The other day I wrote a provocative piece on some surface reasons why I’m not a Calvinist. One of the key issues that is typically covered when discussing Calvinism and alternatives, is the discussion of “free will” over “predestination”. While there are various ways of looking at each side, in short, predestination is the camp where it is believed that God selects some people for heaven before they’re born– some in this camp also believe that he selects those who will go to hell, a term often called “double predestination”. Free will on the other hand, argues that God created us as free beings who can make our own choices- and that we are free to accept or reject his love. (This is a basic simplification of the concepts and not all encompassing of the various positions Christians hold on either side.)
Keeping it general however, I land in the “free will” camp. Here’s why:
I believe that true love never kidnaps, and never forces itself on another.
I remember the day I asked Tracy to marry me– it was a hot August day, and I convinced her to climb a mountain with me. We got to the top and stretched out a blanket so we could enjoy the magnificent views that are so quintessential to Maine’s foothills. After enjoying the view for a while, I wrote her a poem and then pulled out the ring that I had stashed in my pocket. I loved her, and I wanted to invite her to marry me.
While she immediately said yes, she was completely free to say no and walk off that mountain without the ring. Had I forced that ring on her hands, and had I forced myself upon her, it would be not evidence of my love but evidence of a selfish, inconsiderate, abusive, lack of love.And I’d probably be in jail right now instead of raising a family with her.
Love must always be chosen.
Love never forces itself on someone.
I believe the same is true with God. In fact, the Bible frequently uses marriage references (aka, the “bride of Christ”) when attempting to describe the relationship between us and God. While he is the suitor and the initiator, it is ourselves who must act to accept and receive that love. Anything less would not be love.
If we are simply predestined one way or another, we’re simply robots– and I don’t believe God created robots. Imagine the choice between being hugged by a human looking robot who is simply pre-programmed to hug you, versus being hugged by a significant other who is hugging you as an act of love. I can’t imagine that God wants the love of a robot; I think he wants the love of people who choose to love him back.
Yes, God is the initiator– God is the one taking the initiative to make the proposal. He is the one dialing our number, knocking on the door, and offering the ring. However, it is our choice whether or not we want to say “yes” and be in a relationship with him.
Since God is loving, he does not force people to be in an eternal relationship with him– that’s a bit closer to kidnapping.
Instead, he is a loving suitor extending an invitation- which you and I are free to accept or reject.
The above is just one relational reason why I embrace free will, but the theology goes much deeper. If you’d like to explore this issue further, this short video by Greg will go deeper into the theological aspects of the issue: