Bear in mind that there will be very important choices that you will have to make in your life, especially in those seemingly insignificant moments each day and week as you encounter God’s word in your own reading of the Bible or during the hearing of sermons. Will you pay close attention, or allow yourself to be distracted?
God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined to good, or evil. – WCF 9.1
One accusation that has very often been leveled against the Reformed church is that we do not believe in the “free will” of man since everything has already been predetermined by God, including the certainty of the salvation of those for whom Christ has purchased redemption. In chapter 9 of the Westminster Confession, we have an entire chapter devoted to answering this objection which opens with a clear and unequivocal affirmation that “God has endued the will of man with that natural liberty.” “Natural liberty” is further defined for us in two related negations:
First, this “natural liberty” is not forced, that is, it is not compelled from the outside. There are times when we are influenced or pressured by others to perform certain actions we would rather not do under other circumstances, but strictly speaking, we never act “unwillingly” because the will itself cannot be controlled by others like a puppet on a string. One who shoots an innocent person because a gun was pointed to his own head has made a free choice to kill rather than not to kill (and be killed). He may not have had other more preferable options open to him, but he was not forced to choose one or the other. The fact of the matter is that we hardly ever get to choose our circumstances in life and thus the options we have (from when or where we were born to when and how we will die). However, we are free to choose from among the options that God gives us and are morally responsible for those choices.
Second, our wills are also not determined by “any absolute necessity of nature.” In other words, the fact that we have made a certain choice is not the unavoidable result of how God created us. For example, it would not work for one to blame his genes for his drunkenness. Such is the often-heard excuse, “That is just the way I am.” Bodily make-up may make one more susceptible to certain temptations, but each decision to give in to a temptation and embark on a sinful course of action is not already determined by our nature. Rather, it is a free choice that flows from our will.