So You Want Free Will?
Martin Luther is referred to by many as the father of the Reformation, that period 500 years ago when Europe and the West escaped the bonds of dead religion to recover the glorious freedom of the Gospel. Most Christians can quote the Bible verse that encapsulates the event, "By grace are ye saved through faith . But underlying this maxim of Protestantism laid a deeper, more profound issue, at least according to Luther himself.
In the heat of the Reformation struggle Rome raised up a champion to challenge Luther. It was Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, the renowned secular philosopher, the voice of Reason and moderation - and hopefully the Goliath who would crush the arguments of the impertinent Augustinian monk. Erasmus wrote a book against Luther called "The Freedom of the Will" extolling Man's ability to freely choose his destiny, echoing Plato and Socrates, the great champions of Reason.
It took a terrified Luther 2 years - and the prodding of his wife Katie - to answer Erasmus, and in his rebuttal called "The Bondage of the Will" Luther laid out an argument that remains unanswered to this day . .
'If any one should tell you, that that was free, which of its own power could only go one way, that is, the bad way, and which could go the other way indeed, that is, the right way, but not by its own power, nay, only by the help of another—could you refrain from laughing in his face, my friend?'—For in this way, I will make it appear, that a stone, or a log of wood has "Freewill," because it can go upwards and downwards; although, by its own power, it can go only downwards . ."
What is the talk today in Church? That Man's free will can choose heaven or Hell, life or death, unaided, unimpeded by any outside influence at all, that God is a "gentleman" who will not violate our free will, when our "free will" is what got us in trouble in the first place. Scripture warns that "the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." (Romans 8:7). If then by nature we are opposed to God, how can we freely come to Christ? If our hearts are not subject to God's Law and cannot be, how can we be saved? It is not that our decisions emanate from some neutral inviolable place that neither god nor the devil can intrude upon. They come from a place you cannot intrude upon . . your nature.
As humans we make all sorts of decisions freely. We decide what car to buy, what to eat and even which spouse to marry. We can also, if the need arises, choose to do something we don't want to do if the outcome is to our advantage, such as obeying the speed limit, or taking out the trash, or even - God forbid - religious activity.
But here too lies the terrifying rub: how can you like what you do not like? We can make ourselves do things we do not like, but we cannot make ourselves like them. We are creatures with a nature, just as cats, dogs, trees, butterflies and rocks. All things created have a nature from which they cannot escape.
For me, the most terrifying aspect of not knowing or serving God is not that we won't serve Him, but that we don't want to serve Him. You see my friend, there is no escaping this condition. How do you love what you don't love? How do you like what you don't like? To quote John Piper here, you cannot. It is impossible. Oh yes, one could force himself to go to church in order to escape hell, a far worse fate. But you can't make yourself like church, or like a person, or a food, or a car. You cannot.
And this is what Luther meant when he mocked the greatest orator of his day. Erasmus was so illogical that Luther laughed. Yet this same argument is trotted out every week in a thousand churches. "God is a gentleman . . He will not force you to come to Him" the pastor says. No he won't. He has in mind something much better . . He gives us new hearts that see and love Him willingly. The only thing we need saved from is ourselves.
No friends, we must become new creatures. We must be born again, born of God, born of Heaven, born of the Spirit, and if any Man be in Christ he is that "new creation" . .
(2 Co 5:17) "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:
old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new".
(John 3:6, 7) "That which is born of the flesh is flesh;
and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee,
Ye must be born again."
This is only one of many reasons that the Reformers believed the way they did.
Always remember dear ones, that what has happened in your coming to Christ was supernatural, it was not of your doing:
(Eph 2:8) "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves:
it is the gift of God:
and that it was God who placed you in Christ:"
1Co 1:30 "But of him (God) are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made
unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:"
Remember too in your struggles that we are in the grip of God, who has promised good to us for Christ's sake and not for our own, and who has sworn to work all of human history together for our good.
The issue is not free will, but a new will that God has given us as a gift. Isn't God wonderful?
(Gal 6:15) "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature"
remember who you are . .