The debate on free will is a very deep issue that cannot be answered simply. Each person must come to his or her own conclusions based on a mixture of several factors: understanding the proposed question, studying religious beliefs, doctrines and materials, and simply drawing from life experience. In my opinion, Erasmus had a better argument against Luther for the debate of free will in humans, however, he was not entirely right in his assumptions, either. He proposed that we all have free will- we control our own actions and choose to accept or reject the way of God. Erasmus made some good points with his rhetorical questions and reasoning.
Erasmus said on page 25 that “The law announced the will of God. It placed sanctions on disobedience, and it promised reward to obedient man. Otherwise God through creation allows to their will the power of choice which he gave free and moveable in both directions.” His meaning of this statement is that since we have created laws and guidelines for ourselves, we have the choice to do right or do wrong. Otherwise, rules would not be necessary. Basically, we have the will to send ourselves to hell if we refuse to accept salvation.
In contrast, Luther argues that we have no free will. This reasoning is not explanatory of why the Ten Commandments exist. In his opinion, God has predetermined our destinations of heaven or hell. What would be the purpose of the Ten Commandments if we had no free will? If God controlled what we did, we would not need these “guidelines” of how to live our lives according to God’s doctrine. And if we had no free will, what purpose would a just and loving God have to willingly send his people to hell? How could God, the supreme being, creator of all, who loves each of his children equally, predetermine who is going to live through Satan’s works and be punished in hell eternally? Why would hell even exist? The reward of heaven and the punishment of hell are what we receive according to how we live our lives. Luther’s principle crumbles in light of this consideration. Man must have free will, otherwise commands, prohibitions, rewards, and punishments would be in vain. If God could “guarantee” obedience and belief, why didn’t He simply do that with Adam and Eve (and Satan for that matter) and thus avoid all kinds of problems? God’s grace is a necessary condition for our faith/works, but I don’t believe God forces us to do what we do, whether good or evil.
Luther did have some good ideas as well. He basically said that for humans to have “complete” free will would destroy God’s sovereignty. Yet an absence of free will would destroy God’s goodness, given the existence of evil. This is where the complications occur. I think there must be a balance somewhere- the notion of “predestination” must exist to have a notion of “free will.”