Tract: Myth of Free Will
By Walter J. Chantry
Most people say that they believe in "free
will." Do you have any idea what that means? I believe that you will
find a great deal of superstition on this subject. The will is saluted
as the grand power of the human soul which is completely free to
direct our lives. But from what is it free? And what is its power?
THE MYTH OF CIRCUMSTANTIAL FREEDOM
one denies that man has a will ó that is, a faculty of choosing what
he wishes to say, do, and think. But have you ever reflected on the
pitiful weakness of your will? Though you have the ability to make a
decision, you do not have the power to carry out your purpose.
Will may devise a course of action, but will has no power to execute
Josephís brothers hated him. They sold him to be a slave. But God used
their actions to make him a ruler over themselves. They chose their
course of action to harm Joseph. But God in His power directed events
for Josephís good. He said, "But as for you, ye thought evil against
me; but God meant it unto good" (Gen 50:20).
how many of your decisions are miserably thwarted? You may choose to
be a millionaire, but Godís providence is likely to prevent it. You
may decide to be a scholar, but bad health, an unstable home, or lack
of finances may frustrate your will. You choose to go on a vacation,
but an automobile accident may send you to the hospital instead.
saying that your will is free, we certainly do not mean that it
determines the course of your life. You did not choose the sickness,
sorrow, war, and poverty that have spoiled your happiness. You did not
choose to have enemies. If manís will is so potent, why not choose to
live on and on? But you must die. The major factors which shape your
life cannot thank your will. You did not select your social status,
color, intelligence, etc.
sober reflection on your experience will produce the conclusion, "A
manís heart deviseth his way: but THE LORD DIRECTETH his steps" (Prov
16:9). Rather than extolling the human will, we ought to humbly praise
the Lord whose purposes shape our lives. As Jeremiah confessed, "O
LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man
that walketh to direct his steps" (Jer 10:23).
you may choose what you want, and you may plan what you will do; but
your will is not free to accomplish anything contrary to the
purposes of God. Neither have you any power to reach your goals
but that which God allows you. The next time you are so enamored with
your own will, remember Jesusí parable about the rich man. The wealthy
man said, "This I WILL do: I WILL pull down all my barns, and build
greater: and there I WILL bestow all my fruits and my goods. . . But
God said unto him. Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of
thee" (Luke 12:18-21). He was free to plan but not free to accomplish;
so it is with you.
THE MYTH OF ETHICAL FREEDOM
freedom of the will is cited as an important factor in making MORAL
decisions. Manís will is said to be free to choose between good and
evil. But again we must ask, from what is it free? And what is manís
will free to choose?
will of man is his power to choose between alternatives. Your
will does decide your actions from a number of options. You have the
faculty to direct your own thoughts, words, and deeds. Your decisions
are not formed by an outside force, but from within yourself. No man
is compelled to act contrary to his will, nor forced to say what he
does not wish. Your will guides your actions.
this does not mean that the power to decide is free from all
influence. You make choices based on your understanding, your
feelings, your likes and dislikes, and your appetites. In other words,
your will is not free from yourself! Your choices are
determined by your own basic character. The will is not independent of
your nature, but the slave of it. Your choices do not shape
your character, but your character guides your choices. The will is
quite partial to what you know, feel, love, and desire. You always
choose on the basis of your disposition. according to the condition of
just for this reason that your will is NOT free to do good. Your will
is the servant of your heart, and your heart is evil. "And God saw
that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that EVERY
imagination of the thoughts of his heart was ONLY evil CONTINUALLY"
(Gen 6:5). "There is NONE that doeth good, no, not one" (Rom 3:12). No
power forces man to sin contrary to his will, but the descendants of
Adam are so evil that they always choose the evil.
decisions are molded by your understanding, and the Bible says of all
men, ĎAnd their foolish heart was darkened" (Rom 1:21). Man can only
be righteous when he desires to have fellowship with God, but, "There
is NONE that seeketh after God" (Rom 3:11). Your appetites crave sin,
and thus you cannot choose God. To choose good is contrary to human
nature. If you chose to obey God, it would be the result of
external compulsion. But you are free to choose and hence your choice
is enslaved to your own evil nature.
