Wednesday, July 1, 2015

If Your Will is Free, Then Words are Cheap

The reduction of precise language in American culture has given way to a vast quantity of problems. The fact that we must issue disclaimers and caveats before and after words like Christian, truth, life, male/female and marriage is indicative of how we've blended the real with the unreal. The most commonly used words are the words most likely to be corrupted from their original definitions.

Think about how often we refer to something as awesome or epic. Those words have lost weight and meaning because people refer to a piece of gum as "awesome" or to a trip to the store to purchase said piece of gum as "epic." Speaking in theological terms think about how easily terms like heretic and false teacher are thrown around. I'm not opposed to saying any of those words. God is awesome. His works are awesome. Lord of the Rings was an epic story. Most of the people on TBN are heretics and false teachers. See, I'm willing to use them; but I want to be sure to use them appropriately.
C'mon! You know you're not. 

This anti-precision mentality propagated by post-modernists has oozed its way into the church. The first two books the post-modernist would burn are the Bible and the dictionary. While I don't think people in the church despise the Bible (though we all are prone to hide from it when we know we're wrong) we are trying hard to remove the dictionary from our shelves to alleviate the burden of punctilious and definite language.

What is free will and do we have it?
"Tim! How dare you! I'm American! It's almost Independence Day! Of course I have free will! USA! USA! USA!"

I wonder how much our American mindset has corrupted our ability to understand the reality of our flesh. We love freedom used to love freedom in this country. We loved making our own way. We loved working hard and doing what we want and we were happy to keep the government out of our lives. That's clearly changed but we still maintain a sense of personal autonomy. We're still convinced that manifest destiny is an individual mantra.

Yet each of us still has a fleshly body to deal with. If we're going to honestly evaluate the notion of free will, then we need to look at what the Bible says. Philosophical musings are nice and all but what does the Bible actually say about free will?
Romans 6:17
17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed

John 8:34
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.
Non-Christians are slaves to their sin. What they do always has their sin in mind or, to be put it another way, all they do is done in rebellion to God. In what sense do they have free will if everything they do is influenced by their fleshly desire to rebel? In what sense do they have free will if they cannot please God? It's not that they will not please God, it's that they cannot.
Romans 8:5-8
For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 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.
Just like Charlton Heston couldn't escape playing the leading
man in movie epics, neither can pagans escape their slavery
Do non-Christians make choices? Absolutely. In fact, they will be judged according to their choices. But do they truly have free will? Can they do whatever they want? Are their choices completely without any external influence? No. We know that their sin controls them. Sin keeps them enslaved to their flesh. They are in bondage. They do not have free will.

But what about Christians? Surely we have free will. Surely we can do whatever we wish. Surely we aren't slaves to anything...

Romans 6:16
16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?
We are now slaves to Christ. We are slaves to obedience to Christ. But we all know we still choose to sin. We should live as though we are slaves to Christ but we all still sin and sin is disobedience and thus fractures the slave metaphor. So maybe we do have free will. Right?

Let's go back to what free will truly is. It's absolute autonomy. It's living in such a way that there's nothing you can't do. It's living without restrictions. It's making choices without any influence. Do any of us do that? How did you work out your free will when you got married? Did you have any man or woman you wanted? No. Did anyone (parents, friends, ex's) influence you on the type of man or woman you should pursue? Yes. Did our culture have any impact on how you determined what's important in a spouse?

Think about this example:
Let's say you grew up in a religious home. Your parents were devout Christians and really exemplary role models.
If you went to a Christian school, then wouldn't it be fair to say that your parents heavily influenced your decision?
But what if you went to a really liberal college just to tick them off? Wouldn't it be fair to say that your parents heavily influenced your decision?

Some might be saying, "But I'd still be making a choice! I'm using my free will to follow the desires of my heart!"
I agree. In some sense you have a modicum of free will. But as a Christian are there some choices that are impossible to make?
A Christian cannot lose his or her salvation. A believer does not have free will in any sense to stop having eternal life. You are Christ's possession and He will not and cannot release you. Aren't you glad you don't have free will in regards to that*?

Are any of the following characteristics true about you? Since the answer is no, then isn't it a bit hazardous for us to put our free will on the same level as God's?

Ultimately only God truly has free will. He's not influenced by external factors. He does as He pleases. He's the only autonomous being. He doesn't battle His own sin nature. He's not surprised by anything. He accomplishes everything He sets out to accomplish. His sovereignty doesn't end where our free will begins. His sovereignty overrides any semblance of free will we have. His free will overrides our choices. We can't change His plans. His course isn't dependent upon human cooperation. His holiness is internal. His plans are unchangeable. He is unchangeable and unshakable. Only God has free will and that is an awesome truth.

*I would add that if you don't have free will in every area, then you don't have free will at all.

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