Understanding the Will

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This was originally published in Antithesis, Vol. II, No. 4, July/Aug 1991

Free will. Who could be against it? But there is a better question than this to ask. Free will. What is it?

Many of the staunchest advo­cates of “free will” encounter immediate difficulties when they are asked to ex­plain what they defend — the embar­rassment of Erasmus in his debate with Luther may be the archetypical example. Upon any close examination of proposed explanations it soon be­comes apparent that “free will” (as commonly understood) is a philo­sophical chimera — it will be a long time before there is a rigorous apolo­getic in defense of this, the evanescent god.

Fortunately, the Bible does not leave us without teaching on this important subject of human choices. Jesus explains, in very plain terms, the mechanics of the will—and it is not what many suppose. In Matthew 12:33­37, Christ says:

Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you. being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

Christ teaches here that choices come from the heart. The will does not command the heart; rather, the heart commands the will. Consider these key points of Christ’s doctrine:

  • Choices and actions are the fruit of our human nature—they are a revelation of that nature. A good na­ture will result in good choices, and an evil nature will result in evil choices. Good trees produce good fruit, and evil trees produce evil fruit. Our words and actions, therefore, are not determined by an autonomous will, but rather by the nature of the tree.
  • Consequently, Jesus says, someone with an evil nature is inca­pable of speaking good things. But this inability, this bondage, is caused by the nature of his own heart. He is bound by what he wants; it is a self-limitation. It is not external compul­sion. Evil men are therefore free to do what they want, but they are not free to do what they should.
  • Moreover, the fact that our choices proceed from our hearts does not limit our responsibility before God in the slightest. Our words are deter­mined by our hearts, and we will be judged on the basis of our words. In­deed, we are judged on the basis of our words because they proceed straight from our hearts.

Suppose I offered a man a bowl of cockroaches to eat, and he refused. Why did he refuse? Because he didn’t want them. Suppose further that I therefore accused him of having an enslaved will. He wonders why I think this. I reply that I think he is enslaved because he didn’t use his will to decide to eat the cockroaches. He replies, quite justly, that his will is working perfectly well. The will chose just what the man wanted, and he didn’t want a cockroach.

Jesus used another example besides that of fruit-bearing trees. If a man were to reach into a chest, he could only bring out what was already inside the chest. Different chests con­tain different things, and consequently, different things are brought out. Dif­ferent hearts contain different things, and consequently, different choices are made. The will is simply the arm God has given us to reach into our treasure chest (our heart), in order to bring out the contents. The will has no power to determine the contents of the chest; it only has the power to reveal the con­tents, and this it does very well.

So when God saves a man, He does not give him a new will. There is no need; the old will works just fine in doing what wills were meant by God to do — which is to bring out the contents of the heart. What God does in salva­tion is this: He gives us new hearts. As a result, the new Christian begins making new choices.

No man is capable of making a choice contrary to the strongest de­sire of his heart. This is an inexorable law; there are no exceptions—even God’s choices proceed from His immu­table and holy nature. A person may certainly has other desires, and they may be very strong desires (Romans 7:18-23). But what he finally does is what he wanted to do most, and he is therefore responsible for the choice.

If the choice were not his strongest desire, he would not have chosen it. Let us return to our example of the bowl of cockroaches for a mo­ment. Suppose a man said, in order to refute this teaching, that he didn’t want to eat a cockroach, but that he was going to do so anyway—so there. Is this a refutation? Not at all. It simply means that his will acted on the basis of his strongest desire, which is now to win the debate.

If we take these factors to­gether, we see that it is nonsense to talk of a freewill, as though there were this autonomous thing inside of us, capable of acting in any direction, re­gardless of the motives of the heart. If there could be such a thing—a crea­ture who made choices not determined by the desires of its heart — we would not applaud this creature as a paragon of free will, but would rather pity it as a collection of random, arbitrary, insane choices. Such a creature would not be, and could not be, a free and responsible agent. We would recoil in horror from an exhibition of such autonomous free will. Choices made apart from the de­sires of the heart? They would be an exhibition, not of freedom, but of in­sanity. “Why did you throw the vase against the wall?” “Because I wanted to go for a walk.”

So a far more Biblical way of speaking is to speak of free men, and not of free will. And what is a free man? He is someone who is free from exter­nal compulsion and is consequently at liberty to do what his heart desires.

