Is Free Will God’s Greatest Gift?

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?

The answer?

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:

How to Easily Prove From the Bible To Any True Christian That Free Will is a Myth

Free Will by RC Sproul (PDF)

Tiptoeing Through the TULIP: Radical Corruption Part 1


12 thoughts on “Is Free Will God’s Greatest Gift?

  1. Hey Brandon;

    Yes! I know… But Patton is one of my favorite people. All of his personal papers and books were at West Point when I was there, and it was cool to see his notes and stuff written in the margins of some of the classics on warfare. I like to think of myself (in one of my delusions) as the Patton of spiritual warfare!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    T-bone (Brett)

  2. Interesting post. Are you saying that humankind, created in the image of God, lacks the freedom of will that is inherent in that creation? Searching the scriptures in a God glorifying way means that we interact with passages and verses that counter our position as well. And of course, when God says something, we print it EXACTLY as he says, not “as something close to that.”

  3. I spent half a semester of a philosophy class on the single question of is freedom really free. If God is all powerful and all knowing how can we possibly be free to make our own choices? I am going to go to bed sometime and God must know when; how am I making the choices leading up to me going to bed? Well, how am I not?
    If God is all powerful he must certainly be able to allow for chance. I couldn’t imagine God not being able to play Yahtzee because he will just always roll what he wants. God is all powerful he can allow the dice to roll naturally or he can choose have them roll how he wants.
    The same concept should apply to time. Please keep in mind time is a real relative dimension, our movement through it depends on the speed we travel through space and the effects of gravity on our point in space. Picture god on a mountain and there is a road, let’s call this road time and lets say our lives are on this road. We are born and die under the watchful eye of God. He knows how we’re born, how we die, everything we do in between. But this knowledge is not independent of our choices.
    Let me quote before my next point this webpage you’ve linked. “It would be more biblically accurate to affirm that man HAS A WILL and that his choices are VOLUNTARY (that is, not coerced) but this does not make the choices free.”
    Now please a quote from “Freewill Adjective[:] Done of your own accord.”
    Then your blog post “Manโ€™s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” This is supposed to be our choice. We’re supposed to choose to follow God, we’re supposed to be born of sin, baptize ourselves and live sin free of our own free will. This is how we live our eternal life with God. If we choose to live in the slavery of sin and not rise up during our time here we wont be with God after. Why else would be ever be on this earth? Would it not be better to not be born? We’re here on a test of faith, of course we’re free to do what we please; wouldn’t it be amazing if people choose not to commit the sins the bible speaks of? I get to choose what color shirt I’m going to wear to work. I get to decide if I’ll love a person with or without a y chromosome.
    The question, if these things are predetermined upon birth by our genetic makeup, is a different matter entirely. When one starts posing those questions one starts to understand the shadows on the walls from Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. To live “to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” We have to realize the things around us are not real. They are all bound by our ability to perceive. They are also relative. I cannot prove any of this is real. I could be dreaming. This could be the Matrix. We can’t prove it false so it’s always taken as a base that the other people we interact with are only real relatively. I will never be in any other persons thought process. Thought process is the problem. This is what we need to get rid of.
    We need to let go of our wants and desires and our sinful actions, which we do on our own free will alone in our thoughts, and live in the holy truth of the lord almighty and this will never happen unless you take the time to think about the world around you apply the scriptures to daily life. Man is born sinful because he is a Man with a brain which, honestly, cares about things we do not, for example, oxygen intake, beating ones heart, preforming sins.
    We’re supposed to use our freewill to over come this. If this was not the case we would not be what we are. Which is a bunch of cells and atoms working off different chemical reactions in a potentially 11 dimensional universe (Dark matter makes up %80, if not more, of all of our relative existence and it doesn’t exist it’s just something with a lot of relative gravitation power that holds everything together.) Let it be known I have not read the bible. First chapter and last chapter is all I got. Nothing in the middle. Churches are run by man and are used to make money, I kind of think we need to take this talk to the streets. I also am a libertarian/anarchist who believes we should give our ultimate unconditional love to all sentient beings, on this earth and that’s my free will. Ownt.

  4. This thread is obviously old, but I have only now run across it. I am no scholar or priest, but I am a very devout Christian. Because of my gift of free will I am allowed to even say what I am now. Because of your gift of free will you are allowed to comment in return. This is not as complex as it is made out to be. You are a human born from a mother and loved by a father
    Go and make life. That doesn’t mean you have to make children, it just means to be good. Make life.

  5. Pingback: Society and the Dogma of Choice | MOTOCHANMOTOCHAN

  6. Late comer to this party… great posts and comments. First 3 chapters of Genesis are foundational to our understanding of God and man and in the garden God gave man a choice but with consequence. Adam and Eve where therefore given the power to choose and exercise their will in opposition to God’s will. God also made it clear that the choices are not free as there are consequences, one led to death and the other life. Eat of that tree, your choice, and you will die. Freedom to choose is power to exercise your own will, however, is this the greatest gift to humanity; I deserve the right to think on that a lot longer.

    Jesus said, when you pray, say…let your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. That must mean that The Father’s will is always done in heaven, it is good and perfect and we can choose to do his will over ours but also choose not to.

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