"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Free Will Defined
I found this definition and description of man's free will in Dr. Boice's 'Whatever happened to the Gospel of Grace?' page 115 [from Crossway publishing]...
Our culture has taught us that for mankind 'all things are possible'. So the thought that we need the grace of God in order to get right with God seems wrong to us. We assume that it will always be possible for us to mend our relationship with the Almighty. If it is necessary, we will take care of it ourselves in due time.
Those who think like this fail to appreciate another biblical doctrine: man's spiritual inability or, as it is sometimes stated, the bondage of man's will. This is the truth behind Paul's statement that there is 'no one who seeks God' [Romans 3:11]. The reason no one seeks God is that apart from the prior work of God in an individual's heart, no one can seek God, because no one wants to. This matter has been discussed at great length in church history. However, the deepest and most significant thinking ever done on the subject of the will and its impotence was by Jonathan Edwards in a treatise called 'A Careful and Strict Inquiry into the Prevailing Notions of the Freedom of the Will'.
The first thing Edwards did was to define the will. We think of the will as that thing in us that makes choices. Edwards saw that this was not accurate and instead defined the will as 'that by which the mind chooses anything'. That may not seem to be much of a difference, but it is a major one. For it means that what we choose is not determined by the will itself [as if it were an entity to itself] but by the mind, which means that our choices are determined by what we think to be the most desirable course of action.
Edward's second major contribution was his discussion of what he called 'motives'. He pointed out that the mind is not neutral; it thinks some things are better than other things, and because it thinks some things are better than other things, it always chooses the better things. If a person thought one course of action was better than another and yet chose the less desirable alternative, the person would be irrational. This means, to speak properly, that the will is always free. It is free to choose [and always will choose] what the mind thinks best. But what does the mind think best? Here we get to the heart of the matter. When confronted with God, the mind of a sinner never thinks that following or obeying God is a good choice. His will is free to choose God, nothing is stopping him, but his mind does not regard submission to God as desirable. Therefore, he turns from God, even when the Gospel is most winsomely presented. People do not want God to be sovereign over them, they do not want their sinful natures to be exposed. Their minds are wrong in these judgments, of course. The way they choose is actually the way of alienation and misery, the end of which is death. But human beings think sin is best, which is why they choose it. Therefore, unless God changes the way we think, which He does in some by the miracle of the new birth, our minds always tell us to turn from God, which is exactly what we do.
People who reject this might argue, 'but surely the bible says that anyone who will come to Christ may come to Him. Didn't Jesus invite us to come? Didn't Jesus say, 'whoever comes to me I will never drive away?' Yes, that is what Jesus said, but it is beside the point. Certainly, anyone who wants to come to Christ may come to Him. That is why Edwards insisted that the will is not bound. But, who is it that wills to come? The answer is: no one, except those in whom the Holy Spirit has already performed the entirely irresistible work of the new birth so that, as a result of this miracle, the spiritually blind eyes of the natural man are opened to see God's truth, and the totally depraved mind of the sinner, which in itself has no spiritual understanding, is renewed to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. This is teaching that very few professing Christians in our day, including the vast majority of evangelicals, believe or understand, which is another reason, perhaps the main reason, why they find grace boring.'- Dr. James Boice