Sunday, January 21, 2007

Somebody Free Will...Please.

I have no idea who Will is. I have no idea where he is or what he did to get there. All I know is that everybody wants to free Will. And the funny thing is, nobody else knows who Will is either. For someone who gets so much recognition, it sad more people don't get to know this guy.

What if we spent all this time trying to justify our campaign to "Free Will," and he didn't even want to be freed? What if someone proposed the preponderous assumption that maybe Will doesn't even need to be freed? Maybe Will sucks. Who knows?

So that was lame. But seriously folks, what's up with "free will"?

Before you read this post any further, please read Matthew 12.33-37.

I think the best way to understand man's responsibility and the sovereignty of God can be summed up in this sentence: Man's will is not his Hope. Christ Jesus taught that the tree must be made good. Man must be renewed in his entire character. He must have a new heart to bring forth good fruit; the will cannot make the tree good; it may only exercise the freedom to be what the tree already is. The will cannot reload the treasure chest with a new kind of goods; it may only freely bring forth what is there. The will cannot cleanse the fountainhead; it may overflow only with the waters available in the soul.

Any gospel preaching that relies upon an act of the human will for the conversion of sinners has missed the mark. Any sinner who supposes that his will has the strength to do any good accompanying salvation is greatly deluded and far from the kingdom. We are cast back upon the regenerating work of the Spirit of the living GOD to make the tree good. Unless GOD does something in the sinner, unless GOD creates a clean heart and renews a right spirit within man, there is no hope of a saving change.

If we hold to a libertarian view of free-will, many of our prayers would just be absurd!

Here's another little ficticious conversation for you.

Student: Can we finish this conversation concerning free-will after we pray? I'm starving.
Teacher: We sure can.
(Prayer ensues and a conversation regarding the free-will of man ensues.)
Student: So what were you saying about free-will and prayer?
Teacher: Well, just think about the prayers about ourselves that do involve our free will.
Student: Ok.
Teacher: Suppose we ask the Lord to help us be more faithful in Bible reading, prayer, and witnessing. Or suppose we pray that the Lord will help us treat our family or neighbor better.
Student: That's easy.
Teacher: I'm gonna say that if libertarian free-will obtains in our world, these are to a large degree absurd requests.
Student: Why would you say that?
Teacher: Well, what are we asking God to do?
Student: What?
Teacher: In order for me to be more faithful in Bible reading, prayer, and witnessing, won’t I have to decide to do these things?
Student: Yeah. So...
Teacher: But if I have libertarian free-will and am allowed to exercise it, how can God fulfill my request?
Student: Um...
Teacher: If he doesn’t override my libertarian freedom, he cannot guarantee the fulfillment of my request. So what am I asking him to do? Override my freedom? Make it the case that I freely decide to do these things?
Student: But if God brings those things about and makes the case for you, you're not doing it freely. Why would God want me to engage in these spiritual exercises because I’m forced to do so? Doesn't God want my love and devotion to flow freely from my desires?
Teacher: Let's think about this now. If what you're saying is true, shouldn’t I, then, pray to myself in an attempt to convince myself to do these things? After all, only I can freely effect what I choose to do, given libertarian free-will.
Student: No way. We pray to God and God alone.
Teacher: But if I did pray to myself, wouldn’t that usually mean I had already decided to do these things, and if so, the petition becomes unnecessary?
Student: I see.
Teacher: Do you see why this is so crucial for us to understand? Unless we really want God to override our freedom, what we ask him in these cases is absurd. If he doesn’t tamper with our libertarian free-will, he can’t do what we ask; only we can, but petitioning ourselves engages us in the absurdities we've been mentioning...

To steal from a previous post on Election:
I think the best way to understand and explain the doctrine of [free-will] can be summed up in this: If you wrestle with the doctrine of election long enough it creates a problem that was always there and you didn’t see it. And the denial of election, or disagreeing of it, doesn’t get it to go away.

Here's some closing statements (paraphrased from J.I. Packer):
  • I will proclaim a God who saves, not a God who enables man to save himself.
  • I will proclaim the three great acts of the Holy Trinity for the recovering of lost mankind—election by the Father, redemption by the Son, calling by the Spirit—as directed towards the same persons, and as securing their salvation infallibly, not a view that gives each act a different reference (the objects of redemption being all mankind, of calling, all who hear the gospel, and of election, those hearers who respond), and denies that man’s salvation is secured by any of them.
  • I will regard faith as part of God’s gift of salvation, not as man’s own contribution to salvation.
  • I will give all the glory of saving believers to God, not divide the praise between God, who, so to speak, built the machinery of salvation, and man, who by believing operated it.

While addressing the wills of men in the blogsphere, university, the street, or in the church, we need to be reminded that they are wills bound in the grave clothes of an evil heart. But as we speak, and the Lord owns His word, we can reast assured that sinners will be quickened to life by divine power. His people are made willing in the day of His power [Psalms 110.3]. All who are adopted as sons of GOD were 'born not of the will of man, but of GOD.' [John 1.13] Let us stand to preach with no power to make the tree good. The 'trees' before us cannot make themselves good, so no gimmicks or policies of men can persuade them to make the change. But our glorious God, by inward, secret, transforming power, can make the tree good, the treasures good, the fountain good. Thus all glory be to God and to the Lamb! Salvation is of the Lord!

And that's the way Will likes it.

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