|THE MYTH OF FREE WILL||
Walter Chantry wrote an article entitled, THE MYTH OF FREE WILL and widely distributed it in the form of a pamphlet. Here I offer a refutation of that article and suggest Biblical concepts that expose Calvinistic theology as inaccurate and misleading.
By R.g. Wallace
In his first section, The Myth of Circumstantial Freedom, Mr. Chantry demonstrates several areas of confusion. First, he is operating on a premise that, since the will is "weak" it is totally impotent. But this is not the case. Weakness does indeed communicate hindrance, restriction and limitation, but it does not automatically imply total inability. He also operates on a premise that, to concede to man the possession of "free will" somehow gives to that man divine sovereignty and power. So that, since man does not have the "ability" to ALTER circumstances, he therefore does not have free will. He writes:
"And how many of your decisions are miserably thwarted? You may choose to be a millionaire, but God's providence is likely to prevent it. You may decide to be a scholar, but bad health, an unstable home, or lack of finances may frustrate your will. You choose to go on a vacation, but an automobile accident may send you to the hospital instead."
He has confused the mental activity of choosing with the activity of "physically" making something happen. This is a grave error. The two are totally different. He writes:
"Though you have the ability to make a decision, you 'do not have the power to carry out your purpose.' Will may devise a course of action, but will has not power to execute its intention."
And then when he makes it an "absolute" as in the above statement, he simply aggravates the error, for there are many things that man is able to choose and then is able to "accomplish." Certainly, someone or something more powerful may come along and "thwart" the physical follow through but "can't directly force a change in the attitude. The issue is NOT physical power but mental attitude.
It is evident that Mr. Chantry confuses circumstances with actions and then actions with mental resolve. All this does is distort the true issue in "free will" (volition) which is the ability and indeed, the responsibility of the human soul to be consciously accountable to the standards of right and wrong that the Creator designed for the human race.
Mr. Chantry seems to think that the addition of the word "free" connected to the word "will" somehow makes it an anathema. Concerning the definition of "will," he writes:
"No one denies that man has a will - that is, a faculty of choosing what he wishes to say, do and think."
Indeed, the function of "free will" in man has no restraints.
Even Mr. Chantry concedes to the "proper" idea concerning free will as he writes:
"by saying that your will is free, we certainly do not mean that it determines the course of your life. You did not choose the sickness, sorrow, war, and poverty that hove spoiled our happiness. You did not choose to hove enemies."
But then he immediately distorts the whole issue of "choice" by adding:
Potent? I am not suggesting that the free will of man is "potent." I am not suggesting that it has "power" to "do" or "accomplish" anything. The will of man is simply the ability and responsibility to make "decisions" concerning what one esteems as valuable concerning his own life.
Mr. Chantry tries to illustrate the impotency of human will by showing how God overruled the intent of Joseph's brothers when they sold him. He writes:
"Joseph's brothers hated him. They sold him to be a slave. But God used their actions to make him a ruler over themselves. They chose their course of action to harm Joseph. But God in His power directed events for Joseph's good. He said, 'But as you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good' (Gen. 50:20)."
The fact that God protected Joseph and worked all things together for good, has no bearing on the volitional decision of his brothers to sell him. The "free will" decisions of a person are only pertinent to himself. Whether God allows that person to "act out" the intent of his heart and affect others, has no bearing on the fact that a volitional decision was made.
And then he makes a comment that is totally irrelevant:
"The major factors which shape your life cannot thank your will.
He has just totally confused the idea of determination with the idea of making value decisions. Free will, expressed in regard to the value issues of life is not a self-determination. He then appeals to two passages in the Old Testament which he thinks suggest that God is the one who "determines" what you do and that you have no real choice in the matter.
This passage does not nullify the volition of man, yea it indicates the necessary order of things so that man may indeed experience a stabilized spiritual life here on earth. The issue is NOT that God makes a "determination" concerning you, but that it is God's standards as found in His word that "stabilizes" (Hebrew, kun) your steps.
