Thursday, March 10, 2011

Continuing Thoughts on Free Will

I have been thinking about free will ever since my C.S. Lewis post yesterday. I think the best place to start—the place you always should start with any Christian discussion—is the Fall. Why did the Fall occur in the Garden of Eden?

Let’s look at the following line of logic.

1. God is all-powerful.
2. God commands Adam not to eat the forbidden fruit.
3. Adam eats the forbidden fruit.

This situation is logically inconsistent if all three statements are true—and the Bible says all three are true. If God is all powerful how could Adam have denied Him? There are only three possible conclusions:

A. God is not all-powerful, because Adam was able to defy Him. Therefore, the Bible is wrong regarding God’s sovereignty.
B. God secretly willed Adam to eat the fruit despite what He told him. Therefore, God is the root cause of sinful nature and death coming into the world, and the Bible is wrong in saying that evil does not come from Him.
C. God’s will is for His creations to choose to be obedient to Him. His will to give them choice means that He allows them the freedom to disobey. This is consistent with the rest of Scripture.

As I have written before, life is all about the means, not the ends. God doesn’t just want us to be perfect; He wants us to choose to be perfect. He wants obedience—and obedience is a meaningless word unless disobedience is actually an option. It is not submission to authority if you were forced to do it—that is programming, not submission. Submission is a willing transfer of authority from yourself to another.

Consider the Ten Commandments. Let’s ask ourselves this: if God’s will is for us to obey these commandments perfectly (as He states), then why didn’t He just program us that way? Why not make it so that men can only receive an erection from their bride? Then, adultery is a non-issue. Why not make it so that massive amounts of seratonin are released whenever someone gets angry, instantly removing wrath? Then no one would murder. Why not make it so that people experienced a physical revulsion to enjoying things they did not earn? That would eliminate the need for commandments 8 and 10. Why not program our instincts to spend all Sabbath day on our knees in prayer, like a wolf instinctively bays at the moon?

But He didn’t do that. Though He wants us to fulfill them, He did not exercise His will to control us so that we must do them. Why?

I can program my computer to send me an email every hour saying, “I love you Michael, my creator, and give you thanks for all things.” Would I get joy or love or honor from that? Of course not! I am the one who made the program – it is a will-bound machine, incapable of having any real sentiment. It is simply doing what I forced it to do.

You see, you must have freedom in order to have real sentiment. Without the freedom to resist, there is no such thing as submission. Without the freedom to hate, love does not exist. Without the freedom to disobey, obedience is a meaningless term. Unless we have the freedom to oppose God’s will, then Jesus wasted His breath when He prayed, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” For if we have not the freedom to oppose God's will, then we need not pray that it come to pass!

The laws of physics work always, as programmed, without fail. Does the earth’s following its orbit somehow count as it ‘submitting’ to God? Of course not. Submitting to God, trusting in Him, having faith in Him, obeying Him…these terms are meaningful if and only if He chooses to allow His power to be held in check, to give us the freedom to resist Him.

What a strange book the Bible becomes, if God’s sovereignty means that His will must always be irresistible. This means that God is the inciting force behind the Fall, because He would have to will that Adam disobey Him. God forces us to sin, then condemns us of that sin, then allows His Son to die to redeem some from that sin but not others--all without any real sentiment, for there was no choice in any of the stages.

Could God, in His sovereignty, make His will irresistible? Of course. The evidence of our lives and of Scripture are that He did not.

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