If you subscribe to the current crop of platitudes such as, "The Holy Spirit is a gentleman" and, "God never forces anyone to do anything," you are going to be greatly shocked and at a loss to explain some of His clear declarations in His Word. Take for instance Isaiah 43:13, where God clearly proclaims, "I Am God. I do as I wish, and who can withstand Me?" He (God) repeats this assertion in Isaiah 46:10 where He proclaims, " I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: MY PURPOSE WILL STAND, and I will DO ALL THAT I PLEASE." It seems that Job, in the book bearing his name, had a similar exalted opinion of himself and Man in general, as does Orthodox Christianity today. He felt that surely, if God would only give him a chance, he could explain a few things and straighten God out on certain matters. Finally, when he DID get a chance to talk with God face-to-face, the outcome was that Job's view of himself was properly adjusted. He was brought to see that previously, he had spoken ONLY from secondhand knowledge of things he had heard from others and really knew nothing about himself. Now that he had seen and heard God in person, he realized just how small, weak, and ignorant he really was. If you will refer to the list of scriptures near the end of this article, you will readily see that what is portrayed in God's Word is that there is but ONE FREE WILL, and that belongs to God alone. He states quite emphatically that ALL wills and ALL creatures move in conformity to the counsel and dictates of HIS WILL. We may BELIEVE that we are making independent choices based upon our "Free Will", but God is there, constantly working behind the scene to work ALL according to the counsel of HIS Will and Purpose (Eph. 1:11).
In MY mind and spirit, I believe that it is safe to say that NO ONE concept or doctrine has been more destructive and detrimental to the cause of true Christianity than that which is currently called "Free Will". It has been responsible for the split of God's people into two fundamentally opposing camps -- Arminism, which proclaims MAN"S absolute "Free Will" ---- and Calvinism, which opposes this view with the absolute sovereignty of God. The TRULY strange thing, however, is that the pages of "Holy Writ" seem to equally support BOTH positions, though to discuss this issue with EITHER camp would certainly NEVER disclose this predicament. !!
The delusion of absolute "Free Will" has reduced the Sovereign, Omnipotent God to a mere servant of man. If what the proponents of "Free Will" say is correct, then the true and absolute ruler is REALLY man. After all, if God sent Jesus Christ to merely "offer a chance at salvation", and NOT, in fact, to "save the world" -- if God's supreme work is so easily thwarted by man's Sin and obstanance -- then, I ask you, WHO is the TRUE Ruler ???? The Serpent's promise, "You shall be like unto God" has been MORE than fulfilled. If absolute "Free Will" be true, then Man has EXCEEDED God in Sovereignty !!!
Could even Satan himself have done the Almighty God a greater injustice and disservice ?? Instead of the "God of creation and of all of the Ages", the almighty Mover, Lord and Sovereign, He who proclaims, "I am God, I do as I will and who is there to oppose me ?" ---- what do we find ??? If absolute "Free Will" be true, we find a defeated, second rate deity -- wringing His hands in despair over the waywardness and obstanance of His unruly children -- hoping at the fireside like the proverbial grandmother, that PERHAPS, someday, they might change their "sovereign wills" and come home. If not, despite ALL of his great efforts and fine sounding promises, they will be lost to the "fires of torment" forever, as this "god" looks on for eternity, crying, "I tried, I did the BEST that I could, but in the end, your fate was really in YOUR OWN hands" !!!
Tell me dear friends, is this the "god" which you have chosen to follow and entrust with your life and soul, or would it not be FAR preferable to get to know the TRUE God of the Bible --- and Follow Him !!!!
If they truly consider the facts, even the Philosophers of THIS Age (World System) could not believe in absolute "Free Will". Consider the facts -- our physiological makeup is formed and controlled by hundreds if not thousands of life conditions -- ALL of them affecting our decision making process. A small sampling of these would be:
These and MANY other factors ALL go to form and influence EVERY decision that we have, we do, and we will EVER make !! What a height of blindness and delusion to believe that we ever have or ever WILL make a truly independent, free and SOVEREIGN decision !!!! How much easier, then, for the Ultimate, Supreme God, who says that He moves ALL things toward His purpose, working behind the scene, to tweak events here a little, there a little, until we find ourselves moving in the direction of His choice without even being aware of it. As an example: God wishes you to take a particular route (the right branch) to work today. You leave for work and travel down the highway to a fork where you USUALLY veer LEFT. Today however, the bridge on this branch was washed out by a severe storm the night before. So you exercise your "Free Will" to make YOUR sovereign decision to take the RIGHT branch. EASY, wasn't it ???
