Thursday, June 13, 2013

Free Will

I remember some years back having a discussion with a brother in Christ about the topic of "free will."  I argued that people, as we are all born into this race as children of Adam, do not possess free will.  We possess "free choice" -we are free to choose what we want, but our will (our "want-er") itself is not free.  I argued that God chooses us and must awaken us before we will ever choose Him.  He argued that such an idea would make people robots since love is only possible if the other person is free to choose to love them.

A short while later, I heard another discussion rumbling.  I interjected a few points but mostly just listened.  The discussion was about how to reach a person who had become involved with the Jehovah's Witnesses.  Finally, my brother replied plainly, "Well, there isn't much you can do but tell them the truth, but you cannot make them see.  They are blind.  God has to open their eyes."  I smiled and thought to myself, "Exactly."

What we must all understand is that, apart from God opening our eyes, our will -the faculty in us which is the seat of our desires- is not free toward God.  It is bound, a slave to a kind of foolish, futile, spiritual slavery.  For what could be worse than a man who has no taste for that which he needs in order to live?  It is like an animal who hates food.  Far from being "free", our will is captive to a stubborn resistance.  Far from being "free" to choose to love God or reject Him, our will is bound to always run, resist, and hide from Him.

That is not a will that is free.  A will that is free is a will that is free to choose that which it needs, that which is best for it.

The late Lutheran preacher and scholar Gerhard Forde argued in his book, Where God Meets Man, that there is more to it.  Referring to Martin Luther's great work against the humanist ideas of Erasmus of Rotterdam, The Bondage of the Will, Forde argued that Luther understood the bondage of man's will to mean that not only is our will bound to resist God -it is also bound to stubbornly insist upon its own freedom.  It is bound to stubbornly assert, "No, I am not a slave.  I can do it on my own.  I do not need assistance!  I am not blind!"

In other words, Erasmus' entire piece on the "Freedom of the Will" was, in Luther's mind, a shining testimony to the fact of our will's common bondage.  For, what could be more stubborn and foolish than a person with a bound, enslaved will using that same will to try and prove, with all of his reasoning faculties, that he is not?

Another way to think of it is that we are constantly trying to insert ourselves into the equation.  That is our old Adam.  He will not go quietly into the grave where he belongs.  He insists on finding every opportunity to try to make himself his own god and savior, or at least a co-savior.

What is a free will?  A will is free which is able, by the power of God overcoming it's resistance, to run toward God and love Him back.  Or put another way, a will is free which is new, descended by the power of God, and set against the old Adam within us.

2 comments:

Mike Walker said...

In is my understanding that our mind and wills are only free to act in accordance with their nature. Since our minds are darkened and the wills of unregenerate men are corrupted by the fall, our choices, however 'free' we believe them to be, will invariably be consistent with our fallen nature, and therefore remain unacceptable to a pure and holy God. At regeneration God creates within us a new nature. It is only at that point that our wills are free to choose that which truly pleases and brings glory to Him.

Mathetes said...

Amen, Mike. I agree!