I’m rereading “Wild At Heart” by John Eldredge. I am enjoying this book as much now as I did the first time I read it. He mentioned the idea of man’s freewill. I have heard some preachers mention freewill. I’ve even read some religious/ministry books that mention man’s (and woman’s) freewill. Over the years, I’ve questioned the idea of freewill. I’ve asked myself, “does the Bible ever mention the idea or teach humanity’s freewill?” I’ve researched the topic in my Bible and I have read men whom I respect address the idea and I have come to the conclusion that no; the Bible doesn’t mention freewill or teach the idea of humanity’s freewill.
If you ask the average person is freewill exists, they would say, “Yes.” Even a good amount of Christians might even believe it exists. In the movie “Bruce Almighty,” Morgan Freeman plays God and he gives Jim Cary the power to be God. The idea was to give Bruce (Jim Cary’s character) a taste of what it takes to do God’s job. God tells Bruce that the only thing Bruce couldn’t do was to override man’s freewill. Freewill is man’s trump card when it comes to God’s sovereignty; it’s God’s kryptonite.
The idea that man has freewill has been debated over the last century. I know that some who might be reading this post that will say, “Yes, man has a freewill.” and some who might say, “No, man does not have freewill.” When it comes to Biblical thought and/or ideas, I want to hear what the Bible has to say about it. A college professor I had at Baptist Bible College used to say a phrase; “Give me book, chapter, and verse.” If anyone wished to challenge him on what he taught, he would day this phrase. If anyone disagreed with what he taught regarding the scripture, you had to use the Bible to argue your point; not your opinion, philosophy, and conjecture. If you didn’t give him book, chapter, and/or verse, he wouldn’t entertain you. He was a busy man.
In this post, I wish to share what I’ve found with regard to the idea of freewill. Some of the facts I’ll share, I’ve taken from John Piper (http://www.desiringgod.org). I will not give you my opinion solely but what the Bible has to say about freewill or the idea of freewill.
Let’s talk about what the Bible does tell us about man and if there is such a thing as freewill. We know that before the fall, Adam was sinless but was able to sin (Genesis 2:17). Does that mean, Adam had the will to choose to eat the fruit or not? Adam was prefect when God created him. Since God is all-knowing and present everywhere at every possible time in history, I would argue that God knew that Adam would sin. The result of Adam sinning is that man’s will is now tainted or flawed.
On our own, fallen man cannot do anything but sin. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “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.” Such freewill is a devastating reality. Without some power to overcome its bent, our freewill only damns us. There are some who think that man has freewill, and that salvation comes to the sinner through his will cooperating with the Holy Spirit. The Bible speaks against that train of thought.
Salvation is not a partnership; salvation is dependent on God and God alone. Roman 9:16 says, “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” The Bible teaches that we are dead in trespasses and sins since Adam’s fall. Ephesians 2:1-10 says, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins. . .” A dead person can do nothing. A dead person just lies there. It cannot sit up, shake hands, make decisions; it’s dead. The mind of the flesh does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot—and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
In Romans, the Apostle Paul divides the world into two groups: those who are in the flesh and those who have the Spirit. Roman’s 8:7-9 says, “. . .because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2 that the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit because they are foolishness to him. I think the Bible is pretty clear that the corruption of our own hearts, being so profound that we are unable to do good on our own. Our inability to do good apart from the Holy Spirit is rooted squarely in humanity’s rebellion. Because our rebellion is so great and so strong, on our own we cannot see Christ or hear the gospel as beautiful. Rather, it is a stumbling block or foolishness; and until we are called, awakened, born again, we cannot see it as beautiful.
So what I believe about freewill is that I am free to do whatever I please, and what I please is to sin. Therefore I’m going to be damned by my freewill. I must be rescued from the bondage of my freewill in order to see and hear God for who He is. Does that make me a robot or diminish the glory of God? I don’t think so, because what God does is He comes to us and frees us from the bondage of our blindness and deafness and hardness so that, finally, we become rational and can act as truly free human beings.
Paul says in Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set you free. Do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Now, after new birth, what we want to do is God’s will. Because of this, God gets great glory both for the liberation that He performed on our behalf and for the praises that we now bring him, not as people who are enslaved to sin, but as free people who are seeing the world for what it really is.
Previously we couldn’t see Him for who He really is because we hated it so much. And now we do see Him for who He really is, and therefore our praises are rational and clear and good, and He gets maximum glory for our obedience, faith, and praise. So I don’t believe in freewill if you define it as man’s ultimate self-determination. I believe freewill as, “you can do whatever you please.” Before you’re born again what you please is self-destructive and sinful. After you’re born again, what you please is the will of God.
So in both cases you have freewill in that definition. I think most people who are smart, both theological and philosophically-oriented mean by freewill is “man’s ultimate self-determination.” Reading and studying the scripture, I don’t think there is any such thing, especially since Adam’s fall when our self-determination became always in bondage to sin and therefore self-destructive.