there's no free will, does that mean God has created some people to go
is a well worded question, though what's really being asked is probably
"Are there people who want to believe and be saved but can't because
God prevents them?" To that, the answer is no.
who wants to see heaven but thinks God has a dastardly plan to keep them
out has only to believe in order for God to save them. In which case if
they do, then he will, and it wasn't a dastardly plan keeping them out after
to the denial of
free will and the question of whether there are people who are destined
to go to hell, I'd say there's an excellent argument for that position,
though I'll stop a hair's breadth short of giving an unqualified "yes".
I'd rather unpack the issue with you, outline the facts as I see them, and
let you draw your own conclusion. We'll
do that by reviewing some basic terms, and then look at some Bible passages
and at the main issues involved.
get on the same page with our definitions:
WILL: Our desires
and intentions; that particular aspect of us which determines our choices
act of choosing; or a preference resulting in a choice
it pertains to this discussion, our ability to either sin (displease God)
or not sin (please God).
FREE AGENCY: The
opportunity to choose.
The knowledge with certainty of an event prior to its cause or execution.
Foreordaining or foreordained events.
THE NATURE OF OUR WILL
will is not something that exists outside of us. It is part of our nature.
It's a part of who we are. Being
part of us, the will has no inherent or special objective neutrality of
its own. It is a reflection of us, lending credence to the adage "We are
what we choose". For what defines you more than your own innermost wants
and desires? (You might say "my actions", but what preceded those?)
THE WILL OF OUR NATURE
the will is just one facet of our nature, then let's examine our nature.
Biblical theology says there are only two possible natures. The first is
the nature we are all born possessing - a fallen and spiritually dead nature;
and the second is a nature resurrected to life and regenerated in Christ
- in essence a new nature, one that only some receive.
makes clear that the fallen nature is neither willing nor capable of truly
pleasing God. Only the resurrected nature has such liberty. But no matter
which nature you possess, that nature is the one your will reflects. Just
like a mirror, our will can be no other way.
the case of a non-believer (a person who still has a fallen, unregenerate
nature), their will reflects that unregenerate nature. As
this pertains to salvation, that means an unbeliever's will cannot make
any volition that would result in repentance or saving faith unless it were
subject to an effectual outside influence. And the
only effectual exterior influence on our spiritual natures is the supernatural
drawing or calling of God.
the case of all believers, we were non-believers until God called us and
regenerated our nature such that it could then (and only then) make a volition
resulting in repentance and saving faith. Thus believers have nothing
to brag about over nonbelievers. Believers are saved by God's grace
through the vehicle of faith, and even that faith is a gift to them from
God. Believers do not possess more spiritual prowess than non-believers,
nor are believers spiritually superior. Their spiritual natures have simply
been made alive by the loving grace of God.
THE DOOMED UNSAVED?
all this still leave unsaved persons as basically will-free robots marching
towards their eventual doom? - Before we judge the culpability of the unsaved,
we need to look at some verses and key elements in each case.
Genesis 2:15-17 "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden
of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man,
'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from
the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will
1) Note that the single
thing Adam (and Eve) were cautioned against was partaking in the knowledge
of good and evil. Since the beginning, Adam and Eve had only known good.
So here God is essentially warning them of the deadly price at which the
knowledge of evil comes. They disobeyed God's prohibition, however, and
from that day forward, evil made itself known to them and continues to
make itself known to us, especially in its worst form - death.
1 Cor. 15:20-23 "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead,
the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through
a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in
Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn:
Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him."
1) Note that Christ
was raised from death to life.
2) Note that while
death was inflicted upon humanity by its representative head, Adam; so
resurrection to life is similarly offered back to humanity through a better
representative head - Christ.
Matthew 11:28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I
[Jesus] will give you rest."
1) Note that there's
an open invitation to come to Christ.
2) Note that his rest (salvation) is conditional upon coming.
John 1:12-13 "… to all who received [Jesus], to those who believed
in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- children born
not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born
1) Note that some
people are being distinguished as having received or believed in Christ
(from those who have not).
2) Note that only those who received/believed in him are being 'born again'
to God (a metaphor for coming into the family or people of God).
3) Note that this rebirth
or regeneration is being credited not to human effort but to God.
John 5:39-40 "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think
that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify
about me [Jesus], yet you refuse to come to me to have life."
1) Note that some
people refuse to come to Christ.
2) Note that coming to Christ results in (eternal) life; while failure
to do so leaves one permanently in their initial nature of being spiritually
"All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to
me I [Jesus] will never drive away… I shall lose none of all that he has
given me, but raise them up at the last day."
1) Note that it is
the Father who first acts and chooses.
