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Libertarian free will is the position that a person’s choices are free from the determination or constraints of human nature and free from any predetermination by God. Libertarians generally argue that we cannot be held responsible for our own choices unless we were entirely able to have made a contrary choice instead.1

I’ve included both Arminians and open theists in the question because my understanding is they would generally agree on their views and would both self-identify as holding the libertarian free will position.2

Please no philosophical or logical arguments or opinions. The question here is what case can be made for this view from the Bible. Answers are welcome from determinists and compatibilists as long as you think you can faithfully represent the libertarian position (always cite your sources if applicable!).


1 This is not to be confused with the political view known as libertarianism. Political libertarianism and libertarian free will, sometimes called metaphysical libertarianism, are completely unrelated. For a fuller definition see Theopedia › Libertarian free will.
2 For an Arminian defending libertarian free well and self-identifying as libertarian, see Society of Evangelical Arminians › Libertarian free will. For an open theist, see ReKnew.org › Is Free Will compatible with Predestination?.

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I will address some background issues prior to bringing the point home.

Yes, most believe in a sinful nature for mankind. I believe along with Dallas Willard and all those in the Wesleyan tradition that total depravity is not the description of mankind. It is interesting to note that Calvin himself believed that babies are born innocent. Luther on the other hand would require baptism for babies since he did not believe they were born innocent. So, except for that discrepancy, evangelicals believe that depravity is not total. Usually what the Calvinist means by this phrase is total inability. I would identify with Dallas Willard when he talks of sufficient depravity (as evidenced in Rom 3:23) At present there are less Calvinists than not, not that numbers prove a position. Once total depravity is accepted, the rest of TULIP just naturally flows logically.

I do not believe in original sin. What is sin? Sin is a missing of the mark. If one can miss the mark at the moment that one is born then we have more capability than we know. Babies are born innocent. Calvin got that right. Just because my father sinned does not mean that any of those sins were transferred to me. That is true all the way back to Adam. (c.f.Ezekiel 18:20)

I do believe in the Sovereignty of God as expressed in the Bible. I also believe eternal security, though not as expressed in the P of TULIP. The Sovereignty of God does not override the free will of man. The free will of man in no way threatens the Sovereignty of God. In fact God in His sovereignly has decided that the angels and man are to have free will. This in no way thwarts God's plans. I am stating these without reference to any particular scripture, but do have many in mind. I will get around to those shortly.I do not believe in total depravity. Let's say for sake of argument, man is totally depraved. We believe that Jesus is totally God and totally man. Scripture affirms this.

How can Jesus be fully man if man is fully depraved from birth?... from Matt Elton (who is Monotheist while I believe in the Trinity)

The answer is that man is not fully depraved from birth. Man is born innocent. David in the Psalms said that man is born into sin - notice - not with sin. Psalm 51:5 David said that he would go to his son by Bathsheba -the son that died. (2 Sam 12:23) Paul talking in 1 Cor 14:20 has reference to babies being innocent as the basis for an argument. He assumed it, and assumed that his audience assumed it. Otherwise his argument would fall apart. There are other times that God is talking about the innocent blood of children being spilled in pagan sacrifices. (Psalms 106:38 and others - From Rich Deem's website) Babies are innocent. Realize also that when Jesus spoke of being born again, He was indicating that we needed go through a process to become innocent once again - as we were when we were born.

We do come to an age of accountability. Adam did and so do we. This is referenced by Paul in Romans 7:7-11. Adam did not lose perfection, he lost his innocence.

