Calvinism and Free Will
Does man have a free will?
Is it possible that while God may have a free will that man does not?
We are given by God, with no choice of our own:
- sentience (self-awareness)
- accountability to God
So although our choices are limited by those parameters, we still have the power of choice within them. But what if there really are no choices, and man is not a free moral agent? This would be the logical conclusion:
The power of choice, and thus free will, is an illusion. We don’t know why we like one car and not another, why we choose the path in life that we do, why we do or decide anything at all. Created, finite beings can be nothing more than stimulus-response entities. Apart from God, there is no such thing as an act of will. Yet at the same time, God exhorts us to make the right choices. Why? Because we are designed to respond to exhortation. Likewise, we preach the Gospel only because God designed people to respond to the Gospel, and we must preach it in order to elicit the response. We ‘plant seeds’ simply because we are commanded to, and we have no choice.
Without the power of choice, my personal growth as a Christian is simply a pre-programmed reaction to many pre-programmed stimuli. The whole of human history is just a giant reaction to the action of God. Understanding this, people will react exactly as they are programmed to react: either to condemn God as unfair or to worship him as Lord. But if those who worship him are saved without merit, then those who don’t are condemned without merit. And yet there we are, either in heaven conscious of our happiness, or in hell conscious of our suffering. But neither can stand in judgment of God for his fate, since God is sovereign and above reproach. As it says in Romans 9:20, “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”
No one would argue whether God has the power to do this. The question is whether he actually did it, and whether limited human free will violates (is mutually exclusive of) the sovereignty of God, as Calvinism insists.1