I'm referring to this article: What Is Free Will?, which is a transcript of a sermon by Reformed Theologian R.C. Sproul (a video recording of the sermon is available in the same article). I highly recommend reading the article (or watching the video) before posting an answer.
The article contains the following sections:
- Spontaneous Choice
- No Moral Significance
- A Rational Impossibility
- The Mind Choosing
- The Strongest Desire
- Your Money or Your Life
- “What I Want, I Do Not Do”
- Free and Determined
- Sinners Want to Sin
- In Bondage to Sin
Notice that Sproul doesn't exactly use the term "libertarian free will", but he argues against what he calls "Spontaneous Choice", which for all practical purposes appears to be equivalent to the libertarian understanding of free will.
Question: How do Christians who believe in libertarian free will respond to R.C. Sproul's critique in the article "What Is Free Will?"?
- According to Reformed Calvinists, are all of a person's volitional states causally determined by prior causes in time?
- What biblical support do Arminians and open theists find for libertarian free will?
- What is the biblical basis for free will?
- How do Christians who believe in libertarian free will explain the large imbalance in the ratio of people saved vs. condemned?
Appendix - Quotes from the article
Below relevant quotes from the article (emphasis mine):
If God predestines people to salvation, then what about free will? Doesn't the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination override human free will? What about choice? Considering the doctrine of divine election in this message, Dr. Sproul discusses some of the fundamentally wrong assumptions people have when they think of free will.
I want to direct our attention to an examination of what we mean by the words free will. What does it mean to have a free will? What does it mean to be a free moral agent, a volitional creature under the sovereignty of God?
First of all, let me say that there are different views of what free will comprises that are bandied about in our culture. I think it’s important that we recognize these various views.
The first view is what I’m going to call the “humanist” view of free will, which I would say is the most widely prevalent view of human freedom that we find in our culture. I’m sad to say that, in my opinion, it’s the most widely held view within the church as well as outside the church.
In this scheme, free will is defined as our ability to make choices spontaneously. That is, the choices we make are in no wise conditioned or determined by any prior prejudice, inclination, or disposition. Let me say that again: this view says that we make our choices spontaneously. Nothing previous to the choice determines the choice—no prejudice, prior disposition, or prior inclination—the choice comes literally on its own as a spontaneous action by the person.
I see at the outset two serious problems that we face as Christians with this definition of free will. The first is a theological, moral problem and the second is a rational problem. I should really say that there are three problems because the whole lecture will focus on the third one, but, at the outset, we immediately see two problems.
No Moral Significance
The first is, as I said, a theological, moral problem. If our choices are made purely spontaneously, without any prior inclination or disposition, then in a sense we’re saying that there is no reason for the choice. There is no motive for the choice; it just happens spontaneously.
If that is the way our choices operate, then we immediately face this problem: how could such an action have any moral significance at all? This is because one of the things the Bible is concerned about in the choices we make is not only what we choose, but also what our intention is in the making of that choice.
We recall, for example, the story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers. When he has this reunion with his brothers many years later, and they repent of that former sin, what does Joseph say to his brothers? When he accepts them and forgives them, he says, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20). God made a choice in the matter. God had chosen, at least, to allow this to happen and to befall Joseph. His brothers made a choice about what to do with Joseph. Their inclination in the making of that choice was wicked. God also made a choice in allowing it to take place, but God’s intention in this activity was altogether righteous and holy.
So God, in considering a good deed, not only examines the outward deed itself (the action), but He also considers the inner motivation (the intent behind the deed). But if there are no inner motivations, if there is no real intentionality (to use the philosophical term), then how could the action be of any moral significance? It just happens.
A Rational Impossibility
Even deeper than that problem, the humanist view immediately faces the question of whether or not such a choice could actually be made. That is, the question is not simply whether it would be moral if it were made, but whether a creature without any prior disposition, inclination, bent, or reason could even make a choice.
Let’s look at this by way of a couple of examples. What is attractive about the idea that I have no prior inclination or disposition is that my will would be neutral. It is inclined neither to the left nor to the right. It is neither inclined toward righteousness nor toward evil but is simply neutral. There is no previous bent or inclination to it.
I think of the story of Alice in Wonderland when Alice, in her travels, comes to the fork in the road, and she can’t decide whether to take the left fork or the right fork. She looks up, and there is the Cheshire Cat in the tree, grinning at her. She asks of the Cheshire Cat, “Which road should I take?” And the Cheshire Cat replies by saying: “That depends. Where are you going?” Alice says, “I don’t know.” Then what does he say? “Then I guess it doesn’t matter.”
If you have no intent, no plan, no desire to get anywhere, what difference does it make whether you take the left or the right? In that situation, we look at it and think, “Alice now has two choices: she can go to the left, or she can go to the right.” But really she has four choices: she can go to the left, she can go to the right, she can turn and go back where she came from, or she can stand there and do nothing until she perishes from her inactivity, which is also a choice.
So, she has four choices, and the question we’re going to ask is: Why would she make any of those four choices? If she has no reason or inclination behind the choice, if her will is utterly neutral, what would happen to her? If there is no reason to prefer the left to the right, nor to prefer standing there to going back, what choice would she make? She wouldn’t make a choice. She would be paralyzed.
The problem we have with the humanist notion of freedom is the old problem of the rabbit out of the hat, but without a hat and without a magician. It is something coming out of nothing, an effect without a cause. A spontaneous choice, in other words, is a rational impossibility. It would have to be an effect without a cause.
I would add that, from a biblical perspective, man in his fallenness is not seen as being in a state of neutrality with respect to the things of God. He does have a prejudice. He does have a bias. He does have an inclination, and his inclination is toward wickedness and away from the things of God. I just say that in passing as we look at various Christian views of the freedom of the will.