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What Is Free Will?

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
August 10, 2021 12:01 am

What Is Free Will?

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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August 10, 2021 12:01 am

People have many ideas about what 'free will' means. What does God's Word teach? Today, R.C. Sproul helps us rightly understand how God's sovereignty relates to human choices.

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Some people argue that God would never require us to do something, we don't want to do, including being saved, so they elevate man's free will in salvation.

Others maintain that God is sovereign and assigned his will, alone, to our salvation in this debate, which is rage for centuries. Definitions matter that will talk about that next on Renewing Your Mind. So we have the ability to choose God and what does it really mean to choose him welcome to Renewing Your Mind on this Tuesday today on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. RC Sproul helps us see that God's sovereignty and man's responsibility are not at odds any time that we examine the question of predestination. I think the question is raised more often than any other is the question of the relationship between God's sovereignty and our free will as human beings. So in this session I want to direct our attention to an examination of what we mean by those words free will. What does it mean to have a free will. What does it mean to be a free moral agent and volitional preacher under the sovereignty of God.

First of all let me say that there are different views of what free will comprises that are bandied about in our culture, and I think it's important that we recognize these various views.

The first few.

I'm going to call the humanist view of free will, which I would say is the most widely prevalent view of human freedom that we find in our culture and I'm sad to say, in my opinion it's the most widely held view within the church, as well as outside of the church. In this scheme, free will is defined as our ability to make choices spontaneously. That is that the choices that we make are in no wise condition or determined by any prior prejudice, inclination or disposition say that again that we make our choices spontaneously. Nothing.

Previous to the choice determines the choice, no prejudice, no prior disposition, or prior inclination, but the choice comes literally on its own as a spontaneous action by the person I see at the outset to serious problems that we face as Christians. With this definition of free will. The first is a theological or moral problem. The second one is a rational problem. I should really say that there are three problems because the whole lecture will focus on the third one, but at the outset, we immediately see two problems. The first is as I said a theological moral problem.

If our choices are made purely spontaneously without any prior inclination any prior disposition. In a sense what we're saying is that there is no reason for the choice.

There is no motivation or motive for the choice. It just happens spontaneously and if that is the way our choices operate. Then we immediately face this problem. How could such an action. Have any moral significance to it all because one of the things. For example, that the Bible is concerned about in the choices we make is not only what we choose, but what our intention was in the making of that choice. We recall, for example, the story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers and when he has this reunion with his brothers. Many, many years later and they repent of that former sin. What does Joseph say to his brother someone he accepts them and forgives them he says you meant it for evil but God meant it for good, so that God made a choice in the matter God had chosen at least to allow this thing to happen, the fall, Joseph, his brothers made a choice about what to do with Joseph. There inclination in the making of the choice was wicked. God also made a choice in allowing it to take place, but God's reason God's intention in this activity was altogether righteous and holy and so God and considering a good deed. For example not only examines the outward deed itself.

The action is also considers what the inner motivation. The intent behind the date but if there are no inner motivations. If there are no intense there's no real intentionality use the philosophical term that how could the action be of any moral significance.

Just happens but even deeper than that problem we face. Immediately, the question of whether or not such a choice could actually be made not simply whether it would be moral if it were made, but could a creature without any prior disposition inclination bent or reason even make a choice. Let's look at this by way of a couple of examples.

If I have no prior inclination or disposition. What is attractive about that idea is that that would mean that my will is neutral. It's inclined neither to the left nor to the right. It's neither inclined toward righteousness nor towards evil but is simply neutral. There is no previous bent or inclination to it. I think of the story of Alice in Wonderland when she and her travels comes to the fork in the road and she can't decide whether to take the left fork or the right fork. She looks up and there is the Cheshire cat in the tree grinning at her and she asks of the Cheshire cat which road should I take in the Cheshire cat replies by saying that the pants where are you going and she says I don't know what this ESA then I guess it doesn't matter if you have no intend no plan, no desire to get anywhere with them, or does it make whether you take the left or the right will in that situation we look at it and we think will Alice now has two choices she can go to the left or she can go to the right when in fact she has four choices she can go to the left she can go to the right or she can turn back and go back where she came from or she can stand there and do nothing which is also a choice and stand there until she perishes from her in activity, so she has four choices in the question were going to ask is why would she make any of those four choices if she has no reason or inclination behind the choice if her will, were utterly neutral. What would in fact happen to her.

No reasonable for the left of the right or standing there as far as going back which was which she would make a choice should be paralyzed because a choice without a motive is like an effect without a cause. One more illustration. The story of the neutral willed mule who had no particular disposition to the left or to the right.

His desires inwardly were all equal and the farmer came in one day to feed him and on the right side of the mule. The farmer placed a bucket of oats and on the left side. The farmer plays one of the mules eat hey a bunch of equidistant from the mule Bella mule has no preference for hay over oats and no preference for oats overhead. His inclination is utterly neutral in either direction.