What is the point of the book of Job? Surely Satan has free will or God would have just changed Satan's mind instead of working to convince him about Job's allegiance. And if Job had no free will then what was being determined - that Job could be a puppet? Oh and by the way, there is a verse that says that we will judge angels. If God judges man arbitrarily, then that is our example for how to judge the angels later. (1 Corinthians 6:3)

Matthew 22:1-14 talks about chosen. This chosen is the same Greek word as in Romans. Here Jesus himself explains how the kingdom is working. The first part of the parable signifies those who choose not to participate in the kingdom. Note that the King is enraged. If the King already knew that they would not choose to participate - why would he be enraged? The last part of the parable is about those who choose to participate in the kingdom. Then the last statement is "many are called and few are chosen" So riddle me this - If the Calvinist take was taken, then it should have been "many are called and many are chosen" - or "few are called and few are chosen"

If there is no free will, then at least five things do not make sense... repentance, prayer, evangelism, rewards, and punishment. Hence this is why some (most?) Calvinists do not adhere to no free will after salvation. Choice is implied in all the Bible, but is made most obvious in some scriptures (Deut 30:19 and Joshua 24:15)

God's sovereignty is not encroached on by our free will. God controls when we die (Sodom and Gomorrah, the Worldwide Flood, etc) As well as other means of affecting people without affecting free will (Blinding (Genesis 19:11), Changing their language (Genesis 11:9), etc.)

God is Sovereign and Just. If God's love is greater than our love, then it would seem to follow that God's justice is greater than our Justice. His ways are higher than our ways. His thoughts higher than our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9) Note that in James 1:13 "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man." If God does not tempt someone, then why would He do something more intrusive like harden someone's heart? Apologetics Press addresses the topic "Who Hardened Pharaoh's heart?"(see (1) below)

The Book of Life is interesting in regard to predestination. Exodus 32:32-33 is its first mention and where God says that those who have sinned will be blotted out of the Book of Life. Another place it says that those in the Book of Life are from there from the foundation of the world "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:" (Ephesians 1:4) If the elect are from the foundation of the world, and they are known ahead of time, why would some of the elect be blotted out? Did God make a mistake? Do you see the problem here? The problem is resolved if we realize that the word elect is the word for chosen. And those that are chosen are those that chose first. And God made the system, grace, whereby it is possible for us to choose. Note that this implies that the Book of Life originally had everyone's name. Some references in Revelation muddy the waters, but they may be referring to people who have done the unforgivable sin and are just around until their death happens.

Predestination is not predestination to be saved. It is once saved being predestined therefore to be conformed to the likeness of Christ.

Who did Christ die for? All are wanted. Reference 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 John 2:2.

Also, what comes first belief or regeneration? (see John 1:12 and John 20:31)

Calvinism purports to promote and magnify God and demote man. What it does in the end is to demote God and promote and magnify man. What do I mean by that? Man is promoted to a place where he doesn't have to worry about his actions (or at least his salvation) - because they are all predestined - determined. He also is in a place where God needs him to further God's kingdom - God can't do without him, and so appoints him to salvation. God is demoted in that no longer is God "just" in man's estimation - and heaven's estimation. God arbitrarily chooses who He will and rewards them for God's efforts. Those who God does not see fit to choose to further the kingdom are punished without any recourse for something that they do not have any chance of affecting. This is the end conclusion of accepting total depravity. This is what atheists hear about and have a justifiably good argument that that God is not one to be admired and worshiped. (see (1) below)

So while we do partner together Wesleyan and Neo-Calvinist, I will not back down from promoting God and His true justice so that sinners see a great God - not a monster God. And promote letting the Bible say what it has to say. Using the obvious verses to interpret the harder verses to understand. (2 Peter 3:16 and 2 Tim 2:15)

(1) http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1205

(2) http://watchmanforjesus.blogspot.com/search/label/Calvinism%20Heresy

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  • Sin is a predisposition. Original sin as Catholicism (and others) teach it is not biblical. What we have inherited from Adam is the "notion" that we have the ability to determine good from evil and do not need God's determination. From this springs our depravity. Babies are born innocent of acting out of sin but none will do so for long. Jesus was fully human like Adam before the fall. He lived a human life without the predisposition to sin. – Mike Borden Jan 23 at 0:08
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From the Society of Evangelical Arminians:

Verses that show man has libertarian free will

Free will offering verses:

Exodus 35:29; 36:3

Leviticus 7:16; 22:18, 21, 23; 23:38

Numbers 15:3; 29:39

Deuteronomy 12:6, 17; 16:10 2

Chronicles 31:14; 35:8

Ezra 1:4, 6; 3:5; 7:16; 8:28

Psalm 119:108

Ezekiel 46:12

Amos 4:5

Isaiah 1:19-20 – Can choose to be obedient or rebel.

