Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Free Will: Humanist Perspective

Judging from comments on my previous post about my understanding and definition of free will, many hold to a more humanist position. Sadly, I think that this position is widely held even among the church. This post will briefly outline the very basic concept of the humanist perspective on free will, and then compare it to the view of Edwards, which was outlined previously

The humanist perspective says that each choice we make is completely independent. Each choice is spontaneous, and it is not determined by our desires, or even past experience. Every choice stands completely on it's own.

This view stands in contrast to the view that I laid out earlier. To distinguish between the two perspectives, I will refer to the Edwards view and Humanist view. Neither label is 100% accurate, but will be general enough to see some differences. Edwards argued that our strongest desire at the moment of the choice determines the choice. A more humanist argument is that nothing determines the choice.

Why is this distinction important? From a biblical standpoint, the distinction is extremely important. First, Either we have the power to reach out to God on our own, or some work must be done outside of ourselves to give us the proper desire (greater desire) to reach out to God. Next, the distinction either means that our choices point directly back to the heart of man, or our choices have no moral significance.

Let's begin with this question. Does man have the power to reach out to God on his own, or does some work have to be done outside of ourselves? Is the grace of God necessary to live a holy life, or is it just a matter of making the right choices? a humanist perspective (this was argued in church history by the British Monk Pelagius)would say that nothing is needed. We have the ability to seek God, and we have the ability to not sin. Grace is helpful, but it is not necessary. If we do sin, it is not a reflection of our character. Further, there is no concept of Original Sin. The sin of Adam and Eve only affected Adam and Eve, not the rest of humanity. The Edward's view (which goes much further back in Church History than Edwards) upholds the doctrine of Original Sin. Since the sin of Adam, we are born with a sin nature. Our desires and wants are skewed away from God and towards sin. Since our strongest desire drives our choice, when we sin it is a reflection of our own sin nature. In other words, the fact that we sin does not cause us to be sinners, but the fact that we are sinners causes us to sin. Because of our nature, it is not possible for us unaided from the power of the Holy Spirit, to truly seek after God and live a holy life. The work begins with God changing our desires (only by his grace), not with man seeking God first.

I obviously do not agree with the humanist perspective. To deny the humanist perspective is not to deny free will, but to affirm that our strongest desires are the very essence of free will, even if they determine our choices.

Other Posts on Free Will:
Free Will: Introduction
Free Will: Humanist Perspective
Free Will: James 4
Free Will: A Reflection of Our Sinful Nature



  1. Randy from Nebraska said...
    i still say that we are born good or at least neutrel. I see your point though. I really like you and read what you have to say but im not sure this time. It takes away mans power to choose when you say that desires determin choices.
    Randy from Nebraksa said...
    I get it now. i thought about it last nite over and over. It was like a light came on in my head. all you are saying is that we do what we want to do. just because desires drive choices, does not mean the will is a slave. It is still free. This is what we want. It makes sense to me now.
    beepbeepitsme said...
    RE: "there is no concept of Original Sin. The sin of Adam and Eve only affected Adam and Eve, not the rest of humanity"

    The Dusty Old Book In The Library - The Bible

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