Friday, May 14, 2010

Predestination / Free Will (2b)


Jonathan Edwards defines the will as: “The mind choosing” or “that by which the mind chooses” (Quoted by Sproul, Essential Truths, pg 179).

What causes the mind to choose?

Edwards says, “The mind will always choose that which it most desires,” so our greatest desire in any given circumstance compels us to choose, forces our choice, of that which we most desire (consider the famous wallet-at-gunpoint analogy).

Sproul, Willing To Believe, pg 155 says: “A man never in any instance wills anything contrary to his greatest desires or desires anything contrary to his will.” Consider this statement in light of Romans 7:15: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Paul is a believer. He struggles with the conflict between the sin nature and the Spirit-filled nature. So Paul has conflicting desires. But he still does that which he desires most, and sometimes the sin nature beats out the Spirit-filled nature. In those cases, he sins though he doesn’t desire it. In reality, at the given moment, he does desire it more than pleasing God. And this is what frustrates him so much, leading him to say, “What a wretched man am I!”

There is a reason for EVERY choice we make! Nothing is arbitrary. We are ALWAYS free to choose whatever we desire; we are never free to choose what we do not desire. We cannot go against our greatest desire in any situation. Whatever we choose will be based on our greatest desire. Our motive for any given choice is always that which we MOST desire.

The spiritual implications of this doctrine of the will – that we will always choose that which we most desire and that we cannot choose that which we do not desire – are critical!

What affects man’s greatest desires?

The sinful nature of man! Just as God desires only those things which are in accord with His nature, man desires only those things which are in accord with his nature. This is a difficult concept to grasp, but we need to understand it in order to move on. Does the unbeliever desire to believe? Why or why not? The unbeliever does not desire most to believe, or else he would believe. Something has to happen to the unbeliever to make him willing and able to believe. What is it that makes someone who lacks the greatest desire to believe have the greatest desire to believe?

Determinism – Are human choices pre-determined by anything or anyone?

• Hard-Determinism says that our thoughts, words, and deeds are determined by something external to ourselves, like God or Satan or your boss or mother-inlaw. Therefore, there is NO FREE WILL WHATSOEVER. Most Christians deny this option, because we acknowledge our freedom to choose; we are not robots.

• Self-Determinism says that our thoughts, words, and deeds are determined by something internal to ourselves, namely either our wills or our natures. Two varieties:

o Indeterminism (Libertarian Free Will) says that our wills are self-determining uncaused causes. The nature has influence but not control over our wills. To truly be free, we must have the ability to choose against our natures. We must be autonomous. THIS IS THE ARMINIAN POSITION.

- Objections to Indeterminism or Libertarian Free Will:
• Since God must love Himself and cannot do otherwise, He is not truly free.
• God’s Holiness is unpraiseworthy in this model, because He cannot be anything but Holy; God Himself cannot be unholy, thus He is not free.
• Christ does not deserve our praise, because He could not have done otherwise than obey the Father’s Will. Christ is not free according to this model.
• Every choice for every person would either be coerced by motive / nature or arbitrary. In order to be free, they must be neither coerced nor arbitrary.

Sproul, Willing To Believe, pg. 27, “Autonomy represents a degree of freedom that is unlimited by any higher authority or power.” Man’s autonomy and God’s sovereignty are mutually exclusive. We are not autonomous. Only God is autonomous. We are heteronomous in that
we live under the law of someone or something other than us, and we are theonomous in that the “someone” is God.

o Soft-Determinism (Compatibilistic Free Will) says that our wills are determined by our own natures. We do not have autonomous free will, but we have free moral agency. We are responsible. THIS IS THE CALVINIST POSITION.

- Objections to Compatibilistic Free Will:
• This is not real freedom, as we are not then free to choose or to choose otherwise, though it seems that we are, in any given situation or circumstance. Are we, like God, limited by our natures?
Consider Willingness (will / will not) and Ability (can / cannot):
• PHYSICALLY: I would if I could, but I can’t so I won’t. (Run a mile in a minute?)
• SPIRITUALLY: I could if I would, but I won’t so I can’t. (Come to Christ?)

Defining Free Will ... The orthodox view:

Regardless of whether we hold to Libertarian Free Will (Arminian) or Compatibilistic Free Will (Calvinist), we acknowledge that man is free to choose that which he most desires. Both sides agree that fallen man is unwilling, indeed morally unable, to come to Christ without God’s grace acting first towards us. The will is voluntarily in bondage to sin until it is positively affected by the grace of God.


This definition of FREE WILL limits our further study to the “orthodox” positions of Calvinism and Arminianism concerning salvation. The debate between Calvinism and Arminianism is regarding how the grace of God positively affects humanity. Why did we begin with these “will and nature” issues? Sproul, Willing To Believe, pg. 29, says, “Any view of the human will that destroys the Biblical view of human responsibility is seriously defective. Any view of the human will that destroys the Biblical view of God’s character is even worse. The debate [between Calvinism and Arminianism] will affect our understanding of God’s righteousness, sovereignty, and grace. All of these are vital to Christian Theology. If we ignore these issues or regard them as trivial, we greatly demean the full character of God as revealed in Scripture.”

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