Matt 7:13-14 is an empirical observation, not foreknowledge
I think you
- overcomplicate things (by unnecessarily bringing God's foreknowledge vs. libertarian freedom)
- neglected to consider the empirical evidence of how it's much easier to be wicked than righteous, both in the time of Jesus and in our own time (modern age).
Some things never change; it's human nature. Consider
- a society without law and order,
- families where parents let children do whatever they want,
- high school where teachers and the principal don't impose order in the classrooms / school grounds.
Isn't it obvious that the powerful (thugs, gangs, bullies) will naturally form and oppress the weak? Or we can ask ourselves: is it easy to love our spouses / kids / parents with the ideal that we know of already through our conscience? Therefore, the default trajectory is far from 50/50 distribution, and that is simply what I propose Jesus meant when he said "the way is easy that led to destruction". It's common sense.
Even with the libertarian understanding of God's foreknowledge where God does NOT know the future, Jesus (and everyone in his time who knew a little of OT history) could have easily predicted the future based on the past:
- OT history showed that since the fall of Adam, people had a tendency to be wicked: Cain, people in Noah's time, people of Sodom, etc. That's why God had to reveal the law (at Mount Sinai) and had to choose priests, elders, judges, and (later) kings to administer justice.
- Even so, OT history since Moses showed that even after the Israelites already had the light of the law they STILL tended to choose the wicked paths of injustice & oppressing the weak, and consequently breaking the Mosaic covenant, necessitating God to punish the Israelites through the Assyrian and the Babylonian exiles.
We also need to remember the NT teaching that Satan is the prince of the world and is the Father of lies, deception, and temptation, and how Satan and his minions became the power behind the corrupting influence that Paul named "the power of sin", which explains the human default tendency to choose the wicked path, skewing the 50/50 distribution even more!
More insights into our damaged nature: the 4 wounds
The working of our free will is not deterministic, especially when considering the interplay of will with reason, emotion, desires, habits, passion, etc. Christian philosophers such as Augustine and Aquinas came up with an analysis that remains convincing today described in The Four Wounds of the Fall. The Fall brought about a destructive disharmony in our soul, each wound affects one "faculty"/"power" of the soul (freely quoted from the linked article, please read the article for the full details):
Wound to Reason: Blindness or ignorance: loss of the intellectual capacity to know and form judgments concerning spiritual things (cf. 1 Cor 14:15).
Wound to Will: Malice (from the Latin malum, which means evil): lost the inclination to the good. God has made the will of man desiring the good (cf. Rom 7:14-24).
Wound to Desire: Concupiscence, which is disordered desire rather than desire to fulfill our immediate sensual need. Sensual desires in themselves are not sinful, but too much food, drink, sex, etc. without the restraint of healthy reason becomes concupiscence. Once a mere need, now it become the soul's unrestrained and driving force.
Wound to Irascible power: Weakness, another failure of our will, in this case to muster a personal offense against evil. It has lost its aggressiveness toward the difficult.
Concluding paragraphs from the article:
The first two wounds touch upon ... the intelligence and the will. The last two touch upon ... our passions. Life is hard and the good is hard to attain. It requires a lot of energy to lay hold to it. ... We want to get everything the easy way and this is a hallmark of original sin: "I want what I want when I want it."
The Four Wounds are lethal and we are powerless to redeem ourselves from original sin. Try as he may over and over again to reform himself, he will fail, because reformation is not what he needs. ... But even in this condition human nature itself is not essentially corrupt, but profoundly wounded by suffering the loss of the supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit, who animated and unified Adam’s powers and faculties in a free and godly harmony. Instead of the love of God, which is true reason, ruling from the center of our being and uniting our faculties around that one great love, we now have “self,” and thus, concupiscence at the center. But in Holy Baptism [or for other denominations when we are born again] we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and we are infused with the Heavenly Virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity and thus we are equipped to begin a reversal of the Fall as the wounds are cleansed and healed through the grace given to Holy Mother Church [or for other denominations, given to the individual directly].
Statistically speaking, human being by nature tends to choose the wicked path when given the opportunity (not to mention the additional influence of Satan). Therefore, anyone (who doesn't need to be an omniscient being like God) could reliably predicts that the chance a person choosing the wicked path is greater than 50%. Why is it statistically so? It's because of the 4 wounds in our soul caused by the Fall, which predisposed us to choose the wicked path.
Objection: wicked tendency negates libertarian free will
How can free will and the human default tendency to choose the wicked path be reconciled? If an agent is free, how can that same agent have a tendency towards something? How can you be statistically biased to do something and still be perfectly able to do something else every single time? How does that work?
Objection summary: If God gives us libertarian free will, why does it have the tendency to choose wickedness?
Answer (from libertarian Christian perspective): although human will is predisposed to choose wickedness, it can still be called "libertarian free will" since God is not involved at all in a human decision (no foreknowledge, no predestination); he's completely "hands off". Yes, it's a "damaged" libertarian free will, but the predisposition is the result of the Fall of Adam, freely chosen by Adam, which forever tainted the ability of human will to choose good. The second influence by Satan's mission to destroy human kind was also freely chosen by Satan, not God. YES, in this tainted state we are not perfectly able to choose good. But it's not deterministic, simply an uphill battle from birth.
Objection: wicked tendency, fairness, and goodness of God
A natural follow up question is: How could a good God allow humans to be born with a damaged free will? Doesn't God want humans to have libertarian free will? Why did God let human nature to be tainted just because of one man (Adam)? Isn't it unfair?
