February 15, 2013

Free Will: Only Somewhat Free

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The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jer 17:9) 

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1Co 2:14)

I believe in will, and I probably believe in free will, but I'm a little uneasy saying so. It isn't that I want to strip man of his power to choose, but I don't like the way we use free will as a lever against scripture.


I see that there are two facets of freedom in free will. The first is the actual faculty for discernment, preference, and choice. This could be demonstrated by facing an intersection in a car, as opposed to being in a train. In the car, there is a steering wheel and the driver has the ability to choose his road. In the train, there's nothing the engineer can do, besides appeal the dispatcher. This first facet of free will answers, "Can we function as choosers?" The Bible very thoroughly answers this questions affirmative.

The second facet of freedom is autonomy. This is where will is free as a country is free. It means unrestrained, unfettered, and autonomous. The definition of free will (at least in the philosophical community) includes this angle. This second facet answers, "Do we have the capacity to select any possible preference in a decision?" It is the misuse of this second interpretation of free will that I take issue with. I cannot be comfortable with claiming that men have a supreme power to choose and God can only respond to our foolishness. It doesn't line up with the scripture's teaching about God's sovereign authority. There is the argument that God's story of salvation isn't as appealing if human will is not completely free and uninfluenced, but that is a very subjective argument. I happen to think it's very appealing. So, if I say that even our choices are part of God's master plan, the big representative question is waiting in the wings: Did God make Eve take the fruit? I don't know how to answer that conclusively, but this I do know:
  1. Adam & Eve took the fruit by choice. That fact that God held them personally responsible gives support to that notion.
  2. Adam & Eve's choice was not independent of God's master plan. (Can you imagine? "O, crud. You guys blew it! I had this universe going perfectly, and you had to go wreck the whole thing. Now what am I going to do, huh?" Meh, I don't think so)  
Many more questions are raised, and I am not the answer man. I have many questions, too. But I would conclude that our will is not completely free, not because God has denied us the liberty to choose, but because we are unable to do it without some kind of influence. Is not God's work of salvation to loose the heart from the slavery of sin and convert it to the bondage of righteousness? (Romans 6:17-18) Hallelujah! We are bound by the Holy Spirit to God's righteousness! (Ephesians 1:13-14) It is not as though we are saved by the merit of our good choosing,  so it is not that we are preserved by it either. Our good choosing is the fruit of God's long-suffering. At no point in that transaction does the will become free; it only escapes one bondage, dark and filthy, to be bound to a beautiful, free, and heavenly one.
I gave my heart to the Lord Jesus on December 23 at 15 years old. It was the culmination of a battle of about a year and a half of sleepless nights. I was fighting God tooth and nail, but I did not resist God on some reasonable basis. I resisted God because I was a slave to sin. And after a year and half, I did not turn to God because I had weighed the options and made the best choice. I surrendered to God because I was backed into the most miserable, devilish corner of my own heart and I had no strength fight. Can I say I made a choice that night? Absolutely! It was a function of the human willpower that I said, "Ok God. I give up." I chose God because he chose me. He pursued me down all the wicked corridors of my heart until I was left panting in the last room, heaped into a pile on the floor, holding up my hands to be swept away by Grace. He did not force himself on me, but he showed me it was either surrender or death. A choice had to be made, but that's not a very hard choice.

So who gets to make the choice, me or God? The great love story started centuries ago, when God made the choice that set the whole tale into action. "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." He made so He could redeem, knowing full well the cost to be paid. 

I hope someone smarter than me will improve my understanding.

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