I'm answering this, and posting it on the class web site because it highlights some really good tensions that pertain to understanding free will and our sin nature.
FIRST though, let me answer your inquiry about Dallas Willard by pointing you back to the book and Chapter 2, which is entitled "The Gospel of Sin Management". I think I used the word "problem" when I was referring to the issue that Willard brings up in that chapter - namely, that if we teach that the gospel is nothing more than our sins being forgiven, and leaves out the possibilities of transformation, growth, discipleship in Christ, then all we have is a gospel of sin management...keep our sins in check with repeated confession, repentance and forgiveness, but don't ever really change. Don't mistake the idea of transformation as excluding confession, repentance and forgiveness - those will always be necessary elements of growth, but growth is meant to lead us towards Christ and His character as a part of our own character growth.
NOW, as to the questions on free will you stated:
Also I wanted to ask you a theology question. Based on our discussion last night on sin and free will I wanted to ask you what your opinion might be on this question: If our ability to sin is based on our free will (our choice) then what if we removed any "causal agents" (ie: things that tempt us into sin or sinning, like the serpent) that would start the thought process and/or plant the seed to sin/deception?If we were born without sin but with the ability to choose sin then might there be someone out there that has never chosen sin? I guess I'm wondering if we are born without sin don't we have the potential to never sin--given the choice (free will)? If not, then are we born with sin and just continue to chose to make the wrong choices which grows our "sin nature"?
The short, brief answer (from my humbled, often need to re-think my own answers) point of view is: Our picture of God is crucial to how we understand human nature and freedom. In the answers to the atheist questions that Dr. Craig responds to, I totally agree that the starting point in terms of defining "goodness", "evil", "sin", "righteousness", etc...is God. He is the one who defines all of those things, and it is our "mental picture" of God that is crucial to understanding His Character. In other words, I know many Christians who think God is omniscient, omnipresent, all-powerful, loving, but entertain mental pictures of God as limiting, striking people dead, causing suffering for His own purposes, etc...
The fundamental lie of the Serpent in the garden was "You can't trust the character of God". Some see in God's command a test for Adam and Eve...let's see if they'll obey? But God was placing them in a place of both loving provisions, as well as loving prohibitions as free moral agents who were "made in His image". What he wanted them to do was choose to allow God to be God over them; what the enemy did was challenge them to break free of that place of submission.
The Sin of Adam is now passed through the Human line. We see it in children as soon as they are able to start making choices. Our experiences, our perceptions, and our choices are tainted by this "nature" that still allows us the freedom to choose, even if our choices are Not to Trust God, or experience His fullness of love and communion and walk in humble obedience.
Still, we choose.
There are all sorts of ranges of evil and sin. Certainly Adolf Hitler cannot be compared as a sinner with Mother Teresa. They both are sinners in that they "miss the mark" and sin. But Adolf Hitlers sins are much more visible, easier to spot than someone like Mother Teresa.
But let me add by going back to the theme of "free will".
I think it should be said, my commitment to Freedom of the Will is NOT the highest value or first principle for my Theology, and doctrinal construction. My first principle in terms of theology (what I believe about God) is His character...as I read it comprehensively (and contextually) in scripture - but as primarily revealed in Jesus Christ. The author of Hebrews said it best:
Hebrews 1:3 - The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
I don't struggle with God's sovereignty in relation to Human choices. What I do object to is the notion that God controls human choices. The garden narrative is the perfect picture of God directing, but allowing Human free will.
What I also object to is the idea of God's sovereignty controlling human choices so that they are really/ultimately God's choices, since that then makes God the author of evil, as well as good.
Besides it makes God quite ambiguous when it comes to morality.
God gave to the man and the woman the freedom to choose God...that is why free will is such a risk.
NOW, every parent knows that is true...but you do it, because to not do it is worse in outcome.
God is the author of the biggest risk ever taken...that the human creation, tainted by the sin-nature, will still choose to love and obey. This goes back to God's character.
I believe the Scripture starts with God's goodness - "he saw it all as good" - and affirms the free will, with or without causal agents. From this goodness comes all that describes love, justice, righteousness, moral perfection, etc..., and the willingness, and ability, to work through the risk to see a creation come back to him as God.
Hope this helps,