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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 Commented Oct 21, 2021 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 Commented Oct 21, 2021 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. Commented Oct 21, 2021 at 2:53
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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. Commented Nov 20, 2021 at 8:22
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    Does the question change if the definition of sin changes. Two men refrain from stealing a car: one does so because he decided it was wrong and the other does so because God says it is wrong. The former sins and the latter does not (Romans 14:23b) Commented Feb 7, 2023 at 13:08

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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?
    – user50422
    Commented Oct 21, 2021 at 2:43
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator certainly not, which is why I said similar Commented Oct 21, 2021 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?
    – user50422
    Commented Oct 21, 2021 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 Commented Oct 21, 2021 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.
    – user50422
    Commented Oct 21, 2021 at 4:11
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This is a loaded question! Well I don't believe it was necessarily intended to be but if we look at what the word has to say it is obvious that no it is impossible to live and not sin.

Why do I say this? Well what happened in the garden is exactly why. What was the difference between what Jesus's bloodline had and what our bloodline has? The answer is the blood. It says in the Bible life is in the blood. If we are to assume that is correct, we can also safely assume that sin is transferred from generation to generation through the blood. That is why Joseph was not the actual father of Jesus, although his genealogy (bloodline) was recorded in Matthew chapter 1. This sets Jesus apart from us since we have our blood tainted with sin through our bloodline.

Bonus Bible points we see that the lifespan of humans is shortened (typically) every generation. This is due to more people choosing to sin.

But regardless if you do actually sin in your lifetime you do have sin in your blood therefore it is impossible to truly live a sinless life. Another great example that might help us understand this is when Jesus received the holy spirit. What is so special about this is right after he was baptized by John we see a supernatural event happen. Why does this happen to him and not us? It is because this is how a normal conversion would look like if we were without sin.

I know this is hard to hear and I'm sure there'll be a lot of backlash for this but regardless of people's response I do believe this to be true. This is the legal and therefore the correct answer.

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    – agarza
    Commented Feb 7, 2023 at 18:42
  • This answer is very much from a Catholic "Original Sin" doctrinal point of view. The question asked for answers from a libertarian free-will position though. Commented Feb 7, 2023 at 20:34

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