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August 18, 2022 12:01 am
We have no natural instinct, inclination, or disposition to God until the Holy Spirit creates that desire within our souls. Today, R.C. Sproul appeals to Jonathan Edwards' classic discourse on the freedom of the will.
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Do we have free will. Can we make whatever choices we want one. The moment of chores columns, whichever is the stronger is the one we follow that doesn't deny freedom. That's the essence of freedom. That is to have the power or the ability to choose according to your inclination to choose what you want. It certainly seems like we have free will and I chose the shirt I'm wearing today and I chose what I eat for breakfast. But did I choose to become a Christian.
We been examining questions like this all week on Renewing Your Mind and in one of the questions it always comes up in this discussion of free will is are we born to sin as our teacher Dr. RC we come now in our historical reconnaissance of the controversies that have ensued over the notion of free will to the man I believe is the most prodigious scholar to address this problem of all time and a courses. Jonathan Edwards 1754, Edwards published his classic work on the freedom of the will and some of you have had the opportunity to read that you know that it is very technical very abstract and very philosophical.
It mixes a study of biblical texts along with a great deal of philosophical argumentation and is arguably Jonathan Edwards's greatest work.
I personally believe that it's the greatest treatment on the subject of free will.
That's ever been done and has not ever been refuted in my judgment, remember that Edwards was the pastor for many years of his congregation in Northampton and when slanderous charges were leveled against him by an unscrupulous man in the community. Edwards was discharged from his responsibilities as pastor of the church in a heartbreaking episode in church history whereupon leaving Northampton. He went to Stockbridge and became a missionary to the Indians and in his spare time while ministering to the Indians. The took the time to write freedom of the will which he composed and completed in a period of three months and that in itself is mind-boggling.
Now in this very important resource for studying this question Edwards deals with the question what is the will anyway because it was customary for scholars and anthropologists and philosophers historically to make sharp distinctions among three aspects of our humanity, the mind, the affections and the will or sometimes the mind, the heart and the will and Edwards agreed with the necessity of distinguishing between the faculty of thinking, which is the mind and the faculty of choosing which is the will so he does distinguish between mind and will.
But in the making of that distinction between mind and will.
Edwards warned against separating them, and he is arguing that the mind and the will are intimately interrelated. In fact, he defines the will as the mind choosing and that's an important consideration because Edwards in analyzing the operation of the will, the making of human decisions and the exercising of choices. That is what is involved in volition, involuntary choices, he looked at it. First of all, from the perspective of the law of causality which teaches that every effect must have an antecedent cough that it is impossible for an effect to just happen spontaneously X knee hello without a cause, and when he looked at human choices. He analyzed human choices as a fax which require causes and that's what caused him to focus his attention on the whole question that we've touched on already at different points in our course of inclination of bent and of disposition that is that the choices that we made are made for a reason and the mind supplies. The reason, and so the choices that we make. According to Edwards are choices based upon what we deem to be good for us.
Now when he uses the term good there.
He doesn't mean necessarily that which is morally good, but rather what is pleasing to us in the making of our choices we deem that the good for me at this moment is to choose what is most pleasing to me at the choose what I want.
So, in simple terms what Edwards is speaking of here is the role that is played by desire in the making of choices, but again desire is not something that can be reduced simply to a physical appetite like an experience of hunger, but rather the mind is involved in here. If, for example, I have a physical craving and urging by my body to eat and I feel hungry in terms of appetite. I'm aware of that consciously and for me to eat or to choose to eat.
It is because my mind is making a judgment about what is good for me at the moment, or what will be pleasing to me at the moment, and of course the mind's judgment of what is going to be pleasing to me at the moment may indeed be influenced by my physical appetite. But nevertheless, in the choice to eat the mind is not bypassed.
And so the mind deems or considers a particular action to be good and pleasing to us and on that basis, the choice than is made now course, it's also Edwards who, in analyzing this whole process of making choices comes to the conclusion that all choices are cost by something that just happen next. Neil, as I said, and that which causes choices in the final analysis, our inclinations, so that's the first point, we have to understand the choices are motivated or driven by inclinations. Now Edwards understood that as human beings we are complex creatures we have complex ideas in our mind we have at times opposing value systems and we also have complex motives and desires within our law. Looking back to the apostle Paul. For example, when he spells out his struggles in the seventh chapter of Romans. He says the good that I would.