This is a natural liberty, and all men are in possession of it. It is the only kind of liberty possible for us, and it is a gift to us from God. Under the superintendence of God, all men. Christian and non-Christian, have the freedom to turn left or right, to choose chocolate or vanilla, or to move to this city or that one—depending entirely upon what they want to do. The foreor­dination of God does not violate this; it is the cause of this—but more on this in a moment.

Notice that this natural lib­erty is not the same thing as the free­dom from sin, i.e. moral liberty. In Romans 6:20, 22, Paul makes the dis­tinction between natural liberty and moral liberty. He says:

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righ­teousness… But now having been set free from sin, and hav­ing become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.

Slavery to sin is true slavery, but even sin does not negate natural liberty—the slave to sin is free from righteousness, but is still not free from his own desires. This slave to sin is one who loves sin, and consequently obeys it. As a creature, he is free to do what he wants, which is to continue in sin. But he is not free to desire righteous­ness. Why is he not free to do right? Because his sinful heart does not love what is right. Like all men, he is not free to choose what is repulsive to him, and true godliness is repulsive to him. So in the realm of morality, he is therefore free in a limited sense—free from the control of righteousness. When God, by grace, liberates him from the bond­age of his own sin-loving heart, he is then a slave to God. As a slave to righteousness, the Christian freely, out of a new heart, follows Christ.

The True Ground of Freedom

Some people almost auto­matically yet mistakenly conclude that any assertion of foreordination along with any clarification of “free will” im­plies that human beings have no true freedom at all. This is quite false, and can easily be shown to be false. For example, when the Westminster di­vines affirmed the sovereignty of God’s eternal decree, they went on, in the same breath, to say this: “…nor is violence offered to the will of the crea­tures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”

Now the writers of the Confes­sion were not merely saying that creaturely liberty was consistent with the Bible’s teaching regarding God’s sovereignty (although it certainly is), but rather that the Biblical doctrine of divine sovereignty was the foundation for human liberty. Consequently, ac­cording to this view, those Christians who dispute the doctrine of divine sovereignty are attacking more than God’s sovereignty; they are attacking the only ground and foundation of true human liberty. So the debate is not between those Christians who want to affirm the liberty and responsibility of creatures, and those who do not. It is between those who consistently ground the liberty of creatures in the strength and power of God, and those who in­consistently ground it in the strength and power of man.

I have been in discussions where this affirmation of creaturely liberty was dismissed as something “tacked on” to the Biblical position—as sort of a sop to common sense. It is important to note the word “dismissed,” and remember that it is not a synonym for “argued.” The reason it is dismissed is because it is easy to assume that divine sovereignty is inconsistent with true human responsibility—but to argue for it is ultimately impossible.

For example, I have been told that to assert divine sovereignty and true human freedom is “illogical.” There is a very simple answer to this: If this is illogical, then what is the name of the fallacy? There is a vast difference be­tween logical contradictions and those high mysteries which must necessarily be contained in the infinite wisdom of God.

It is true that this sort of ob­jection is quite a natural mistake to make, and people have been making it since the time of Paul at least (Rom. 9:19). When we consider the relation­ship of the infinite Creator to the finite creature, we do have a problem under­standing how true natural liberty can co-exist with a sovereign God superin­tending all events in the universe. But the reconciliation of these two Biblical truths is ultimately to be found in the mind of God; it is not a problem that is keeping Him up nights, and we must recognize that our finite minds are not capable of penetrating the glories of the infinite. The sovereign prerogatives of the Creator, and the natural liberty and true responsibility of creatures are not inconsistent. How could they be? The Bible teaches them both, some­times in the same verse.

We can, however, approach the subject obliquely. Instead of dem­onstrating that human liberty and di­vine sovereignty are consistent, it would be far more fruitful to show that all denials of divine sovereignty destroy true human liberty. In other words, it can be shown that the only hope for any kind of true human liberty is in the exhaustive sovereignty of the living God.

In the previous section, I ar­gued that choices proceed from our hearts. It is impossible for a true choice to be autonomous in the sense of being independent of our heart desires. If there were a choice for which no reason at all could be given, we could no longer call it a choice. We would have to say it was a random event—Henry random-evented chocolate instead of vanilla. To say “autonomous choice” is as contra­dictory as to say “round square.”

Now because all the influence is from the heart to the will, and not the other way around, the question is now this: since the will does not determine the direction of the heart, what does? The Bible teaches that God superin­tends the choices made by men. He may do so immediately through provi­dential intervention or mediately through the use of secondary agents. What is the alternative to God’s sover­eignty over all events?