Notice the volitional responsibility mentioned at v.3,
Your plans are established (same word as "directeth" at v.9) when you make a volitional decision to "commit" your actions to Him. This is the same attitude that is exhorted at Prov. 3:54,
Furthermore, Prov. 16:9 cannot be used to teach some imagined nullification of free will in general, for the passage deals with the quality of life available to the believer and does not have the unbeliever in view at all.
At Ps. 119:133 we find,
The way that God "establishes" our steps is by His word, just as we find at Psalm 119:9-11.
At Prov. 21:29b we find,
The upright refers to the one who is morally straight.
The word, "makes . . . stable" (kun), is again the same word found at Pr. 16:9 and indicates that it is WHEN the believer volitionally complies with standards of divine truth that God "is able" to follow through with His intended blessings for that believer and will stabilize his steps.
Bible truth in the soul is what stabilizes (establishes secure) our way of life. So in other words, it is the believer who is responsible for stabilizing his steps by allowing God to bless him. The failure to do this is illustrated by the Exodus generation as summarized at Psalm 78:8,
Notice, "a generation that did not prepare its heart."
The word "prepare," is once again the same word as at Pr. 16:9.
Here, it indicates the volitional failure of the Exodus generation as a
whole, whose spirit was not faithful to God because they did not "stabilize"
their heart by following God's truth.
We understand as per Prov. 3:5-6 that man has nothing in himself (in his own understanding) to stabilize (kun - again) his steps in line with God's will. Man must cultivate a know-ledge of God's word; he must stockpile God's word in the heart in order to direct - stabilize his steps.
His conclusion reads,
"Yes, you may choose what you want, and you may plan what you will do; but your will is not free to accomplish 'anything contrary to the purpose of God.' Neither have you any power to reach your own goals but that which God allows you."
This is exactly what free will is all about. God is the one who sets the parameters for what we can "accomplish" or not accomplish. But God has placed no limitations on the "function" of volition. In fact, God requires the function of volition for participation in his plan of salvation. That function of volition is called faith - the mental activity of making a positive value decision concerning the issues of the gospel.
Section two: The Myth of Ethical freedom
Mr. Chantry over reacts to the word free.
"But freedom of the will is cited as an important factor in making MORAL decisions. Man's will is said to be free to choose between good and evil. But again we must ask, from what is it free? And what is man's will free to choose?"
Free is not used to indicate any absence of slavery or depravity. It is simply a term that communicates "permission" and "ability." Mr. Chantry writes,
"The will of man is his power to choose between alternatives. Your will does decide your actions from a number of options. You hove the faculty to direct your own thoughts words and deed.. Your decisions are not formed by an outside force, but from within yourself. No man is compelled to act contrary to his will, nor forced to say what he does not wish. Your will guides your actions. Yet this does not mean that the power to decide is free from all influence. You make choices based on your understanding, your feelings, your likes and dislikes, and your appetites."
This is all very true and very well put, but he makes, a wrong application as he pursues his next idea.
"In other words, your will is not free from yourself! Your choices are determined by your own basic character. The will is not independent of your nature, but the slave of it. Your choices do not shape your character, but your character guides your choices. The will is quite partial to what you know, feel, love and desire. You always choose on the basis of your disposition, according to the condition of your heart."
Here he implies that the soul is unable to respond to "outside" influence. He is careful to not include any direct reference to outside influence in the several excerpts above, but what he fails to observe, is that "your understanding, your feelings, your likes and dislikes and your appetites" are FORMED by outside influences - parents, literature, media, peers - and these outside influences provide a data base (containing both good and bed standards) for making value decisions in reference to every area of your life.
He hints at the idea that the "condition" of the heart somehow illuminates the ability to choose good and this introduces us to the much' misunderstood issue of "depravity."
Mr. Chantry writes:
"It is just for this reason that your will is NOT free to do good. Your will is the servant of your heart and your heart is evil."
He quotes Gen. 6:5 for documentation as to the sinful condition of man's heart but before we pursue a discussion on depravity, I shall review the origin and history of volition as it is evidenced in the Bible.
God in His sovereignty has given to his creatures permission (ability) to choose for or against the standards of His own essence. This is called volition. The angels were given volition by the sovereign decision of God so that the expressions of love and worship would be offered to God from the creature by choice. We know this because we see very clearly in Ezek. 28:11-17 the volitional rebellion of the covering cherub.
