Challies on Free Will
A brilliant post this morning from Tim Challies, which sums up I think what I have long suspected – free will is not necessary for genuine love.
It was Augustine of Hippo who first described the four states of man. They are most easily understood when put into the form of a table like this one:
It is this final part of the grid that causes me to wonder if our love truly had to be entirely free for it to be genuine. After all, as Christians we look with great anticipation to the day when our sin will be taken away and we will no longer even be able to sin. At this time will our love for God be more genuine or less genuine? Will we love God more or less than we love him now? When we read Scripture and, with great anticipation look to the passages that describe heaven, we can only conclude that our love for God today is only a shadow of the love we will have for him in that day. And yet it will be a love that is restricted by our sinless natures—a love that will not allow us to ever sin or even consider sin.
As I understand it, Augustine would agree with me here. He would say that the ability to sin is not essential to free will. After all, God is free but without the ability to sin. The angels are free but without any ability to sin. And, as we’ve established, we will be free in heaven, but not free to sin.
All of this to say that I simply do not find that we need to believe that the only love worth having is a love that can choose not to love.
I think Tim is spot on. I have always understood (since coming to an electionist view of salvation) that those who argue in favour of "free will" misunderstand what choice is about. The Biblical position is that while we are independent agents, our fallen state means that we are simply as incapable of choosing not to sin as a stick insect is capable of writing a sonnet. One can argue very clearly that the stick insect has choice in his life and can choose what to do and what to eat, but he is simply not able to rival Shakespeare. We are the same – we have freedom of action, but the act of "not sinning" is not a possibility. We then, upon recognition of salvation and the regenerating work of the Spirit move to a position where we can choose not to sin, and finally we move, in Glory, to a position where we simply will not want to sin, yet remain creatures who can love and can love with integrity.