Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Free Will

I've been thinking about free will lately.  Do humans have the ability to make their own choices? Should we be held accountable for the choices we make? Or is everything in our world pre-determined. Has God pre-planned everything, and is absolutely everything going to happen the way that God has planned it.

Many Christians have been influenced by the Calvinist beliefs in total depravity, unconditional election, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints.  They believe in predestination, that all events have been willed by God. John Calvin interpreted biblical predestination to mean that God willed eternal damnation for some people and salvation for others.

On the other hand, does a belief in free will limit God's sovereignty?

This is a complex question for my mind to grapple with.

Has God planned how I am going to sort this question out?  Is it worth even trying to sort out?

The debate of whether or not free will exists goes beyond the spiritual implications.  Determinism is the philosophical position that for every event, including human action, there exist conditions that could cause no other event.   Think science and cause and effect.  Is who we are, what we think, and what we do simply a product of our environment.  When people make poor choices, should we place all the blame on the poor inputs?

I should go outside and cut the grass.  The grass is tall. My yard would look better if I did.  The neighbours likely think I should have cut it yesterday. Will I cut it today, or will I wait for tomorrow?  Will when I cut the grass be determined by my free will, or am I simply a robot that responds automatically to specific prompts and inputs?

For now I'll choose to continue with this blog post...  because that's the way I'm wired.

There are some Bible verses that support the idea of predestination

Romans 8:29-30 (NET Bible)
because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.
Ephesians 1:5 (NET Bible)
He did this by predestining us to adoption as his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will—
Ephesians 1:11 (NET Bible)
In Christ we too have been claimed as God’s own possession, since we were predestined according to the one purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will

There are other Bible verses that support the idea of free will

Proverbs 16:9 ESV
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
Joshua 24:15 ESV
And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, ...
John 7:17 ESV
If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.
Revelation 3:20 ESV
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV / 43 helpful votes
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Galatians 5:16-17 ESV
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
Psalm 37:23 ESV
The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way;
Romans 10:9-10 ESV
Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
Mark 8:34 ESV
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
 Matthew 6:33 NIV
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
John 3:16 ESV
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

There are also Bible verses that speak about free life, and how Jesus has made us free  (Galatians 5:1, 1 Peter 2:16, John 8:32, 2 Corinthians 3:17, Romans 8:1-4, Isaiah 61:1). Can freedom exist if there is no free will?

Do we have free will? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Or should I say: I'd love to see how your mind processes this topic based on the the way it has been programmed and the inputs it has received.

Related Post: Calvanism


Steve Martin said...

Hi Jon.

You've touched upon one of my favorite subjects.

There are a few other good Bible verses that categorically deny our so-called "free-will".

The Gospel of John tells us (chapter 1, I believe) that "we are born not of the flesh, nor of blood, nor of the will of man (there it is), but of God."

Also in John, Jesus says, "Nobody can come to me except he be drawn by the Father." (and that word "drawn" is more accurately translated to "compelled").

Of course there is the conversation that Jesus has with Nicodemus where Jesus tells him that "you have to be born again". Nic says" how can I do that…" Then Jesus tells him that "you can't do it…it has to come from above."

Regarding our freedom, Jesus tells the Pharisees that they are NOT FREE. They say, we are descendants of Abraham, we are no ones slaves." And Jesus says, "If you sin, you are a slave to sin."

And of course, Jesus tells the disciples, "You do not choose me, but I have chosen you."

So much for "our freedom" when it comes to the things of God.

Now…we do have freedom with regard to decisions on this plane. Choosing our spouse. Our car. Our job. What color socks we will wear, etc.

My 2 cents.

Thanks, Jon.

Steve Martin said...


I strongly urge you to give this a listen:


It's easy listening. Not dry one bit. It's like you were talking it over with a friend.

Steve Martin said...

That sign on the bus says it all.

If we really had a "free" will…then we COULD stop worrying.

But since our wills are 'bound'…to sin…we are NOT free.

You see?

Jonathan said...

Thanks Steve Marti n for the comments and sharing those verses. The verse in John 1 is contrasting being born by the will of human parents vs being born by the will of God. The way I read these verses, God initiated the child father relationship we have with him.

But there are other verses that speak about us needing to chose to follow, obey, love, believe.
Do you see the problem some may find with saying we have no free will? That everything seems pointless? God is just going to pick the people He wants to take to heaven, and he picks others to send to hell - the choices we make, and the responses to God's love make no difference at all. It seems to me that way of interpreting this issue allows us to ignore large portions of the Bible.

Steve Martin said...


We want to cling to the verses that rely on God's work for us (He must increase)…and take the verses that somehow lead us to believe that we play some role in our salvation and make them subordinate to verses that it clear that it is all God's work.

The being born that the Gospel of John is referring to is the new birth in Christ. That is why it is clear to say , "not of the flesh…nor of blood, NOR OF THE WILL OF MAN…but of God."

Listen to that class if you get some time. he explains it better than I can

Thanks, Jon.

Tim A said...

I say we do not have a free will. We do have an encumbered will, a twisted will, a tainted will, but a will never the less. I make that distinction.