Does God Destroy "Free" Will?

In Uncategorized on January 9, 2008 at 9:12 pm

For quite some time I’ve been meaning to post on a quote from Jonathan Edwards that Desiring God posted a few weeks back:

Objectors may say, God cannot always prevent men’s sins, unless he act contrary to the free nature of the subject, or without destroying men’s liberty. But will they deny, that an omnipotent and infinitely wise God could not possibly invent, and set before men, such strong motives to obedience, and have kept them before them in such a manner, as should have influenced all mankind to continue in their obedience, as the elect angels have done, without destroying their liberty? God will order it so, that the saints and angels in heaven never will sin: and does it therefore follow, that their liberty is destroyed, and that they are not free, but forced in their actions? Does it follow, that they are turned into blocks, as the Arminians say the Calvinist doctrine turn men?

Here is the question this seeks to answer: If God causes us to do things according to his will, then do we have a free-will of our own in our decisions? Now, this question, in and of itself, is not really the issue. It is the secondary questions that arise from this one that are difficult for us to deal with. First, if we have no free-will then we are just puppets on God’s sovereign strings and nothing we do really matters. Second, if we have no free-will then we cannot be held accountable for our sins because God caused us to do them and that makes him the author of sin. Typically at this point, another type of person steps in and says but if we do have free-will how can God have control over the situation and bring about the end that He desires. And so we are left with how to reconcile man’s free will and God’s sovereignty.

A lot of times, lines are drawn in the sand and people are forced to call themselves either Calvinists if they believe God causes all things to happen according to his sovereignty or Arminians if they believe man has free-will in his decisions and that God will not force him into something. But I think this attempts to take these systems of theology too far. Both of these systems attempted to explain the process of man’s salvation and from that people drew their conclusions on man’s free-will/God’s sovereignty.

Calvinism says that man is too depraved to ever have faith on his own and so God unconditionally chooses whom he desires and quickens him to the point that man can choose nothing other than God’s free gift of grace. Arminianism says that man is too depraved to ever have faith and so God conditionally chooses whom he desires based on who will freely accept his gift of grace. These are extremely oversimplified explanations of these two systems of theology and so I would encourage you to study these things in much greater depth if you have not before (like my good friend Andrew is doing). But one can see how people would draw conclusions about God’s sovereignty and man’s free-will on the basis of how they believe a man comes to faith.

So, my point in all this is that we should prayerfully study these topics on the basis of Scripture and not on the basis of a system of theology that man created. If we want to know the extent of God’s sovereignty we should study what the Word says about that topic (this would be what systematic theology attempts to do). If we want to know how a man is saved, we should prayerfully study what the Bible says about that topic.

If you want to know where I stand on the issue…you’ll have to ask!


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