I do not and that which I would not. That is what I do and it sounds as if Paul is saying that he has the ability and of himself to do something he really doesn't want to do is that what the apostle is saying or is the apostle saying I have a war going on inside of me between conflicting desires and conflicting inclinations. All things being equal, I want to always obey Christ. I want to always do what is pleasing to him. I do have a desire for God. I do have a desire for obedience. However, my flesh has contrary desires to the spirit and sometimes I follow the desires of the flesh rather than the desire of the spirit and so in that sense, when Paul is acknowledging that he sins and surrenders to the desires of the old man. He is not at that time saying that he's completely vacant of any contrary desires to the things of God.
Know the war goes on.
And that's how Edwards would understand the way Paul speaks of this situation by saying the good that I would. I do not Edwards would fill in the blanks there and say to the apostle.
The reason why the good that you would do, you do not is because you have a stronger would not at the moment of your sin, then you have of doing it.
That is, there's a conflict of inclinations. Now Edwards pressing point is this that we always and everywhere in every volitional situation we find ourselves choose according to our strongest inclination at the moment that's important.
The strongest inclination at the moment that some people look at this and Sable does not mean that we are determined well as I've spelled out earlier in this course. There's a difference between determinism whereby our choices are controlled by external forces that coerce us between determinism and self-determination, whereby the choices that we make are determined by us, not by something outside of ourselves, but still what Edwards is getting at is the choices are determined in the sense that there caused by something and what there caused by is you and your desires and what your mind deems to be most good for you at the moment or most pleasing. So again, Edward says we always choose according to the strongest inclination that we have at the moment.
Now we understand the desire is a variable thing and there is a continuum of desires in our hearts. Some things occasion intense flaming desires in us, others only mild inclinations. But when the moment of choice comes, whichever is the stronger is the one we follow that doesn't deny freedom. According to Edwards. That's the essence of freedom. That is to have the power or the ability to choose according to your inclinations to choose what you want to choose what the mind deems to be good for you at the moment. If your mind considered something to be preferable and you had an inclination to choose it, but were not able to choose it, then indeed you would not be free, but the very essence of freedom is to be able to choose according to what you want at the moment. The idea that we always choose according to our strongest inclination has in its view this idea of the continual give a couple of examples of that. I go on a diet because all things being equal, I know it would be better for me. The doctor doesn't have to argue with me at length they convinced me that it would be better for my general health.
If I would lose 30 pounds modeling from a general health, but also for my back aches and all the rest that my physical condition would improve dramatically if I lost 30 pounds.
Not only that, cosmetically I would look better. My clothes would fit better. I can give you a host of positive reasons why it would seem good to me to lose 30 pounds and so if the doctor said you want to lose 35 I was a yes I have a desire to do that and that desire. However, changes in its degree of intensity from moment to moment after having a huge feast on Thanksgiving day and my stomach is sated and I have completely satisfied my hunger. I am not feeling a strong urge to eat and at that moment my desire to lose weight increases and intensifies and sought only for the next six hours but six hours later my desire for food changes and all things being equal, I don't want to add any more weight. I want to lose weight but suddenly all things aren't equal anymore. There comes a moment when my desire for that chocolate sundae is greater than my desire to lose weight, and the minute that happens, what will I do I eat the chocolate sundae because that's what I want to do. It seems good to me at that moment to do it.
That's how the conflict of desires work on the that's easy to see when you have a conflict of physical desires like, but you made a choice. Those of you who were in the audience here or are watching it by video, presumably you're seated somewhere in a chair, why are you sitting where you are sitting. Sable was completely arbitrary. I didn't think about where I wanted to sit. I came in and just sat. I wanted to and and then the cameraman came and made me little affinity course makes and so on. But why are you sitting in the back of the room were on the end of the hour in the middle of the hour and the front of the room while it wasn't because you came to this meeting for hours early and stood outside waiting for the doors to open. To make sure you could have just the seat you want may do that if you go to hear the three tanners or go to a basketball game or something like that. Take extraordinary steps to satisfy your desire to have a particular seat than a lecture like this walk in the room. Seriously, this free to go take a big deal while suggesting to you that there is a reason for that choice. And the reason may be motivated by a tiny week inclination in your design may be that you don't like to sit in the front of the room because you may get called on and you're more comfortable in the back of the room or it may be that you like to sit on the edge of the road because you get a little claustrophobic. If you're squeezed in the middle or whatever all kinds of reasons why people choose this ineffective done studies of empty park benches in Central Park where they will have an empty park bench and a hidden camera. And they will watch people come down and sit down and so many of them will sit on the end. Others will sit right in the middle and then they begin interview people and find out why they sat on the edge of the bench when they were the only person there why they sat in the middle. A guy that said metals as well.