Ezekiel 33:11 – Have the ability to choose from different options.

Luke 7:30 – Pharisees rejected what God wanted for them.

John 7:17 – A person must want to do what God is giving them the grace to do. This verse shows that God allows things He doesn’t want to happen.

1 Corinthians 7:37 – Power over own will–not necessitated–that’s the definition of LFW.

1 Corinthians 10:13

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I’m not a traditionalist, nor an Arminian. I am, I suppose an open theist in that I believe man has limited free will.

One of my favorite examples of free will is foreknowledge does not equal predeterminism. God foreknew and yet David was able to choose differently than what was fore known.

“Then David said, “O LORD God of Israel, Your servant has certainly heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah to destroy the city for my sake. Will the men of Keilah deliver me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as Your servant has heard? O LORD God of Israel, I pray, tell Your servant.” And the LORD said, “He will come down.” Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the LORD said, “They will deliver you. ”” ‭‭I Samuel‬ ‭23:10-12‬

God foreknew two things both of which did not happen. God foreknew Saul would come down to Keilah. And God foreknew that the inhabitants of Keilah would hand David over time Saul. But

“So David and his men, about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah and went wherever they could go. Then it was told Saul that David had escaped from Keilah; so he halted the expedition.” ‭‭I Samuel‬ ‭23:13‬ ‭

That is free will.

Usually David made inquiry of the Lord if he should proceed as he did to end up in Keilah in the first place. And curious even though they inquired and asked, receiving a favorable answer they hesitated wanting to refuse at which point David asked a second time.

“Then they told David, saying, “Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah, and they are robbing the threshing floors.” Therefore David inquired of the LORD, saying, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” And the LORD said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines, and save Keilah.” But David’s men said to him, “Look, we are afraid here in Judah. How much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?” Then David inquired of the LORD once again. And the LORD answered him and said, “Arise, go down to Keilah. For I will deliver the Philistines into your hand.”” ‭‭I Samuel‬ ‭23:1-4‬ ‭

So it would follow then that David’s army felt they had the choice of rejecting the Lord’s answer. Even so David upon learning the Keilahites would betray him didn’t stay to fulfill that which God had relayed would happened in His omniscience, he acted volitionally and left without asking if he should leave. It was a no brainer that he was not required/obligated to remain and be handed over to Saul just because God foreknew what might happen.

“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;” ‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭30:19‬ ‭

and also

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” ‭‭John‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭

It does not say that the elect and predetermined, it says whoever believes, absolutely open to everyone.

This is important because verses like

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” ‭‭John‬ ‭6:44‬ ‭

Are inserted to color free will and say the person had no choice in the matter. Nothing further from the truth. Jesus explains who the Father draws and why. In the very next verse

“It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.” ‭‭John‬ ‭6:45‬ ‭

This is quoting Isaiah and what Jesus is saying is anyone who FIRST hears the Scriptures and believes them, the Father draws them to Jesus. The choice resides with the individual to believe what they hear. God makes the first step in that it’s His word, this word has to be spoken and IF anyone believes the Scriptures THEN Father opens their heart, ordains them to come to Jesus Christ. This is Romans 10:14. This is exactly what happened with Lydia she listened to the preaching with all the other ladies but when she believed the Scriptures that’s when God opened up her heart to pay attention and then she was baptized.

Same process in Acts 13. The Jews heard the Scriptures and rejected it, but the Gentiles listening believed the Scriptures, because they started to praise God. That’s when the Father stepped in and the Greek word translated “appointed” (notice not PRE-appointed) meaning to put in order, God followed the natural order of events, they believed the Scriptures so He drew them to Jesus Christ. They were not PRE-determined. They had to choose if they believed the Scriptures. It was volitional and not imposed.

Notice why some people don’t believe.

