Do Human Beings Have a Free Will?
[from a visitor]: I have a question that is confusing me. My question is Does man have free will nor not?
When Christians say that man has no free will it simply means that apart from the exertion of the grace of God no one willingly comes to faith in Christ. Left in our natural fallen state we would all choose to rebel, due to our corrupt natures. (Rom 8:7, Rom 3:11,12, John 3:20). We use this phrase only in a redemptive sense. Man's bondage to sin after his fall (2 Tim 2:25) rendered him morally incapacitated and without the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14), impotent and hostile to the things of God. Jesus explains that were it not for God's help, the natural man would be without hope:
However, whether I choose to brush my teeth or not, or which cereal I eat, is an exercize of my free will. God has endowed each of us the power of choice. We select our own thoughts, words and deeds. Yes, it is true that God ordains all things and without His will nothing would come to pass (Eph 1:11). But the Scriptures also clearly show us as morally responsible agents. The Westminster Confession states that "God has endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined good, or evil." How both God's sovereignty and human freedom can be true is indeed a mystery, but it makes us recognize the greatness and wonder of God.
My point is that the natural man makes choices according to his heart's desire ... So when Christians speak of man not having a free will it needs to be made clear that this is specifically referring to the fact that no one would come to Christ without God exerting His grace. Our will is bent against it. Left to our free will we would choose to suppress the truth (Rom 1:18-20) since we naturally hate the light and "will not come into the light" (John 3:19, 20). What Martin Luther considered his greatest work, the Bondage of the Will, was to promote a concept he intended to refer only to our salvation (that we will not and cannot even lift a finger toward our own redemption) not to whether we have a free will to makes choices like whether or not to brush our teeth. The free will debate was central to the Reformation and what differentiates Protestants from Catholics. Martin Luther himself considered this the main issue. When referring to our will's bondage to sin he was pointing out our fallen desires and natural unwillingness to embrace Christ, not our ability to choose everyday things. Natural man's many "good works", even though in accord with God's commands, are not well pleasing to God when weighed against His ultimate criteria and standard of perfection. The love of God and His law is not the unbelievers' deepest animating motive and principle, so it does not earn him the right to redemptive blessings from a holy God.
The application to this truth, I believe, is that we depend entirely on God's grace for salvation. No contribution we make helps atone for our sin as long as we remain in our unregenerate state. Jesus paid that in full. Therefore, by God's grace, we must repent of trusting in our good works and recognize that were it not for grace alone that we would all justly deserve God's wrath. We need to preach this gospel to ourselves every day.
To elaborate, it
is important to note that this means man is not seen as either a machine
or a puppet of God, according to the Scriptures. But man's will is based
on his inner character so he will always chose in accordance with who
he is by nature. The character is that whole complex of personal inclination,
motives, desires and principles which go to make up what the scripture
calls the heart. (Prov 4:23, Matt 12:34-35, Mark 7:21) In other words,
after the fall, man still has the ability to make any choice
he likes, as long as it is within the boundaries of his nature.
Look at how C.H. Spurgeon describes this concept:
He also comments on others when they:
Perhaps the following
little example will help -- If we borrowed a huge sum of money then
squandered it in a week of gambling and wasteful living, we still must
repay the debt. Our inability to repay the debt does not alievaite the
obligation to repay it. Our sin against God resulting in the fall bringing
us into a position of inability does not thereby make God lower His standard
for us. The standard remains the same and we cannot fulfil it, so He sends
Jesus Christ to fulfil the covenant for us, doing what we were unable
to do ourselves. On our own we would never believe or obey God. So He
pays our debt and helps us out of spiritual death by giving us the new
birth which immediately results in faith. Even our faith was a gift
of God (Eph 2:8, John 1:13, 2 Tim 2:25, Phil 1:29, Hebrews 12:2, 1 John
5:1, Rom 3:24, Ezekiel 11:19-20; Ezekiel 36:26-27) Make sense?
Lets look at this with a chart based on Augustine's helpful view of man's will in his different states:
Not exactly... The Scriptures declare that anyone who wants to come to Christ may do so. The problem is that no one wants God while left to their own nature. It is a universal phenomena - there is no man who seeks God, except by His grace. We all suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom 1:18). Men may seek a god they like or form in their own image but will never seek the God who has revealed himself in the scriptures - for prior to the new birth we hate him and we never choose something we hate.
In the above passage you see that the only ones who come into the light are those whose deeds are wrought by God. So when you say "whether we want to or not", you may misunderstand what I am trying to say. As a result of the fall the scripture says no one wants God (he is unspiritual) unless the Father first changes the disposition of our heart through the new birth that we embrace Christ willingly. In other words, the new birth immediately precedes saving faith.
We preach the gospel
and go on missions because this is how God proclaims His message on earth.
He works concurrantly through the church to draw His sheep unto Himself.
the word cast forth is applied by the Holy Spirit to convict the hearts
of those the Father has given the Son. When we proclaim the gospel we
preach to the walking dead, so to speak. The unregenerate are people without
the Spirit, natural and have no inclination whatsoever toward spiritual
things. The Holy Spirit must quicken the hearts of the dead in sin by
applying the word preached by His people. Those He quickens are the same
as He has set His affection on from eternity.
From eternity the Father, Son and Holy Spirit determined in their eternal counsel to save those the Father determined to give the Son. This is a passage well worth praying over as to what is meant here. we don't know who they are so we give the outward call of the gospel to every creature. Just as we do not participate in our natural birth except passively, so we do not spiritually either: Jesus said:
So the point of all this is that we are all under the wrath of God because of our sin because we have rebelled against a holy God. God owes salvation to no one and would be perfectly just to wipe out the human race just as he did in the time of Noah. But instead he was merciful to many people. He is under no obligation to save all, they (and we) justly deserve God's wrath. But he came and died for those who would believe on him.
So some do not believe because they are not of God's flock. You see the opposite view which says that he must be equally fair to all not biblical nor realistic. He is always just but I think we don't want justice, lest we perish ... rather, we need His mercy. If He forgives some people's debt and not others, it is perfectly just of Him to do so.
Thanks be to God for His love to us through His Son Jesus Christ who lives and is glorified before all time, now and forever.