25
Feb
15

Questions About “Free Will”

As I have stated, I believe in free will in the sense that every person is free to choose what he desires. It is not the inability to choose that I deny but the inability to desire. To put it another way, I have no ability to choose what I do not desire. I agree with the statement John Calvin made about free will,

In this way, then, man is said to have free will, not because he has a free choice of good and evil, but because he acts voluntarily, and not by compulsion. This is perfectly true: but why should so small a matter have been dignified with so proud a title? An admirable freedom! that man is not forced to be the servant of sin, while he is, however, a voluntary slave; his will being bound by the fetters of sin.

The proponents of libertarian free will argue that if God must regenerate a sinner before he/she will be able to believe, that sinner’s free choice to trust God’s promise cannot be a real and meaningful choice. The choice would only be meaningful if the sinner had equal ability at that point to choose to  remain in his sins. According to their view, at some unspecified point God has granted “free will’ to every individual through prevenient grace. Apparently, this grace [enabling] cancels the effects of Adam’s fall into sin.

But is it true that a confidence in God’s promises is meaningless if it is God who has effected it by grace?

1. It has been my assumption that in the glorified state in the eternal kingdom every believer will be confirmed in holiness. That glorified state will be one in which God’s people are secure and from which we cannot fall. There will be no rebellion or defection from that kingdom. In that state it will be impossible for us to sin. It would seem that once we are glorified there are certain options we cannot choose. That would seem to follow from the biblical description of those believers who have died. Their spirits are referred to as “the spirits of just men made perfect.” The Westminster Shorter Catechism states, “the souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness and do immediately pass into glory. . . .” (Q. 37). One would assume we would not be less perfect once we glorified.

Perhaps there will be some who will disagree with those statement and who would like to show biblical proof that my assumptions are errant.

2. It has often been alleged by those who argue for libertarian free will that faith cannot be meaningful if God must call sinners effectually and regenerate them before they can believe. If once they are called they will certainly believe, faith cannot be a real choice. Only faith that flows from our free choice [By this they mean a libertarian free will choice not a choice made freely] can be meaningful. It must be our choice to obey by the power of free will that has been granted us in prevenient grace. Apparently for them, a choice that is made freely from a heart that is set free by regenerating grace cannot be meaningful. I must be able to choose to remain in my sins for my choice to be a real and meaningful choice.

It would seem to follow that if God must give us the desire to obey him and if he must enable us to obey him, praise him, worship him, glorify him, etc., that obedience, praise, worship and glorification cannot be genuine and meaningful either.

It should not escape our attention that in Ezek. 36:25-27 God promises to replace the sinner’s heart of stone with a heart of flesh. He promises to give the sinner a new spirit [disposition]. He promises to put his Spirit within and cause  him to walk in his statutes and keep his rules.  Should we assume that obedience is not “meaningful” since God caused it?

When the apostle tells the Philippians that God works in them both to will [i.e., cause them to desire to obey God] and do [give them the ability to obey God] for his good pleasure, should we assume their obedience was meaningless since God enabled it?

3. It appears that God is pleased with the worship of heavenly beings and of redeemed sinners who have been perfected in holiness and who have no inclination to sin whatsoever. Elect angels are confirmed in holiness so that they cannot choose to rebel. Since they are created beings they must be dependent beings. Yet, their choice to depend on God and to praise, worship, and glorify him is the only choice they can make.

4. Must we believe that our joyful obedience, our delightful dependence on God, our exultant praise, and our grateful glorification of God will be meaningless for all eternity since all of this will spring from hearts that have been bound to God by grace?

My conclusions are these:

1. Glorified beings  in the eternal state will not have free will in the sense that we will be free to sin and rebel against God.

2. If those who posit libertarian free will are correct in saying faith, obedience etc. are not meaningful unless we have a free will choice, all we do in the eternal state will be meaningless since our hearts will have been bound back to God by grace.

3. We have every indication that God will be pleased for eternity with our grateful expressions of praise and with our obedience in dependence on him.

4. It is a faulty assumption that faith is only meaningful if it is not enabled by free grace.

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10 Responses to “Questions About “Free Will””


  1. February 27, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    And IF we had libertarian free will – in this age or the one to come – we WOULD choose sin! As you pointed out from Scripture, if God does not give us a new nature and cause us to walk in the light, we could not do it! I love how one author put it – we Christians are 100% responsible for any sin we do, the Spirit of God is 100% responsible for any good we do. And He does will us and equip us to do good. And it is good for our souls to do good and it is pleasing to our Father. He is the author and finisher of our faith – how could we be a contributing author? What do we have that was not given to us? Why then, do we boast? Such boasting is evil. Let us walk humbly before men and our God, giving thanks to Him for saving us and keeping us and let His gospel be ever on our lips, knowing that some seed will bear much good fruit.

