Week 4 – More Thoughts on Free Will (vs. Total Depravity)

October 25, 2009

A pastor at our church defined Free Will as “ability to choose something apart from God.” This can in turn be interpreted in couple different ways.

1) Humans choose that which God does not choose. Or human will supersedes God’s choice.

or

2) Humans choose that which God does not desire. Or human will supersedes God’s desire.

If we adhere to the first definition, then Free Will cannot exist, either Biblically or philosophically. If God’s will is frustrated by, or even yields to, human will, then he would cease to be God, because He would not be omnipotent.

The second definition seems to limit God’s power as well. If He can’t choose what He desires, then He is, again, not omnipotent. Otherwise, if God chooses what he does not desire, then He is powerless over His own desires and emotions. However, even in our own hearts, we find different levels of desires. We want chocolate all the time, but also desire to not have this big sagging belly (sad face D: ). So we refrain (well some of us refrain) from eating chocolate everyday. God’s desires are multileveled as well. God, first and foremost, desires His own glory. And secondly, on a lower level, He desires an entirely moral, good universe. It would make sense why God would desire this in terms of permanence. God is eternal, but the material world is not. What is more permanent in its nature is more important than that which is ephemeral. I think, however, a better term for God’s first level desire would be ‘character’. It is God’s character to be gracious. Then the definition can again be altered.

3) Humans choose that which goes against God’s character.

Notice that if we use the term ‘character’, then there is no need for the ‘supersede’ part of the definition. But this sounds strangely like the definition of sin. Does sin exist? Yes. That means Free Will, by this definition, exists, and it is sin. What is “Free Will” exactly free from? Are we Free from God’s ultimate choice, or are we choosing that which goes against who He is?

Another way to approach Free Will is through the idea of moral responsibility. Romans 9 seems to teach that God shows mercy and hardens people according to His own desire. But doesn’t this seem unfair? Why does God still hold us responsible? (v.19) The response from scripture is who are we to ask such question! At first, this response seem like an ad hominem. But it really isn’t, because it’s a valid point. God created us, and He has the right to do what He wants. And in subsequent verses, Paul makes it clear that God does this for His own glory. It is His every right to do so.

But the objection seems to still stand, and our sense of justice may still be unsatisfied. (Ignoring for a moment that justice itself is part of God’s character…) Why does God send people to hell when God himself hardened their hearts? In order to answer this question, we examine another question. When are we morally responsible for our choices? When we act upon them? No, for the bible shows that God values our hearts more than our actions. The sinful desires that we harbor in our hearts are just as much a sin as the acts we commit. But if God hardens our hearts, then are not these sinful desires a direct result of God’s will?

The one who causes a crime is morally responsible for the consequences of the action, but the one who is an accomplice or an instrument of that act is also responsible. The hit-man who carries out the orders of a mob boss is guilty of murder, regardless of whether or not he was ordered to do it. We are not off the hook – we are still guilty. However, God is not responsible, even though He caused our hearts to harden, for He has every right to do what He wants with His own property.

As with Free Will, the other four parts of Arminianism seem to neglect the fact that God is outside the realm of time. If He created the physical realm, then He created time itself, which means He is totally outside of it. If this is taken into account, then most of the five points of Calvinism makes sense. Limited Atonement makes sense. So does Perseverance of Saints. And from what I understand about TULIP, they follow like dominoes logically. But this notion that God is outside of time, isn’t found anywhere in the Bible (well, isn’t found in this exact form), so I can see why someone would reject it.

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