Question on The State of Man's Will Before the Fall
Visitor: Hello Sir, I would like to ask you a question that has picked my brain for a while now....
All of the human race was deemed guilty at the Fall, this I understand. Now not one single person can do anything good in the sight of God, because his nature is to do evil, and he can not determine his own nature, this I also understand. But what was mans nature before the Fall? If it was good, then how did he Fall? And if it was not good or bad, then....we arrive at the Arminian's argument for a supposed 'freewill.' If good tree produces good fruit, then how did Adam produce bad fruit if He was good?? I'm sorry if this is a question you cannot answer now, if you can't, then thank you for reading, but if so, I would greatly appreciate hearing your response to this.
Response: Hi, thanks for your inquiry regarding the question of free will. Up front we should clarify so we don't misrepresent anyone here, that both Classic Arminians and Calvinists believe in total depravity. That is, both positions affirm that fallen man is utterly impotent in his own strength to believe on the gospel. So neither of them believe in free will, apart from some kind of grace. Left to himself, man has no hope both would affirm. The difference becomes more apparent when we see that Arminians believe in a concept called "prevenient grace", which temporarily place humanity in a state above their depravity so they can choose to believe OR not. Of course this begs the question because if two people have the same grace then what makes them to differ? Jesus Christ or something else? The Calvinist/Augustinian/Monergist, on the other hand, believes that God grants a new heart to the sinner in regeneration effectually enabling him to believe and persevere to the end. This grace itself makes the will free ... i.e. it is no longer in bondage to sin but loves righteousness and believes the gospel.
So again, we see that for both parties, the natural man's will is in bondage to sin. So apart from grace he has no free will - he is impotent, unless God does something. We believe His Holy Spirit, in uniting us to Christ, must give us eyes to see and ears to hear.
Now that this is clarified, per your question regarding the state of man before the Fall ... we affirm that pre-fall man was not in bondage to sin. With Augustine we affirm that Adam was "able to sin, and able not to sin" (posse peccare, posse non peccare). His nature was inclined to good (thus making his sin all the more greivous), but as you can see, God did not create Adam and Eve sealed in righteousness, that is, like the unchangable state we will be when sealed in glory with Christ. So we could say that Adam and Eve were in a state that was free from the bondage to sin, but not free from its influences. They were being tested. In glory, of course, we will all be be completely free from sin's influences. The Westminster Confession, in Chapter 4 On Creation, says:
II. After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness after his own image, having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it; and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. Besides this law written in their hearts, they received a command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.
Reading Romans 6 and elsewhere we see that the Bible defines freedom, not as "free to do otherwise" as Arminians do, but freedom from sin. Christ sets us free, and we have a small taste of it now, but will drink it fully at the resurrection. Consider, God is the most free and yet He is unable to sin. His very nature makes it impossible because He is holy. Yet we still consider He and the gloried saints as the most free. They actually have less 'libertarian freedom' (as Arminians define it) than we do, since they can only choose good. They dont have the 'libertarian freedom' to choose evil because they are sealed in righteousness by nature. The point I am making is that Arminains we importing a philosophical idea of freedom rather than letting the text of Scripture speak for itself about what freedom is.
So lets return to your original question. if we ask, did pre-fall man have a free will? We must first ask, "free from what?" If you mean was the will free from the bondage to sin, the answer is uneqivocally yes. But, was it free from God's eternal decree? Obviously not. Consider chapters 2 & 4 of the Book of Acts. Both chapters say that the crucifixion was ordained by God.
"this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men." Acts 2:23 "...truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place." Acts 4:27, 28
Notice that God actually ordained the most evil event in history to certainly take place through lawless men, yet the lawless men are fully accountable for their actions. They will be judged for them. The point is that God ordains all things to come to pass (Eph 1:11) and yet men's sins are imputed to them. One could say, He ordains sin, sinlessly. So while Adam and Eve were free from the bondage to sin (pre-fall), God still ordained all things that came to pass. And the Fall certainly did not take God by surprise. In fact, He knew that the Fall would take place even before He created the world. If His forknowedge is certain then these events could not be otherwise, no?
Hope this helps