We further know that God, gave volition to Adam and the woman (Ishah) as evidenced in the instructions at Gen. 2:17. When Adam rebelled against God he and his progeny indeed, became creatures of sin (Rom. 5:12), but there is no evidence anywhere that the ability to choose was in any way changed. In fact, we find evidence on every page of scripture that the original intent of God in giving volition to his creatures remains an issue even after t;he fall. Love and worship by choice - not by programmed responses in fleshly robots.
It is indeed true, that man "in Adam" is a sinful creature and possesses a sinful nature. This sin nature is certainly an inner inclination, force and even disposition toward independence from God (sin). And man is, certainly "enslaved" to that sin nature in that he cannot escape its presence and pull. But nowhere do we find the idea that man's self-consciousness is unable to make value decisions concerning a good influence from the outside.
Mr. Chantry quotes Rom. 3:12,
This quote and the whole section has been misunderstood and misapplied. Paul's intent is to establish every man a sinner - not, man guilty of "every" sin. He then quotes several Old Testament passages to document the fact that every man is a sinner. The passages quoted by Paul hove a very restricted application in each specific context, but taken all together, they provide a general overall indictment of the human race.
The quote at Rom. 3:12 is from Psalm 14:1-3,
This passage describes the one who denies the existence of God to be a fool. This is not saying that every man is a fool nor that every man denies the existence of God. However for the one who does deny the existence of God, there are three things that characterize his life:
1. corrupt: this refers to the existence of the rebellious sin nature and the effect it has on the fool's character.
2. have committed abominable deeds: this refers to the many and varied personal sins that came from the fool's rebellion.
3. none who does good: this simply describes the fool as falling into the category of, "all our righteousness is as filthy rags" in His sight.
As the passage continues we find a general indictment on the human race. The point of the indictment is, that "in and of himself" man does not pursue God and does not follow the standards of right and wrong that He has designed for the human race. BUT it does not teach that man is "incapable" of choosing when the issues are made clear.
In fact the Bible teaches that God does indeed make the necessary information known to mankind so that they MAY seek Him. Acts 14:17 says that God
The God who created all things (v. 15) has given witness to Himself, as illustrated by the faithful cycle of the seasons, so that as per Rom. 1:19-20, mankind is without excuse when it comes to being accountable to Him. Thus, Acts 17:26-27,
And that is why a universal salvation invitation is extended to "all everywhere" as Acts 17:30 states.
Mr. Chantry writes,
"No power forces man to sin contrary to his will, but the descendants of Adam are so evil that they always choose the evil."
This is just not consistent with what the bible teaches about man's responsibility to the God who woos him. Proverbs 1:20-23
Mr. Chantry states,
This is quite true, And one's understanding is molded by the input from the world around him and that input gives him information upon which to act. The mind receives the information and relates it to the self-consciousness, and the volition of the self-consciousness makes a value decision concerning the relevance of that information to his life.
This is a serious misrepresentation of the passage. Paul is not speaking of "all" men, but only those who have volitionally rejected the revelation of God as found in the physical universe. Anyone can see that verses 21-22 and 28 describes the response of the people to the revelation mentioned in V. 19-20. That is why their foolish heart became darkened - because the heart rejected truth.
Again Mr. Chantry quotes from Romans 3:
And again he confuses the "general" condition and attitude of the human race with the very real "ability" that exists when the soul is given information about God and given the choice to accept it or reject it.
Is this not exactly what Paul establishes at Rom. 10:11-17?
Mr. Chantry continues,
The conclusion he makes here is simply an assumption which finds no support from Bible truth, logic or actual experience. Just because man "craves" sin does not mean he cannot "choose" something else
This remark stems from a total misunderstanding of depravity. One should say, "good" is contrary to human nature. To choose something good offered to him from the outside is not only possible but what is required by God who offers His free gift of salvation to all who will receive it by faith.
This is another wrong conclusion from a wrong premise. Nowhere does the Bible teach that God "compels" men to believe. Everywhere, it is God making known to man the information he needs to know in order to volitionally make a value decision toward God and the message of salvation.
