|Vol. 13 No. 4 April 2011||
Has Freewill Been Lost?
Louis Rushmore, Editor
For about two months now, we are holding a study with some people who believe that man lost his free will after Adam’s fall. ~ Christine, Saudi Arabia
The assertion that mankind lost the capacity of freewill when Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden is obviously false. The Bible throughout calls upon humans to make choices. Some of the more prominent examples include these following.
“And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
“And Elijah came to all the people, and said, ‘How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’ But the people answered him not a word” (1 Kings 18:21-22).
“And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).
In addition, uninspired observation confirms the existence of freewill. The very existence of biblical instruction implies the ability to make good or bad choices, for otherwise biblical instruction is useless. In addition, the capacity for humans to make choices is fundamental to the existence of secular law, for otherwise neither could law have been formulated in the first place nor would law have any significance if it were impossible to comply with it or to disobey it.
The very process of engaging in an argument for or against freewill presupposes the ability to be swayed (exercise freewill) toward one explanation or the other. Humans are not dumb animals that are incapable of consciousness, and neither are they robots functioning without personal investment in the consequence of their actions. The Final Judgment will be intensely personal, based on the righteous and unrighteous choices each person made in his or her life (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Except for the Book of Psalms, the original manuscripts of the Bible books were not divided into chapters and verses. “The Psalms are, by their structure, naturally divided into verses” (McClintock and Strong, “Authorized Version”). Other Hebrew poetic books and Hebrew poetry in the prophets, for instance, may have been arranged in verses, too.
The apparent motive for the division of Scripture into chapters and verses was to improve navigation throughout the inspired volume. “The division of the Bible into chapters and verses is altogether of human invention, designed to facilitate reference to it” (Easton). However noble those intentions, sometimes the uninspired division of Bible books into chapters and verses hinders rather than aids comprehension. “We must not forget that the Bible was divided into chapters some twelve or thirteen centuries after it was completed, and the men who made the divisions sometimes put asunder what God had most assuredly joined together, and at other times joined together what God had put asunder” (Barnhouse).
The several books of the Old and New Testaments were from an early time divided into chapters. The Pentateuch was divided by the ancient Hebrews into 54 parshioth or sections, one of which was read in the synagogue every Sabbath day (Acts 13:15). These sections were afterwards divided into 669 sidrim or orders of unequal length. The Prophets were divided in somewhat the same manner into haphtaroth or passages.
In the early Latin and Greek versions of the Bible, similar divisions of the several books were made. The New Testament books were also divided into portions of various lengths under different names, such as titles and heads or chapters.
In modern times this ancient example was imitated, and many attempts of the kind were made before the existing division into chapters was fixed. The Latin Bible published by Cardinal Hugo of St. Cher in A.D. 1240 A.D. is generally regarded as the first Bible that was divided into our present chapters, although it appears that some of the chapters were fixed as early as A.D. 1059 A.D.. This division into chapters came gradually to be adopted in the published editions of the Hebrew, with some few variations, and of the Greek Scriptures, and hence of other versions.
Robert Stephens is credited with having divided the New Testament into numbered verses in 1545 (McClintock and Strong, “Verses”). Other historical information, though, credits others about the same time or even a little earlier of doing the same. Initially, these numbered verses appeared in Greek, Latin and French New Testaments. The Geneva Bible, published in 1560, was the first English translation that divided Bible books into chapters and verses (Smith).
As long as one is aware that the chapter and verse divisions are not divine in origin, those divisions assist Bible readers and students of the Bible in navigating the Holy Book. Special care must be exercised in biblical interpretation, though, to guard against misunderstanding God’s revealed will due to chapter divisions or even verse divisions.
Barnhouse, Donald Grey. “Chapter 11 - The Charge Against the Orthodox.” Romans: Expositions of Bible Doctrines. CD-ROM. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966.
Easton, M.G. “Chapter.” Easton’s Bible Dictonary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.
McClintock, John and James Strong. McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981.
Smith, William. Smith’s Bible Dictionary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.
Louis Rushmore, Editor
…when they read and study the Bible, they do not give emphasis to the ‘context’ of the text they bring up to propagate their teachings.
The Bible is not a codebook from which portions lifted from their respective contexts mean something other than what the same information was intended to convey within its context. The true task of every Bible student is first to ascertain what the original recipients of the Bible text were expected in their day to understand. Secondly, modern students of the Bible must ascertain if the particular biblical instruction first received by people thousands of years ago is something that applies equally to people living today. For instance, though Noah was instructed to build a barge-like lifeboat in his day, no one today is expected to do the same. It is only by examining the context of a passage that one can determine what divine message was conveyed and to whom it applies. The Bible only has meaning within its context, and it does not have any meaning separated from its context.
Context can refer to the entire document of the Bible. The Bible does not contradict itself. Were someone to think he had discovered a doctrine that contradicts other portions of the Bible, then he would know that his interpretation is flawed – since the Bible, being divine in origin, does not contradict itself.
Context can refer to the particular book of the Bible under consideration. Who wrote the book to whom and for what reason? Context can refer to a portion of a Bible book, such as a section, chapter, paragraph or series of verses. Context can refer to the stated or implied purpose of verses of Scripture. Context can include the historical background of where and when the passage was written or initially spoken.
In short, context is everything when it comes to responsible and accurate interpretation of Scripture. God has communicated with mankind through the Bible, and He expects us to handle His Word correctly. “Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 ASV).