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  • Don McKim Author, PC(USA) Theologian

Do We Have Free Will?

The answer to this question depends on how you define “free will.”

We can speak of the choices we make in everyday life. If we use the term this way, to describe the things we choose to do like go to bed, or pick up a box, or drink milk—we can say we have freedom of choice.

What we do is done on the basis of our power to make decisions. Our will cannot be coerced or forced to do something that it does not want to do.

But theologians use the term “free will” in another sense.

This is the question: “Do we have the power to do ultimate good?” Or can we, by our own “will,” do what God wills for us? Immediately, we see the stakes are much higher here. We are talking about things that are really important... spiritual choices.

To this question, Presbyterians, along with Lutherans and others have said, “No.” By ourselves we do not have the “freedom” to choose to follow God’s ways.


Because of our sin. Sin affects our minds, hearts, wills, and affections. This power is so strong it prevents us from ever choosing God’s ways...Our wills are in bondage to sin. Our only hope is for God’s gracious love to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves—give us faith and trust in God.

To read more, check out Don McKim’s book: Presbyterian Questions, Presbyterian Answers. © 2003, 2017 Donald K. McKim. Used by permission of Westminster John Knox Press. All rights reserved.

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