Whole Counsel Theology

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Defining and Analyzing "Free Will" Theology, Part I

I've had a particularly rough day today, but God is gracious.

That said, and though I know the latter part of the above statement to be true, my mind is a bit more engaged in "justice" mode rather than "mercy" mode. Maybe that's why I felt like posting this tonight. :)

In any case, recently I've been involved in several discussions about what "free will" means and whether or not we as human beings have it. There is an answer to this, but before this discussion can ever get off the ground, whenever it happens, there must be agreement on the definition of what "free will" really is.

From what I can tell, people tend to use three definitions of free-will that they ascribe to people. If there is another that I've missed that is important to the discussion of the topic, I'd be happy to be corrected and add another post. This post is the first in a series of what I can see at the moment of being FOUR in length: this one, and then three more explaining each of the following definitions of Free Will.

1.) Free will means that human beings are ultimately self-determining. That is, our choices are the final and ultimate (or first) cause as to what happens with us (barring some freak accident).
2.) Free will means that, in and of themselves, human beings can do things that are good in God's sight; in other words, we have the power in and of ourselves to do SOMETHING pleasing to God (such as have faith in Him).
3.) Free will means that I can freely do whatever it is that I truly desire to do.

I would maintain strongly that the first two above definitions (which seem to be the most common) are unbiblical, heretical beliefs that raise man to some high standard of power or morality that the Bible does not permit. I would agree with the third definition (in other words, accepting it), though I'd qualify it a little, which I plan to do.

Stay tuned, biblical/theological corroborative evidence forthcoming!

David B. Hewitt

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  • David,

    I think you are correct in your assessment. I also think that many of the conflicts those of us who subscribe to reformed theology encounter with Arminians is that they seem to think we deny the last definition. Establishing the agreed upon definition for "free will" can go a long way in explaining the reformed point of view.

    By Blogger Chip, at Wednesday, September 13, 2006 5:03:00 PM  

  • Thanks, Chip.

    I appreciate the comment and the encouragement. I agree with your assessment that often people don't think we accept the last definition, and I also suspect that when we say we don't believe in "Free Will" that we think people don't make choices. Of course, that is not true, but that confusion can be largely eliminated if we were to clarify definitions from the beginning of it.

    David Hewitt

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Thursday, September 14, 2006 6:20:00 PM  

  • You are definately right. Many people say "Calvinists say man doesn't have any free will!" But before any discussion can proceed there has to be a defining of the terms. Those three definitions must be explored before any conversation on free will/Calvinism can go forward.

    God bless,

    A. Shepherd
    The Aspiring Theologian

    The Knight of the Living God

    By Blogger AspiringTheologian, at Monday, September 25, 2006 5:19:00 PM  

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