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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Problem of the Will

We've examined the concept of "free will" before, not always with agreement, but I'd like to discuss the problem of the will. You see, if a will is to be considered free, it goes without saying that it must be allowed to choose what it wants. Sounds silly, perhaps, but surely we can all agree that a will that chooses what it does not want is the actual opposite of a "free will."

And this is where we run into the problem of "free will". You see, we think that humans have "free will" by which we mean to convey that humans are able to choose anything at all. Now, of course, this is manifestly false. I mean, you can't simply choose to sprout wings by your own will and fly. So we can't actually choose anything at all. Besides, if it is to be "free will," it must be that which we want to choose. If you're choosing that which you don't want to choose, that can't be considered free will. And therein lies our basic limitation. The primary block to a free will that chooses "anything at all" is the limitation of our own desires.

What does Scripture say about humans and their desires? We know "the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked" (Jer 17:9), so we know from the outset that our desires are skewed at best. We know that "the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God" (Rom 8:7), so we know that whatever we desire it isn't God and His ways. We know that without God we are slaves to sin (Rom 6:6, 17, 20) and that "the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Gen 8:21), so our desires, by virtue of our natures, are not virtuous. This is what Paul suggests when he says, "'None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.'" (Rom 3:10-12).

Do you see the problem, now, with our free will? It is free -- we can choose what we want -- but our "want to" is broken and what we want is not good. As a result, our free will cannot choose what is good because that would be the opposite of what we want.

This is why there is more than a "self-help program" required. More than a reform school training program. Our problem isn't a lack of discipline; it's a lack of "want to". God calls us to obey, and we don't want to, so we cannot. This is why what we need is a new birth, what we need is a new heart, what we need is an entire transformation.

Fortunately, that's exactly what God has in mind for us.


Bob said...

Consider the two disciples walking down the road. they meet a stranger and he asks them about the events of the day. they are like, what are you new? so they explain everything that occurred. Then they invite him to dinner. Now up to this point they are using their freewill.
but despite what ever will they may have, is it mute.. because they are not cognizant of who they are really entertaining, they cannot and will not, re-CONGNZE Jesus by virtue of the will, free or otherwise. This is the best case scenario. they are believers.. the outcome of the revelation is wholly dependent upon Jesus himself. we see that Jesus left them in a state of ignorance for a short time, and the tension builds in the narrative, begging the question when are they going to see the master? moral of the story?, Revelation; depends less upon the will of man, and more upon the Mercy of God.
i bring this up for this reason, the will of man can only respond to what it perceives.
the blind cannot choose between what is in front of him or what is behind him, if he does not know what, if anything, exist in those places.

Stan said...

Yes, another (I would hope obvious) limitation of the will.