More on Free Will

More on Free Will November 20, 2004

Perhaps I overstated slightly it in my previous post on this subject when I said there was no such thing as free will. But in struggling to find words to express what I am trying to say, as ever the theologians help, so here goes with some quotes which might clarify my position.

R.C.Sproul said “God is free. I am free. God is more free than I am. If my freedom runs up against God’s freedom, I lose. His freedom restricts mine; my freedom does not restrict his.” (in Chosen by God) Later in the same book Sproul states that Augustine believed “fallen man has a free will but lacks liberty.”

Calvin seems to acknowledge that some might understand man to have a free will but says “ few men are there, I ask, who when they hear free will attributed to man do not immediately conceive him to be master of both his own mind and will, able of his own power to turn himself toward either good or evil….If anyone, then, can use this word without understanding it in a bad sense, I shall not trouble him on this account…I’d prefer not to use it myself, and I should like others, if they seek my advice, to avoid it.” (quoted in Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology)

Grudem himself puts it this way

“Scripture nowhere says that we are free in the sense of being outside of God’s control? or of being able to make decisions that are not caused by anything.(This is the sense in which many people seem to assume we must be free…..) Nor does it say we are free in the sense of being able to do right on our own apart from God’s power. But we are nonetheless free in the greatest sense that any creature of God could be free we make willing choices, choices that have real effects. We are aware of no restraints on our will from God when we make decisions. We must insist that we have the power of willing choice; otherwise we will fall into the error of fatalism or determinism and thus conclude that our choices do not matter, or that we cannot really make willing choices. On the other hand, the kind of freedom that is demanded by those who deny God’s providential control of all things, a freedom to be outside of God’s sustaining and controlling activity, would be impossible if Jesus Christ is indeed continually carrying along things by his word of power (Heb. 1:3, author’s translation). If this is true, then to be outside of that providential control would simply be not to exist! An absolute freedom, totally free of God’s control, is simply not possible in a world providentially sustained and directed by God himself.”

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