We have already shown that a man cannot autonomously choose to push his heart in a certain direction. And if we remove, for the sake of ar­gument, God’s personal and loving sovereignty from the one choosing, what is left? Only a blind, rigorous, inexo­rable, deterministic fatalism. Picture cupped hands around a guttering candle in a strong wind. This candle flame is the human will. The wind is the typhoon of the world around us. The cupped hands are the Lord’s. Within Christianity, advocates of “free will” want the Lord to remove His hands so that the candle may burn more brightly. The history of modern phi­losophy should teach us better than this. Those who begin these optimistic crusades in the name of free will al­ways end up in the fever swamps of blind behaviorism and determinism. The candle is out.

The conclusion then is that man, as creature, is free to do as he pleases. He has this freedom only be­cause God grants and sustains it—and perfectly controls it.

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bethyada
7 years ago

What if the will is the heart?

David
David
7 years ago

Bethyada, Can’t speak for Doug, but even though we often speak of different components to our internal life (heart, mind, will, emotions), the Bible presents humanity as composed of a physical body and an inner life, and that inner life is referred to do by different names, and sometimes aspects of it are referred to. I think references to heart, mind, will and such are simply different aspects of our inner man, and that the post above supports, correctly, that our volition will follow the trajectory of our renewed, or unregenerate, inner life, whichever the case may be. This is… Read more »

BJ
BJ
7 years ago

Bravo! Nothing needs to be added. Very well written.

bethyada
7 years ago

David, My point being that the contrast Doug makes between the heart and the will justifies his argument here. But I think that the will is a communicable attribute of God. In the same way God has a will so he makes decisions of his own but is not compelled to do anything, I think we can with our will (especially pre-Fall but to a degree now). Not that we have the degree of freedom that God has, ie. quantitatively, but our will is qualitatively that of God’s via us carrying image. The idea that we choose our greatest desire… Read more »

Tony H
Tony H
7 years ago

I think of the heart as the meta-will. Our only “free” choice is who we will give our hearts to. Whoever has our heart is our master, be it God or our belly.

Timo
Timo
7 years ago

Leave it to Doug, swat hive, sit back and watch the fireworks.

Timo
Timo
7 years ago

?…which implies Total Depravity….while we watch 
Arminianism losing a necessary foundational pillar, “No problem Fred, from my house that paint job looks awesome!” 

Charlie
Charlie
7 years ago

Well said, Doug. I plan to share this with several people. Clearly and simply stated for such a profound and difficult topic. Those who disagree with your premise here I believe either didn’t read it carefully enough or their greatest heart desire is autonomy from God. If the latter, I fear for them as this is not the desire of  a regenerate heart.

Chris
Chris
7 years ago

I am quite sure that we all have free will.  That is to say that we enjoy the ability at any given time to express the innermost desires of our hearts.  And the only thing in my heart is sin and cholesterol.

David
David
7 years ago

Chris, you are correct, every orthodox Christian believes in free will. The question is whether he believes in a will that is free but complimentary to his nature, or a completely liberated free will whereby a person who in his other faculties has been effected by the fall, but whose volition is still a like a running back – he could go left, or he could go right.

timothy
timothy
7 years ago

Bethyada–would Common Grace be what you are arguing? That there is a reservoir of “good will” in the hearts of the unsaved?

Geoff
7 years ago

Isn’t the verb in Matthew 12:33  [Ἢ ποιήσατε τὸ δένδρον καλὸν καὶ τὸν καρπὸν αὐτοῦ καλόν, ἢ ποιήσατε τὸ δένδρον σαπρὸν καὶ τὸν καρπὸν αὐτοῦ σαπρόν· ἐκ γὰρ τοῦ καρποῦ τὸ δένδρον γινώσκεται. ] an imperative? The Calvinistic interpretation of the human will may be the case, but I do not think it is found here. This passage seems to be a command from Jesus to the Pharisees who were accusing him of being in league with Satan. Their idle words, supposing him to be demon possessed, attribute the works of the Spirit to the Satan. Thus, Jesus tells them… Read more »

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
7 years ago

Chris — only things? No fruit of sanctification?

bethyada
7 years ago

Timo, Arminianism grants Total Depravity. An American friend of mind thought that a large numebr of US Christians were semi-Pelagian. I suspect that Calvinists assume that they represent Arminianism?      //     Nice play Timo, you are correct Doug and those who disagree with you are in rebellion. Hmmm    //     timothy, I haven’t got a lot of time at the moment (off to church). You could check my blog under the labels freewill, determinism, and perhaps salvation to get a better grasp of my position.

