Posted by: Johnold Strey | April 8, 2013

Free Will and Love

Yesterday (April 8, 2013) marked the start of a new set of Sunday Bible Classes at St. Mark’s. I’m teaching a class on Conversion. You can find resources for the class on this blog’s Sunday Bible Class page. The first lesson in the class dealt with the fall into sin (Genesis 3) as the reason why we need to be converted. This topic was the springboard for a number of interesting discussions, including one on free will. Why did God give mankind free will if he knew that Adam and Eve would fall into sin? Why didn’t God simply prevent us from falling into sin in the first place?

Tractatus Logico-TheologicusAs a part of that larger discussion, I shared some quotes from John Warwick Montgomery‘s book, Tractatus Logico-Theologicus, a premiere modern scholarly defense of the Christian faith. (The book is available on Amazon and through the Canadian Institute for Law, Theology, and Public Policy). Montgomery has a helpful section on the connection between free will and love. I shared a few excerpts with the class yesterday, and I’d like to share those references here, along with several more quotes from the same context. You may find these quotes helpful when you’re faced with questions like the ones raised above. 

  • 4.85 The key to understanding why the continuing presence of evil in the world is not a bar to the existence of the God of the Bible is, then, the reality of freewill.
  • 4.8501 Even if one operates with a Calvinist understanding of God as the predestinarian Sovereign, the Problem of Evil is not insoluble, since God (not man) sets the standards of cosmic morality (Plantinga). …
  • 4.8502 Scripture, as a matter of fact, presents the interrelationship of predestination and freewill as a mystery: man’s freewill is genuine and one must believe in order to be saved (John 3:16; Acts 16:30-31), yet salvation is God’s work alone–even faith being the gift of God (John 1:12-13; Ephesians 2:8-9).
  • 4.85021 As Luther put it, fallen humanity has all the freewill needed to choose a preferred path to hell–but not the capacity to climb to heaven–since salvation is a matter of God’s grace alone.
  • 4.85022 “Double” predestination (God’s choosing not only the saved but also the damned) is an obnoxious and unbiblical doctrine; and so is the Arminian teaching that we have the capacity to assist in our salvation by contributing our faith (or our “predisposition toward faith”) to the salvatory process.
  • 4.85023 The revelatory facts take precedence over the logical difficulty; as already noted, when fact and logic conflict, facts win.
  • 4.851 God is love (1 John 4:8, etc.), and love entails freewill (John 7:17): the biblical God is not a puppet master, pulling strings so as to force his creation to do what he wishes (C.S. Lewis).
  • 4.852 Enforced love would not be love at all; it is rape–metaphysically even if not physically.
  • 4.8521 Every lover (and parent) knows this, or should know it: you want your intended or your child to love you in return, and to do what is best, but to force this upon the object of your love is to destroy the possibility of a genuine, reciprocal love-relationship.
  • 4.853 Freewill means the possibility of rejecting love as well as of accepting it–with all the negative consequences which flow from such rejection. …
  • 4.86 Did not God forsee the negative effects of sin, and, if so, why–among the infinite possible worlds he could have created–did he not create one where Adam would not have fallen?
  • 4.861 To eliminate all possible fallen worlds in favour of one that would not fall must be seen as the functional equivalent of eliminating freewill from the creation in the first place.
  • 4.8611 Even the non-religious find couples morally unpalatable who obtain “perfect” offspring by systematically destroying nested embryos when ultrasound shows that, if born, they would display characteristics the parents dislike.
  • 4.87 If freewill is essential to love, would this not mean that in eternity there would always have to be the possibility of new falls into sin–contrary to the assurances of a perfect “new heavens and new earth,” given, for example, in the Book of Revelation?
  • 4.871 As Augustine argued, the redemption of the world in Christ moves the relationship between creature and Creator to a new level–that of non posse peccari.*
  • 4.872 “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19), so the likelihood of a repeat of the fall drops to zero as a limit in the face of an undeserved redemption of infinite consequence.

*non posse peccari = “not able to sin” (Latin)

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