It is on the "Court of Free Will" that history has witnessed some of the greatest volleying on the part of philosophers and theologians in the contest of "free will" (man's power) over against "determinism" (God's sovereignty or power). You may glean some interesting insights and oversights from an excellent book, "C.S. Lewis & Francis Schaeffer: Lessons for a New Century from the Most Influential Apologists of Our Time". Buy your INEXPENSIVE books at one of these sites: Amazon, Alibris, Abebooks. .
As relating to this overall topic, I wish to make two observations which I believe are of paramount importance to the discussion:
First, MUCH zeal and energy seems to go into "protecting God's dignity", or excluding Him from being, in ANY way, the author or First Cause of man's sin and downfall.
Second, and related to Number One, GREAT ingenuity is exercised toward trying to somehow clear (or at least justify) God's SUPPOSED actions in condemning a majority of HIS Creation - HIS Children - to eternal torment in "Hell".
Now, as they say, "If the horse had NEVER escaped from the barn, it would NOT be necessary to expend endless hours explaining HOW or WHY it might have happened, or whose fault it might be !!" In other words, since this ministry and myself DO NOT believe in nor accept the "Doctrine of Eternal Hell", we have no need to reconcile the above cited two issues, and can purse the issue of "Man's Free Will" with unbridled freedom.
If you are NOT familiar with "Christian Universalism", before you either dismiss or judge that about which you know nothing, learn more of the Biblical God - the Father God - the God of Total Love - the God of Christian Universalism - [ HERE ].
If you REALLY want an in-depth exposition on the issue of "Free Will vs. God's Sovereignty", then PLEASE read the above book about Lewis and Schaeffer (I recommend it anyway). I am only going to say this much here: that the controversy seeks to reconcile or bring balance to the tension between a TOTALLY Sovereign God, who governs the Universe totally according to "the counsel of His Will" -- and the place of man's actions in said universe, exercising his supposed "Free Will". This is especially bewildering in light of the fact that a thorough, truthful study of the Scriptures would seem to suggest that: YES, God IS TOTALLY sovereign and YES, man HAS been endowed with the "image of his creator" in respect to making REAL, meaningful choices !!
What I am going to offer is a brief, WORKING explanation that to me is satisfying and reconciles BOTH realities. I borrow the basic concept from both C.S. Lewis and William Law, and warn, as did they, that what I offer is MERELY a "Conceptual Model" -- it is NOT the reality. We do not know the reality, and perhaps could not understand it if it were shown to us. We are , as some of the more advanced civilizations on "StarGate SG1" (a TV show) are fond of saying, "Still too young". It does, however, relieve the tension of the argument and provides an understandable, NON-contradictory foundation to work from. Christian Universalism does the same regarding the "SUPPOSED" tension between God's express will to "save ALL of mankind" and the human doctrine of "Eternal Hell" !!
First, a brief overview of God's Purpose: God wanted what He could NOT merely "MAKE" - namely mature son's (and daughters) who could make FREE, intelligent, obedient choices - to love and to reign over His Universe with Him. These qualities required growth in wisdom, maturity and understanding -- learning through ACTUAL experience and living -- just as OUR children grow into adulthood. So, before the beginning of the ages (the TRUE rendering of "before eternity began"), God devised a plan - He would create the "ages" and the "worlds" to be the schoolhouse in which His Children would learn and grow to FULL maturity - up into the "Image of Christ". This would be a REAL schoolhouse in which they would learn about "good and evil" - pain, joy, love, beauty, ugliness, suffering, and yes -- EVEN death. There would be REAL causalities, for this is a REAL world and this is REAL life ! In the end, however, we will ALL graduate and will ALL grow up unto the stature of FULL Sons, and we will say as did the Apostle Paul:
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are God's children. And if children, then heirs (namely, heirs of God and also fellow heirs with Christ) - if indeed we suffer with him so we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that our present sufferings cannot even be compared to the glory that will be revealed to us. For the creation eagerly waits for the revelation of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility – not willingly but because of God who subjected it - in hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of decay into the glorious freedom of God's children. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers together until now. Not only this, but we ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with endurance. **** Romans 8:14-25
It is THIS end that God has sovereignly ordained "before the ages began" -- and it is THIS goal that will be accomplished !!
