Free Will Debate
2004, a couple from Prescott, Arizona sailed out to sea to show their
yacht to a prospective buyer. Shockingly, they were ambushed,
blindfolded, duct-taped, tied to the anchor and mercilessly thrown
overboard. The murderer then went to get a beer from the refrigerator,
pulled out a fishing pole and began fishing off the back dock.
condition of all unregenerate men is the same: They are in a state of
complete estrangement from their Creator from the moment of conception
(Ps 51:5). Upon exiting the womb, they immediately go astray
(Ps 58:3) and become "slaves to sin" (Rms 6:16-20). They are "children of disobedience" (Eph 2:2), who are "under the dominion of the world, the flesh and the devil" (Eph 2:2-3), and are, "without Christ and alienated...having no hope and without God in the world" (Eph 2:12). All of this results from the fact that they are by "nature, children of wrath" (Rms 6:17, Eph 2:3, Jn 3:36). By nature they cannot bring forth good fruit (Matt 7:18); by nature, the mind is hostile to and cannot be subject to the law of God (Isa 53:6, Rms 8:7); by nature, they cannot discern spiritual truth (1 Cor 2:14); by nature, they cannot hear Christ's word that they might live (Jn 8:43-44, ); by nature, they are, "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph 2:1), by nature they cannot control the tongue (Jms 3:8), and by nature, do not have the free will to come to Christ (Jn 6:44, 1 Cor 12:3) because they are held, "in bondage" (Heb 2:15)---and are not "free indeed" until "the Son shall make them free" (Jn 8:36, Luke 4:18). Hence, without the powerful aid of the Father to draw that person TO the Redeemer (Jn 6:44, Matt 16:17), the idol of "free will" is not one whit better than the other idols of the heathen.
to the assertion in CCC #1730, it is quite impossible that men have the
ability to "initiate" seeking out their Creator, because by nature, "there is none that seeketh after God" --- and our very souls cry out, "We will not have this man to rule over us! (Rms
3:11-12, Luke 19:14). Jesus confirmed that men are spiritually dead
and need to hear the voice of the Son of God to bring them back to life (Jn 5:25). When Lazarus rose from the dead, he then could choose to answer the call of Christ, but he could not choose to come to life (Jn 11:43).
Likewise, just as our free will was not responsible for bringing us
into this world (Gen 1:1), neither is it responsible for the new birth
(Jn 3:8). Those that believe in Jesus have been "born, not of the will of man, but of God" (Jn 1:12-13, 1 Cor 3:5-6).
this point, I must stop to clarify that even though the Bible makes it
clear that the will of man is in bondage to sin, nevertheless, men are free moral agents. In saying this, it must be qualified. Adam's sin corrupted the entire human race (Rms 5:12), to the point that, "the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great, and every intent and thought of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen 6:5), as it is to this day. That being said, if our very natures are bent towards EVIL, how then do we have the capacity to choose the GOOD news of the gospel? Answer? We don't--- because a dead sinner is unable to convert himself. Without the radical intervention of Divine Grace (Jn 6:65),
the unregenerate man remains with an "incurable bruise" (Jer 30:12),
with no more the ability to do good, than the leopard has the ability to
remove the spots on his coat (Jer 13:23). The gospel is good news
which is detestable to unregenerate men who by heredity, have a heart of
stone (Ez 11:19). Yes, we do have wills, but our wills are in subjection to our heart's desires,
and here is the difference: On the one hand, the Bible's position is
that of a direct "assault" of power from on High in the matter of
salvation (e.g., Acts 9:3
in Paul's conversion on the Damascus road, who was certainly not
seeking God AT ALL, typifying every believer's experience). Having
being given "the gift of faith" (Eph 2:8) the heart's desire is now
free to choose and respond to the gospel. On the other hand, is my
opponent (the "free-will theist") who is really advocating our "unregenerate heart's desire", and not free will.
this means is that no one's will is an island unto itself. It MUST be
affected by something, just as a seed will not grow without water.
When the "water" of our heart's desire pours over our will, then the
seed turns into an ACT of the will. From a non-salvation standpoint,
my will (to choose Coke over Pepsi) is the fruit of my heart's desire, not the cause. In other words, I do not first drink Coke, and then will to drink it afterwards. I desire something first, then will that particular thing into my life. From a salvation standpoint, because the condition of "the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked"
(Jer 17:9), and "out of the heart proceed evil thoughts..." (Matt 15:9), our unregenerate hearts can never will to come to Christ because He is the one who must make the first move to vivification (Matt 11:27, Mk 13:20, Jn 5:21, 6:44, Acts 2:39, Eph 2:1, 2 Tim 2:25)---at which point the person now has the capability to believe the gospel. "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails" (Prov 19:21). Consequently, I do not deny that men have choosing minds. What I do deny is that man's will is ever free from, "the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of HIS own will" (Eph 1:11) because, "The plans of HIS heart [stand] from generation to generation" (Ps 33:11).