“How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?” ‭‭John‬ ‭5:44‬ ‭

They Don’t believe what the Scriptures say

“there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”” ‭‭John‬ ‭5:45-47‬ ‭

The choose to seek honor from each other and they choose not to believe what the Scriptures say. Choice, and choices. Free will.

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"What biblical support do Arminians and open theists find for libertarian free will?"

There are multitudes of passages that not only prove free will from scripture, but it's very important to note that the converse is also true.
There are no scriptures anywhere that explicitly say - Man doesn't have free will, or can't choose who he will serve.

  • "Hell was created for humans/ the non-elect - this would be the case if God Pre-damned some as Calvinism teaches.
  • That God didn't love the whole world,
  • That Christ didn't taste death for every man"
  • That God wants some to perish, and not all to come to repentance."
  • "Not everyone who calls on the Lord will be saved",
  • "Only some can drink of the water of life freely"

There are 2 very important points that we need to clarify before we can fully answer the question.
"I’ve included both Arminians and open theists in the question because my understanding is they would generally agree on their views and would both self-identify as holding the libertarian free will position."

    1. While it is true that both groups you mention believe in Free-will, Open Theism is totally distinct and separate from free will, - free will having to do with man's ability to evaluate, weigh the pros and cons and make choices - open theism deals more with God responding to mans' requests, prayers etc.
      Most Open Theists believe in Free will, but most Arminians reject Open Theism.
      The vast majority of Arminians - of whom I was raised and am one- do not accept Open Theism, as it is seen by many that God is not immutable.

This is true of most Nazarenes, most all Wesleyan groups, most Bible Methodists, most Pilgrim Holiness, most Church of God Holiness, most Pentecostals, and Christian Missionary Alliance, and many Free-will Baptists.

    1. One of the most important principles of Biblical interpretation is that scripture interprets other scripture, and we have to look at the whole counsel of scripture. We have to cross reference and see other passages which shed light. Clear passages always take precedent over vague or unclear ones.

We see this used over and over when Calvinists cherry-pick verses like the one which says "Christ gave himself as a ransom for many" but ignore the multiple explicitly-clear passages which say he died for "all".

Those who deny free will, never like to talk about the pre-damned. If God pre-destined a smaller percentage, say 30% to be Christians, and they can't refuse - then it means that he pre-damned 70% to go to hell before they were created.
Scripture is explicitly clear - that God is not willing that ANY should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance." John 3:16 For God so loved the whole world - [Not the elect] that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Rom 10:13 NCV as the Scripture says, “Anyone [Not those predestined against their will] who calls on the Lord will be saved.” Joel 2:32 And it will come about that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape,just as the Lord has said."

There are dozens of passages which prove free -will and those who accepted/followed and those who rejected and the results of both choices, but there are four crucial passages not only show us free will to make choices, but specifically in regard to counting the cost, - for salvation.

  • Matthew 16:24-26 English Standard Version 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
  • Joshua 24:14-15 English Standard Version Choose Whom You Will Serve 14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Here, it's unmistakably clear that the free will is involved and it means evaluating between right and wrong - good and evil; it's not talking about serving as a duty, or a job, or serving someone food, but serving to follow pagan gods, or the God of Israel.
  • Rich young Ruler - Mark 10:17-27 & Matt 19:16-22 he was clearly drawn, because he came to Christ, asking about eternal life. It's also clear that he had been keeping the laws since his youth. Shows discipline and a conscious choice to obey the commandments. -Romans 10:9-10 This passages explicitly shows free will - the conscious choice to not only believe - or mentally agree, but to believe in your heart and confess with your mouth for Salvation.
  • Lastly, we see free will to choose and also free will to refuse and deny in the examples of Peter and Judas.
  • Both were chosen by Christ as part of the 12 apostles. [Can't say Judas was never really a believer, or wasn't chosen by Christ.
  • Both denied Christ.
  • Peter repented and was forgiven - Judas did not repent- and committed self-murder. [Scripture also explicitly says that no murderer will go to heaven.]

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