Freewill is a misnomer. There I said it.
“Parties on both sides of the aisle (believer’s and non-believer’s) please keep your voices down. Yelling and sneering at me will not convince me to adopt your way of thought,” the author of this writing rationally pleads.
The fact of the matter is I do not believe the human will is free. Of course, I can understand why there might be some who seek to convince me of the contrary. By all means, please deliver your arguments. Or if you don’t have one of your own and would instead prefer to point me to another that you believe wiser than yourself, then by all means do so. I’ll read it. I’ll listen to it. Regardless of the format, I’ll give it my rapt attention!
But please refrain from offering me your caricatures. I’ve seen Pinocchio. I know your objection that without freewill we are all puppets on a string. The analogy is a false one, but you are welcome to it. I just won’t be purchasing it. Nor would I take it if you handed it to me, for I’d freely and willfully reject it.
“How can that be? You’ve already denied ‘freewill!’” you exclaim.
I deny the popular conception of it. I DO NOT deny that as human beings we make free choices as free moral agents. What I DO DENY is that our free choices are not driven by our internal desires. Notice I did not say that my “free choice” is determined by someone holding a gun to my head. I reject the idea that our choices are dictated by some other power, but I do not deny that our choices are influenced by some other power.
Ultimately, when I do something it is the result of my personal desires. As Hubert Gruender puts it, “Man is not capable of a ‘motiveless volition/’ but must of necessity in all his strivings have some good in view…” at least what is “under the appearance of good.”[i] That is an interesting statement by Gruender, I think. It sounds oddly familiar. I wonder…where could I have heard this before?
Ah, yes…it is similar to the statement found in that dusty old volume written thousands of years ago by a bunch of sheepherders as the philosophically astute modern man loves to claim…the Holy Bible.
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight” (Isa 5.20-21).
I included v.21 because of how aptly it applies to humanity in their fallenness. We identify no king over us, and so we do whatever we desire (cf. Judg 17.6; 21.25). Such is our humanly plight.
I speak now to the brother or sister that professes Christ. On what grounds do you justify your belief in human freedom? In freedom of the will? From what well do you draw this truth from? In short, what positive case can you possibly make from Scripture that warrants your presupposition.
What evidence have you collected? What repository of truth have you found that contains what you love? Oh yes, you do love this doctrine called freewill. But the ground upon which you have built it is shifting sand, not solid rock.
“Experience,” you say. “That is our evidence.” “Logic,” you pine. “That is our wisdom.” “Love,” you purr. “That is our truth.”
Experiences are fleeting, who can truly understand or depend upon them. Logic is determined not by personal wit, but from the source of wisdom which it is drawn. Love, a famous word to be sure, but what is it? How do you define it? If you define it through experience (“I feel…”), then it is not dependable for feelings (as are experiences) are as volatile as the wind. If you recognize it as commitment, then it is not satisfactory as a person’s commitments are dependent upon the desire of the mind and this too is an arbitrary thing.
A dear friend of mine has written the following excerpt regarding the notorious doctrine of freewill:
“I am reminded of the constant struggle that we face as human beings, the battle over wisdom. We have a never-ending desire to be right, to be all knowing because ultimately this is an extension of our desire to be independent of God. Therefore, we fail to see that we are our own worst enemy, constantly sabotaging the truth for the lie…Sin began in the beginning in the garden. A direct result of Adam and Eve’s desire to be independent. This is seen in Eve’s evaluation of the fruit, “The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom” (Gen 3.6; HCSB)…I simply see that man is always making the same mistake when we reason…we always fall back on ourselves to evaluate and establish [the] truth.
The error in our reasoning occurs when we step away from Scripture…Like Eve who utilized her own judgement…mistakenly attempting to find truth apart from truth, apart from the very foundation of truth…our logic becomes faulty….Rather, we must find our truth in God and God alone….There must be an ultimate standard, one that is self-evident, one that is utilized to determine all other truth, otherwise we…find ourselves in a never-ending world of irrational thought.
So, the question remains: “What does the Scripture say about free will? What does the source of all wisdom and truth say about it?[ii]
As my friend goes on to explain, God created mankind (Adam and Eve; male and female) as dependent creatures. What the Lord promised was that man had a choice between two types of fruit. The fruit He approved of led to life; whereas, the other led to death.
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating “death” in biblical terms does not mean cease to exist. It is not limited to our natural understanding of the word; “death” means separation. Whether it is separation from the body with our flesh returning to the dust and our spirit to the Lord, or separation from righteousness, or separation from unrighteousness, when the Bible speaks of dying it says much more than “your heart will stop beating, your lungs will stop breathing, and your brain will stop firing.”
My friends’ point is merely this. If we think like Eve, we will find ourselves walking in all sorts of error being separated from the truth. She knew what she’d been told from the Lord, “You are not free to eat of this tree.” And yet, when she looked on it and reasoned apart from the truth and wisdom of God, what did she see? A fruit that was not bad, but good. A fruit that was not unpleasing, but pleasing. A fruit that was not undesirable, but desirable. In short, Eve’s conclusions about reality were wrong on every point. She deemed evil good and good evil. She pretended she had no king over her, thinking herself wise did what she deemed right.
The result? She was separated from the life of God. Abusing her freedom, her freedom was taken away. Thinking herself wise, she became a fool and her foolish thoughts were darkened.
And you think to argue for “freewill?” What positive case can you make for it from Scripture? For from the moment that Adam followed in his wife’s steps the human race was cast down being “subjected to futility” (Rom 8.20). Mankind is not described as “free,” but as a slave: “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin” (John 8.34). Slaves are not free, are they? Is that where your confusion lies? You assume that though you are a slave, you are really free? Is that not the error of Eve being repeated? God says this and you say not “this,” but that!
Again, I ask what positive case from God’s Word can you possibly make for freewill? I can show you a multitude of texts that state the contrary, but where is the ONE that promotes your foolish doctrine? No, unless the Son sets you free you shall remain a slave to your sin, and that slave master is not kind for he binds your heart to do all manner of evil. Only when a stronger one comes and binds that master; will your house be set free (Matt 12.29; Rom 8.20-21[iii]).
But you are a wise one. You’ve heard these arguments before and you remain unconvinced. You say, “But I am alive. I choose my own destiny. I see the good and the bad before me and I make my choice freely.” No one denies that you choose freely, but you do make your choice in accordance with the desires of your heart (Gen 8.21; Jer 17.9). You see, God has something to say about that as well. Mankind is not neutral to the truth, but antagonistic to it and is incapable of adhering to it (Rom 8.6-8; cf. Jer 13.23).
Regardless of the truths reported in Scripture; regardless of how hard the Holy Spirit hammers this point home, there are still rebels in the court of Christ that say “freewill” is my champion. And yet, I eagerly await an answer for where you might turn me to prove your point?
**Crickets are found chirping to break the unnerving silence…. **
[i] Hubert Gruender, Free will: The Greatest of the Seven World-Riddles (St. Louis, MO: B. Herder, 1911), 10, Adobe Digital Editions.
[ii] The writer’s name is Justin Miller a parishioner, a brother in Christ, a husband and father of two, a family member, and longtime friend.
[iii] Interesting that the Holy Spirit explains how creation is not free from the corrupting spirit of sin. The consequences of evil hold it in bondage, until it shall be set free by God. “But NOT man, Oh no…not him/her!” They are somehow untouched by this corruption, this bondage, even when the Lord says quite the contrary.