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What about “Free Will”?

I am a member of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in Iowa. Years ago, I made confession of faith and slowly on I changed my opinion in regard to the doctrine of the CRC. I have this question. Can you take the Bible and prove out of Scripture that man ever lost his free will or choice? If you can’t find it in Scripture where God says, “Man, you lost your free will,” then I think we were indoctrinated when young.

Please answer this question because I have sent it to the Banner and never received an answer.

Herman VanDyke

Sanborn, IA

Answer:

By “free will” the Reformed faith understands a natural ability in fallen man to choose Jesus Christ and to believe the gospel. That fallen man lacks a free will, therefore, means that fallen man has no ability to choose Jesus or to believe the gospel when it is preached to him, or, indeed, to will any good.

Your question is, “Can you take the Bible and prove out of Scripture that man ever lost his free will or choice? If you can’t find it in Scripture where God says, ‘Man, you lost your free will,’ then I think we were indoctrinated when young.” In your question, you make two serious mistakes. The first is that you ignore the Reformed confessions. As a member of the CRC, you are bound to believe the confessions as the faithful expression of the truth of Holy Scripture. Article 14 of the Belgic Confession teaches that in the fall man has “become wicked, perverse, and corrupt in all his ways. . . . Therefore we reject all that is taught repugnant to this, concerning the free will of man, since man is but a slave to sin, and has nothing of himself, unless it is given from heaven.”

The Canons of Dordt in their entirety are a refutation of the heresy of free will. Article 1 of the third and fourth heads of doctrine states that fallen man “entailed on himself blindness of mind, horrible darkness, vanity and perverseness of judgment, became wicked, rebellious, and obdurate in heart and will, and impure in his affections.” Article 3 of the same section declares that fallen men are “dead in sin, and in bondage thereto, and without the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, they are neither able nor willing to return to God, to reform the depravity of their nature, nor to dispose themselves to reformation.”

Your second mistake is that you dictate to God how He must teach that fallen man is unable to save himself and is completely dependent upon grace, that is, has lost free will: “If you can’t find it in Scripture where God says, ‘Man, you lost your free will,’ then I think we were indoctrinated when young.” Such heretics as the Jehovah’s (False) Witnesses make the same demand as regards the doctrine of the Trinity: “If you can’t find it in Scripture where God says, ‘I am Triune,’ all you Trinitarians were indoctrinated when young.”

God teaches the bondage of the will of the natural (unregenerated) man in words that please Him. He teaches it clearly and conclusively in the Bible. In John 6:44, Jesus says that “no man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” No human is able to desire, choose, or believe on Jesus Christ. Every human lacks the ability of free will. In order to come to Jesus, one must be drawn by the Father’s sovereign, efficacious grace. Jesus flatly asserts in John 15:5 that “without me ye can do nothing.” The natural man is “without Jesus.” Choosing Jesus by the power of a supposed free will is quite something. Since the natural man can do nothing, he cannot choose Jesus. In Ephesians 2:1-10, the apostle teaches that all men are naturally “dead in trespasses and sins.” Dead men and women do not choose Jesus, “let Him into their hearts,” or “accept the offer of salvation.” They cannot. They are dead. This is to say, they do not save themselves. They must be saved by the mighty grace of God – grace that raises from the dead and creates anew, as Ephesians 2:1-10 puts it.

This is the issue in the matter of the teaching of a “free will.” “Free will” ascribes the salvation of the sinner to the sinner. It gives the glory of salvation to man. It is another doctrine and gospel from the doctrine and gospel of Scripture. It teaches sinners to depend upon themselves for salvation. It is not essentially different from the teaching that salvation depends upon man’s own works. The apostle lumps both of these miserable teachings together in Romans 9:16a: “So then it (salvation) is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth (worketh) . . . .” Over against both these forms of the lie that man saves himself is the gospel of Scripture: “. . . but (salvation is) of God that sheweth mercy” (Rom. 9:16b).

There is not enough indoctrination today in the Reformed churches in the truth of total depravity, including the bound will. Especially the children and youth must be thoroughly indoctrinated in the truths of salvation by grace alone.

Evidently, you need more indoctrination. We suggest that you subscribe to and read the Standard Bearer, and we urge you to hear preaching and teaching that proclaims free grace. We are also sending you under separate cover a pamphlet that explains salvation by free grace and defends it against free will, “A Defense of Calvinism as the Gospel.”

– The Editorial Committee