The Path to Free Will

“Free will is the ability to choose.” No, it’s not. The ability to choose only shows you have a will. Your will might be free, or it might not be.

Looking at the diagram above, suppose you choose option A. There is a reason you chose A, and that reason was determined by one of the preceding desires. You don’t choose your desires, at least not in the moment of choice. You can shape your desires over time through ongoing actions, but in the immediate moment of choice your strongest desire will determine which option you chose.

Your desires may be evil, and if they are, you will choose to do evil things. You may have good desires and evil desires. If so, the strongest of those desires will determine your choices.

If a man’s desires are only evil, all he can do is chose to act on one of those evil desires: the one which appeals to him most in the moment. This man is not able to chose good. He is a slave to evil.

If a man has good and evil desires, the potential to do good and evil is present, but he will still act out his strongest desire in the moment.

If a man has only good desires, all his choices will be good. This man is free.

Only through Christ can you become one who desires only the good. It is a process of a series of deaths and resurrections. It is not easy and is sometimes painful, but it is necessary.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” ~Roman 12:2

The Sovereignty of God and Douglas Wilson – Expanded Thoughts

Two plus two equals four. Why does 2+2=4? Because God is God. God created the universe ex nihilo. God did not consult any preexisting laws or rules before creating. God did not consult any preexisting law of mathematics in order to discover what kind of universe He could create. The only thing God consulted and had to conform to when creating was Himself (see John 1:3 and Hebrews 1:2). Therefore, 2+2=4 because the very nature of God demands that it does. Two plus two equals four because “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14).

Because God created ex nihilo, the universe is a reflection of His nature and character. There is nothing outside of God which influenced creation. Evil then, is either a reflection of God’s nature and character, or a deprivation of it. God’s word tells us that God is good (Psalm 25:8, 27:13, 31:19-20, 33:5, 34:8, 86:5, 100:5, 107:1, 8-9, 135:3, 145:5-9 — and that’s just some of the Psalms. There are many verses throughout the bible declaring God’s goodness.) Nowhere in the bible do we get a sense that God is evil or acts out in evil ways. Even a verse like Isaiah 45:7 is not saying God created evil as the devil would do evil, rather the evil (or calamity) there is a judgment from a good and just God against demonic and human evil.

In Doug Wilson’s video, he tries to reconcile God’s predestining of all humanity’s actions with human freedom. God has the sovereign power to predestine all a man’s choices while at the same time giving that man freedom to make uncoerced decisions. This is not a contradiction according to Wilson and the Westminster Confession because…. well just because. Wilson actually does not say anything to support this claim in the video. He simply declares it as truth. According to Wilson there is an infinite divide between Creator and creature, and as God is not a part of the universe, He is not displacing the freedom of man by imposing His will on man. Wilson does try to use Jeremiah 18:5-6 to support his idea, but as I show in my last article, that does not work.

It is true that the divide between Creator and creature is infinite, but it is not true that truth itself changes from one side of the divide to the other. Two plus two equals four, and that is true on the Creator side of the divide and the creature side. It is true on the creature side because it is first true on the Creator side. Evil is evil, good is good, on both sides of the divide. If a man freely chooses to rape a woman on the creature side of reality, it is evil. If God freely predestined the man to rape a woman from eternity past, it is still evil. To suggest that God is doing something good when He predestines the free and evil acts of men is to suggest that good is not the same thing on both sides of the Creator/creature divide.

Read the bible as a whole. What you see is God calling out to His people, to turn to Him, to repent of their evil, to trust in His salvation. Never do you get the sense that God has already predestined some to reprobation and others to salvation. Again, I am no Arminian. I agree with Wilson that we lost our moral freedom at the fall. No one is free-willing themselves into heaven. But the Calvinist understanding of God’s sovereignty is an equally false idea.

Read the first part of this subject here.

Related reading: Calvinism is Pantheism

The Sovereignty of God and Douglas Wilson

I recently came across a certain video by Douglas Wilson. It is a video about the sovereignty of God. I like Douglas Wilson – I like his eschatology, and I like his politics (mostly). I’ve read several of his books. His writings on the family are excellent. Wilson is also a Calvinist, and that is where I disagree with him, along with his definition of God’s sovereignty.

Calvinists define sovereignty in a way which seems to be unique to Calvinists. The definition goes something like this: All that happens in this universe happens because God ordained for it to happen exactly as it happens. This can get confusing. If God knows the future of an uncreated universe to the smallest detail, and then creates that universe, He automatically ordains, or predestines, all those future events to happen simply by creating. He may not like any of those events, but still allows them to happen. This could be called a negative predestination through allowance. Some Calvinists would be satisfied with this definition.

With Wilson, however, God positively predestines all events in creation just as an author of a play writes out all the actions of his characters. You bought a cookie dough flavored ice cream cone on Saturday, and you were predestined to do that from before the creation of the worlds. However, according to Wilson, you still bought that ice cream cone freely. You were not coerced against your will to do so.

How can a man be free when all of his actions have been predestined by God before the man even existed? If God is forcing His will on the man, does that not displace the will of the man? Yes, but only if God Himself is confined to and a part of the created universe. When one resident of the universe forces his will on another resident, the freedom of the forced is displaced by the enforcer. But since God is not a part of the universe, and the divide between creation and the Creator is infinite, God can predestine the actions of a man while not displacing that man’s freedom in making those decisions. God, being God creating ex nihilo (not god creating while confined to preexisting conditions), does indeed have the power to ordain all of a man’s actions while also ordaining that same man’s freedom. Make sense? You can watch Wilson’s video to hear a more detailed explanation.

