WHAT IS THE WILL?
For centuries, the question has been asked: does man have in him the ability to freely will to choose God?
Before it can be asked whether or not man has in him the free will to choose God, the question must be asked: is man's will free? But before it can be asked whether or not the will in itself is free, another question must be asked: what is the will?
According to Webster's dictionary and Roget's thesaurus, the will may be defined as: 1. the mental process by which one chooses or decides; 2: desire or wish. It is interesting to note that "free will" is a term that commonly finds itself in the books of modern philosophy. Consider for a moment the definition of free will found in a secular dictionary, The Skeptic's Dictionary (Caroll, Robert) (link at bottom)
["Free will: Free will is a concept in traditional philosophy used to refer to the belief that human behavior is not absolutely determined by external causes, but is the result of choices made by an act of will by the agent. Such choices are themselves not determined by external causes, but are determined by the motives and intentions of the agent, which themselves are not absolutely determined by external causes. ...Free will advocates, or libertarians, as they are sometimes called, believe that while everything else in the universe may be the inevitable consequence of external forces, human behavior is unique and is determined by the agent, not by God ..."]
First of all, one must note that what a man chooses is an act of his will. That much is true. Man has a will. What he wills, also defined as what he desires or wishes, is determined by his own motivations and intentions. Again, that much is accurate.
The question must then be asked: where do these motivations, desires and intentions that will come to determine how he wills to act, come from? The answer is basic: those things that we desire are those things that are in our heart. We desire something, that "something" is in our heart, and from there comes the motivation and hence, the will to choose, to act. (I choose to pick up and eat a donut, rather than a tomato, because it is the donut that I desire in my heart.) Based on these definitions, one can see already, that the will in itself is not a free or independent thing, but rather is dependant on man's desires, based on what is it his heart.
In returning to the question of the will in relation to man being able to will to chose God, one needs to consider what the Bible says about man's heart, from which will come the desires and the motivations that will make him act.
The Bible tells us in Jeremiah 17:10 that, "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?" Jesus also pointed out to the wicked Pharisees that because their hearts were full of evil, ultimately, everything they said was evil. Matthew 12:34 "You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks."
If man's heart is corrupt and filled with evil, out of his heart will only come evil, the desires within his evil heart will be evil, and man will not desire that which is good, therefore will not choose to run to that which is absolutely good, namely, God.
In order to understand what sinful man is or is not free to do, man's sinful nature must be understood.