Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Will May Be Free.. But That NATURE?

No amount of logic or conscious reasoning is going to convince a person that they lack free will, not when one can FEEL the truth of free will. You ask what would I like, pecan or pumpkin pie? Pumpkin! It was an effortless decision and therefore proving that I have free will because NOTHING outside of myself made me choose the pumpkin – I chose freely.

In actuality, all I've proven with this illustration is that we are decision making agents. We cannot simply define 'free will' as the ability to choose freely without outside compunction because there are factors within us that determine our choice. We won't go into the technical points here but let's keep in mind that we always choose based on a list of criteria that bring about the most desirable outcome. A truly FREE choice would be a RANDOM choice in which no desire or urge effected the decision.

I have previously given a workable definition:

Free will – the ability to choose freely that which we desire the most.

Free choice is not the problem in this logical and theological puzzle, the problem is with our DESIRES. Are our desires free from pre-determined influences? Let me give you another illustration and one of my favorites:

At one time I had three beautiful Golden Retrievers and a lovely fenced little farm for them to run on. Let's say I put them outside the back door with the promise of a treat – a hunk of juicy STEAK. The three dogs stand in rapt attention as I lift the meat over my head. Mind you, there are no leashes on them, no leads or dog runs, nothing to constrict or control their movements – they are totally FREE to go anywhere they DESIRE.

I throw the first morsel to the right. Can you predict which direction the three dogs will go? If you chose a unanimous decision to go to the right then you are correct. Next I throw the steak to the left, the opposite of the first toss. Yes! You are correct again, this time they ran to the left. Next, to keep things fresh I toss the meat to the right again. I could have thrown it straight and long and of course the dogs would follow the meat. No matter how many times I throw a piece of meat and ANY direction, the dogs will follow - it is their NATURE.

The dogs are free to choose and free to move in any direction but they are in bondage to their NATURE. Our nature is the fountain of our desires and though our wills may be free in choosing, our wills are NOT FREE of our nature. Our natures, apart from Christ, are IN BONDAGE TO SIN.

Ephesians 2:1

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

In this verse lies the sad condition and the truth about free will. Our will may be free from outside control but it cannot escape it's bondage to the desires of our fallen nature. By nature, all mankind are haters of God and can NEVER make a saving decision toward God – it would violate our nature.

Jesus, in his explanation to a nationalistic Nicodemus told the curious Pharisee,

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
So if the Lord says, “whoever believes in him, should not perish”, then doesn't that mean we have the freedom to choose eternal life? Not if we are God haters, not if we are by nature children of wrath. The truth is that the answer to “whoever will believe” is NOBODY. Unless God first changes our God-hating nature then no one WILL believe.

Hence Jesus explains in John 6:44

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him
and again in verse 65,

And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

So, in any discussion, remember to define your terms. We do indeed have wills and in as much as our wills are free from OUTSIDE control then our wills can be called FREE, but watch out for the problem INSIDE. Even the best that our minds and hearts have to offer comes from a polluted well, a fallen nature that apart from Christ is an ENEMY of God. Hence, Isaiah tells us that "all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment." We are in bondage to sin and it is ONLY in Christ that we are truly given the ABILITY to NOT SIN - it is the closest that we will come to true FREEDOM in this life. To God be the Glory.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

FREE WILL! Ok, grab your forks, we're going to open this can of worms.

For a very long time now I have wanted to address the topic of 'Free Will'. There is much confusion about this subject and enough suspicion of it that most will avoid a study of it, thinking it's a can of worms best left unopened. The real problem with a discussion of 'free will' is that folks don't define their terms before they start an argument. Just as with Calvinism, people bring their own bias, understandings and misunderstandings to the table and then spend hours talking past each other. Our goal here is to break these complicated or misunderstood ideas down into bite sized portions and if I've put this discussion off, it's because this is such a FABULOUS meal with many courses and many ways to present it. I will try and answer the biggest questions but it will take several installments. In this first portion I will give you a great working definition of 'free will'. In subsequent offerings we will look at God's Sovereignty and Salvation, Is God's Will Free or Necessary?, Free Will and Human Responsibility, the Will or Wills of God and more. Let's begin with God.

God is the First Cause and “in Him we live and move and have our being”. Acts 17:28 God is the Creator and has ownership of all things and may dispose of all things as He see fit. God's sustaining power holds all the elements of the universe together, from sub-atomic particles to galaxies. God knows every part of His creation with perfect intimacy, (just as He knows you!). God is the King of kings, this means that He is King in the fullest and most absolute sense, His authority is complete and total. The theological word for this kingly and absolute authority is 'sovereignty'. God is sovereign in power and sovereign in His will.

Think about that for a moment, if what I have just said is true – that God's will has his absolute total and supreme authority behind it, then logically we must conclude that there can be only ONE FREE WILL in the universe. God's will trumps all other wills. Let's see if you believe this: You have a loved one who is unsaved, do you pray for that loved one that salvation will come to him? When you pray, do you pray to God or do you call your loved one and pray to him or her? If you pray to God for him or here (as you should) then you must admit that God's will can over power, restrict and manipulate the will of your loved one. If God's will does not trump your loved one's will then you should pray to your friend or relative and say, “Bill” or “Mary, save yourself, please!” You don't do that, in fact what you really want is for God to 'violate' the 'free will' of your friend, to quicken them, to open the eyes of their heart and CAUSE them to come to the savior.

That's enough to digest for now but I did tell you I would give you a working definition of 'free will' and I will do that so you can ruminate on it until the next serving.

Definition: 'Free will' is the ability to choose freely that which we desire the most.

Memorize that because it's going to get you out of trouble and offer a delicious morsel to those who hunger for a better understanding of God and his dealings with His creatures. I will take this definition apart in the coming days.

(Go To Part Two)