Answer: This can be answered by one standard Christian theodicy:
- Originally, God created human beings and angels with perfect free will but Adam and Lucifer messed it up.
- As to why God let those 2 influences to affect every human being, it's a mystery.
- But at the same time (which somewhat restores God's goodness) God sent us Jesus so as fallen men we can be rescued up and have our free will gradually transformed to be perfect once more (no tendency toward wickedness).
- Another credit for God's goodness is how in the OT God demonstrates his faithfulness and unfailing love by providing several aids (see next section), by forgiving people who repent (although they may still need to suffer some punishment), and by remembering past offense no more (i.e. don't punish them over and over again).
Objection: wicked tendency, accountability, and fairness
Objection summary: How is it fair that humans are held accountable for this tainted free will?
Answer: The following points should make the case that God is fair in holding humans accountable for their moral choices despite our tainted free will, especially when we believe that God knows our weakness and God provides several aids:
- Similar to our modern human legal system where punishment is given in proportion to the severity of the crime and the circumstances affecting the will of the criminal (i.e. punishment for crimes of passion is less severe than premeditated ones), the OT laws have this too.
- Despite some damage, conscience is still functional enough to inform the will that a certain course of action is evil, especially when we include revealed laws (OT)
- In the OT God provides a reconciliation process through repentance and animal sacrifice.
- In the NT, God provides free grace for us to first be saved through faith in Jesus, and then when we sin again we can be restored back to him every time we repent.
- God also restricts the power of Satan so we cannot be tempted beyond what we can bear.
Objection: wicked tendency and ability to respond to salvation
If God gives every human being a genuine chance to repent, shouldn't this nullify the tendency toward wickedness and restore the balance to 50/50? Let me explain why: it doesn't make sense for God to give someone a chance to repent if that person is incapable of taking advantage of that chance. Therefore, God would also need to grant the person a temporary restoration of their ability to make free choices, so that they have the chance to truly repent. During that period of time, the person should be equally capable of repenting or not repenting, correct? Then how can we explain that the distribution is so skewed in spite of these God-given chances to repent, which are granted to all human beings before their eternal destinies are settled? This is somewhat related to one my previous questions.
Your comment contains an excellent point and also some misunderstandings:
Reading between the lines, I think you did not mean simple repentance of an act as in someone who just killed another in a brawl of passion saying
"I'm sorry, I was drunk, I was upset, and I didn't mean to kill your brother."
But repentance of heart goes to the root of the problem of our being which produces the act, saying something like the following to God (who always inserts himself as party to the injured side):
"God, I allowed my neglect of taking care of my wicked tendency to offend you by killing one of your beloved creatures and I realize that I need your grace to HEAL my wounded nature so I will not fall into these kinds of situation anymore. God, I realize now that this sin, as in many other lesser ones, is rooted in an even greater offense against you: my rebellion against your standard by constructing my own moral standard (Isa 53:6a). I am now ready to surrender, laying down my arms, taken captive as prisoner of war, so you can perform surgery on my nature, give me a new life (born again), and adopt me as your own son (see C.S. Lewis quote)."
Christian theology addresses this repentance of heart very differently from simple repentance of an act, something that even non Christians are doing all the time, as I explained in the answer to your other question. That is why I rephrase the objection as the ability to "respond to salvation".
In addition to confusing the two kinds of repentance you are also conflating several "acts of the soul" into one act. From the human side of things, responding to salvation can be a complex process, not just one decision that you can measure the probability. Heart repentance includes multiple aspects of the soul: reason, will, desire, and emotion all play a part. All these aspects can be influenced by different crises at different times. C.S. Lewis's conversion (one of the most analyzed: books, dissertations, and papers have been written about this) takes several years in the making. Every conversion can be different, some quick some long, some emphasizes reason some emotion, etc.
Some denominations even teach that we cannot know whether we will finally be saved; this is another area of Christian theology called Perseverance of the Saints. Going back to C.S. Lewis, the 1993 Shadowland movie took a dramatic license insinuating that after the death of his most beloved wife of 4 years, C.S. Lewis didn't believe in God anymore. But in real life C.S. Lewis didn't lose his faith. Before you quickly respond "Aha! Maybe the 'narrow gate' refers to God's exclusive knowledge of this final eventuality." I don't think that's the correct reading of the verse. At any rate, this is far removed from the kind of 50/50 free will decision the OP is about.
Excellent point about "temporary restoration". This is the Methodist (Arminian) position, called prevenient grace which enables us to make the choice for salvation. Calvinists (Reformed) also emphasizes divine help, but instead of calling it "restoration" they call it "irresistible grace" tying it with predestination. Catholic position also doesn't call it "restoration" but as an initiative coming from God but requires free collaboration on our part (see semi-pelagianism).
Answer: Yes, like you said "God would also need to grant the person a temporary restoration of their ability", but NOT to make "free choices" (in a libertarian sense) or to "truly repent" (like a perfect human being), since even after one is born again we STILL do not have 100% free choice and we STILL are not able to truly repent of sins buried within our unconscious. That is why the gate is narrow and the road is hard. Thus, the "temporary restoration" which God does in the order of salvation does NOT imply 100% freedom that yields a 50/50 balance, but only enough so we can respond positively to the gospel (offer of salvation). In fact, in theory, if God heals the 4 wounds completely (the kind that Adam had) it should have yielded 100% positive response to the gospel, since human passions are wired to love God! The true mystery is how come Adam fell.