Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Freedom God Gives Us

I agree with one of the comments on the Calvinist Gadfly (Hat Tip). The chorus should be "If I gave you freedom, your response would always be no." I am admittidly a lot more reformed in my thinking than most Methodists, but I would like to think that this would appear extreme to most. Is this just wishful thinking on my part?
Another comment noted that this very different than singing "twas grace that taught my heart to fear." You don't have to accept the doctrine of predestination to accept the doctrine of total depravity. Someone may correct me, and I could be wrong, but I think that John Wesley would have fits with this theology.
The whole song is praising man's free will, and not God.


  1. Art said...
    I agree. Even the brief speech at the beginning seems theologically confused to me.
    heather.ariyeh said...
    I grew up in mostly Baptist churches, and have not had the focus on predestination that many of you have. I have many questions on this topic.

    I do not believe that salvation is gained by my own power or goodness or works. I know that Jesus sacrificed himself, and that he has called me to be His. I know that faith is a gift. I also have come to realize that any measure of strength, righteousness or knowledge that I have are all by the grace of God who provides these things to me.

    Still, I do not think I believe the idea that God predestines some to Hell as Calvin seems to say (please correct me if I am wrong).

    2 Peter 3:9 states:
    The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

    Also 1 Timothy 2:4:
    Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

    I think God calls everyone, but many will not heed his call. By this I do not mean that I am greater than some for being able to accept this calling. By seeking God and asking for strength and faith, I have received these things in some measure. I think God is all-knowing and all-powerful, therefore knows the fate of all of us, and can control it. Still, I don’t think God would ordain death or sin, I don’t think it is in his nature. It reminds me of when Jesus cast out demons while the Pharisees accused him of being able to cast out demons because he himself was evil. Jesus responds by saying that that would be like a kingdom divided against itself (or if Satan were divided against himself, his kingdom could not stand). In a sense, I think you could apply the opposite. Would God ordain sin although it is counter to his own kingdom?

    I get the sense from the Bible, that God calls everyone and that everyone has a chance to be saved by God’s grace. John 3:16 says, of course, “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” God calls us to be disciples to all people and nations. The apostles were preaching and praying for people’s salvation. I’m not sure what the point of that would be if everything were preordained.

    I think the idea of free will is that God doesn’t (not that he is unable to) force us to follow him. People can reject God if they choose. Those who do not, are not any more powerful, but have accepted and sought the gifts of God after being called to do so. If we didn’t have choice, why would God allow Christians to sin once they’ve been saved? Why does God give warnings like rejecting the Holy Spirit is the one unforgivable sin if we don’t have a choice? Why does God say if we don’t believe the prophets, we won’t believe signs and miracles if our own acceptance isn’t required on some level?

    As I said, I am not as well read on this issue, so please respond with your thoughts. I am certainly not vouching for the doctrine of whatever church service is depicted in the video, but I don’t think that everyone who believes in free will is as simple-minded as many of the posters on that website would claim. For example, not everyone who believes in free will believes God is powerless. We don’t all think salvation is up to us and our own merits, but think God gave all of us the capacity to have faith.
    Brett said...
    You can read my thoughts on free will by browsing to the "Free Will" category on the right. Basically, I believe that man has a free will to make his own decisions. The decision is driven by the strongest desire at the moment of the decision, and I believe that our desires have been bent towards evil since the sin of Adam. Since our desires are evil and selfish, our choices are therefore evil and selfish. I believe that without the conviction of the Holy Spirit, or the Grace of God working our lives, our strongest desire will never be towards God.
    John said...
    Our answer to freedom would always be 'no' only if prevenient grace did not exist.
    Brett said...
    John just made my point. There is no mention of any type of grace at all. I see three answers to the freedom of our will. One is prevenient grace, another is election, and the third is a humanist view of free will that says nothing is needed. It is simply a decision you make, unaided from God.
    I believe that election and prevenient grace can be debated within the Christian community. The humanist view portrayed in the video is heresy.
    heather.ariyeh said...
    I have now read your posts under the free will category. Thank you for posting these thoughts as this discussion has been informative and forced me to focus on a subject where I should have previously given more attention.

    I definitely see you point about being careful not to worship our human abilities. Nothing good is accomplished apart from God.

    I think the issue, as you said, is between the ideas of prevenient grace and election. I do not believe, and would have an extremely hard time believing, that God does not call everyone to salvation, partly due to the reasons I posted above. That seems counter to God’s nature and desire for his creation. If God calls everyone then, somewhere we make the choice to accept this or not. Even here, I do not mean that we call on the strength of our own humanity. I mean that we heed the call initiated by God, and use the gifts of God to draw nearer to him and to do his will and to accept his salvation. I definitely understand what you mean concerning our choices are driven by our strongest desires at the moment of choice. Still, I am not sure that I would phrase the situation in the following way: “Without God’s grace, we would always choose no.” I think I would say, “thanks to God’s gifts, including grace and faith, we have the ability to choose yes.” Apart from God, we are totally depraved, but God created each of us in his own image. Surely the desires he puts in us to follow him and to fill the God-shaped hole in our hearts is part of who we are. I’m not sure we can consider our nature by only looking at our sinfulness, and without taking into account these things as well.

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