Christian Dufflepuds and Free Will

Are we saying Yes and No?

By Dolores Kimball

Free will is accepted by most believers as an obvious biblical truth. But is it really in the Bible? Or is it merely a philosophy that we use to excuse and explain God's motives, His actions, and His inaction. Free will has been blamed for every evil and ill mankind has perpetrated upon itself since the Garden of Eden. And most distressingly, free will has been portrayed as the ultimate restrainer of the Creator of the Universe.

The Christian Dufflepuds hop up and down with glee shouting, "Yes! Free will! That's the truth!" At the same time, most Christians would affirm sovereignty as an attribute of God. "Yes! God is sovereign! You betcha!" How can this be?

Let's clear up a few things biblically. First, the Bible does not support the idea that we have free will to do anything and everything we please. Second, the Bible does not say that one's will is actually free. Third, the Bible never tells us that salvation is a matter of exercising our free will. Fourth, the Bible makes it clear that God is not constrained by the free will of man. The last three of these points will be dealt with in subsequent posts. But let's look at the first one.

First point: we do not have the free will to do anything we please. If we did have that complete freedom, then God would not be sovereign, because our wills and behavior would not be able to be restrained by Him. We do have the freedom to choose certain actions ("I'll have a salad instead of a steak") but every action is caused by, or allowed by, a completely sovereign God. Not a single molecule floating around the universe is out of His control and command. If such a molecule existed, God would not be God. And if our free wills allowed us to do anything outside the perfect plan and purpose of God, He would not be God. (Do I hear a hearty "Amen!" from the Duffles?)

Frankly, I don't understand why anyone would want to hang onto free will as the raison d'etre of life. Think about it. We like the idea of free will when it's our free will, but when others' free wills stomp on our free wills, that's not so appealing. But that's what you get when you see free will as sovereign and absolute. If your will is free, then so is mine and that of your mother-in-law, your rotten boss, the crook with a gun at the 7-11, and every other fallen creature in the world. So our freedom isn't really free at all because it's at the mercy of those whose power, strength or position makes their free will ‘freer' than ours. And that means our lives are in their hands, not our own.

Thank God that's not the case! If it were, we would be at the mercy of all the worst of mankind who would run free to maim and murder according to their free wills. The truth is that our sovereign, omnipotent God restrains sin and the forces of evil so that life on this planet is tolerable. Proverbs 16:9 confirms it: "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps." And Proverbs 19:21 reiterates it: "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails."

Does thinking that everyone is truly free to do whatever they like make us better able to cope with reality in a world that is often "nasty, brutish and short"? Isn't it better to know and believe what the Bible says, that God is in complete control of every molecule in the universe at every moment and everything that happens is either caused or allowed by Him for His own perfect purposes? Isaiah 46:10: "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." Notice that there is no caveat at the end of that statement such as "...if everyone's free will allows me, that is." This is our powerful, purposeful God who is in control of everything and whose will is the only one truly free. If we don't feel comfortable with Him having all that control, it's because we don't know Him, or we aren't sure of the rest of His attributes.

But whether we know Him or not, whether we trust Him or not, He is still in control of everyone's wills. So they are not free at all. He does give us a certain amount of volition to make choices, but again, those choices are caused by or allowed by God. Even the Dufflepuds should be able to see that free will, if it truly existed as defined by the postmoderns, would restrain the hand of God, and anything that succeeds in doing that has to be more powerful than God.

Down with Dufflepudism. Up with discernment.

Next time: The will is not free; it is in bondage to the nature. We are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness.


Image Credit: Travis Morgan; "The no free-will bus campaign"; Creative Commons

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Published on 7-19-11