Wilson also distinguishes between man’s creaturely freedom (Should I have pasta for dinner, or steak?) and moral freedom (Should I do evil or not?) We all still have our creaturely freedom, but we lost our moral freedom at the fall.

Is Wilson’s explanation of God’s sovereignty correct? He quotes Jeremiah 18:5-6… Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! (NKJV) Just as the potter does with the clay, so does the author with the play. Wilson acknowledges that his analogy of the author and his play is insufficient when comparing God to mankind. He counters that by stating that God is not a part of creation as a human author and the characters in his play are part of the same creation, and that God is powerful and can predestine the actions of His characters while not violating their freedoms.

Wilson considers his author/play analogy to be the same as Jeremiah’s potter/clay analogy. But they are not the same. In Jeremiah God is very much acting as a character within His creation. Jeremiah’s verse has nothing to do with God predestining the actions of Israel from before time. Read verse seven and following. God is warning Israel: If a nation is evil, God will destroy it, and if that nation repents God will not destroy it. There is nothing there about God acting as a predestining playwright deciding the actions of His characters from the infinite divide of Creator/creature. God is in the “story”, sword in hand, giving His creatures a choice. Wilson states in his video (at 12:06) that the potter/clay analogy breaks down and cannot fully capture the Creator/creature divide, but since the Jeremiah passage is not about God predestining the supposed free actions of Israel, Wilson is eisegetically infusing his own philosophy into the passage. (As all Calvinists do with this passage. You can blame their misreading of Romans 9 for that.)

Wilson has little to say about the character of God and how that fits into his definition of God’s sovereignty. He only quotes the Westminster Confession of Faith, as though that is any kind of authority (well, it is for Calvinists). It says: God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. (WCF 3.1) Now, if God ordains by negative allowance (see second paragraph above), He is not the author of sin. But, if God ordains by positive predestination, He is the author of sin. If God positively predestines a rapist to freely rape, God authored that rape. The infinite divide between Creator and creature is not sufficient to refute this logical fact. Two plus two equals four on both sides of the divide after all. And, if God authored the rape, he authored the evil act. If God authors evil acts, He is evil, or at least He transcends evil (and subsequently also transcends goodness) which is no different than being evil. I feel as though I am blaspheming in even writing this. I can go along pretty far with Calvinism, but this is where I turn in disgust. God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).

I am no Arminianist. Arminianism seriously calls into question the power of God. I will probably write an article about that sometime in the future (I’ve kind of touched on it here). But just as Arminianism calls into question the power of God, Calvinism calls into question the goodness of God. I have written a couple of articles about Calvinism here and here.

This article might be part one on Wilson’s video. If I have more thoughts on it I might do a part two. And I encourage you to take the time to watch Doug Wilson’s video.

The truth transcends Calvinism and Arminianism. Let us look forward to the glorious day when we can leave behind our inadequate theologies.

Related reading: Sovereignty


God is sovereign. What does this mean? It means that God can do whatever He wants to do. No one can stand in His way and say, “No!” What it does not mean is that all that happens is what God wants to happen.

What God allows and what God wills are not always the same thing. Some would argue they are: “If God can stop an evil thing from happening, and then doesn’t stop it, it’s the same as wanting it to happen.” No, it is not. Do not turn God into a computer program.

Anyone with kids knows: What you want your kids to do, and what they choose to do are not always the same. You could stop them from doing the things you don’t want, but because you want them to have a certain amount of freedom, you do not stop them. What you will for them and what you allow them to do are not always the same thing.

God is sovereign, but He is not a robot. God is not a binary computer program which must do what it was programmed to do. God is alive. He does what He wants and He allows what He allows. He gives us the truth, and the truth gives us the freedom to follow Him, to know Him, and to live forever under His good and perfect sovereign rule.

When Does Creation Begin?

How free is God? I would say God is free to do anything which does not violate His own character. Therefore, if God wants to create a certain kind of universe, there is nothing to stop Him from doing so as long as it aligns with His own character, or nature. This, of course, creates problems when looking at the fall of man and the will of man.

True or False: If God did not want the fall of man to happen, and it was possible to give humans their own free will which would not necessarily lead to a fall, then there would never have been a fall since God could have, and would have, created that universe.

Does human free will necessarily lead to a fall? If you say no, then I have to ask: Then why did the fall happen? And if you answer: Because of free will, then I have to ask: Does human free will necessarily lead to a fall?

You can only say that human free will does not necessarily lead to a fall if you believe God does not know the future. However, if God knows the future, He knows if a fall will happen or not. If God does not want a fall, and He wants humans to have their own will, and He sees He can indeed create a universe where humans have free will and there is no fall, then He will create that universe. It’s the one He wants. But, we obviously do not live in that universe. Therefore, either (A) God positively wanted the fall to happen, or (B) He was forced negatively to allow the fall to happen as there was no other option since He wanted humans to have free will, and human free will would always lead to a fall.

Option A seriously calls God’s goodness into question. Why would a good God want a fall and all the evil which accompanies it? Option B calls into question God’s power and freedom. Who decided that God couldn’t create a universe in which humans had free will and never fall?

But wait, Christianity teaches that after the resurrection, after sin and death and the effects of the fall have been completely removed from existence, there will never be another fall, and humans will have free will. So, it turns out that God can indeed create a universe in which humans have free will and yet not fall.

When, exactly, does this creation begin?