Is Determinism Compatible with Voluntary Choice? (Response to Question) by John Hendryx
Consider the following: we all have freedom to act within the bounds of nature ... which also means that we are determined to act within the constraints of nature. Both determinism and voluntary choice are, therefore, true. i.e. a prisoner is free to move about as much as he wants in his cell, but he cannot move outside of it.
To us this means that the natural man is free to act within the corruption of nature, but without the Holy Spirit, we are not free from the bondage of the will to sin. This bondage means we cannot act outside its constraints. We cannot do any redemptive good for ourselves. So, as you can see, both determinism and voluntary choice are at work in people simultaneously. We cannot and will not believe the gospel until the Spirit opens our blind eyes and changes our hostile disposition. We are determined (by our natures) to voluntarily choose to rebel against God until the Spirit brings us to see we have no hope save in Jesus Christ. This requires a change of nature (John 3:3; 6:63). In 1 Corinthians 2 the Apostle Paul states, "Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.â€ Paul is saying we cannot understand the gospel (the things freely given of God) until the Spirit illumines our minds and changes our hearts that we would understand.
Taken from another perspective, compatibilism could be applied to the saints in heaven who have been sealed in righteousness (which is biblically defined freedom). But you could say they are no longer "free" to sin because they do not want to. Their new nature drives and compels them to always choose righteousness and this is what they want. They will act in accord with their new (glorified) nature.
If I may say this reverently, God is likewise holy and cannot sin or lie, always acting in accord with his nature. So in every sense His acts are determined because He is always faithful to Himself. Even His voluntary choice is, therefore, made compatibilistically because if He issues a covenant promise and breaks that promise then he would not be God for He would be violating His essence.
But it is He who defines what freedom is for us so when he sets us free in Christ we are free indeed. Biblical freedom is defined as freedom from bondage to sin. (Rom 6) Biblically defined, therefore, the fallen man has no real freedom (only within the constraints of nature) until the Spirit does a work of grace in him. So the freedom of the natural man is a hallow freedom indeed.
There are 4 ways in which we deny freedom (from Steve Hays):
We deny that (1) an agent is free to thwart the divine decree; that (2) the unregenerate are free to believe the Gospel; that (3) the regenerate are free to commit apostasy, or that (4) the glorified are free to sin.