“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” – 1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV)
Without going into an elongated theological dissertation on free will, I would rather share some of the thoughts passing through my mind as of lately. Those of you who are close enough to me to have had some sort of deep theological conversation/debate, probably already know where I stand on the topic of free will and how it is used in human nature. To understand the next few paragraphs, I will give the reader a brief summation of how I ended up where I am today.
I was raised in Calvary Chapel, with Calvary Chapel thinking, Calvary Chapel music, Calvary Chapel “distinctives” ingrained in my mind. Before I go on, please note this is not a blog made to bash the Calvary Chapel ‘non-denominational’ denomination. If anyone is not very familiar with the theological stance of Calvary Chapel, the backbone is clearly Arminian. At the time, did I have a problem with it? No. Was I satisfied by what I learned? To my knowledge, yes. Most of the errors throughout my life made at church were because of two separate things: 1. ME. 2. The nature of the [Christian] church (which is a separate discussion all together).
Over time, as I faced different obstacles, I started falling off of the Christian “grid”, if you will. How could this be? I said my ‘sinner’s prayer‘ when I was 5. I got baptized at 15. How did I end up being so evil? And when I say ‘evil.’ I really was. Anyone who has known me all my life will attest to the things I am capable of doing. More time passes and I just became a person without a conscience. As my spirituality declined, my sins escalated into greater sins. Note, for this instance, I put sins on a scale in order convey my message a little more clearly. Being raised in church, being subliminally taught by my church peers, I was able to fool many people into thinking I was still on the “path” God wanted me to be on. It’s easy to live two lives: Church on Sunday through Wednesday and Party Thursday through Saturday. You just talk the right talk, show up when you have to show up, and people think you’re “saved.” It was almost too easy. However, it got harder play the part when I stopped caring about what I was doing and what people knew I was doing. More time passes, a series of life changing events (divorce, drug addiction, sex addiction, alcoholism, near death experiences, etc, etc) occur and then finally, it happened: I realized I wasn’t saved, even though I made the choice to get saved, I was not a true Christian. I had realized I was influenced by my peers into doing something that I was bred to do. I did it all before: I said the sinners prayer, I cried at retreats, I prayed for crying teens, I memorized John 3:16 and all of the other “greatest hits” of the Bible. Fortunately for me, I was later saved on my own, in my bedroom, on my knees in a sea of tears, filled with the darkest of confessions from the heart. The reader may say in Christianese, “Oh no, you were saved! You were just ‘backslidden‘ for a very, very long time.” I would respond to the statement with this passage:
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” – Romans 6:1-2 (ESV)
To say something like “he/she is backsliding” is not giving God the fear he deserves. I used to sit in these Bible studies where people would be so upset over someone they loved whom they thought was a Christian, just living in the world. I mean deep in the world. Not just accidentally getting pregnant or getting a DUI because when Christians are in sin and accidentally get pregnant or get a DUI, it just supports the idea that no one Christian can sin successfully. When I say they are “deep in the world,” I am expressing concern for their spiritual well being because they are people who demonstrate the nature of those described in Romans 1. I wish back then I knew to say, “NO! They aren’t backslidden! These people might not even be Christians! You should be praying for their salvation! And you need to repent also!” Of course, what did I know then? I wasn’t even born again myself.
The idea of ‘free will’ is widely misinterpreted throughout the church on both sides of the fence (Calvinists and Arminians). I know for myself, I was raised with a very light hearted view of the salvific process, including what happens after the process. The modern idea of free will not only states the obvious problems, giving man power over every choice, good and bad; but it also doesn’t give God the praise or fear he deserves. It sort of leaves God powerless, in my opinion. I do want to raise some questions in the minds and hearts of those who have spent their lives speaking Christianese, playing the part, singing the songs, quoting the scriptures, side hugging your brethren. They are the people believe the choices they make are theirs only. Here they are as follows:
- If you say you have free will, why do you say, “My flesh is stronger than me” or “don’t give in to your flesh”?
- If you say you have free will, why do you say, “Satan got a hold on my life”?
- If you say you have free will, why do you recite, “Let Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”?
- If you say you have free will, why do you pray, “Holy Spirit, reign over my life”?
- If you say you have free will, why do you cry, “Lord, help me to not sin again”?
I hear Christians all around me say these statements verbatim all the time. A service I was at a few weeks ago had an altar call and in the “sinners prayer” were some of these very ideas. Lately, I’ve been thinking about these very questions; not in a theological sense, but more in a concerned sense. We can all agree what separates us [human beings] from the Angels in Heaven is the very gift of being given the power to make choices. Would one be able to define having a choice as being free will? One could, but ask yourself, what influences your choices? Your flesh, the Holy Spirit, Satan, your mom, Jesus, God..what? Something or someone has to have an influence on every choice you make, whether you like it or not. In fact, if you speak Christianese, you agree by the things you say when you ask someone to pray for you, or when you confess a sin to another person in the church, or when you praise God for giving you the power to “make the right choices in the midst of temptation.”
I have to conclude here because again, this could turn into a theological dissertation. At this point in my life, I want to throw my arms in the air when it comes to taking a theological stance on anything! I side with one thought and God shows me the opposite. However, since the inception of my regeneration, I have always felt the urgency to open the eyes of the sleeping church. I was asleep in the same way and I look around and see the same thing in churches everywhere. As much dismay I express towards the church, I love it with all my heart. I love the people in it. I love the people that surround me. I love the people I grew up with. I go back often to the church I was brought up in and the people I knew as a child are still there, growing old, having families. I love them all! In the church with all the different denominations, doctrines, verbatim, methods of discipline, and so on; these things become blinding and worse, binding in hearts of men and women passing through church life. Church, give God the fear and reverence He deserves. Don’t just mind the vulgar things you say, but mind the holy things you think you are saying. Be vigilant of everything around you. Do not be haughty and proud of your own choices because most likely, the choice you made was not your idea in the first place.
“In efficacious grace we are not merely passive, nor yet does God do some and we do the rest. But God does all, and we do all. God produces all, we act all. For that is what produces, viz. our own acts. God is the only proper author and fountain; we only are the proper actors. We are in different respects, wholly passive and wholly active.” – Jonathan Edwards