    • February 27, 2015 at 1:42 pm

      I will never understand why anyone would wish to focus on the sinner’s “free will” when we ought to be fascinated by God’s free grace.

      • February 27, 2015 at 1:58 pm

        You know why that is, my dear brother – because it is man’s natural bent to see himself in God’s place. That what all this boils down to – man’s natural desire to worship self and inability to worship God.

      • February 27, 2015 at 2:08 pm

        It is exactly this that makes it so enigmatic. Is it not the work of God in conversion to turn us from self-worship to theocentric adoration? As Luther said, “I need to know who does what in salvation so I will know whether I should worship God or worship myself.”

        Sent from my iPad

        >

    • 5 Jim
      March 3, 2015 at 7:03 pm

      Hi Randy,

      Nice article.

      “1. It has been my assumption that in the glorified state in the eternal kingdom every believer will be confirmed in holiness. That glorified state will be one in which God’s people are secure and from which we cannot fall. There will be no rebellion or defection from that kingdom. In that state it will be impossible for us to sin”

      That is an interesting assumption and I have never really thought about it. But it is an educated assumption.

      Yet, we do know that the angels certainly could and did rebel, which I find hard to fathom. The angels did not have a sinful nature, and existed in the very presence of God and yet they chose to rebel. I wonder if they were perfect or imperfect.

      Maybe it will be different when it is all said and done.

      • March 3, 2015 at 10:31 pm

        Jim,

        As far as we know, Angels were not created in the image of God. It seems clear they have the ability to choose since Lucifer said, “I will be like the Most High.” It would also seem that prior to Lucifer’s rebellion, their will was free. It also seems the elect Angels have now been confirmed in holiness so that they can no longer fall. There may be more that we don’t know about Angels than we know about them and their current situation. Thanks for commenting.

  2. 7 Luke Miner
    June 4, 2015 at 12:27 am

    I read your post here and the one called Where have all the thinkers gone? I’d appreciate any comments or interaction with my new article on defining free will which attempts to find some greater clarity on this issue here: http://scripturalism.com/questioning-free-will-for-the-arminian-catholic-kantian-and-molinist/

    Thanks

    • June 5, 2015 at 12:55 am

      Luke,

      Thanks for pointing me to your article. I enjoyed reading it although I had a bit of difficulty keeping the up with the numbering of the possible views you suggested. I could not agree more that proper definition is essential. I have been convinced for some time now that much of the disagreement between Calvinists and those of whatever stripe who believe sinners are autonomous. The misconception among many non Calvinists is that we deny that sinners have a will and that our belief that God has decreed all things must entail causation on God’s part. God does not force anyone to perform any action. He always works through desires and free choices. As I am sure you read in my articles, I would make a distinction between “free will” and free choice. We are free to choose what we wish. It is the wishing that is the problem.

      One further note. I think you might have intended Romans 9:19 instead of Romans 9:29. Thanks again for pointing me to your article.

      • 9 Luke Miner
        June 5, 2015 at 6:09 pm

        Thanks for the comments and for pointing out my citation error. I fixed it.

        So you would make a distinction between God’s “causing” an action and his creating a will which chooses an action? In other words, are you saying that God created the will to desire something and that will is able to choose what it desires, yet God is not the cause of that choice?

      • June 5, 2015 at 7:20 pm

        Perhaps you will think me a bit simplistic since I am not as philosophical as some you might read. It seems to me that when we talk about will or volition we are merely talking about the God given ability to choose what one desires. The choices one makes are affected by many different and sometimes competing desires. The intellect, the emotions, the conscience etc. all come into play in determining what one will choose. There are certain choices that God need not cause. Fallen man is not now as God made him, but as sin has made [or unmade] him. God does not need to cause fallen creatures to make those sinful choices that he has determined to use to accomplish his purpose. Gen. 50:20 teaches that the same actions Joseph’s brother had intended for an evil and harmful purpose, God had intended for a good and helpful purpose. This he accomplished without causing any choice they made. God has decreed to use even the most evil actions of wicked men to accomplish his holy purpose but he restrains any and all actions that will not ultimately redound to his glory.


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