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Redeemer Church

Redeemer Church
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The High, Holy Ideal of Man's Autonomy

One of the primary objections I hear to the whole idea of predestination and election is that they both stand as an encroachment upon the free will of man. Of course those who hold to a Reformed view of predestination believe that man's will is free because it can choose what it wants, but fallen because it wants nothing to do with God. So without some sort of intervention by God (what we call the efficacious call), the will remains fallen and no one chooses God.

Libertarian free will maintains that man is a mixture of good and bad but still has the ability to accept or reject God's offer of salvation. Though the Bible says that God is sovereign and directs the paths of kings and kingdoms, and tends even to the sparrows and lilies of the field; yet He abstains from imposing upon our salvation so that a genuine decision can be made of our own free will. He will not and indeed cannot interfere with man's choice without compromising its freedom, so they say.

However, I want to challenge the idea that Reformed doctrine alone violates man's free will. If, in fact, this is the case, then I have a question for everyone who holds to the position of libertarian free will. Have you ever prayed for the salvation of someone? Maybe a friend, a co-worker, or someone even closer to you, a loved one perhaps.

If so, what exactly were you praying for if not God's intervention? Whether you were praying that God would "open their eyes", "soften their heart", or "show them the light", your intent in the prayer was that God would somehow alter or manipulate the circumstances (internal or external) so they would be more inclined to believe.

Such a prayer is directed against such circumstances as rebellion, the temptation of sin, ignorance, peer pressure, etc. that are essentially alternative options for the will of man to choose as more desirable than God's gift of salvation. These factors, left unchecked, would bring an individual to choose of their own autonomous free will against God and for the lure of sin and the flesh. How glorifying to God is such a such a situation, if this is in fact the case? That God must remove sinful lures and enticements of the flesh that our will would choose as more desirable than Him so that we will settle for His salvation amidst the remaining alternatives.

The problem as I see it is this: as long as an individual's autonomous free will is held up as the ultimate ideal in humanity, our prayers are useless or even offensive. Such a prayer at best falls on the deaf ears of God who dares not "stack the deck" for anyone to love him, and at worst asks God to violate the most precious of man's character traits, his autonomy (*note the sarcasm).

Of course every Christian knows this is absurd. We should be praying fervently for the salvation of all men. And my point is this: a praying Christian who believes in libertarian free will is not really so opposed to God's intervention and involvement as they claim (and one who isn't praying for the salvation of the lost, well, we've got bigger problems there). Thus, Reformed doctrine is not singularly guilty of doing violence to man's autonomous freedom by suggesting that we are slaves to sin and God must change our wills before we can respond to Him. If our will desires the inclinations of the flesh, how will we ever choose salvation unless God first performs surgery and removes our hearts (and wills) of stone and gives us a heart that actually pumps life through our veins?

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