I was hoping somebody else would come along, sit down, because I was looking for some companionship and conversation the other guys I want to be left alone so I stayed on the edge of the bench. The reasons why we do these apparently innocuous things they may not be intense but the point that Edwards is making is without an inclination there would be a choice that at that point, he is arguing with pagan philosophers and with some theologians who argue that man is not really free unless the will is totally indifferent if the will is not totally indifferent but as a prior event disposition or inclination it cannot truly be said of it that is that it is free, that is, unless it has the equal power or opportunity to go to the left or the right. It's not really free. Remind you the story of Alice in Wonderland when she comes to the fork in the road and she hesitates, she doesn't know whether to go to the left to go the right and while she's musing over her condition. She looks up she sees the Cheshire cat grinning at her from the tree. So she says to the Cheshire cat which way should I go. Jessica said that the pens where you had it analysis, which is Arkansas then it doesn't matter that is if you have no end in view. If you have no reason for going one way or the other what differences that make that would be a completely indifferent matter so much as will just go with what Edward says and in different choice is an irrational concept for two reasons.
One, if I chose one thing over another for no reason whatsoever in a completely arbitrary fashion. How would that have any moral significance to because Edwards understood that biblically the whole question of intent and intentionality is essential to a moral decision to a voluntary act. We don't choose to have our hearts beat at a certain rate that is an involuntary action of our bodies for it to be a moral decision. There has to be a reason or intent behind but Edwards goes beyond that and says if there is no inclination, one where the other.
Not only would it be impossible to have a moral choice, but it really possible to choose at all, because now the choice would have no cause. It would be in effect without a cause. And that's impossible.
And so he saying that philosophically as well as theologically. The idea of an in different choice is a nonsensical concept. Finally, Edwards is perhaps most famous for his distinction between what he calls our natural ability and our moral ability. This distinction is very similar to the distinction, Augustine made centuries earlier between free will and liberty. Edward says we have the natural ability to make choices as human beings. It is part of our nature to be volitional creatures. We have a faculty of choosing that is called the will and the will is not forced or coerced by outside actors. So insofar as we have the ability by nature to make choices we have natural ability. We don't have the natural ability to fly through the air unaided by machines because we have not by nature been equipped with wings and feathers and all that sort of thing.
But as human beings with the will we have the natural ability to make choices. What we lack according to Edwards is the moral ability to choose the things of God. Why, because in the fall.
We have lost our disposition, our desire and our inclination for God. The reason why man can't choose God unless God first chooses him is simply because man won't choose God and we cannot choose what we don't want, so that the problem with us in our original sin is located. According to Edwards at the one the Bible said the desires of the hearts are only good continually, we have no natural instinct inflammation or disposition to until the Holy Spirit creates that sinners it's important to remember that his fallen people. We do not have the moral ability to choose the things of God.
You're listening to Renewing Your Mind and another lesson from Dr. RC Sproul's teaching series willing to believe that as we've heard it is God who makes us willing to believe wearing five of the 12 lessons from the series this week that we will send you the complete series on three DVDs when you contact us today with a donation of any amount you can make a request to give your firstname.lastname@example.org or if you prefer you can call us at 800-435-4343.
I hope you're making plans to join us for our 2023 national conference next March. Our theme is timely. Stand firm. All of our teaching fellows are scheduled to be there along with special guest speakers Dr. Michael Reeves and voting Baucom in the past few years we've had to cut off registration well in advance of the conference. Due to limited space this year though we are pleased to announce that we are moving to a larger location. The Orange County convention center here in Orlando. It's located just 15 minutes from our previous venue and it will provide room for many more people to come together for biblical teaching and fellowship. These conferences are a wonderful time of fellowship around the word as our president and CEO Chris Larson says that it's a family reunion so I hope you had a religion or.org/conferences to find out more. I think if you pulled most Christians today. Unfortunately, most would say that we have free will and salvation. 1/19 century figure more than any other influence the modern church in that direction.
His name was Charles Finney and Dr. Strobel examine the negative impact of finished theology tomorrow.
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