Monday, May 7, 2018

What About Free Will?

Paul addresses the doctrine of election in Romans 9. He anticipates a common objection--the "What about free will?" objection. After all, if God "has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills [18]," and if salvation "depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy [16]," then why is it man’s fault that he has not chosen God?

We find Paul's response in verses 19-29. The video linked below goes into greater detail. For now though, you should know that this question has divided the church for centuries: [19] You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”

On the one side of this question are those who deny that God chooses unconditionally. On the other are those who affirm that God chooses unconditionally. The first would prefer to affirm that man's free will controls his own eternal destiny. The other affirms that God holds all sovereignty, even over salvation.  

Wayne Grudem in his Introduction to Systematic Theology summarizes some of the objections of those who hold the Free Will position: 
  1. If God does the choosing, then man cannot have free will.
  2. If man does not have free will, then we do not have a choice.
  3. Or even if we have a choice, our choices are not real.
  4. And we are merely puppets or robots.
  5. And unbelievers never have a fair chance
  6. Which means that election is fundamentally unfair.
These are intimidating objections. We cannot pretend they are not.  They are the chief reason many humans naturally recoil from the idea of election and desperately try to make it disappear from Romans 9. I once sat in the office of a pastor who asserted that he refused to believe in a God that would choose some people to go to heaven and others to go to hell. His language, not mine. But I found it ironic that on the wall behind him he had freely placed a picture of famous Calvinist Charles Haddon Spurgeon

And so their fix is often to assert that God is indeed sovereign, but he sovereignly chooses to give us the freedom to determine our own eternal destiny. After all, "free will is what makes us human." There are many problems with this, but I will just show one here. Wayne Grudem summarizes this nicely in his chapter on Election and Reprobation: Those who make this argument have not really solved the problem; they have just moved it around to a different location. What Free Willers mean by sovereignty is that God has the power to save everyone, he just "has too much respect for human free will to force people to be saved." 
  • What this means is that Free Willers grant that not all people are saved; 
  • Which means that for some reason God does not save all people--even though he could;
  • Which means that God chooses not to save all people; 
  • Which means that he values something above the salvation of all people;
What could God possibly value more than the salvation of all people?

For the Arminian, the answer is that God values the preservation of man’s free will more than the salvation of all people.  For the Calvinist, the answer is that God values his own glory more than the salvation of all people.

Of course, these two cannot both be true at the same time. The determining question is this: Which one does God reveal to be true in his Word? Which one is Scriptural and which one is made up?

The sermon linked below shows how Romans 9:19-29 answers this question.  I explain how God values his own glory more than the salvation of all people. More than this I explain how his not saving everyone furthers his glory more than his saving everyone.

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