Mr. Chantry further states,
This is not taught in the Bible. The phrase "prior work of divine grace" is neither stated nor suggested anywhere. There is indeed a "bias" within the soul of man. This is the sinful influence and disposition inherited from our parents. It is a distortion of man's essence which produces a natural "bent" toward independence from God and a distorted perspective on everything in life. BUT nowhere does the bible even hint that this "bias" prevents the self-consciousness of man to make a volitional value decision about things that are revealed from the outside. Depravity does not extend to the "ability" to choose.
Depravity simply puts the soul of man "behind the 8 ball" as it were so that, in and of himself, man will not seek for God. That is why God seeks man and provides what man needs in order for man to reach out independently from his natural "bias" and choose for God. The Drawing of God is not an irresistible pull that "makes" man choose for God. The Drawing of God is the process whereby God makes known to man the information about salvation and convicts man of his need.
After that conviction; that "drawing," man then asks, "What must I do to be saved?" And the answer comes back loud and clear via every salvation invitation in the New Testament -
Mr. Chantry writes,
This is not an accurate representation. There would be a very small minority, if any at all, who believe that man is by "nature" neutral. Man by nature is quite sinful but that sinfulness does not deactivate the "neutral" idea associated with one's volition.
This is a reference again to Gen. 6:5, but it does not say that the "human will" is in this condition, but according to the Hebrew, it says that every "inclination" (yātser) of the thoughts of his heart. This is the influence and "bent" toward evil that comprises man's sinful nature. It nowhere suggests that man is incapable of choosing the right way when that right way is offered to him.
He quotes Jer. 13:23,
This passage cannot be used as a "general" indictment of the human race to prove that mankind is unable to "choose" good. This is a specific indictment on the nation of Judah in the context of an established attitude and way of life maintained AFTER and in spite of many opportunities to recover. And in fact the context makes it perfectly clear that these indicted can indeed "choose" to recover.
Just look at the verses that precede v. 23, ie, v.15-17:
And notice the actions of God as a "potter" who acts based on the volitional decisions of the nations of "clay." Jer.18:6-11,
The passage at Jer. 13:23 is not teaching that man by nature is unable to choose, but it is using the "permanence" of a "created condition" to illustrate the degree of hardness of heart to which the people have advanced.
Mr. Chantry continues,
The problem is, that this is nowhere taught in the bible. Any "change" comes AFTER a person "chooses" to believe in Christ as savior. The New birth FOLLOWS upon faith; the indwelling of the Spirit follows upon faith. In fact, even after salvation, the sin nature (human nature) does not change. What happens is, that as more and more of God's word is learned and incorporated into the standards (conscience) of the soul and utilized through the filling/control of the Holy Spirit, there is a greater and greater capacity to shut down the "pull" of the sin nature (flesh) and to resist the temptations that come from its never ending barrage of lusts. Psalm 119:11 says,
Mr. Chantry concludes his part 2 as follows,
He has shown no such thing. In fact, the Bible makes it perfectly clear that man IS free to choose a course contrary to God's purpose - a course that is certainly "permitted by God" but not in agreement with His desire. This can be perfectly demonstrated from Ezek. 18:1-32 and summarized here by quoting just V. 30-32,
Furthermore, there is certainly no great "praise" that is directed
toward free will. The praise is to God who in His sovereignty, wisdom and
love has offered the gift of salvation freely to all within the human race
who will accept that gift.
This is quite true as already discussed. The issue is NOT the determination of circumstances; it is the "choice" concerning attitudes and responses to all the circumstances and data that one encounters in life.
And so he concludes,
And this is quite true. BUT, one's personality makeup is built based on all the data that one receives throughout life so that he forms a "frame of reference" of standards to utilize in making value decisions concerning every issue in life.
PART 3: The Myth of Spiritual Freedom
Here, his arguments are applied specifically to the issue of salvation
and the spiritual life that God offers to mankind based on Christ's payment
for sin accomplished on the cross.
Quite interesting. Is there any salvation invitation; any place in the
Bible that really indicates anything different? Absolutely not!
But of course That is exactly the way the Bible represents it. At every
salvation invitation the required response is clearly a volitional choice.