Len
Len
7 years ago

How do we know for sure that we have “free will.”  If God had not told Abimelech that He had kept him from sinning with Sarah, wouldn’t he have thought that he had, of his own free will, chosen not to violate her?  What about 2 Kings 19:7 where god states, “Look, I will take control of his mind…”  (NET Translation)?

 

Tim Mullet
Tim Mullet
7 years ago

Len we do not have libertarian freedom, I.e. freedom to choose either x or y without decisive influence. We have compatibilistic freedom, I.e. we are free to do what we desire to do.

chris
chris
7 years ago

Jane, I do not consider sanctification to emanate from the heart, but from the Holy Spirit (which could arguably be from the heart in a weird, non-omniscient sort of way).

Len
Len
7 years ago

Tim,
How are we able to KNOW that as a fact?  How do we know to what extent God can or cannot influence our thinking, desires, etc.?  Is there a little light that comes on when God is influencing our thinking?  Or do we just sort of assume that we have a free will, libertarian or not?  I agree that we are volitional creatures, but isn’t our volition also under God’s sovereignty? 

Tim Mullet
Tim Mullet
7 years ago

Len the second definition of freedom allows an agent to be influenced by God but remain free. Thus, the agent is considered free so long as he acts in accordance with his desires, and those desires can be influenced. Libertarian freedom is a definition of freedom which excludes the possibility of outside influence. I believe the Bible teaches freedom in second sense and not the first. Considering this is the case, I am happy to say that humans are free, they do what they want, but the king’s heart is like a stream of water in the hand of the… Read more »

Tim Mullet
Tim Mullet
7 years ago

We know that God influences our desires because we believe the Bible and it constantly describes God as influencing our desires. If he influence the desires of pagan kings, then they are doing his will without knowing it. He is influencing them in an imperceptible way. This should caution us in concluding too much from a particular desire as to it’s origin or purpose. In general God stirrings are not experienced. We simply do not know the origins of our desires or God’s purposes behind those desires. We are safe when we check our desires with Scripture which is a… Read more »

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

Geoff – I understand “make” not as command but as a conditional statement of fact.  “Should you make a tree good . . .”  So the question is, how do trees get their nature?

Geoff
7 years ago

Well, in the context of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus and John the Baptist both say how this is done: via repentance due to the arrival of the kingdom. It’s a process that Paul describes in Romans 12:1-2. We are transformed from the way the present evil age has shaped us by renewing our minds. Unless you posit that the command (2nd person plural because their is an audience present) is merely hypothetical because Jesus is using a metaphor. But that would make other commands couched in imagery hypothetical too. Imagine dismissing, “if any should wish to be my disciple, let him… Read more »

Tim Mullet
Tim Mullet
7 years ago

Geof, I understand the passages you mention to be commands as well. However, I’m at a loss to understand why you think they contradict compatibilism.

bethyada
7 years ago

Tim: Libertarian freedom is a definition of freedom which excludes the possibility of outside influence.  No, libertarian freedom is the power of contrary choice. It is basically what Arminians call freedom but freedom is veiwed by Calvinists as compatibalist freedom. Ignoring the fact that Arminians struggle to see how this differs from determinism, compatibalist freedom does not allow us to reject God’s desires. So “freedom” lacks precision, different parties meaning different things by it. Libertarian freedom is not the ability to make any choice, nor does it mean that it is not influenced by God, others, desires, nor does it… Read more »

Tim Mullet
Tim Mullet
7 years ago

Bethyada I was typing on my phone so I forgot to add decisive to the word influence. If you look at my original post, I add that qualification.  Decisive outside influence is the issue which distinguishes the two definitions of freedom.

Tim Mullet
Tim Mullet
7 years ago

It sounds like you do not recognize a difference between soft determinism and hard determinism.  No compatibilist is denying that the Bible is deterministic… they are denying that the Bible is deterministic in the hard sense of the word.  

