregenerate person:

  • Our eyes are blind to the glories of the gospel (Matthew 13:14-15, John 12:39-40, 2 Corinthians 4:4).
  • Our minds are darkened and hostile toward God (Romans 8:7, Ephesians 4:18, Colossians 1:21).
  • Our ears are deaf to the call of our Creator (Matthew 13:14-15).
  • Our hearts are darkened and deceitful(Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 1:21).
  • We are enslaved to sin (John 8:34, Romans 6:17, Galatians 4:8).
  • We are foolish (Romans 1:21, Titus 3:3).
  • We hate God (John 3:19-20).
  • We are dead (Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 2:13).

Is a blind man “free” to see Christ? Is a deaf man “free” to hear Christ? Is a dead man “free” to stand up and walk toward Christ? Is a slave “free” from slavery?

Considering the biblical depiction of mankind, the type of freedom that many simply assume to be true is grounded in an unrealistic understanding of what has happened to man in the Fall. A deeper freedom was once possessed in “man as created,” but man is no longer as he was created.

Our nature has changed, and with it the understanding of our liberty. Goodness and innocence fell from us at the Fall, and we forfeited some degree of freedom by eating of the fruit. Fallen freedom consists of the ability to do what one desires, and those desires are universally directed away from Creator and toward creation.


Footnotes

1 See Romans 1:18-32 for a horrifying picture of the depravity of the human creature in his rebellion against Creator. Man has universally declared his preference of creation over Creator such that all are said to be “without excuse.”

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