Monday, December 31, 2007

Free Will

I've come a long way in my understanding about God's will and his sovereignty. For the first 12ish years of faith I thought that God basically sat on his hands. I told people that God doesn't cosmically rape people by forcing his will on them. That was my explanation as to why bad things happen to nice people and why not everybody is a believer.

I thought that God was all powerful, but that he didn't make use of that power as often as we'd like when it involved more that one person's will. For example, I might pray for my best friend to "get saved", but I believed that God couldn't fulfill that because it may violate my friend's free will to accept (or reject) God on her own terms. I had put much to much emphasis on free will and that was just one of my errors.

A few years back I encountered Calvinism. First I met a "Primitive Baptist" guy on the internet. Then I met a handful of Presbyterians on the internet. They introduced me to "TULIP". Of course I flat-out disagreed right off the bat, but I wrestled with it for a couple of years. I just couldn't let it go.

I insisted based on my personal conversion to Christianity (rather than conforming the understanding of my experience to what scripture teaches) that in order for people to come to faith, they needed to accept Christ, say a sinner's prayer, or ask Jesus into their heart. Man had to make the first move because otherwise God was cosmically raping people. The Calvinists insisted that no man would come to God on his own because they were spiritually dead. They also said that God had to regenerate people for them to come to faith, and that only some were elected to regeneration. What?!! I fell back on "For God so loved the WORLD" and verses like that.

I just couldn't accept TULIP, but I continued to have constructive arguments and read books about the subject. As one who believed in Believer’s Baptism, I just couldn't wrap my head around the "faith is a gift" concept. If my faith didn't originate in me, what value could it have before God? What good is devotion if you are coerced to give that devotion? In the end, my grasp on God's sovereignty was a lot closer to biblical.

Sometimes I can't think outside of the box, and this was one of those times. Either we did have free will and were always free to accept or reject God... or we didn't have free will and we could neither come to God without his choosing us, nor once chosen you would/could never leave. Now I finally understand that it doesn't have to be one way or the other.

We are NOT free; we do not have the ability to come to God on our own. We must first be given the gift of faith in order to turn to God. But, on the other side of that, we ARE free to reject God. Grace is not irresistible (unless you're a smart, miserable sinner. LOL). I had made faith into a work. I had to tap God on the shoulder in order to receive rebirth. I had to do something. I used to argue that I wasn't exactly preaching synergism, because this work of faith wasn't deserving of merit... but merit means "deserving reward", so in essence, saying that one must invite God into their life in order to receive salvation is the same as saying I must work for the reward of eternal life. Whoops! That's not Grace!

Because of original sin, we are spiritually dead and can't/won't come to God on our own. We must be given the gift of faith. Faith isn't intellectual assent to a set of doctrines. Jesus described the faith of children as what faith should look like.

After digging into the Book of Concord and revisiting baptism, I accepted that baptism was for babies, but I'm still wrestling with fully understanding it. For weeks now I've questioned "If you are regenerated at baptism, but still have the free will to reject God, why bother baptizing babies?". I think this question was born of the "once saved, always saved" mindset and still considering the age of reason. Even with accepting infant baptism, it seemed to me that a person would be more likely to stick with their faith if their regeneration was accompanied by personal understanding.

As you can see, there are still many holes in my understanding. I'm attempting to fill them up by continuing to question these things. Right now I'm watching a class about Baptism that you can find here It's a 90 minute class and it is FANTASTIC!

1 comment:

Rebekah said...

Hi, OH-Forgive me if someone has already pointed you in this direction, but a great book on infant baptism is Baptized Into God's Family by Andrew Das. Check it out here: