Saturday, March 10, 2007
The Line Cannot Comprehend the Cube
No, this will not be an exhaustive treatise on the issue of Free Will and Election. I don't have time for that. However, I do have some thoughts that aren't mine and are quite profound. It all grew out of a conversation we were having last night during the Godspell dinner break. We began talking about this issue, and Eli quoted Randy Alcorn as saying "Free will and election are parallel lines that meet in heaven." I thought that was a profound way of saying it. I am a firm believer in the doctrine of predestination, but at the same time I believe that man does have free will. How does this work? How can I believe both? It basically comes down to two things.
First, I believe in the sufficiency of Scripture. It tells us all that we need to know. I also believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. What it tells us is totally true. So the way I approach this question is as follows: 1) The Bible tells us clearly that God plans out our steps and directs our actions. But 2) the Bible also tells us clearly that we are held responsible for our actions. I know that both of these facts are completely true, but in my finite human mind I cannot completely match them up. They are an apparent contradiction, a paradox. I can work as much as possible to reconcile the two facts, but I must never downplay either fact.
Second, what I find to be the best reconciliation between the two is from Jonathan Edwards. He said (and this is a paraphrase since I can't find the exact quote), "Free will is the ability to choose that which we most desire." The definition of free will is terribly important to this whole discussion, and this is the best definition I've been able to find. Edwards goes on to explain that while we are perfectly free to choose what we most desire, because of our sinful natures we can only ever choose sin. It takes God to reach down and transform our desires so that we begin to desire good things. We don't reach for him. So we find that in this definition, we are able to uphold, to a certain extent, both free will and predestination.
This helps us to a point, but it still leaves us with questions about God authoring sin, how we still have much freedom in choosing anything, etc. Here is my very Calvinistic answer: It's a mystery to me. And I'm okay with that. My Apologetics teacher Nathan Sasser once said that Arminianism is the refuge for people afraid of mystery. They don't want to believe that there's anything they can't understand, so they've decided to play down predestination and play up free will in order for things to make sense to them. It takes a truly humble man, though, to be able to admit that he doesn't know something. That's where I stand on this and many other doctrinal topics. I seek to understand them as much as I can, but I must eventually cede that I am like a line, and God is like a cube. How can I possibly comprehend what is in a complete other dimension?