Saturday, July 23, 2011

What is the extent of Man’s God-given “Free-Will”?

I recently posted the following video from James White on my Facebook page:

In response, someone commented:

Do you have a better example to make your point, one that shows God is consistent in violating the free will of man, in His dealings with man? An example of a dead man who had no choice in this matter in my opinion is not the best way to illustrate your point with regards to your claim above.
If we receive blessings or curses based on our obedience or disobedience towards God (Deut 28), then it seems to me that God doesn't violate our free will to choose and I'd expect God to be consistent in the way he deals with man.
Or Does God randomly decide to violate man's free will in some cases and in other cases decides to partner with him? Seems inconsistent and unpredictable to me..hardly the safe refuge I can run to in times of trouble.

My response:


Do you have a better example to make your point, one that shows God is consistent in violating the free will of man, in His dealings with man? An example of a dead man who had no choice in this matter in my opinion is not the best way to illustrate your point with regards to your claim above.

There are indeed examples throughout scripture where yes, God does indeed claim sovereignty over the heart/mind/will of man:

4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
8 “So then, IT WAS NOT YOU who sent me here, BUT GOD. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.
Genesis 45:4-8

21 The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I WILL HARDEN HIS HEART so that he will not let the people go.
Exodus 4:21

24 “This is what the LORD says—
your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb:
I am the LORD,
the Maker of all things,
who stretches out the heavens,
who spreads out the earth by myself,
25 who foils the signs of false prophets
and makes fools of diviners,
who overthrows the learning of the wise
and turns it into nonsense,
26 who carries out the words of his servants
and fulfills the predictions of his messengers,
who says of Jerusalem, ‘It shall be inhabited,’
of the towns of Judah, ‘They shall be rebuilt,’
and of their ruins, ‘I will restore them,’
27 who says to the watery deep, ‘Be dry,
and I will dry up your streams,’
28 who says of Cyrus [King of PERSIA] , ‘He is MY SHEPARD
and will accomplish all that I please;
he will say of Jerusalem,
“Let it be rebuilt,”
and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.”’
Isaiah 44:24-28

5 “Woe to the Assyrian, the ROD OF MY ANGER,
in whose hand is the club of my wrath!
6 I send him against a godless nation,
I dispatch him against a people who anger me,
to seize loot and snatch plunder,
and to trample them down like mud in the streets.
this is not what HE HAS IN MIND;
but his purpose is to destroy,
to put an end to many nations.
8 ‘Are not my commanders all kings?’ he says.
9 ‘Has not Kalno fared like Carchemish?
Is not Hamath like Arpad,
and Samaria like Damascus?
10 As my hand seized the kingdoms of the idols,
kingdoms whose images excelled those of Jerusalem and Samaria—
11 shall I not deal with Jerusalem and her images
as I dealt with Samaria and her idols?’”
12 When the Lord has finished all his work against Mount Zion and Jerusalem, he will say, “I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes. 13 For he says:
“‘By the strength of my hand I have done this,
and by my wisdom, because I have understanding.
I removed the boundaries of nations,
I plundered their treasures;
like a mighty one I subdued[a] their kings.
14 As one reaches into a nest,
so my hand reached for the wealth of the nations; as people gather abandoned eggs,
so I gathered all the countries; not one flapped a wing,
or opened its mouth to chirp.’”
15 Does the ax raise itself above the person who swings it,
or the saw boast against the one who uses it?
As if a rod were to wield the person who lifts it up,
or a club brandish the one who is not wood!
16 Therefore, the Lord, the LORD Almighty,
will send a wasting disease upon his sturdy warriors;
under his pomp a fire will be kindled
like a blazing flame.
17 The Light of Israel will become a fire,
their Holy One a flame;
in a single day it will burn and consume
his thorns and his briers.
18 The splendor of his forests and fertile fields
it will completely destroy,
as when a sick person wastes away.
19 And the remaining trees of his forests will be so few
that a child could write them down.
Isaiah 10:5-19

At this point, some may ask “If indeed God uses the King of Assyria as his weapon of judgment (v15) against Israel in spite of such not being what he intends in his mind to do personally, why does he pronounce woe upon him (v5)?”
While the destruction of Israel may not be upon the King of Assyria’s agenda IN HIS MIND, his HEART IS STILL INCLINED towards tyranny and destruction (v8-11) – which is still displeasing to God.