What happens to the mule who starved to death because recent work inclination or desire for the one over the other and so the problem we have with the humanist notion of freedom, is that it's the old problem of the rabbit out of the hat without a hat and without a magician. It's something coming out of nothing and affect without a cause spontaneous choice. In other words, is a rational impossibility. It would have to be an effect without a cause just in passing, I may add that from a Christian view man in his fallenness is not seen as being in a state of neutrality with respect to the things of God.

He does have a prejudice. He does have a bias. He does have an inclination in his inclination is toward wickedness and away from the things of God but just let me say that in passing. As we look at various Christian views of freedom of the will. I personally think that the greatest book that is ever been written on the subject is entitled simply the freedom of the will by America's greatest scholar Jonathan Edwards at incidentally that designation is America's greatest scholar is not my own accounting cycle. Britannica has voted Jonathan Edwards the greatest scholarly mind that the United States produced in his work for in the will.

I think is the closest examination and analysis of this thorny question I've ever read the course. Martin Luther's famous work on the bondage of the will is also one that's very important that Christians, I think you need to read the let's look for a moment at Edward's definition of the freedom of the will. Edwards says that freedom or free will is the mind choosing what he saying there is that though he distinguishes between the mind and the will. He is saying that the two are inseparably related. We do not make moral choices without the mind of proving the direction of our choice. That is one of the dimensions that is closely related to the biblical concept of conscience that the mind is involved in moral choices. I become aware of certain options and if I prefer one over the other to have a preference before I can make the choice I have to have some awareness of what those options are for it to be a moral decision so that the will is not something that packs independent from the mind but acts in conjunction with the mind. Whatever the mind deems as being desirable is what the will is inclined to choose addition to definitions. Edwards gives us of an iron rule that I call Edwards law of free will.

I think this is perhaps his most important contribution to the discussion of human freedom.

Edwards declares this, but free moral agents always act according to the strongest inclination they have at the moment of choice. The Centinela White. We always choose according to our inclinations and we always choose according to our strongest inclination at a given moment. We put in simple terms. Any time that you sin. What that action indicates is that the moment of your sin, your desire to commit the sin is greater in that moment than your desire is to obey Christ if your desire to obey Christ were greater then your desire to commit the sin. What would you do, you would not sin but at the moment of choice. We always follow our strongest inclination, our strongest disposition or our strongest desires. It seems to us. However, in this business of choosing that there lots of times we choose things for no apparent reason whatsoever. For example, if I would ask you why are you sitting in the chair that you are sitting in right now could you analyze your own internal thought processes and responses to the options that were before you. When you came into this room and say with clarity. The reason why I'm sitting on the end. Here is because I was like to sit on the ensure will because I wanted to sit next to Jean or I wanted to be in the front row so I could be on the video camera or this was the only chair left open and I didn't want to stand and I'd rather sit and stand and so my desire for setting was stronger than my desire for standing and so I said that what I'm saying to you is that there's a reason why you are sitting where you are sitting at mid been a very quick decision. It may be simply that you're lazy and you don't like to walk and that the chair that you saw vacant was the closest one available to, chances are the reasons go deeper than that. There are some people if you walk them into a park where there is a park bench that is vacant and room for three people and they sit on the bench 100 times out of 100, though, sit on the end of the bench rather than the middle of the bench. In fact, usually on the left end of the writing where other people will always choose the middle why some people enjoy crowds, they like to be in the middle of the action. They have a gregarious personality. Other people like the state or they can have a safe exit will stay on the end of the bench… They were not always sitting there analyzing very carefully why we make the choices we make. But there's a reason for every choice that we make and we always act according to the strongest inclination of the moment. No, there are two things that we might raise immediately to object to Edwards law of choosing the first one is what I can tell you lots of occasions where I have done things that I really didn't want to do and I have experienced coercion. What coercion involves is external forces coming into our lives that seek to force us to do things that all things being equal, we would not choose to do, but in most instances the power of coercion can be usually just reduce our options to two they can severely reduce our options. The gunman comes up to me in the sidewalk, and he puts a gun to my head and he says your money or your life. He has just reduce my options to two by external force and coercion.

As in all things being equal, I was not looking for somebody to give my wallet away to that night so I had no great desire to give this man, my money, but when the guns at my head and my options are my brains on the sidewalk or my billfold in his pocket.

Suddenly, I have a stronger desire to live and lose my money than to die and still lose my money. So at that moment my desire level to live may be stronger than my desire little to resist this man and so I give him my wallet. Now there may be people in the same situation. Who says I would rather die than give into coercion even though I know if I refuse to give him this watt he's gonna kill me anyway and take my money still unlock and help involves a lycée should make it even then there desire to resist is greater than their desire not to resist. And so they resist secular so even when options are severely reduced and external forces change our desire levels because this is the other point we have to be aware of is that human desires fluctuate and they are many in our situations where we're making choices is rare that were only choosing between two options or even just between a good option about option one of the toughest moral choices for Christian Americans between rival goods with two opportunities.

