I had lunch the other day with a good Christian friend. He brought up the issue of free will, a subject that had weighed heavily on his mind recently. He confided with me that he thought he heard the voice of God speak to him one day.
This is what the Lord supposedly told him.
“Free will is the greatest gift I have given to man.” – Or something close to that.
My friend did a remarkable thing after hearing the word of the Lord, something I see very few Christians do when they supposedly hear God speak to them.
He discerned the message.
He rightly divided the word of truth. He questioned the scriptural integrity of those words. He did as Spurgeon advised; judged the right from the almost right.
See, the words ‘free will is God’s greatest gift’ may sound good, right and true on the surface, especially in the midst of a doctrinally confused generation of semi-Pelagians dominating the face of evangelicalism.
But is the notion scriptural?
I posed the question ‘where does the bible speak of free will being God’s greatest gift?’, but my friend was way ahead of me. He shook his head and said, “It doesn’t.” Later in the conversation he brought up John 3:16 noting, “I thought the bible said God giving his only Son was his greatest gift.” I nodded in complete agreement. It appears scripture contradicts the voice of God – and the written word always trumps subjective revelations.
If free will is indeed God’s greatest gift, John 3:16-17 should read this way:
For God so loved the world that he gave free will, that man may make choices unconstrained by the necessity of his nature, to decide for himself whether he will perish or have everlasting life. For God did not give free will to the world in order to condemn the world but in order that through free will the world might be saved.
Sounds kind of funny when put like that, but this just exposes how ridiculous the concept of free will is. The bible nowhere speaks of the power or virtue of free will. It is a philosophical construct that attempts to bestow a power upon man that the bible clearly states he does not possess.
I have heard many evangelicals over the years (myself included) who have made similar statements that free will is God’s most precious gift, a virtue that he would never dare violate. They even go so far as to say if God doesn’t grant man absolute freedom to choose or reject him he must be the most vile and cruel dictator in the cosmos. A view like this frames a reality where even God is subject to a greater force than himself. He may seek to save each and every person, not willing for any to perish, but in the end must yield to the grand virtue of man’s autonomous will – and watch helplessly as the majority of mankind plummets into hell by their own choice. This impotent picture of God is pathetic and blasphemous.
This leads to an important question: Does God work all things for the end purpose of exalting man’s freedom to choose, or for his own glory? I think we all know what most Christians would say – or should say if they wish to remain consistent with their own theology.
‘Free will must be protected at all costs! God sacrificed his Son so we could have a choice between heaven and hell.” So goes the cry of the modern church. Christ did not die simply for our sins, they claim, but also to give us a choice to decide our own destiny. In this man-centric theology all truth revolves around the will of man and its awesome power to decide for good or for evil all its own.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks this poignant question:
What is the chief end of man?
Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.
‘What dunderheads!’ proclaim today’s free-willogians. ‘God doesn’t work all things to bring glory to his name. What a self-centered and prideful portrait that paints of our loving Creator!’
Their answer, in light of post-modern thought about libertarian will, should read like this:
The chief end of man is to exercise his free will and enjoy it forever – provided he makes the right choices of course!
At the end of our lunch I asked my friend pointedly, “So do you believe man has any free will?”
He paused for a second then shook his head.
We do not stand alone in this conviction. I have seen an awakening recently among God’s people about the essential, but long-forgotten doctrines that arose from the fires of the Reformation. We have for too long abandoned the core doctrines of the Christian faith that causes us to see man for what he truly is and God for who he truly is. These core beliefs help to clearly define the great chasm that exists between us. A true understanding of scripture leads to a humility that produces sorrow, repentance and a faith which calls out for our mighty Savior to extend his arm and save us to the uttermost, when we do not have the ability or inclination to do so of our own power.
For more teaching on free will please check out the following links: