Do Humans Have More Freedom Than God AND Does God Have a Libertarian Free Will? by J.W. Hendryx
One of the main objections of Arminians, Semi-pelagians and other synergists to divine election is based on moral rather than exegetical grounds. While debating these issues online over the years, I have heard many of them contend that the Augustinian view of God is morally repugnant since God could and would never force humans to do something against their will. And since God is holy, they reason, He could not ordain all things that come to pass, because this would make God the author of evil. Well, instead of this being an essay defending God's sovereignty and meticulous providence over all things (both good subjects in themselves but best left for another time) I wish to use their belief in God's inability to act contrary to His nature to make a point ... one that is fatal to their belief in libertarian free will.
We all know that the Arminians teach that man has a free will in the libertarian sense. What this means, simply is that they believe man has the ability to choose otherwise. That is, they affirm that human beings are free to choose between opposites ... to make choices uninfluenced any prior prejudice, inclination, or disposition. They believe the will, being neutral, can just as easily choose good or evil. On the surface this may seem reasonable but when you think about it for a moment it makes no sense because deep down we know, and the Scriptures affirm, that a person must always choose according to what he is by nature, otherwise how could the choice be rightfully said to be his own? Let us never forget that the nature of a person is not a thing he possesses. It is something he is. For example, When a person loves evil by nature, he will always make choices in line with what that nature desires most. Just as it is the nature of a dog to bark and a cat to meow so it is the nature of the unregenerate to be hostile to God and love darkness (John 3:19, 20).
The small but important point I wish to make in all this is simple, and I think it packs the most punch by asking a question. The question is, does God have a free will in the libertarian sense? i.e. Is God able to choose otherwise? (is He "free" to choose good or evil?) And if not does this mean human beings have more freedom then God does, since, to libertarians, human beings do have this freedom to choose good or evil?
According to the Arminians own testimony which affirms that God is holy and therefore cannot be the author of evil, it follows they must also deny that God is has a free will in the libertarian sense. By affirming one they must deny the other because they are mutually exclusive. When it comes to God, Arminians actually must acknowledge the compatibilist view ... that is, that God cannot make choices that violate His own essence; such as God cannot lie, be unholy or break His promise. These truths Arminians will defend with their lives. Because such is the universally acknowledged (Calvinist and Arminian) nature of our holy God. But since Arminians, at the same time, dogmatically confess that human beings have a libertarian free will and can therby violate their nature in a choice, does that mean Arminians believe that fallen humans have more freedom than God? Do we have the freedom to choose otherwise but God doesn't? Let me ask this again in another way. Since we all agree that God cannot make choices that violate his nature, do Arminians believe that God is less free than human beings are? Arminians define freedom as the ability to choose otherwise and since they claim that God cannot do anything to violate His essence, (but humans can) it follows that they believe human beings are in some way superior, in their natural abilities, to God. Simply put, the Arminian position is erroneously affirming that while God is bound to who He is by nature, human beings are not.
To the Augustinian, God created us after His image and, like God, we can only choose according to what we are by nature. Fallen unregenerate man is unspiritual and thus cannot choose Christ without God's direct merciful spiritual intervention to save him. We need a new nature, a new birth or regeneration if we are to see Christ's beauty and excellence and thus desire to trust in Him. Water does not rise above its source. Jesus says, a good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bad fruit...Each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush.(Luke 6:44) This language speaks of the fact that a nature of a thing determines what it produces. Jesus is not teaching a botany lesson to us he is making an analogy about the nature of man. Evil men have evil thoughts and cannot produce thoughts and actions that violate who they are. Jesus said, "You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart." (Matt 12:34) Later when speaking to those who did not believe in Him, he said,
"You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44)
Jesus claims they did not believe BECAUSE they were the Devil's offspring. Their nature, just like his, causes them of necessity to behave in a certain way, that is, to reject the truth.
Lets take this another step ... The saints in heaven who are sealed in righteousness can no longer sin. So if Arminian theology were true, does this mean that when we are glorified on the Last Day that we are less free than when on earth? No, because in the Bible freedom is not defined as the ability to choose otherwise but means, rather, the freedom to be holy. When Christ says He sets men free, He sets them free from their bondage to sin. Like Romans 6 says, we were once slaves of sin but are now slaves of righteousness. This is what Christ means when He sets us free.
To conclude: That God and the glorified saints in heaven do not have a libertarian free will, and the fact that our possession of one would make us more free than they are...alone should be sufficient to reduce the Arminian view of freedom to absurdity ....and should, therefore, be abandoned.
As Luther said in his Disputation against Scholastic Theology,(71) The law of God and the human will are two enemies, which can never be reconciled apart from the grace of God. (5) It is false to say that the human will, left to itself, is free to choose between opposites; for it is not free, but in bondage. (74) The law makes sin abound, because it exasperates and repels the will. (75) But the grace of God makes righteousness abound though Jesus Christ, who causes us to love the law. (89) Grace is necessary as a mediator to reconcile the law with the will.
True freedom, by biblical definition, is holiness, not the freedom to choose otherwise. We should, therefore, not boast in our freedom but in God's grace in Jesus Christ, which sets us free.
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