I'm not sure which is the one in which I can most serve Christ and that becomes very difficult.

We know that our desire levels change in fluctuate, but the second objection that I can hear coming is the statement from the apostle Paul when he says the good that I would.

I do not and that which I would not is the very thing I do and it seems to suggest right there that the apostle Paul by apostolic authority is telling us that it is indeed possible for a person to choose against his wishes to choose a guest's desires.

I can only say in response that that I do not believe it was the apostle's intention there to give us a technical treatment of the intricacies of the working out of the faculty of choosing what he is expressing is something that we all experience that I have with in the a desire to please Christ, but that the czar that is present. Does not always win out when the moment of truth comes, all things being equal, is a Christian. If you send me RC would you like to be free from sin. I was of course I'd like to be free from sin.

However, I say that now until the temptation of sin presses in upon me in my desire for that sin intensifies and then I surrender to it frequently because when I work and act according to my desires.

I am working and acting freely. Calvin in examining the question of free will, says that if we mean by free will the fallen man has the ability to choose what he wants. Then, of course, fallen man has free will. If we mean by that term. That's man in his fallen state has the moral power and ability to choose righteousness then said Calvin, free will is far too grandiose a term to apply to fallen man and with that sentiment. I would agree always seemed Edwards view loosing Calvin's view now will go into the sprawling in view of free will by appealing to irony or to a form of paradox, I would like to make this statement that, in my opinion, every choice that we make is free and every choice that we make is determined, every choice that we make is free, and every choice we make is determined now that sounds flatly contradictory because we normally see the categories of determine and free as being mutually exclusive categories saying that if something is determined by something else which the say it's caused by something else, would seem to indicate that it couldn't possibly be free, but what I'm speaking here is not determinism. Determinism means that things happen to me strictly by virtue of external forces. I'm walking down the street and the semi-throw something out of an airplane 15,000 feet in the air. I'm walking down a street line my business in the suitcase because the heaven and lands on my head that has affected the course of my life in a very serious way, but not because I chose to have the suitcase drop on my head at that moment in time something is happened to me over which I had no control. It has been determined by external forces. But in addition to external forces that are determining factors in what happens to us. There are also internal forces that are determining factors. What we are saying along with Edwards and Calvin is that if my choices flow out of my disposition and out of my desires and if my actions are in effect that have causes and reasons behind then my personal desire in a very real sense determines my personal choice. Now if my desires determine my choice. How then can I be free member.

I said that in every choice are choices both free and determined. But what determines it is me and this we call self. You fill it in the termination self determination which is not the denial of freedom but is the essence of freedom for the self to be able to determine its own choices is what free will is all about, but I need to stop because sometimes when I'm simply to say that in the next lecture we will look at the snow from a biblical perspective to see what the Bible says about man's moral ability or the lack of it.

With respect to things that is such great clarity on the concept of free will.

You know, we define our terms properly when we define the biblically these things become clearer. This week on Renewing Your Mind.

We are focusing on Dr. RC Sproul series chosen by God in six messages. RC shows how election harmonizes with human freedom and responsibility. Let me commend this series to you as a way to continue your study for your donation of any about today. We will send you all six messages onto DVDs will also include the hardback book by the same title in the digital study guide for the series, you can make your request online and Renewing Your Mind.org or you can call us with your gift at 804 354-3430. I had the opportunity to visit with leader teaching fellow, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson. We talked about this particular teaching series by Dr. Strohl that that many people said was a game changer for them in terms of understanding God's sovereignty and how they were saved to know. I think that is partly because one of the great things about RC that was his gaunt centeredness on so RC encouraged people to come eyes from the biblical teaching on God.

I think then they discovered that God really is God, and that I think RC really tried to illustrate in his own ministry. That great statement of Martin Luther's let God be God. And you know I think it on time. RC did so much to help people because of the sense of the gauntlets of God is particularly important, I think in the NIV coffin history of people's eyes flow come in and dine works towards the on to Lawrence. The self and that it really had influence the Christian churches will where Christianity was seen essentially as awake as a way of life improvement and that meant that life was decentered from God to let God was dethroned on because Isaiah 6 meant so much to RC. I think it was inevitable that his ministry would be focused on the absoluteness of God's sovereignty and thus of course led people to find a worship unto a greater stability in middle and Christian lines.

Nothing that's so true. Understanding God properly brings clarity to every area of our lives. I have heard from so many people that Dr. Sproles teaching was the first introduction to this biblical doctrine of election. He certainly strengthen my understanding of it and that's why we're thankful for your financial gifts to leader ministries. You make it possible for us to continue making these resources available again, you can request your own copy of Dr. Sproles hardbound book chosen by God plus the full teaching series and the digital study guide with your donation of any about our phone number again is 800-435-4343 and her web address is Renewing Your Mind.org today, doctors will help us see that our free will is determined by our strongest desire.

Tomorrow will show us that those desires are controlled by something much deeper than I will. Our sin nature. Please join us Wednesday as we continue the series chosen by God here on Renewing Your Mind


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