Friday, March 5, 2010

A little more on free will...




"...no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.
- 1 Corinthians 12:3

"[we were]...born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
- John 1:13

We must bring clarity when we declare that man has no “free will” because many persons confuse coercion with necessity. Some believe that when we say people have no free will we somehow mean that their will is coerced from the outside into acting a certain way. But this could not be further from the truth. Apart from the Holy Spirit no one comes to Christ because people are in bondage to a corruption of nature... so they sin, not due to coercion, but of a necessity of their fallen nature. In his very helpful book, The Bondage and Liberation of the Will John Calvin clarifies:

There are four expressions regarding the will which differ from one another “namely that the will is 1) free, 2) bound, 3) self-determined, or 4) coerced. People generally understand a free will to be one which has in its power to choose good or evil …[But] There can be no such thing as a coerced will, since the two ideas are contradictory. But our responsibility as teachers is to say what it means, so that it may be understood what coercion is. Therefore we describe [as coerced] the will which does not incline this way or that of its own accord or by an internal movement of decision, but is forcibly driven by an external impulse. We say that it is self-determined when of itself it directs itself in the direction in which it is led, when it is not taken by force or dragged unwillingly. A bound will, finally, is one which because of its corruptness is held captive under the authority of its evil desires, so that it can choose nothing but evil, even if it does so of its own accord and gladly, without being driven by any external impulse.

According to these definitions we allow that man has choice and that it is self-determined, so that if he does anything evil, it should be imputed to him and to his own voluntary choosing. We do away with coercion and force, because this contradicts the nature of the will and cannot coexist with it. We deny that choice is free, because through man’s innate wickedness it is of necessity driven to what is evil and cannot seek anything but evil. And from this it is possible to deduce what a great difference there is between necessity and coercion. For we do not say that man is dragged unwillingly into sinning, but that because his will is corrupt he is held captive under the yoke of sin and therefore of necessity will in an evil way. For where there is bondage, there is necessity. But it makes a great difference whether the bondage is voluntary or coerced. We locate the necessity to sin precisely in corruption of the will, from which follows that it is self-determined. (John Calvin, BLW pp 69, 70)
The Bondage and Liberation of the Will by John Calvin

On another similar topic, we must remember, since prior to salvation all are "in Adam" and void of the Holy Spirit, so there is no hope for us to be saved if left to ourselves. But God is merciful and He shows His mercy by doing something that is indeed against our fallen will, when He rescues us. To give you an illustration, if a parent saw their 3 year old child run out in the street, true love would not give them the "free will" to chose whether to be hit by a car or not, but would, rather, at the risk of their life, run out and scoop up the child making certain their child was not hit because the parent knows better than the child.

Which would be more loving? 1) for the parent to leave the final choice to be run over to the child's "free will" OR 2) For the parent to make certain that the job gets done, even at the expense of the child's so called "free will"? Similarly, the love God revealed in the Bible is one in which He makes certain his loved ones are delivered from His wrath, in spite of ourselves, for He always knows better than we. Frankly, I don't mind if He voilates my "free will" if it means that He is doing something for my good that I am blinded to in my stubborn, stiff-necked, fallen state. Remember, he does not reward us for faith, but gives us faith that we might be rewarded (John 6:63-65).

1 comment:

Joshua Allen said...

Wow, this is really good. Probably one of the most crisp discussions of "free will vs. determinism" I've seen, and jives completely with the way Paul talks about things,