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Premise of this question: first of all, I'm basing this question on my common sense understanding that moral responsibility and judgement presuppose that human beings have the capacity to make free choices in the libertarian sense, meaning that every time a human being is faced with the options A = sinning and B = not sinning, he or she is morally responsible for choosing A instead of B because they could perfectly have chosen otherwise. In other words, the counterfactual situation in which the person chooses B instead of A was perfectly possible in principle, as there was nothing forcing the person to choose A, yet they still freely chose A, and so they are morally responsible for it. This runs contrary to the deterministic view, in which counterfactual situations are impossible, meaning that a person couldn't have chosen otherwise. If a person chooses A, it means that it was impossible for them to have chosen B, and viceversa. In other words, a human being is not more morally responsible for choosing A than a rock is morally responsible for "choosing" to fall downhill or a light bulb is morally responsible for "choosing" to produce light when its switch is turned on.

Questions:

1) According to Christians who believe in libertarian free will, do ALL human beings have a genuine chance to make the right choice every single time? In other words, do ALL human beings, in principle, have the possibility to choose to live a perfect, sinless life?

1.1) If your answer is YES: then how come pretty much no one chooses to do that?

1.2) If your answer is NO: then doesn't this contradict the free will assumption? If people are free not to sin, shouldn't this imply that people are free to choose to never sin (i.e. to choose the right option every single time)? Is there anything forcing people to sin at least once? If so, what is it, and how can someone be held responsible for being forced to do something? Aren't rocks forced by gravity to fall downhill? Should we hold rocks morally responsible too?


Related questions:

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  • A slight correction; libertarian free will doesn't necessarily mean that you can choose not to sin. You could, for example, be unable to do good, but able to choose which sin to commit, e.g. do I strangle this person or behead them? That would meet the definition of LFW. In other words, LFW only cares about whether you were forced to make the specific choice you did make, not which choices are and aren't available to you. It's a minor point and I imagine won't affect a lot of answers, but the belief that one cannot refrain from sin in general can be consistent with LFW Oct 21 '21 at 2:12
  • In other words the difference between being unable to not sin in general and being unable not to commit a specific sin (and I mean very specific) is significant when discussing LFW Oct 21 '21 at 2:43
  • Would the question be fundamentally different if the choice were about whether to drive one's car into an oncoming truck? I continually make that choice, yet even though I always make the same choice it doesn't mean I don't have free will. Oct 21 '21 at 2:53
  • @RayButterworth - every reason I can think of why one wouldn't drive one's car into an oncoming truck makes perfect sense under a deterministic worldview. I'm not sure how your analogy helps the libertarian position. Oct 21 '21 at 3:07
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    +1 Great question! I'll see if I can overcome my fleshly resistance enough to answer it. If I could be sinless I would be so proud of myself! Oops, and then I would have sinned again. Nov 20 '21 at 8:22
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99.99999% yes, leaving room for error and the possible very rare exception. I think the best argument for this is 1 Corinthians 10:13 - "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it". Additionally, we know that is is possible for the law to be kept perfectly, because Jesus kept it and was fully man.

Why does no-one else do it then? Similar to the reason that if you roll a dice enough times, you will inevitably roll a 6. Living with a sin nature is not just living with a dice roll every minute of the day, it's living with a loaded dice, rolling constantly with every decision we make. It's not deterministic, but I would say we sin from inevitability rather than necessity. No-one will resist every temptation, even though for any individual temptation they could.

I agree with you and believe that if determinism were true, we could not be held responsible for our actions any more than a rock could be held responsible for murdering a person struck by it.

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  • Why does no-one else do it then? Similar to the reason that if you roll a dice enough times, you will inevitably roll a 6. Living with a sin nature is not just living with a dice roll every minute of the day, it's living with a loaded dice, rolling constantly with every decision we make. - so are you saying that probability and statistics apply to libertarian free agents? If your decisions are random, with a probability distribution, then isn't making the right choice just a matter of good/bad luck? Oct 21 '21 at 2:43
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator certainly not, which is why I said similar Oct 21 '21 at 2:54
  • Then further clarification would be appreciated, because I still don't understand your analogy if the processes are fundamentally different. If libertarian freedom is not random and doesn't obey probability distributions or statistical laws, then how does your probabilistic example help in any way? Oct 21 '21 at 3:09
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator I'm simply trying to make the point that our sin nature constantly pulls us towards sin, and it is inevitable but not necessary that we will eventually give in Oct 21 '21 at 3:25
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    I think a key question to answer here is how does the sinful nature work? Does the sinful nature have deterministic aspects? Are there probabilistic/random aspects? Does the sinful nature leave room for libertarian free will, and if so, to what extent? How do all the aspects co-exist in a sort of hybrid system? Do the different aspects "take turns" and how does that work? In short, this whole thing is a huge mystery. Oct 21 '21 at 4:11

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