To take the answer that the bible provides in any other way is simply to
deny its clear, precise and literal language and to manufacture an obstacle
that does not exist. And since this position has invented an obstacle; an
imagined inability of man to choose from his own volition,
The answer comes screaming back from every corner of Scripture -
Mr. Chantry then uses the fact that mankind is born into Satan's family
to try to prove that man is unable to choose for God and even at that he
misrepresents the concept of that relationship.
The human race was NOT "born of Satan." The human race was born "in Adam" and under the judicial indictment from God because of identification with Adam and Adam's original sin of disobedience. Satan has usurped authority over the world because of his victory over Adam and accordingly is designated as the "god of this world" and "the ruler of this world." Man is further under the results of the fall by having the sin nature which is inherited from one's parents.
Man does not inherit anything from Satan. Man is not "born" into Satan's family but resides under the influence of Satan's darkness authority and viewpoint.
Accordingly, mankind in unbelief is said to be "of your father the
devil" because as a "fallen" creature possessing a nature
which rebels against God and acts independently from Him, mankind "imitates"
the viewpoint and attitudes of Satan. The failure to maintain "precision"
in Biblical understanding is one of the reasons such false human viewpoint
ideas as "inability to choose" are believed.
Satan did NOT put into the heart of mankind any "bias." Satan has nothing to do with the sin nature that is in man. It is inherited from one's parents (Ps. 51:5; Gen.5:3). Indeed, Satan can tempt from the outside and influence one's soul and use that sin nature to further his own ends of promoting the kingdom of darkness over which he presides, but he is NOT the originating source of that sin nature.
In the John 8 passage, Jesus is addressing the Pharisees who have evidenced a "decided" attitude of rejection because of the anvil hold their religious system has on them. So Jesus says of them, "Because I tell you the truth, you do not believe me." Look at the context at John 8:37-40,
Notice the contrast with Abraham. "this Abraham did not do." Do not these Pharisees and Abraham have the SAME sin nature? Did not Abraham "hear" from God and was required to make a volitional choice to choose God and separate from the Babylonian religion within which he grew up? Was not that Babylonian system of evil the epitome of rebellion against God and independence from Him at that time? John 8:42,
The issue of "If God were your Father," is brought up to establish the fact that these Pharisees have indeed already made a choice as to where their allegiance lies. If they were "already" in relationship with God, they would most certainly receive Him whom God has sent. But since they do not have that relationship AND have "decidedly" chosen to align with the darkness influence in their life, they are "unable" to "hear My word." V.43,
The issue here is not ability to "choose" but ability to "hear." Why? Because they have already made up their minds and do not "want" to hear. V.44,
The issue is to change what the "WANT" of the soul is. Isaiah 55:6-7
Mr. Chantry asks,
"How?" is not the question to ask! For indeed, every salvation
invitation asks man to do just that very thing! Imagine that Moses "chose"
God and God's people instead of the wealth and pleasures of Pharaohs throne!
Consider the exhortation in every Proverb to "hear" the instruction from one's teachers.
Why the language on every page of scripture that man is responsible for choosing "this day whom he will serve," if the opposite is actually true?
I referenced earlier the passages in Proverbs 1 and 8 to demonstrate the "call" of wisdom to the "sons of men." Consider the indictment of Prov. 1:24-31 that those who were called and invited by Wisdom did in fact "choose" to reject and are held accountable for that failure.
Mr. Chantry writes,
But the human soul does NOT "cry out" in that manner. Luke is describing the attitude of the nation of Israel as they are confronted with the physical presence of their Messiah in the person of Jesus Christ. It does not describe the attitude of mankind in general. This is a serious misapplication of this passage and proclaims a concept that is not supported by any other passage in the bible.
The sin nature does indeed express a "natural" disposition toward independence from God but that simply means that "sin" is the pathway of LEAST RESISTANCE. It does not mean that the soul, when confronted with spiritual value is unable to accept that spiritual value. It does not mean that the soul is unable to submit to truth and obey the gospel as indeed is indicated to be the case at Rom. 6:17-18,
Mr. Chantry continues,
The answer is simple as has already been shown via Rom 10:12-17. Hearing the gospel message exposes the soul to spiritual value through the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit (drawing). This gives the soul "ability" to come to Christ through faith, by calling on His name.