The next point that I want to briefly explore is the "Realm of God's Existence". Again, we REALLY have NO idea. It is no doubt true to say that He exists OUTSIDE of the "time stream" as we understand it -- that He "inhabits eternity" -- but these are merely WORDS that we have fabricated to "cover our intellectual nakedness", much as Adam sought to cover HIS nakedness after his fall in the garden. Despite the word being continually bandied about as though we ACTUALLY understood its meaning, science has NO true knowledge of "eternity" or of conditions OUTSIDE of our own "time stream"
Let us assume, as stated by Lewis, that God exists in a realm that to Him, ALL is NOW, without "past or present". Let us assume further that God wants you or me to travel from our home in New York to San Francisco, and be there at 10:00 AM on July 19th to meet a certain person. It is QUITE possible that an ALL powerful God with UNLIMITED resources and power can sovereignly decree the END of the story -- us getting from NY to SF or mankind moving on to mature sonship -- WITHOUT dictating all of the details in-between. The ideas and/or intermediate actions can be free in-as-much as they are ours, even though the END result is predetermined. The lessons and experiences procured along the way are just as "REAL".
If God exists in such a realm that He is aware of (sees and knows) ALL events in ONE, great panorama, He need only to initially "start the ball rolling" -- in our example, put it into our head to begin the journey (we need not necessarily even know to WHERE in the beginning). We might choose (REALLY choose) to go by plane, bus, train, car or even walk. Once the journey has begun, God will continually monitor our progress - opening doors, closing doors, bringing people into our paths, removing others - all the while presenting us with REAL choices and decisions - ALL of which alter the details and experience of the journey - yet continually directing us toward the ULTIMATE end that He had planned to be achieved.
You say that, even dealing with only ONE person, this would be extraordinarily complex, let alone with a world of billions. YES, it WOULD be and YES -- it IS. However, God is NOT man or He would not be God -- and we can NOT judge what He is capable of by evaluating it with OUR puny brains. THAT is where MUCH of our trouble with God comes in !! In any case, as I said, the foregoing IS NOT offered as REALITY, but merely a working hypothesis. Perhaps God will reveal greater clarity to you.
According to the proponents of "Free Will" and "Christian Orthodoxy", it is this so called "gift" that is going to be responsible for the BULK -- YES BULK -- of mankind (God's children) rotting in the, "tormenting flames of eternal hell, where their worm never dies and the screams of their anguish rise up FOREVER". To make it even more intolerable (depending upon which school of theology you subscribe to) all of this is either the result of God's EXPRESS will and intent, or else because He is too weak and impotent to have it otherwise (He does His best ??????).
Consider further, what REAL Choice (Free Will ????) does mankind have ? Consider the following facts and scriptures:
1. - He enters this life "conceived in Sin", under a curse over which he has No control and in which he played No part in bringing about.
So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people .... For if the many (ALL) died through the transgression of the one man .... .... judgment, resulting from the one transgression, led to condemnation For if, by the transgression of the one man, death reigned through the one .... Consequently, just as condemnation for all people came through one transgression For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many (ALL) were made sinners .... **** Romans 5:12-19
2. - He lives out his life dominated by this overruling affliction, and were this NOT bad enough, does so under the domination and control of the "god of this age", the malignant spirit know as Satan or the Devil, brought into being by God Himself.
.... I am unspiritual, sold into slavery to sin. For I do not understand what I am doing. For I do not do what I want, instead, I do what I hate. Now it is no longer me doing it, but sin that lives in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. I want to do the good, but I cannot do it. I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want! Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me. So, I find the law that when I want to do good, evil is present with me. I see a different law in my members waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that is in my members. **** Romans 7:14-23
But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing, among whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe so they would not see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ **** 2 Corinthians 4:3,4
3. - Unless God specifically reaches out His hand to draw individuals to Himself, we cannot even avail ourselves to the ONLY source of Hope and Help available -- God's Spirit.