2) Note that all those he chooses comes to Christ.
3) Note that the same "all" are kept saved by Christ and in
the end raised up to eternal life.
John 6:44 "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws
him, and I [Jesus] will raise him up at the last day.
1) Note that only
those whom the Father draws can (are able) to come.
2) Note that (all) those who come will be risen to eternal life.
WHAT THEN CAN BE SAID ABOUT THE UNSAVED?
They have free agency.
They have opportunities to obey God and they are beckoned over and over
to do so. And some of them indeed do respond to that beckoning.
I recall my own life
in the unregenerate state (like all Christians were at some point). I wasn't
aware of anything supernatural holding me there. Indeed, nothing supernatural
was - the unregenerate state into which we're all born is completely natural!
Unlike American citizenship,
in which all it takes to be one of the group is to be born into it, you
only become a follower of Jesus by just that - following Jesus. And following
Jesus starts with the calling of God to which you are to respond by believing
in him. Jesus' Holy Spirit will then work with you to translate
your belief into actions.
If there's any question
in your mind about if you're really saved, and you want to be, ask God and
he will grant that you find true repentance and saving faith. I can
say that in utter confidence because no one follows through and sincerely
petitions God for such things who hasn't first received God's special calling.
Others might toy with the idea of asking for faith, but they'll move on
without petitioning God with sincerity and earnest desire. In seeking God
and believing and repenting, you'll evidence yourself to have that special
calling. Those who fall away evidence themselves never to have had it to
JUDGMENT DAY BE UNFAIR TO THE UNSAVED?
Judgment Day will be
exquisitely fair to the unsaved. Without having participated in the resurrection
of Christ which true belief imparts, the unsaved will stand before God's
throne spiritually dead with about an equal chance for heaven as a corpse
has at getting into a wedding dance. The unsaved are under God's wrath not
only for being dead, but also for remaining dead in spite of God's exhortations
for everyone to come into relationship with him through his son Jesus Christ.
To the extent our testimony goes before the Judge of heaven prior to his
passing of judgment on us, I believe each day on earth is that testimony.
Death isn't when our trial begins, but when our testimony closes, and little
further remains but God's final ruling. (What will your testimony be today?)
the harsh judgment of those who rejected God be considered inequitable treatment?
Remember the passage from Genesis. Adam made a choice and incurred consequences
on himself and on his descendants (us). And we furthermore make the very
same choice to "know evil" with every disobedient act or thought
we willingly exercise on our own. Thanks only to Christ do we have a choice.
Insofar as any person
whose salvation you might be worrying about is alive and living in disobedience
to God, I ask of you: Is it more unfair that God may condemn them for their
behavior, or is it more unfair that they refuse to stop disobeying the Lord
and still want into his heaven on their own terms? If anyone wants
to believe and enter heaven, I tell you that now is the time to make that
2 Cor. 6:2 "...I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now
is the day of salvation."
IT STILL SEEMS UNFAIR THAT UNBELIEVERS WILL SUFFER HELL, then one might
challenge them to thwart that fate by coming to faith in Christ and spending
the rest of their life loving him and trying to follow his commands.
response may likely be “But I don’t want to do that”. Yet what in all practicality
stands in their way? Are they not doing as they please? I don’t know of
a single non-believer being forced into non-belief. I think the only people
who hate doubt and unbelief are believers ("Lord, I believe - help me overcome
my unbelief." Mark 9:24).
wants God? Those who love him. Those who don’t, don’t. In this limited context,
everyone may eventually get exactly what they want - time with God, or time
away from God.
didn't create Adam
and Eve to suffer hell, he created them to be objects of his love.
Yet having been given liberty and free agency, they chose to disobey God.
Though many times removed, we are all in that same family and the consequences
of knowing evil affect us still. One of many casualties of their fall was
the human will. Whatever the physical manifestation was of 'Adam and Eve
being cast out of the garden', the result was that no ones' heart has an
inherent inclination for God. Its inclination is toward the self. The fallen
will chooses freely and it does not choose God.
will that does choose God is the one that is not free of his influence,
but has been subject to his regenerating call. As a result of that unearned
intervention we will know his grace and mercy and blessings for eternity.
Pray that God intervenes in the will and lives of others, for that is
both biblical and compassionate, and the only way out for the unsaved.
DOES GOD HAVE FREE WILL?
there anything more certain than that God will act with justice and mercy
and love? Is there anything more impossible than the thought of God acting
unjustly? God does have a will, but it seems it is not without its own limitations.
each of us have been made in God's image, is it not likely that our own
wills similarly bear their own subjectivities and limitations? This is what
I believe is the case.