Free Will…do we have it?

One area where the Church often finds itself with divergent opinions is the subject of ‘free will’. There is one terrific example that Pastor Mark Anderson likes to bring up whenever speaking with folks that are in the ‘free will’ camp when it comesConversion of St Paul to choosing God and that is Saint Paul’s ‘free will

Do you think that this is a legimate example of how God works in bringing His people to faith, or do we have more of a roll to play with our decision for Jesus?

One might wonder then, well if God is the One who is bringing people to faith with the proclamation of His Gospel, then just exactly who is the Gospel meant for?

Do you think that this is the most efficient way for God to bring people to faith? Or is that none of our business?

15 Responses

  1. Jesus died for the sins of people from all nations. The Gospel is for all to hear. As you will see in Revelation, hearts are hardened and people love evil and refuse to hear (receive) God’s Word.

    It is a mystery why God would change Paul’s heart and not all.

    Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

  2. Magdalene,

    So true! Jesus died for all, for the sins of the whole world!

    As our friend Howard pointed out to us the other day, “men love the darkness rather than the light.”

    And as you say, “people love evil.”

    It truly is a mystery why God calls and chooses some and not others. Truly a mystery.

    Thank you Magdalene.

    – Steve

  3. I’ve recently tried to wrap my mind around Free Will in the same way that I try and wrap my mind around the Trinity (or take your pick of any other infinite concept of God that we can’t fully grasp).

    The Bible speaks clearly about God’s sovereignty in election and predestination, so such cannot be denied without making God into less than who He is. At the same time, the Bible also clearly makes it shown that we must come to Christ in faith, of our own desire and volition. Of course we understand that our coming to Christ is because He causes the Holy Spirit to renew our hearts (i.e. regeneration before conversion).

    All that being said, however, there is (I believe) a mysterious way in which these two elements of God’s supreme sovereignty and our independent freedom to love or hate Christ come together. If we deny our freedom to choose Christ then God is not just in condemning us for our sin because we are simply puppets doomed to follow the path set out for us (and God is always just). If God is not sovereign over every bit of our salvation (including our predestination and regeneration) then He is not an all-powerful God.

    It is a mystery, a paradox, an expression of God’s infinity to our finiteness – and this is what makes it so rich and comforting.

  4. Eric,

    I certainly do understand your point about trying to wrap our minds around the concept of the Trinity. A very tough thing to do, if it can be done at all.

    ‘Election’ on the other hand, (at least for me) is a bit different.

    The scriptures are filled with so many references with God choosing us. Jesus Himself said in the Gospel of John, “I choose you, you do not choose me.”

    Jesus also explains this to Nicodemus, when Jesus says ‘ that you cant do this, the spirit blows like the wind and does what IT WILLS.’ (about being born again)

    In Romans 3:11, Paul makes it clear that “no one seeks for God.”

    When the Bible says that we are dead in our sins and trespasses that implies that we can do nothing at all to effect our salvation (make a decision for Christ), because we are spiritually dead. A dead man plays no part whatsoever in bringing himself back to life.

    So, I believe that when the Bible references our coming to Christ (as you have rightly pointed out) it refers to the outcome of Christ’s action for us.

    In our sinfulness our ‘free will’ (which is not really free) will reject Christ every time. It is bound to sin.

    Luther does a great job of explaing this in his great book, ‘The Bondage of the Will’.

    I’m with you when you say that this is how it must be if God is to retain His sovereignty. I do think that the desire to hang on to, even if it’s just a little bit, of our free will, is very strong. But I think it is a liberating thing to finally let go of all of it and leave it all to God, where it rightfully belongs.

    This topic of discussion has been debated without a final outcome for thousands of years now, and I guess we won’t be the ones to finally put it to bed, but is sure is fun to exchange ideas on it.

    Thanks very much for the great dialogue, Eric!

    Yours in Christ-


  5. Steve – I think we are absolutely in agreement on this and are just going about saying it in different ways (or with different flavor, maybe). I haven’t had a chance to read Luther’s “The Bondage of the Will” yet, but it’s definitely on my reading list!

    I 100% agree that our decision to follow Christ is a direct result of God’s decision to choose and regenerate us.

  6. What can really mess with your mind Eric is this;

    If God chooses us can we say no?

    If God the Father draws a person to Christ, can that person say, “no thanks”?

    Or will that person always repent and trust Christ to save on the day of wrath?

  7. WayneDawg –

    I would definitely agree that the Scripture teaches us that no, God’s grace is “irresistible” (to borrow from the classic Calvinist construction). None of those whom Christ died for will be able to resist Him. Christ’s atoning blood is not wasted.

    There’s a subtle distinction in what I’m saying versus what the traditional Armenian point of view argues. I’m not arguing for the usual men chose/reject God and then God reacts to them but rather proposing that in a mystical, mysterious way God’s sovereign election and redemption meshes with our perception of choice as human agents.

    Anyway – I think Steve put it well: we’re certainly not going to resolve an age-old debate here and now, and I do think that we’re all sort of saying the same thing with a different nuance.

    God bless,

  8. Eric, Wayne,

    I thought I had all this figured out, and now you guys have messed all that up for me. (just kidding)

    The nuances are there, but we must remember that the devil is in the details. The smallest thing can send us back into ourselves, where maybe we ought not go.

    Luther’s bondage of the will is an unfortunate work in some respects, but it is an awesome treatise on ‘free will’. The translation by O.R. Johnston and J.I.Packer is excellent.

    – Steve

  9. I’m listening to the Law and Gospel radio program (via the net)

    It sounds like it’s going to be a very interesting 2 hour show.

    There is a link on my blog roll to Law and Gospel then click on ‘listen live’


    – Steve

  10. As Calvin distinguished:

    “if you mean by a free will a faculty of choosing by which you have the power within yourself to choose what you desire, then we all have free will. If you mean by free will the ability for fallen human beings to incline themselves and exercise that will to choose the things of God without the prior monergistic work of regeneration, then free will is far too grandiose a term to apply to a human being.”

  11. DannyO,

    It seems to me that your view elevates God while lowering man.

    In this day and age that is a dangerous thing to do.

    We don’t really appreciate it when we are exposed for who and what we really are.

    Hence, the proliferation of ‘glory’ churches.

    ” He must increase, we must decrease.”

    Thanks Danny!

    – Steve

  12. on another note, one cannot define faith (pistis, in Greek) as “decision”, WHATSOEVER!

    Many today think the “transaction” goes like this:

    1. God has voted for you to be saved.
    2. The Devil has voted for you to be damned.
    3. Its a tie: you cast the deciding vote.

    to be honest…this is sheer rubbish and evidence of man clawing at the glory that is reserved for God alone!

    Be not like “Gollum” crying “precious, precious” to get your sinful paws on God’s Glory!

  13. DannyO,

    I agree with what you’ve said, 100%.

    Why is this so hard for modern (post modern, or whatever) people to grasp?

    Is it because we live in the age of rationalism and reason?

    Is it because we still have the desire (the original sin) of wanting to be like God?

    What do you think so many refuse to see this in the way the scriptures talk about it ? (so much so, that they refute multiple passages of scripture!)

    Thanks DannyO!

    – Steve

  14. Does God choose buzzards?

    Deacon & Usher were here….

  15. Hello Deacon and Usher!

    Yes He does! He chose me. I’m a buzzard.

    He chose David. A murderer and adulterer. He chose Moses, also killed a man. He chose Paul, another murderer.

    I have murdered more people in my heart than I care to count.

    I think God has a soft spot in His heart for buzzards.

    Thanks Deacon and Usher , for stopping by, i appreciate it!

    – Steve Martin

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