6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. 14:6 Jesus replied, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me". **** John
9:15 For he says to Moses: "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion"" So then, it does not depend on human desire or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. 11:32 For God has consigned all people to disobedience so that he may show mercy to them all. **** Romans
Free Will vs. God's Sovereignty
God's Word has given us NUMEROUS instances of His sovereign working, but either "our eyes are too blinded to see" or our "hearts are too hardened to understand". We are told that it was God Himself who chose (elected) Jacob over Esau.
Not only that, but when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our ancestor Isaac, even before they were born or had done anything good or bad (so that Godâ€™s purpose in election would stand, not by works but by his calling), it was said to her, "The older will serve the younger," just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated"" What shall we say then? Is there injustice with God? Absolutely not! For he says to Moses: "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion"" So then, it does not depend on human desire or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. **** Romans 9:10-16
One of the clearest is Pharaoh of Egypt starting at Exodus 7:10. As stated in Romans 9:17, God's sole (or at least prime) purpose in making Pharaoh ruler of Egypt and instigating the conflict between him and Moses was so that God could, "demonstrate His power and that His name may be proclaimed in all the earth".
For the scripture says to Pharaoh: "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may demonstrate my power in you, and that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth"" So then, God has mercy on whom he chooses to have mercy, and he hardens whom he chooses to harden. You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who has ever resisted his will?" But who indeed are you, a mere human being, to talk back to God? Does what is molded say to the molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right to make from the same lump of clay one vessel for special use and another for ordinary use? But what if God, willing to demonstrate his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath prepared for destruction? And what if he is willing to make known the wealth of his glory on the objects of mercy that he has prepared beforehand for glory. ****** Romans 9:17-23
Of Israel, God tells us in Romans chapter 11 that He Himself has hardened the hearts of the Jews until such time as, "the fullness of the Gentiles might enter in".
For I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: A partial hardening has happened to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: **** Romans 11:25,26
To read a fascinating essay on the plight of Judas within the context of what we are discussing, click HERE.
I believe that OUR difficulty (mankind's) is NOT so much failing to understand with the mind as it is rejecting the truth which we DO NOT wish to believe. It is NOT doctrinal and intellectual but it is rather MORAL !! As Satan stated in his temptation of Eve, "We would wish to be 'gods' ourselves". Our pride and ego can not - nay - WILL not accept the truth that we are but created creatures, here to fulfill the desires and purpose of another. We are not our own. We were not even created for OUR own glory and satisfaction, but are merely "clay" which the great potter fashioned to serve His purpose, to display His greatness and glory !! That is the ultimate degradation and humiliation to the proud, sin-filled and twisted human ego.
Of course, it is NOT too hard to understand this reluctance to entrust ourselves fully and without reservation into the hands of our Creator -- the "Great Potter" -- considering the caricature of the Biblical God that Orthodox Theology has created. To learn more of the Biblical God - the Father God - the God of Total Love - the God of Christian Universalism - click HERE.
While I will admit that our human vanity, pride, and ego may chafe under this truth, that does NOT render it any-the-less true!! So strongly is this "Ego-Need" to be in control entrenched within Man's heart, that he has substituted for the scripture of Rom 3:4, "Let God be true though every man be a liar," HIS rendering of, "Let God's Word be made a lie so that MAN's word may be true!"
To summarize, neither Man nor Satan has "Free Will" as it is commonly understood (or better misunderstood), but rather has freedom of choice, with God more than able to work behind the scene to direct and influence said "choosing". Thus God, as He repeatedly proclaims in His Word (and as WE repeatedly ignore), moves ALL things according to the counsel of HIS WILL. As Shakespeare so aptly put it, "All the world is a stage, and the people merely players." This DOES NOT make us puppets, but it DOES make us merely Creatures (and NOT gods as we would like to think) in the hands of our Creator. We are the clay in the hands of the great potter, fashioned according to HIS design and purpose.