Do you believe we have free will? I always felt we have it but doesn’t God’s will always prevail anyway?


Interestingly, the Bible does not include the phrase free will.  However, the concept is found in many places in scripture.  Scriptures about the freedom (of will) we have in Christ include Gal 2:4, Gal 5:1, Gal 5:13,  Eph 3:12 and more.

These passages apply to believers.  All Christian scholars and theologians agree that those who are in Christ have free will, but, believe it or not, there have been some influential theologians who have argued against any kind of real free will outside of Christ.  I believe that this is a gross mischaracterization of scripture, however.  Among those who denied a real free will to humans before baptism are included Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli.  These last three are the leading theologians of the Reformation.  Calvinists (including Presbyterians, Baptists and other groups) officially teach that we are so depraved  before we are saved that we do not have a real free will.  This is the doctrine called Total Depravity.   It is related to Calvin’s predestination.

However, they are wrong.  God’s will is not always done, as proved by the Lord’s prayer: “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”   Why would we be praying for God’s will to be done if it is always done?  All humans have free will, which is why God’s will is not always done.  We are free to choose and we often choose to sin and to rebel.  Passages which imply free will to all of us (not just the saved) include Deuteronomy 30:19-20, where there is a commandment to “choose life,” which would be impossible to obey if we did not have choice.  Joshua told the Israelites to “choose today whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  in Joshua 24:14-15.   If we have no free will, then God chooses who will go to heaven and who will go to hell.  Then he chooses who sins and what sin they commit.  If there is no free will, then God is the author of evil, which he is not.  If there is no free will, then when the Bible says that God desires all men to be saved (1 Tim 2:4), that statement is a lie. God’s will is that all be saved, but his will is not always done, as we freely choose to rebel against him, we sin, and we become lost.  Yes, there is free will.

This raises questions about God’s sovereignty, which you see right away.  Good.  That means you are thinking!  Here is how it works, at least as I understand it.  God is sovereign, and, in a sense (but a narrow sense) his will is always done, but God, in his power and in his sovereign will, has chosen to give us choice.  We, in a sense, are sovereign over our own choices.  It is God’s will that we have free will.  In that very narrow sense, God’s will is always done.  Therefore, when we sin, this fits in the broadest sense within God’s will, in that he willed us to have free will.  That we rebel and go against God’s will does not mean that God is not powerful, but it means that the free will we have is real.  It is not a sham.  Love gives a choice, so God gave us a choice.  God’s will is always done in nature.   In fact, all of God’s creation obeys him, with the exception of humans (and angels?).  We have free will for sure.

John Oakes

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