Tuesday, September 23, 2003

I was wrong on Free Will

I have been reading John Gerstner’s book Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth—A critique of dispensationalism. It is truly amazing, and has modified my thinking on several fronts, most notably on the doctrine of Limited Atonement, a doctrine that I realize I didn't fully understand and have shortchanged.

I intend to write about that very soon, probably this week.

Gerstner is often blasted by Arminians on one front, the hoisted-with-their-own-petard Reformed academic elite on another, and the Reformed Baptists on a third, who at times label him a "hyper-Calvinist." (In truth, Gerstner is a true Calvinist, while his critics are something else altogether, especially those who proclaim the cognitively dissonant "four point Calvinist" mantle. One of his "problems" is his old-school call-a-spade-a-spade bluntness. I absolutely love the way he thought and the way he wrote.

He also reminded me that others used to speak just as bluntly before tolerance and political correctness infected us all. For example, Spurgeon wrote "Calvinism is just another name for Christianity". And if you think Gerstner is acerbic, read Philip Mauro's cogent but brutal attack on dispensationalism The Gospel of the Kingdom, (Gospel Press, 1927), which is available online. In the good old days, people certainly made it clear where they stood.

Anyway, at one point Gerstner writes emphatically that it is an misrepresentation of Reformed theology to say that God violates man's will. I have been saying exactly that (God violates man's will) all along (and people like Joel Garver have been telling me I was wrong). However, it was not until I saw it in black and white in Gerstner's book (without any explanation, he just wrote that it is wrong) that I reconsidered my position.

My argument was always:
  • Before regeneration, man has a free will, but his problem is that he will never choose what he doesn't want, and what he doesn’t want is God.
  • After regeneration, he now wants God and, of his own will, he chooses God.
All this is true, but then I sloppily concluded that God "violates" the will when He regenerates.

I was guilty of, at the least, imprecision.

Man is endowed with a free will that is the same before or after regeneration. It will be the same free will that he carries with him to heaven or hell. That will is not violated.

The will however, is like an engine. The input, or the fuel, is man's heart. The output is man's actions and deeds. It is not the will that is changed, but the heart. Same engine, but different inputs— which then results in different outputs.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezek. 36.26).

So there you have it—I felt the need to clean up some of my terminology.

No comments:

Post a Comment