Also consider how the Apostles described the events leading up to the crucifixtion:

22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[a] put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
Acts 2:22-23

23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
“‘Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together against the Lord
and against his anointed one.
27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
Acts 4:23-30

The Apostles clearly affirmed that the crucifixion and all the various parties involved – Herod, Pilate, the Pharisees was predetermined by God. On that basis should they not be commended as heroes for aiding in the greatest expression of mercy by God unto men? Yet elsewhere in Acts, the Apostles openly indict the people of Israel for having commited a deliberate act of murder.

There are also texts that point to God either restraining or loosening peope from committing gross sin:

From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. 2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. 3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man's wife.” 4 Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? 5 Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” 6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. 7 Now then, return the man's wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”
Genesis 20:1-6

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
Romans 1:26-28

The Apostle Paul describes the coming Antichrist as one whose iniquity is restrained by God until the appointed time:

3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness [1] is revealed, the son of destruction, [2] 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.
2 Thessalonians 2:3-7


If we receive blessings or curses based on our obedience or disobedience towards God (Deut 28), then it seems to me that God doesn't violate our free will to choose and I'd expect God to be consistent in the way he deals with man.

But on what basis would you claim that God’s dealings with man is consistant or uniform in any manner? Did not Jesus say:

“I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
22 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Luke 10:21-22


Or Does God randomly decide to violate man's free will in some cases and in other cases decides to partner with him? Seems inconsistent and unpredictable to me..hardly the safe refuge I can run to in times of trouble

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, [1] but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
Romans 9:14-24


So where does that leave us? Does man have Free Will or not?

One could argue that at a purely philosophical level, the very existence of the Judeo-Christian God who possesses the attribute of omniscience immediately challenges the free-will of Man. Consider the following Question: “
By what means does God have knowledge of the future?”

OPTION A): Observational - God sees what will happen in advance and plans his Will accordingly based on present actions and decisions

OPTION B): Predictive - God does not have definite knowledge of what WILL happen, only what potentially MAY.

OPTION C): Decisive - God has complete knowledge of past, present, future as he is ultimately the once who determines all things

Logically, of these three options, only C) can genuinely fit the description of true omniscience as A) and B) ultimately have God reacting in response to whatever comes His way. Those who would declare that the Will of God is not decisive in nature are ultimately challenged to explain how God can have foreknowledge that is truly exhaustive and infallible i.e., when considering prophecy, why should we take heed of both the encouragements and warning the Bible says regarding the end-times if Man, as a Free Agent, can decide his own destiny based on his own choice?

   The issue of Free Will also has devastating consequences regarding the nature of salvation. If the difference between Sin and Obedience lies purely within Man’s ability to choose, of his own liberty, without any influence or nudging from a supernatural influence that would cause him to lean one direction or another, then the door is opened wide to the possibility that there may indeed exist people who, as a result of their own shrewdness in decision making, have never chosen to sin at all. If such individuals do indeed exist, then Christ can no longer be the sole means of salvation as there would indeed be others who of their own choice lived a perfect, sinless life.

Also consider how the Apostle Peter describes the inspiration of Scripture:

16For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, his is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,?18we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone own interpretation. 21For NO PROPHECY OF SCRIPTURE WAS EVER PRODUCED BY THE WILL OF MAN, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 1:16-21

So what is the Bible? Does it represent a hallmark of mere human literary achievement? Or is it indeed the inspired word of God, that is without error or contradiction, having been inspired and preserved by God himself?

If you adhere to the former, then there is a logical fallacy within your theology. If man's relationship with God is indeed fully conditional on the part of free will, and hence man at any time could fall into sin and thus lose his salvation altogether, why should we trust the inspiration of the Bible when in fact it's authors could have at any time simply lost their standing before God? Would not such a possibility open the door for the probability of the Bible not being fully inspired and innerant?
Indeed, we have every reason to suspect such:

- Moses was a murder
- David was an adulterous tyrant prone to emotional instability
- Peter was prone to having his “foot in his mouth”.
- Paul lacked gentleness in his relationships.

If we were to evaluate the Bible based on the merits of it’s authors, we have every reason to dismiss it’s claims to divine inspiration. But yet, we never see such suggested by the scripture authors themselves. Instead, Peter says that the Spirit of God moved through the authors to ensure that every word of scripture was set in place the exact way God wanted it – whether it be the historic narratives, the imprecatory Psalms, the prophecies, Paul’s letters, everything in the Bible.

The one who wants to say that God never “violates” man’s free will is therefore under obligation to give account as to why they actually affirm the innerancy of scripture as opposed to holding a more liberal view that otherwise denies it.