Does Man Have Free Will?

Extreme Calvinists say “no” and extreme Arminians worship free will. As always, there is a great need for balance! There are pitfalls as a result of the logical conclusions we will arrive at if we embrace either extreme. The greatest pitfall is the damage to a clear presentation of the gospel. We must, in order to remain biblically balanced, hold to both the Sovereignty of God and the Free Will of man. If we allow either truth to crush out the other, it will lead us to various levels of misrepresentations of the gospel.

The entire biblical text presupposes, implies and teaches free will. Biblical commands tell us the ‘oughts,’ and the oughts presupposes ‘choice,’ and choice implies ‘free will.’ This part is just very simple when we are not forcing conclusions by cherry picking verses to support extreme Calvinism.

When free will is denied, you’ll always hear and observe a struggling attempt to discuss people surrendering to Christ, especially if the teacher is honestly attempting to remain logically consistent with his position. Most brothers who are five point calvinists, will still present the call to repent and place your faith in Christ alone for salvation. Repentance and faith, which are theologically inseparable, are responses of free moral agents to accept, by God’s grace, the offer of salvation. The Lord has concluded ‘all under sin,’ so He can have mercy ‘upon all.’ (Rom. 3:23, 11:32) The same all who are guilty of sin (that is everyone), has mercy poured upon them. Those who reject the gospel are without excuse. (Rom. 1:20)

I know that down through the ages entire books have been written on this subject, and I’m not under some false illusion I can clear it up in a short blog. However, I am observing a loss of clarity taking place among certain camps. I recently watched and listened to a well known leader stumble around in language with a group of thousands of youth in presenting the gospel because he was trying to stay logically consistent to his belief that man does not have free will. Instead of using the biblical terms of repentance and faith, he created terms like ‘raise a white flag,’ and ‘if you feel faith being imparted to you’ and ‘stand as a declaration of surrender.’ All of this in an emotionally charged atmosphere will, and I’m sure did, confuse and give false security to many who may have been convicted of sin and aware of God’s dealing with them, BUT were still short of salvation until they repent and put their faith in Christ alone. The word ‘repentance’ was never used. This is an example of the danger I am discussing.

I’m personally convinced the reactionary position of extreme Calvinism is in response to extreme Arminianism. Giving men the false hope of they can ‘come to Jesus’ whenever they desire by saying the prayer has brought about the influx of unregenerated men into the membership of the American church. The ‘Word of Faith’ heresies demonstrate the icing on the cake of this error with their teachings of ‘positive mental attitude’ and ‘name it and claim’ prosperity doctrines.

However, and this is important: One extreme position never justifies another extreme position. I like to say it this way; “For every one road there are two ditches.” Let us seek biblical balance to remain in the middle of the highway of holiness!

So, back to our question: Does man have free will? Yes. The Scriptures presuppose and imply it from Genesis to Revelation. Can man come to the Lord whenever he wants to? No. Man only comes when the Holy Spirit is drawing him (John 6:44) to the truth of Christ crucified for his sin. Man is warned to not ‘harden his heart’ if he hears God’s voice (Heb. 3:7-8), and to ‘choose you this day whom he will serve.’ (Joshua 24:15) I could share several life stories of men who sinned away their offer of grace and were aware of it as they approached death, but that is not the thrust of this post. Let us begin clearly proclaiming, in partnership and unison with the Holy Spirit, the message of  ‘Whosoever will…let him take the water of life freely.” (please read Rev. 22:17) The Lord ‘”commands all people everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30) Again, ought presupposes can. Man’s will, because of the fall, is incapable of responding properly, apart from the influence (grace) God gives to all men. Therefore, because God has mercy upon all (Rom. 11:32), man is responsible for and capable of yielding to the Holy Spirit’s conviction over sin and need for Jesus.

I’ll end this post on Free will with a couple of insightful quotes from Francis Schaeffer. Important to note that he was a Calvinist, and that he presented great wisdom in these statements concerning free will and determinism.

“If this is the case [determinism being true], then man is not the tremendous thing the Bible says he is, made in the image of God as a personality who can make a free first choice.” (Schaeffer, “The God Who Is There”)

“God is a non-determined Being who created freely, so humans, created in the image of God, are also non-detemined and capable of free choice.” (Schaeffer, “God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Significance,” lecture)

Extreme Calvinism will lead to philosophical Stoicism, determinism and ultimately to accusing God of sin. (There is no escape from this.) Extreme Arminianism will lead to man being the master of the universe, go so far as to deny that God is presently omniscient (Limiting God in His foreknowledge), and extending the false hope of accepting Christ whenever he wants to. (Ususally encourages one to a dangerous position of attempting to wait to the last minute of life to receive Christ.)

Let us seek balance, pray for it and allow “Iron to sharpen iron” as we all seek to remain faithful to both the Sovereignty of God and the Free Will of man. Embrace both and do not get caught up in the pitting one position against the other, or using either side to hurl insults or heresy labels at fellow brothers. The Scriptures teach both and we should, if we want to remain balanced, do no less! Men who reject the revealed truth of Jesus Christ as the only Savior of mankind, will be without excuse before the Lord. (Rom. 1:20) If man ‘can not’ respond to what God commanded, then injustice is laid at God’s feet. Man is held responsible for what he ought and can do.

We should not be afraid of mystery. How God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Free Will come together completely is, in and of itself, a divine mystery which is only fully known by the Lord. However, since the Bible upholds both, we should too. Let us rejoice in the mystery and embrace both truths instead of being guilty of picking and choosing which one we prefer and abandoning the other one at the expense of a mature balance.

Let us take the Gospel to every creature, calling for all men to come to Jesus through repentance and faith. At the same time, let us realize, that unless the Holy Spirit is drawing them, they will not come, and therefore let us abandon manipulative attempts of coercion through emotionalism and fleshly high energy presentations. And finally, if they reject the truth of Christ, let us warn them they are without excuse. That is our mission….

**Comments, discussions  and even disagreements are welcome. However, flame throwing, ad hominem and snipe attacks will not be approved.

Related topics:
Calvinism and Arminianism…Enemies or Brothers?
Questions Concerning Calvinism and Arminianism
What Kind of Leaders Are We Creating?

About Terry Ivy

Husband, Father, Church Planter, Pastor, Founder of PROJECT INDIA. Supporting and encouraging Pastors, training leaders and planting churches...
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2 Responses to Does Man Have Free Will?

  1. Tony Riches says:

    Loved the article. Recently I was very distressed at hearing the preacher at a national convention say God doesn’t love you. If you are in sin you are lost and God hates sinners….Extreme Calvanism and in my opinion heresy. Definitely the opposite of the truth of Gods’ love and the death of evangelism. At the very least a cause of division… Great article to remind people that our so called knowledge without trusting that the Lord knows the truth of the matter, is what seperates us from God and one another, just like the original sin.. Thanks Tony

    • Terry Ivy says:

      Thanks Tony. The preacher you mentioned above would definitely be in error. The past several years there has been a knee jerk reaction to the ‘easy believe-ism’ which has dominated the American Church for a generation, mainly because of unbiblical salvation prayers offered through radio and TV. That reaction has come about with a resurgence of unbalanced and extreme Calvinism. It is cruel, fatalistic, stoic, aloof and loveless. Extreme Arminianism is flighty, worldly, permissive, over emotional, and silly.

      This is why I always stress Balance. To every ONE road there are TWO ditches.

      Thanks for your input and for recognizing the error spoken at that national convention.

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