fresh meat and tossed salad were placed before a hungry lion, he would
choose the flesh This is because his nature dictates the selection It
is just so with man. The will of man is free from outside force, but
not from the bias of human nature. That bias is against God. Manís
power of decision are free to choose whatever the human heart
dictates; therefore there is no possibility of a man choosing to
please God without prior work of divine grace.
most people mean by free will is the idea that man is by nature
neutral and therefore able to choose either good or evil. This simply
is not true. The human will and the whole of human nature is bent to
ONLY evil CONTINUALLY Jeremiah asked, "Can the Ethiopian change
his skin, or the leopard his spotsí? then may ye also do good, that
are accustomed to do evil" (Jer 13:23). It is impossible. It is
contrary to nature Thus do men desperately need the supernatural
transformation of their natures, else their wills are enslaved to
spite of the great praise that is given to "free will," we have seen
that manís will is not free to choose a course contrary to Godís
purposes nor free to act contrary to his own moral nature. Your will
does not determine the events of your life nor the circumstances of
it. Ethical choices are not formed by a neutral mind but always
dictated by your personality makeup.
THE MYTH OF SPIRITUAL FREEDOM
Nevertheless many assert that the human will makes the ultimate choice
of spiritual life or spiritual death. They say that here the will is
altogether free to choose eternal life offered in Jesus Christ or to
reject it. It is said that God will give a new heart to all who choose
by the power of their own free will to receive Jesus Christ.
can be no question that receiving Jesus Christ is an act of the human
will. It is often called "faith." But how do men come to willingly
receive the Lord? It is usually answered, "Out of the power of their
own free will." But how can that be? Jesus is a PROPHET . To receive
Him means to believe all that He says. In John 8:41-45 Jesus made it
clear that you were born of Satan. This evil father hates the truth
and imparted the same bias into your heart by nature. Hence said
Jesus, "Because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not."
How does the human will jump out of man to choose to believe what
the human mind hates and denies?
Further, to receive Jesus means to embrace him as a PRIEST ó that is,
to employ and depend on him to sue out peace with God by sacrifice and
intercession. Paul tells us that the mind with which we were born is
hostile to God (Rom 8:7). How can the will escape the influence of
human nature which was born with a violent enmity to God? It would be
insane for the will to choose peace when every bone and drop of blood
cries out for rebellion.
too, receiving Jesus means to welcome Him as a KING. It means choosing
to obey His every command, to confess His right of rule and to worship
before His throne. But the human mind, emotions, and desires all cry
out, "We will not have this man to reign over us" (Luke
19:14). If my whole being hates His truth, hates His rule and hates
peace with God, how can my will be responsible for receiving Jesus?
How can such a sinner have faith?
not manís will but Godís GRACE that must be thanked for giving a
sinner a new heart. Unless God changes the heart, creates a new spirit
of peace, truthfulness, and submission. man will not choose to receive
Jesus Christ and eternal life in Him. A new heart must he given before
a man can believe, or else the human will is hopelessly enslaved to
evil human nature even in the matter of conversion. Jesus said.
"Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye MUST be born again" (John 3:7).
Unless you are, you will never see His kingdom.
John 1:12 & 13. It says that those who believe on Jesus have been
"born, not of the will of man, but of God." As your will is not
responsible for your coming into this world, it is not responsible for
the new birth. It is your Creator who must be thanked for your
life, and if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation (II Cor 5:17).
Who ever chose to be created? When Lazarus rose from the dead, he then
could choose to answer the call of Christ, but he could not choose to
come to life. So Paul said in Ephesians 2:5, "Even when we were dead
in sins, [God] I hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye
are saved)." Faith is the first act of a will made new by the Holy
Spirit. Receiving Christ is an act of man just as breathing is, but
God must first give life.
wonder Martin Luther wrote a book entitled The Bondage of the Will
which he considered one of his most important treatises. The will
is in the chains of an evil human nature. You who extol the free will
as a great force are clinging to a root of pride. Man, as fallen in
sin, is utterly helpless and hopeless. The will of man offers no hope.
It was the will choosing the forbidden fruit that brought us into
misery. The powerful grace of God alone offers deliverance. Cast
yourself upon Godís mercy for salvation. Ask for the Spirit of Grace
that He may create a new spirit within you.
Published by The Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America