Having Trouble with The Doctrine of Election? Start Here (Part 2)
Another objection raised to the doctrine of election is man’s free will. Christians will object to election by saying that man is free to choose or reject the Gospel and therefore, it is man’s free will that determines his eternal destiny. But this understanding of free will is mistaken, and applying this understanding to salvation is unbiblical.
First, I absolutely agree that man has free will. In fact, most theologians and pastors and Christians that believe the doctrine of election also believe in man’s free will. The difference, however, is our understanding of free will. The Bible makes it clear that “no one seeks after God,” (Rom. 3:10-19) and that “no one can come to [Jesus] unless the Father…draws him,” (John 6:44) and “everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light.” (John 3:19)
In these verses we come to understand that the will of man is bent on evil and rejection of God. There is no one that will, of his own free will, choose God (Rom. 3:10-19). In fact, the human will is so captive to sin that no man has any desire for God and prefers the darkness over the light (John 3:19). This means that the idea of free will is true. But it also means that if given a choice man will always choose sin, the darkness, and always choose to reject Christ.
When given the choice between sin and Christ, man will always choose sin.
When given the choice between sin and salvation, man will always choose sin. It is because man is held captive by his sin and has no ability to do anything but choose sin.
Jonathan Edwards, called the greatest theologian America has ever produced, said that man would always choose according to his greatest inclination when given a choice. And since sin reigns in our mortal body and holds our will captive, man will always choose sin when given a choice. If given a choice between Christ and our greatest human inclination, man will always choose sin because at any given moment our inclination is toward sin.
The objection to the doctrine of election that man has a free will is another point that proves the doctrine of election is true because man’s free will only causes him to choose sin. Martin Luther called this the “bondage of the will.” He said that man’s will was held captive by sin to such a degree that he has no hope of choosing Christ. Of course Luther was only restating what the Bible has already made plain for us. No man, when given the opportunity to choose between sin and Christ will choose Christ.
The idea that man would, of his own “free will,” choose Christ is false and unbiblical. No one has ever chosen Christ without first being drawn by the Father (John 6:44). And within the doctrine of salvation, God’s sovereignty reigns supreme. Consider:
-Is God sovereign over all things at all times? Does God know all things from before the world began?
-If God knows that John will reject Christ and never accept Jesus no matter how many chances he’s given, but still allows John to be born, has God predestined John to hell?
-If all things, every event and decision made upon this earth passes through God first, and some “choose” to reject Christ, have they made their own choice or has God predestined them to reject Christ?
The truth is that because God is sovereign and determines all that takes place on the earth, this includes salvation. God doesn’t relinquish His sovereignty when it comes to man’s salvation. God doesn’t, for some unknown reason, determine all that takes place on the earth except for man’s salvation. God doesn’t sit back and hope people will choose Him. God, in His foreknowledge, before the foundations of the earth, has determined who would be predestined to saving grace and who would be predestined to be “vessels of destruction” (Rom. 9:22-23).
These two persistent objections to the doctrine of election, man’s free will and fairness, are in fact not objections at all. They have no basis and cannot be sustained when held to the biblical light. When we properly understand mercy and justice, and the bondage of the will as it relates to man’s “free will,” we can see that our objections fall flat.
These are weighty matters that demand serious consideration. These are the theological truths that Christians must wrestle with as we are sanctified. No one has ever said that the doctrine of predestination and election is light or that it does not demand considerable study. But it is critical to our understanding of God, salvation, and evangelism. With a proper understanding we can grow in grace and our trust in Christ will deepen. I encourage everyone to give some thought to this important doctrine.