Nowhere does the bible say that "a new heart must be given before a man can believe." One cannot "make" doctrine without clear teaching from the Bible. To manufacture a premise; an imagined "inability" in man to choose from within his "fallen" condition, and then make pronouncements of doctrine is a very serious violation of the fundamentals of interpretation and certainly undermines any solid foundation of truth. The proper order for salvation is as follows:
Being born again, given spiritual life, entered into the family of God as a child is what qualifies one as a citizen of the Kingdom of God. It is in fact this spiritual "new" birth that constitutes our salvation and secures us a place in the kingdom.
And he writes more,
This of course, is correct, but why does Mr. Chantry not observe that
in v.12, faith precedes becoming a child, ie, being born again? Concerning
V.13, "not by the will of man," when one denies the clear biblical
order of faith first and then regeneration, it then becomes a necessity
to "explain away" the clear references to volitional faith in
the Bible and confuse it with a human works "self determination"
which is what is represented at John 1:13. The use of "will" here (thelo) refers to a self-determination, not an expression of volition. they
ARE different. When one expresses a positive volition decision toward the
gospel, this is called faith. At the moment of this faith (total trust in
the person and message of the gospel), God accomplishes the new birth. V.13
makes it clear that the new birth is accomplished by God and not by any
This "enlightenment" of every man refers to the universal drawing of God based on the sin sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
This is realized practically, when the gospel is proclaimed and the Holy
Spirit convicts the hearers of the issues of spiritual life and death (John
V.11, indicates the overall rejection by the Gentiles with the phrase,
This refers to the fact that the world as a whole did not know Him.
V.11, indicates the overall rejection by the nation of Israel. And yet, in spite of this general rejection of God's salvation provision, there were those who made the volitional decision to receive Him by faith and it is these who were thus born again with spiritual life and became children of God. John 1:12,
It is the new birth which is "out from" God, not faith. God does the work; faith simply accepts the invitation. Mr. Chantry writes,
There is no volitional relationship between the two births. The Bible is what determines that the 2nd birth requires a volitional expression of faith. It is not works; It is not meritorious; It is not of the flesh; It is doing what God says MUST be done.
The Philippian jailer asked, "what must I do to be saved?" The Greek literally says, "what is it necessary for me to do in order to be saved?"
Peter's answer tells it all.
He could have said what Jesus said to Nicodemus, "You must be born again." But then the jailer would have to ask another question, "what must I do to be born again?" And the answer would come down the same way it came to Nicoodmus. For Nicodemus asked, "How can these things come about?" (Jn.. 3:9). And the answer Jesus gave is found in v.14 and 15.
Jesus made it perfectly clear that the new birth is "being saved," and one is saved (born again) by faith in Christ. The penalty of sin is death (spiritual death). The new birth imparts spiritual life which obviously reverses spiritual death. The spiritual life via the new birth is called "everlasting life" and is imparted at the very moment that one believes. Paul establishes the association between spiritual life and the term "saved" at Eph. 2:5,
The word "saved" explains "made alive together with Christ."
At Titus 3:5 "saved" is actually accomplished by the new birth,
Notice, not by works, but by regeneration. And what MUST be done in order to be born again? The answer is believe. Ephesians 2:8-9,
GRACE: is God's part in providing salvation
FAITH: is man's part in accepting God's provision.
NO WORKS: indicates that faith is simply a non-meritorious expression of volition that accepts what God FREELY offers to mankind.
What then is the answer Paul gave to the jailer? what is necessary for him to DO in order to be saved? Acts 16:31,
How can this clear and precise language be rationalized and rejected?
The raising of Lazarus has absolutely nothing to do with the issue of spiritual life and death. The fact that he could not "physically" raise himself is nowhere suggested as a teaching aid to illustrate the inability of the unbeliever to trust in Christ.
I think it has been clearly shown that faith "precedes" life.
Return to: VOLITIONAL THEOLOGY
İRon Wallace, http://www.biblefragrances.com.
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