In the spectrum of human freedom there are typically four distinct positions: hard-determinism, soft-determinism, hard-libertarianism, and soft-libertarianism. Hard-determinism is the belief that free will is illusory and all actions/decisions are causally determined by antecedent conditions, which could be natural laws or God. Soft-determinism, also known as compatibilism, maintains that free will and determinism are compatible. Hard-libertarianism suggests that humans always have free will while soft-libertarianism commits to the belief that humans have free will at significant times.
There are five tenets of soft-libertarianism particular to Christianity.
- Ultimate Responsibility: UR indicates that an acting agent is responsible for the outcome and origin of decisions made.
- Agent Causation: A person is the source and origin of choices.
- Principle of Alternative Possibilities: At crucial times, the ability to choose or refrain form choosing is genuinely available. 1 Cor 10.13 promises that God “will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” It follows that any Christian who does not in some circumstance endure but succumbs to temptation had it within his power to take the way of escape instead, i.e., he had the liberty of opposites in those circumstances.
- Reality of Will-Setting Moments: A person does not always have the ability to choose to the contrary–certain free choices result in the loss of freedom.
- Distinction Between Freedom of Responsibility and Freedom of Integrity: The Bible presents freedom as permission (FR) and as a power (FI). FR is the ability to be the originator of a decision, choice, or action. Because a human being is the agent or cause of an action he is responsible for the moral nature of that action and its consequences. For example, if a man hears someone in the lake calling for help, someone who cannot swim has a different level of responsibility from the one who simply chooses not to respond. FI is the ability to do what is right–ought implies can.
See Kenneth Keathley, Salvation and Sovereignty (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2010), 73.