(continuing thoughts on the Q re James 1:13-14)
We (speaking loosely of those with Reformed or "Calvinist" understanding) do not say that man has NO "free will". What I/we say is that no man is "free from the determination or constraints of human nature and free from any predetermination by God."
I agree that we are "free" to do what we will. We can do what we want. BUT what we will or want is limited to our nature. For instance we can WANT to leap to the moon all day long, but our nature, our boundaries according to that nature ARE limited. Our "free will" is limited to what our nature dictates or allows. And not only what we can DO, but even what we WILL or WANT to do . . . is going to be limited by our nature. Does a cow ever will or want to parachute out of Boeing 747? Or wish to go deep sea diving for mollusks? It not only can't DO it--it doesn't will or WANT to do it. The cow, however may want (according to its cow nature) to saunter over to a a rich part of the field to find again that bunch of thick, sweet grass to chew as the sun sets on another day.
The Bible is clear that, since the Fall, man is "dead in sin"--he cannot do anything to please God, BUT for the grace of God which makes him able. Even classical "Arminianism" "does not believe that a man has the ability to respond to God apart from a special act of (prevenient) grace. Man cannot, by means of his natural free will, please God. Man cannot, by means of common grace, choose to accept God's offer of salvation."
Man in his depraved, hopeless, fallen, degenerate condition (nature) simply cannot and will not choose God. Paul states that unbelievers are "dead in trespasses and sins". DEAD. Not almost dead, not nearly dead, not nearly whooped but "hangin' on"--but dead which means DEAD. And the dead do not seek God. They do not want God. It is not in their nature to (genuinely) will to be saved.
It is by GRACE we are saved--unmerited, unwarranted, undeserved, un-asked for grace. Which grace is a gift, unearned. GOD'S free will determines where He grants the gifts of faith, repentance, regeneration. . . . Fallen, degenerate man can indeed will and want and choose, but only according to his nature, which is completely (dead) depraved UNLESS and UNTIL God moves on the unbeliever to open his eyes, change his heart, give him/her the spirit of repentance and faith.
I'm wearing today a t-shirt LJ sent me for my Bday which bears one of my favorite verses: "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.…" Eph. 2:8-9
How can it not be that if we have "free will" and Joe chooses God while Jerry doesn't . . . that Joe then has something to boast of? Even using the Arminian theory of "prevenient grace", Joe will still be able to boast that he was a little bit better than Jerry--that he warranted saving grace through his "free will" decision.
I cannot see any way around--and would not want to--that ALL the glory belongs to God. There is not one shred of goodness in our hearts that we would seek God, except that God FIRST provides it--NOT based on any quality or ability we might possess to warrant it.
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. --James 1:13-14
All I see here . . . is that each person, when tempted . . . is dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Of course. Each person has a fallen, depraved nature. That nature causes the person to desire--to will--evil continually. The so-called "good" works of an unbeliever are filthy rags. "Those who are in the flesh CANNOT please God." --Rom. 8:8.
CANNOT please God. Can they please Him a little? Is there some shred of goodness in the flesh that leans toward righteousness, such that God might smile and then lend a helping hand of grace? No. Those who are in the flesh--whose NATURE is of the flesh--CAN NOT PLEASE GOD.
I agree, we have a certain degree of "free will". We can do what we want. The problem is, UNTIL God regenerates our hearts, where we are born again, made new creatures . . . what we will want is NEVER pleasing to God. It is just to do what James 1:13-14 says. Our evil nature tempts us to evil desires . . . which we do . . . according to our "heart of stone."
Otherwise, we have room to boast. If one chooses God and another doesn't, what makes the difference? Something "better" in the one who chooses rightly? Where does that "better" come from? Is it innate to that person? How can that be? Does that mean there is some repository of general "goodness" outside of God from which a person can draw? That can't be. That would mean there is something outside of God's purview and control. He ceases to be God and looks more like the superman/god of Mormonism who merely has access to and organizes the qualities and material of an independent universe (which includes a separate-from-God "good" from which to draw?)!
For me, there is some fascination in wondering what it is that compels . . . or inspires . . . or draws a person to NOT want to accept that man is nothing and has no power or goodness in him, EXCEPT and ONLY by what God wills and provides . . . . ? I am ever intrigued by the resistance to the notion of God's absolute authority and sovereignty in ALL things . . . which position can be well supported by His Word.
Even if I were to accept that there are roughly equal amounts of verses suggesting man has free will to weigh against those which say he doesn't and that only God does . . . I do wonder why a person would tend to fall on the side of man's autonomy over God's. I do know that is an oversimplification of the issue, but I still think when you boil it all down, it comes to that. Honestly (and I admit I could be wrong, and am saying this in very general terms) I suspect there is yet a degree of lurking rebellion and refusal to fully submit (to DIE all the way to self). . . which stands on the side of promotion of man's unfettered "free will". On the other hand, where is the yet lurking and vying self promoter who wants to proclaim that only GOD is good, sovereign, independent, and freely holy?