Surely, "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh" (Ps
2:4) as He observes many believers all too happy to confess His
sovereignty over earthquakes, floods and other "acts of God", but when
it comes to the fortress of man's pride, they imagine his "free-will" is
strictly off-limits. However, the Scriptures "ambush" man's pride,
just as swiftly as the Prescott couple were ambushed, and throws CCC
#1730 overboard by the anchor of its evidence. That anchor weighs
heavily against the supposition that we are sovereign, autonomous beings
"master over our own acts", as the Catechism would have us believe.
God is the potter and we are the clay; "Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand" (Jer 18:4-6, Isa 64:8), so He most certainly did not "leave man in the hands of His own counsel so that he should seek the Creator of his own accord!". Proponents of this view forget Ephesians 1:17-20: the eyes of the spiritually blind are opened, not by man's free will, but by nothing less than the very same power it took to raise Jesus Christ from the dead! "In
the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened
that you may know...what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us who believe, according TO His mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead". Furthermore, because He discriminately shows mercy to whom He wishes, Paul concludes, "it does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy." (Rms 9:15-16, NIV).
It is amazing how willing the Bible is to affirm the fact of God's all-encompassing decretive WILL.
Whether it be from the raising up or knocking down of earthly kings, or
as to the falling of a sparrow out of the nest, or as it regards the
number of hairs on our head, or the number of days we shall live--- no
man is exempt from God's providential execution of His eternal purposes
(Dan 4:31-32, Matt 10:29-30, Job 12:10; 14:5, Ps 139:16). B.B.
God who... would make a creature whom He could not or would not
control, is no God. The moment he should make such a creature He would,
of course, abdicate His throne. The universe He had created would have
ceased to be His universe; or rather it would cease to exist, for the
universe is held together only by His control (Heb 1:3).
worse...than the destruction of the universe...He would cease to be God
in a deeper sense [in that] He would have ceased to be a moral being.
It is an immoral act to make a thing that we cannot or will not control.
The only justification for making anything is that we both can and will
control it. If a man should manufacture a quantity of an unstable
high-explosive in the corridors of an orphan asylum, and when the stuff
went off, sought to excuse himself by saying that he could not control
it, no one would count his excuse valid. What right had he to
manufacture it, we should say, unless he could control it? He relieves
himself of none of the responsibility for the havoc wrought, by pleading
inability to control his creation.
suppose that God has made a universe, or even a single being, the
control of which He renounces, is to accuse him of similar immorality.
What right has He to make it, if He cannot or will not control it? It is
not a moral act to perpetrate chaos. We have not only dethroned God; we
have demoralized him." (http://homepage.mac.com/shanerosenthal/reformationink/bbwpredest.htm paragraph 3, 4 & 5)
summarize: the theory contained in CCC #1731 which supposes that man
has the freedom to act or not to act in the matter of salvation, must be
abandoned. God will either use His irresistible grace to persuade the
gathering in of His elect whom He has appointed unto eternal life (Acts 13:48, 2 Tim 1:9) or He will withhold it from those He has appointed to damnation (1 Pet 2:8, Matt 11:25, 13:11, 22:14, Jn 10:25, 12:39-40, 17:9).
Many find the doctrine that God rules even over our heart's desires, and consequently, our wills, to be distasteful. "But the king's heart is in the hand of the Lord; as the rivers of water, He turns it withersoever He will" (Prov 21:1).
are always factors that affect our desires. Factors such as a brain
tumor we are unaware of, may lead us to make irrational decisions, even
though we presume all the while our sanity. Parents, long dead, may
continue to wield a determining influence on us throughout our lives
(Prov 22:6). Hence, how can anyone ever know that we are completely
free from all such external or internal causes to triumphantly conclude
we have utilized our "free will"? Answer? We can't. We would have
to know every possible cause in the universe to be absolutely certain
that our free will was in fact, indisputably free. That requires
only the unseen wind of the Holy Spirit is omniscient, and travels
about choosing whose ears will be receptive to the gospel and whose will
not (Jn 3:8).
Word Count: 1998
Thesis Statement in BLUE
Documentation in RED
Closing Summary in PURPLE