Tim Mullet
Tim Mullet
7 years ago

The Bible does not give us a definition of freedom. Therefore, compatibilists believe that the Bible teaches: 1) specific sovereignty not general sovereignty; 2) human responsibility; and 3) divine goodness. Compatibilism is a way of reconciling those biblical truths.

bethyada
7 years ago

Tim, I understand what compatiblists claim, and I think their claim is well intentioned, and I am glad for it. I think that their claim is logically false.    //      I find “sovereignty” an unhelpful term. I understand what Calvinists mean by divine sovereignty but I believe they read this interpretation into sovereignty from their system then apply it when they read Scripture, and worse use these verses as evidence for the same. The reasoning is circular. Circular reasoning is not necessarily false (or true), but it most definitely is not discriminating. It seems that human responsibility implies at least a… Read more »

Geoff
7 years ago

Because Jesus said that the solution to the problem of the bad tree is for the people present to change the tree. Doug said that the passage means: “Choices and actions are the fruit of our human nature—they are a revelation of that nature. A good na­ture will result in good choices, and an evil nature will result in evil choices. Good trees produce good fruit, and evil trees produce evil fruit. Our words and actions, therefore, are not determined by an autonomous will, but rather by the nature of the tree.” I’m saying that the particular passage is parable… Read more »

Tim Mullet
Tim Mullet
7 years ago

Bethyada, if you want a good example of vicious circular reasoning, then read your last post. I hope you do not take offense at me saying so. You are begging the question. It seems that human responsibility implies at least a degree of freedom and therefore that a person has the power of contrary choice. Compatibilism is a definition of freedom. It could be wrong, but it is not illogical or contradictory. I can declare that the Bible teaches that the statements: 1) The king’s heart in the hand of the Lord is a stream of water, he turns it… Read more »

bethyada
7 years ago

Tim, I am not opposed to circular reasoning, I am opposed to circular reasoning being used to prove itself and disprove another idea.  You suspect my comment does that. Perhaps. I am not convinced it does. It seems definitional to me. My problem with compatiliblism is that every explanation I hear just asserts that humans can make choices, that they are responsible for those choices. and that in some way both those are completely within God’s directive will. They say that it is not just that God knows what will happen, that what happens is because God intended it to.… Read more »

jigawatt
jigawatt
7 years ago

Dogbert explains the illusion of free will: http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2004-11-12

Tim Mullet
Tim Mullet
7 years ago

Bethyada, all reasoning is circular when it comes to ultimate standards, I agree.  Yet, I fail to see how your comment is not vicious.  You are clearly appealing to a libertarian definition of freedom to disprove a compatibilistic definition of freedom, and your defense for doing so is the fact that libertarianism is true by definition.   – Speaking of which, let me take this opportunity to politely register my shock at your acceptance of libertarian freedom.  It is a bit shocking to see you so adamantly reject the idea of using extra biblical data to disprove the clear teaching… Read more »

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
7 years ago

Chris, of course sanctification does not emanate from the heart. But once the Holy Spirit begins to do his work, good things are in there, in the heart. For a believer to say that there is nothing in his heart but to sin is to deny that the Spirit is at work, don’t you think?

bethyada
7 years ago

Tim, I do not have time to answer all your questions now (which are reasonable questions, though you assert a lot of things you believe and deny what you do not believe rather than argue for your position). I may try and get back a little later, for now let me state (assert) some things I happen to think.  //   I am convinced that men can lose their salvation. I have yet to see how that position can be compatible with Calvinism.  //  I don’t think you understand libertarian freedom. God has libertarian freedom even though he cannot do… Read more »

Dan
Dan
7 years ago

Tim, good posts regarding the distinction between libertarian freedom and compatibilist freedom.

bethyada
7 years ago

I have read your post a few times to try and see where best to start. Not easy as you address several issues and this discussion could go off on several tangents and take up thousands of words which it already has over the last several centuries. So I will start with your struggle your last quote which is mine. In my mind the nature of freedom has to do with choice. Calvinists assert that men are free to choose yet men only choose what God has already determined exactly what they will choose (ie, more than just know what… Read more »

bethyada
7 years ago

Onto your passages. This is difficult because you are denying libertarian freedom. Not sure what else to call it. God has freedom (he can’t do the illogical but he can create, or not; the flora and fauna he was free to design and they are not necessary). I think this freedom is in us. Scriptural evidence for freedom; every passage the admonishes us to obey. I think this freedom comes from God. So perhaps call it imago Dei freedom? Just to remind you this is way limited compared to God and marred post Fall.    //    Proverbs is a proverb, God… Read more »

bethyada
7 years ago

As to your sovereignty response, I think you have partly misunderstood me. I think that Calvinist do read it into the text because even if God has Calvinist divine sovereignty it is unlikely that when the text uses “sovereignty” that is what the author means. But lets assume that what you say is at least possible. Even so, it is not evidence for those not convinced of Calvinism. That’s because they just read sovereignty and you have to show that when this word is applied to God it means something else. Quoting a verse with the word “sovereignty” in it… Read more »

Tim Mullet
Tim Mullet
7 years ago

Dan thanks for the encouragement!

