This post will be a little different from previous ones. Till now, I’ve had a definite opinion about my topic. What’s prompted me to write about something in the past has been some reading I’ve done or an audio / video clip I’ve watched. I don’t claim to be an expert on the subjects I’ve covered, but I would say I have a very strong leaning.
This will be more of an exploration – one that will require your input and reaction in order to be successful.
I will start out with saying that I would like to use the Bible as the primary source to lead this exploration. Certainly secondary sources will be considered, but if the source contradicts Biblical truth, it won’t do much to influence my opinion. (Wait, didn’t I start this post with a Hollywood movie clip.)
Now with any exploration of Biblical application, there is room for interpretation. Certainly, looking at any human notion and then applying God’s infinite wisdom into explaining it is somewhat backward. We ought to start with God’s Word and then use it to understand our world. By doing the former, it’s like using my kids’ Crayola crayon box to paint a Monet.
So the topic I’d like to explore is that of Free Will. There are endless ways to slice this. Not to get all Clinton-esque and asking what the definition of “is” is, but let me set the stage this way.
I am interested in exploring what the Bible teaches about how God, Satan, and individual humans interact. Not really looking to draw lines and boundaries. Usually those conversations already have an underlying conclusion or motive in mind and the search is really to done to justify your position. But in the context of examining Free Will, I want to dig deeper into how much “control” we, as individual human beings, actually have in our lives. I’m assuming that a Control would be the antithesis of Free Will – anything that seeks to Control us diminishes our Free Will to Choose.
So let me start with a few passages of Scripture.
1. Genesis 18:23-26 (NKJV) – 23 And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? 25 Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
26 So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.”
2. Exodus 4:21-23 (NKJV) – 21 And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in your hand. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Israel is My son, My firstborn. 23 So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn.”’”
3. Joshua 24:14-15 (NKJV) – 14 “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! 15 And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
4. 2 Chronicles 7:12-14 (NKJV) – 12 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
5. Job 1:6-12, 2:1-6 (NKJV) – 6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan[a] also came among them. 7 And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?”
So Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”
8 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”
9 So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”
12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.”
So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?”
Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”
3 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.”
4 So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. 5 But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”
6 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.”
6. Philippians 2:12-13 (NKJV) – 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
Okay. Lots of Scripture here. The theme through these verses are the ideas of Control, Influence, and Free Will.
In the first citation, Abraham is essentially bargaining with God to spare Sodom. He starts with 50 and makes it down to 10. If 10 righteous were found, He asked if God would spare the city. God agrees. We know that in fact there were not 10 righteous to be found in Sodom and thus the city was destroyed. The question is — can God’s Will be influenced to change?
Next up, we have Moses getting his instructions from God to go back to Egypt and instruct Pharaoh to let the Israelites free. Yet, God knows Pharaoh will not release them initially because He will harden Pharaoh’s heart. Did God remove Pharaoh’s Free Will?
Joshua, after conquering all of the pagan tribes and cleaning out the Promised Land, charges Israel to make a choice — to leave all of the pagan gods and rituals behind and to follow God or to abandon Him and continue worshipping the idols of the land. Does this support the notion that we have Free Will?
After rebuilding the temple and dedicating it, Solomon receives a warning from God that He will bring draught and pestilence to the land in order to punish the Israelites for their rebellion unless they turned back to Him, humbled themselves and prayed. Is God’s punishment for rebellion a violation of Free Will?
In the beginning of Job, God remarks to Satan how good and upright his servant is. Satan challenges God to put Job’s faith to the test by taking away all of his worldly possessions, his family, and finally his health. God allows Satan to attack Job, his family and his things. It’s clear that Satan must be given permission to act. Does this authority given to Satan hinder our Free Will to choose?
Finally, in Paul’s exhortation to the church in Philippi, is to Paul speaks of God who works in us to will and do. Is God’s will Controlling our own?
This is just the beginning of my exploration. I am hoping you will comment and share your thoughts, and other parts of Scripture, to consider the mysteries of our Free Will.