Post Author: Bill Pratt
In the past when I’ve discussed free will in the context of the problem of evil, I have had skeptics come along and deny that God has granted humans free will because children who choose not to be molested are sometimes molested, or women who choose not to be raped are sometimes raped. In other words, if a person wills to not be attacked, but they are attacked, then somehow free will does not exist.
This complaint confuses the definition of free will, though. None other than John Calvin, himself, dealt with this same complaint over 400 years ago. Below is his response, from Book 2 of Institutes of the Christian Religion.
Here let the reader remember, that the ability of the human will is not to be estimated from the [outcome] of things, as some ignorant men are preposterously accustomed to do. For they conceive themselves fully and ingeniously to establish the servitude of the human will, because even the most exalted monarchs have not all their desires fulfilled. But this ability, of which we speak, is to be considered within man, and not to be measured by external success. For in the dispute concerning free will the question is not, whether a man, notwithstanding external impediments, can perform and execute whatever he may have resolved in his mind, but whether in every case his judgment exerts freedom of choice, and his will freedom of inclination. If men possess both these, then Attilius Regulus, when confined to the small extent of a cask stuck round with nails, will possess as much free will as Augustus Cæsar when governing a great part of the world with his nod.
Free will is the ability to choose in your mind, not the ability to make every thing you choose happen. Once you understand this, the complaint falls apart. It is attacking a faulty definition of free will.