Dan
Dan
7 years ago

bethyada, I cut and pasted my following 2 posts from another thread where we were also discussing God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.  I hope you don’t mind if I join in this discussion between you and Tim, since it’s a very worthwhile discussion to have.  I’ve been reading both of your comments with interest.

Dan
Dan
7 years ago

While Reformed theology does emphasize God’s sovereignty in His creation, nowhere does God’s sovereignty mitigate man’s responsibility.  It is true that God is sovereign, and the Bible affirms this.  If God is not sovereign, then He would be less than God.  It is also true that man is free, albeit in a limited sense, and man is responsible for his actions.  The Bible affirms this too.  Man is truly guilty, in spite of the fact that God is sovereign.  Therein lies the mystery.  This mystery is difficult to reconcile philosophically within our limited, finite minds, but we believe it nonetheless, because it’s what the… Read more »

Dan
Dan
7 years ago

I wanted to share some of my thoughts regarding the Reformed/Calvinist view of salvation, since in some circles it’s still deemed controversial, due to such characteristic doctrines as predestination, unconditional election, limited atonement, and so forth.  Additionally, due to its adherence to God’s sovereignty in all things, including in man’s salvation, this view is thought to violate man’s free will, as well as make God seem unfair or unjust.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It’s important to note that the Reformed view of salvation is a thoroughly biblical view that informs its theology, not the other way around.  There are those who claim that… Read more »

Tim Mullet
Tim Mullet
7 years ago

Bethyada I appreciate the response.  I also understand how you could dislike expressions like the doctrines of grace.  I was not trying to take a jab at you. I was simply trying to make a point quickly.  However, I would unapologetically state that Calvinism exalts God’s grace more than arminianism.  Further I do think that arminianism is wrong and dangerous.  Arminianism, in part, lead me past deism towards atheism and the contemplation of suicide.  As a person who is involved in counseling, I simply do not know how to help anyone with libertarianism.  Therefore, consider me invested in the conversation… Read more »

Tim Mullet
Tim Mullet
7 years ago

I know that I did not interact with everything but a person has to start somewhere.  

timothy
timothy
7 years ago

Dan wrote: Man is truly guilty, in spite of the fact that God is sovereign.  Therein lies the mystery.  This mystery is difficult to reconcile philosophically within our limited, finite minds, but we believe it nonetheless, because it’s what the Bible teaches.                                                                                                                                                     I would add that we also believe it because–as believers–we experience it. We can all look at our lives and see God was at work on us. Also, C.S. Lewis writes of the believer’s relationship to his own sin. When he was dead in sin, he was not aware of it–kind of like the athiests and militant homosexuals… Read more »

Dan
Dan
7 years ago

Tim Mullet, well said: “At this point, it is important to be clear that compatibilism has solved the logical problem of the apparent contradiction between determinism and human freedom.”  Also this: “If we prioritize special revelation above our natural inclinations about what constitutes freedom, then there is no reason to give libertarian freedom an a priori advantage over comptibilistic freedom.”  Also this: “As it is, we have to content ourselves with allowing mystery a place in our dogma.  Conceding the place of mystery is not the same thing is conceding the presence of contradiction.”

Dan
Dan
7 years ago

Biblically, it is correct to assert that man is free, albeit in a limited sense.  Regarding man’s will, the Westminster Confession of Faith reminds us that “liberty does not imply ability”.  This is because liberty is not identical with ability.  Due to the fall and the entrance of sin, man lost the “ability” to do good, not liberty.  This is an important distinction.  What many people call liberty, they really mean ability.  Thus, they speak of man as being “free” to do good or evil, but what they really mean is that man is “able” to do good or evil.  But… Read more »

Tim Mullet
Tim Mullet
7 years ago

Absolutely Dan! Man is free to act as he desires to act. Man only desires to act in accordance with his nature. 

bethyada
7 years ago

Timothy, you give your definition of soft determinism but again this is just an assertion. You do not defend it and merely claim it is internally consistent. So let me tell you how it reads to me. You have described positive numbers and negative numbers and now want me to accept Calvinist numbers that is the set of all negative numbers greater than 100. You can’t just call everything a mystery. You can define fractions, or transcendental numbers, like pi, or numbers not on the number line like i. But you don’t get to use definitions and make up contradictory… Read more »