Study 3 -All Christians Believe In Free Will?

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Romans 7:21, 25So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (NIV 1984)

Humanist View – Man makes choices spontaneously. Nothing prior to the choice determines the choice. This is not a Christian view.

Moral Problem – If purely spontaneous, there is no reason, motivation or intent for the choice. Thus, it has no moral significance. God considers the intent of choices. If there is no intent, there is no moral significance.
Practical Problem – Without motivation or a reason[ing], is it really a choice? What does it matter? Why make a choice if there is no reason to? Choice without a motivation is like an effect without a cause, which is a practical impossibility. You cannot have something out of nothing.

Jonathan Edward’s Law of Free Will – Free will is the mind choosing. Choices cannot be made independent of the mind. Free (no coercion) moral agents always act according to the strongest inclination (desires) that they have at the moment of choice. There is always a reason for every decision.

Coercion – Outside forces (forcing is not free will) affect choices against our will. Strongest inclination in this instance is likely not our strongest inclination absent the coercion.
Desires Change – Our strongest desire absent temptation may be to please God, but when temptation to sin comes our strongest desire may be to give in and we make that choice freely.

Calvin’s View – If free will means that fallen man has the ability to choose what he wants, he has free will. If free will means that fallen man has the moral power and ability to choose righteousness, he lacks free will, because he cannot always do so.

Paradox View (Sproul) – Every choice that man makes is free and every choice that man makes is determined. Paradox because free and determined (caused by something outside man’s will) are generally considered to be mutually exclusive.

It Is Not Determinism – Things happen to man solely due to external forces.
It is Determined – If choices flow from a man’s dispositions and desires, which are internal forces, and if man’s actions are an effect that have causes and reasons behind them, these internal desires determines man’s personal choice.

The question is: if my desires determine my choice, how can I be free?

Because what determines my choice is me (choices are both free and determined). This is called self-determination, which is not the denial of freedom, but rather it is the essence of freedom. Not only may we choose according to our desires, we do (perhaps must) in fact choose according to our desires and inclinations. The essence of freedom is to choose what you want.

This leads to fallen man’s problem: fallen man sins because they want to sin, which means that man sins freely.  Sinners reject Christ because they want to (freely) reject Christ.

In order to choose Christ, fallen man must want (have a desire) to do so.

The question is: Does fallen man retain in His heart any desire for God?

Moral Ability versus Natural Ability (Edwards) – Moral ability means the ability to be righteous or sinful. Man was created with the ability to be righteous or sinful. In his fallenness, man lost his ability to be righteous in and of himself because he is born with a sin nature. He has lost the ability to be totally righteous. Natural abilities are abilities we have by our nature (Man has the ability to think, reason and stand upright. Man does not have the ability to fly unaided). In his fallenness, man lost the natural ability to be righteous (what is natural is to sin). Will is inclined to evil and disinclined to righteousness.

Notes from: Chosen by God, R.C. Sproul

Study 2 – All Christians Believe In The Sovereignty Of God?

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Daniel 4:34-35 – His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing [compared to Him]. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” (NIV 1984)

If there is there is anything (as small as one maverick molecule) that happens outside the foreordination of God, it therefore happens outside the sovereignty of God. Nothing can happen apart from the sovereignty of God. This includes the efficacious (having the power to produce a desired effect) and permissive (having the power to prevent an undesirable effect) will of God. Permitting something to happen does not necessarily mean He approves of or sanctions it. If anything were to happen outside that sovereignty of God, then God would not be sovereign and thus would not be God.

The question is: if God is sovereign, and if man is fallen, how can He allow people to perish? Does this mean that God is not sovereign (cannot prevent people from perishing) or He is not good (chooses to allow people to perish)? This “dilemma” ignores that fact that God is also totally righteous and just.

No Opportunity For Anyone – God could decide to not give anyone who has fallen an opportunity for salvation. The only objection would be that God is just. God is not obligated to be merciful, because mercy is not an obligation. Justice can be owed but mercy is not obligatory. But God did not choose this.

Just An Opportunity For Some or All – God could provide an opportunity for some or everyone to be saved. But there would be no guarantee anyone would be saved.

Ensures Some or All – God could exercise His sovereignty and ensure the salvation of some or everybody. God did not choose to ensure the salvation of everyone (universalism). This is not Biblical, because we know many will indeed perish. Some will be lost (particularism).

So, we are left with either God provides the opportunity for some or all the fallen to be saved (Arminianism) or He intervenes to ensure the salvation of some of the fallen (Calvinism).

The question is: Does God provide an opportunity for some or all, or does He ensure the salvation of only some?

The primary objection to Calvinism is that it would not be fair for God to ensure the salvation of some but not all. But this is also a problem for Arminianism, because all God does is provide an opportunity (when it is within His power to ensure). Thus, the argument goes there is more of God’s mercy being demonstrated in Calvinism than there is in Arminianism, because there is no assurance that any will take the opportunity.

Arminianism – The opportunity for salvation is given to all, but not all will take it.

  • Calvinism – The salvation of some (but not all) are ensured.

The questions are: Is it an injustice if God ensures the salvation of some but not all the fallen? Or, is God being more merciful by ensuring the salvation of some rather than just an opportunity?

ll are fallen and in rebellion against God. Some are saved, and some are lost. The saved get mercy, the lost get justice. No one gets injustice. Mercy is not justice and it is not injustice. It is non-justice.

Getting back to the so-called dilemma. If God gave some mercy and some injustice, His goodness could be called into question. But God gives some mercy and He gives others justice. So, His goodness cannot be called into question. No one has been or ever will be the object of injustice at the hands of God.

Notes from: Chosen by God, R.C. Sproul

Study 1 – All Christians Believe in Predestination?

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Ephesians 1:4-5 – He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will [the purpose of his will] (NIV 1984).

The question is: how (or why) did He make His choice?

Pelagianism – Grace of God assists in salvation but is not necessary for salvation. Man is capable of redemption through his own efforts (works). Father of humanism and liberalism. Considered heretical or anti-Christian.

Semi-Pelagianism (Arminianism) – Man cannot be saved apart from the grace of God, but rather he must cooperate with or assent to the grace (salvation not wholly dependent upon God’s grace). View largely held by modern evangelicals.

Augustinianism (Calvinism, Reformed) – Salvation wholly dependent upon the grace of God. Man is not even capable of cooperating or assenting to God’s grace without the intervention of God. View held by some of history’s preeminent theologians (Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Edwards).

The question is: what does wholly dependent mean?

Predestination – Literally before we arrive at our destination (heaven or hell). Our ultimate destination is determined before we are even born (see Ephesians 1 – before foundation of the world) by God choosing us.

The question is: on what does God base His choice?

  • God’s choice is based on God’s prior knowledge of what man will do. God chooses us because He knows beforehand that we will choose Him (Arminianism).
  • What God foresees has nothing to with His choice, it is solely based on His good pleasure. We choose God, because God already chose us (Calvinism).

Notes from: Chosen by God, R.C. Sproul