As you think about your views on free will, here is something to consider:
There is a future, one future, and only one future. What that future is, is already known to God and to those to whom God has revealed it. Their knowledge of the future cannot (present tense) be otherwise, even if you will say that it could have (past tense) been otherwise. There is an inexorable connection between their knowledge and the future itself (though that link is not that the future causes prior knowledge of itself, which would invert causality, nor is the link that the knowledge itself causes the future, which would be contrary - at a minimum - to common sense). The proof of the inexorable connection is the certainty with which we can know the future based on divine revelation, coupled with the logical impossibility of our certainly knowing the future, and yet the future being otherwise than what we know.
Thus, while - in some sense - man may have an ability to do otherwise than man does, that sense cannot be a compound sense that considers everything including man's heart.
Furthermore, the Bible speaks of man's choices and actions in a deterministic way, and we actually see some degree of determinism in human actions all the time.
The Biblical proof is the "fruit of the tree" analogy. A good heart brings forth good fruit, and vice versa. Other examples are Biblical statement that people made various choices or took various actions "because" of something. Thomas' believing "because" he saw is an example.
Likewise, in the world of advertising we see man practically applying determinism to make money. Advertisers attempt often with great success to determine people's choices through clever advertisement.
Similarly, criminology relies on man's behavior being deterministic to solve crimes and convict criminals.
Furthermore, there is a degree of logical absurdity that arises when definitions of Libertarian Free Will (LFW) are attempted. Either the definition is so vague as to encompass Calvinism, or tight but self-contradictory or contrary to reason and/or Scripture.
The bottom line: man's choices are determined by:
- the state of man's heart, which is itself produced by:
- - Nature (the initial condition and direction of man's heart) and
- - Nurture (the impulses either opposing or reinforcing nature and/or the previous state of man's heart); and
- the circumstances in which man is.
God is fully in control of man's nature and nurture, and as well is fully in control of the circumstances in which man is. Man does make choices IN ACCORDANCE WITH HIS HEART. Scripture says so:
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Matthew 15:18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
Isaiah 59:13 In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.
Matthew 12:35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
And God can determine the heart:
1 Chronicles 29:18 O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee:
And God does determine the heart:
Proverbs 16:1 The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD.
And it is Biblical both to say that wicked men voluntarily speak evil, AND that they cannot do otherwise:
Matthew 12:34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
Thus, we affirm the truths of Scripture by hearkening to the Scriptural compatibility between God's Absolute Sovereignty, and man's will. Man's will does not cease to be free any more than the wind ceases to be free, though God is in control both of the wind, and the wills of men. We cannot always see the motive for the wind to blow one way and not the other, or for man to make one choice and not the other, but we can take comfort in knowing that "all things" including the wind and the wills of men "work together for good to" us, "the called."
May God grant us both wisdom to grow in greater understanding of His Word,
UPDATE: I have date-bumped this post to the front page and made minor revisions to this post.