|Vol. 1, No. 11||Page 20||November 1999|
Is Freewill Scriptural?
Almost every single denomination I have heard of believes that all people have free will. I haven't found a single verse in the Bible that teaches that people do have free will. Why do Christians believe this unanimously without any Biblical text to affirm it? ~ Rick (Baptist), Springfield, OR.Dear Friend, as much as you are amazed that myriads of people believe in “freewill,” I am equally amazed that you are unable to find “any Biblical text to affirm it.” Further, simple observation should declare the existence of freewill in the human race.
The first biblical indication that mankind possesses the capacity of freewill was immediately following the creation of Adam.
“And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him” (Gen. 2:19-20).Through the capacity of freewill, Adam was prompted by God to name the animal creation. This establishes the basic capability of mankind to employ “freewill.”
The very existence of an orderly universe replete with design and implying a designer, implicitly calls out to intelligent life, man, to seek the Creator. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psa. 90:1). “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). “Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth” (Isa. 40:26).
“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast” (Psa. 33:6-9).“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Heb. 11:3).
Job 38:4-41 lists numerous aspects of God’s creation over which mankind still ponders, and much of which also is little understood even today. Truly, the created universe has the name of God written all over it, and it calls mankind to search out his Creator. All of this, which is true, would be a cruel hoax by God if it were impossible to choose (exercise freewill) to seek the Creator (and find him through his divine revelation).
Both testaments of the Bible, beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden, are filled with choices presented to mankind. In order to choose, correctly or even incorrectly, as God exhorts mankind, humanity must possess the capacity of freewill. Further, mankind, at God’s urging to make choices, has the obligation to make choices (use freewill). Adam and Eve were presented with the choices of eating from the forbidden tree or not eating from that same tree. They chose incorrectly, nevertheless, they exercised their capacity of freewill (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:3-6).
The great leader, Joshua, memorably called upon his fellows to exercise their freewill in accepting God as their Lord. “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15). Often, unfortunately, mankind has chosen to forsake God, nevertheless it was a choice (use of freewill): “For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord” (Prov. 1:29).
The word “whosoever” appears 183 times in the King James Version of the Bible. It is employed in all religious dispensations and applied variously to every representative of humanity. Essentially, then, when ‘anyone’ does what he by God’s Word is forbidden to do, he sins; when ‘anyone’ does what he by God’s Word is commanded to do, he is acceptable to God. The word “whosoever” in its sundry appearances in the Bible expresses the capacity and obligation of mankind to exercise his freewill. Naturally, I cannot list 183 occurrences of the word “whosoever” here, but a couple instances spoken by Jesus should provide the necessary emphasis. “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). What a cruel hoax it would be for the Lord to invite everyone to partake of living water, but it not be possible humans or some humans to make the choice to accept or reject of the offer of the Lord.
The invitation of the Lord himself appears also in other words: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Can humanity (through freewill) make the choice to accept or reject the invitation of our Lord, or did Jesus simply make an empty gesture?
Every command to do something implies the ability (freewill) with which man can either comply or not comply with divine direction. “And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you” (2 Thess. 3:4). “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord . . .” (Acts 10:48). Often, people do not follow the directions of even God and many people defiantly have not obeyed God’s Word regarding, for instance, baptism. Therefore, it is evident that through the exercise of freewill, some obey God and others do not. Those who choose to obey are the recipients of redemption and those who do not obey God are not the recipients of God’s grace and mercy through which he proffers redemption. Regarding Jesus, Scripture says, “he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him . . .” (Heb. 5:9).
Further, regarding “freewill,” the Bible uses that word 17 times in our English translation. In those places, a distinction is made between mandatory tithes and the amount and character of additional offerings made at the discretion or choice of the giver.
The denial of “freewill” is not the product of biblical doctrine, but the product of the Reformation movement, to which Luther contributed and which was further crystallized and preserved in what is commonly called Calvinism. We have shown in the short treatment above that mankind has not lost either his capacity or his responsibility since his initial placement in the Garden through the present to exercise his freewill. The ability to choose, which mankind exercises numerous times daily in the profane and mundane affairs of life, is the identical capacity with which he can choose (or choose not) to digest and put into practice the exhortations of divine revelation. As the Scripture says, we have no excuse (Rom. 1:20). Each soul has personal responsibility for his or her eternal destination.
“See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live . . . I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life” (Deut. 30:15-16, 19).Though the quotation immediately above includes both their spiritual and physical welfare, the principle regarding our spiritual welfare remains the same. God places before each accountable soul choices regarding his redemption and pending eternity among which he is obligated to exercise his freewill. Satan votes against us; God votes for us; and each of us casts the deciding vote as to where we will spend eternity. To not make a choice (exercise freewill) is to make the worst choice of all!
[The querist swiftly responded to
the above with a brief and scornful dispatch in which he ignored every
evidence offered and did not make even one allusion to Scripture.
Each soul needs to be acutely aware that by Scripture we must order our
lives, for by it alone we all will be judged. Jesus said, "He that
rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the
word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John