Is Man a Free Moral Agent?

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by KenH, Dec 20, 2002.

  1. KenH

    KenH
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    I had not intended to re-engage in this forum until in the new year but I was reading in an article from a website today at www.hisremnant.org/eby/articles/savior/moralagent.html and I thought I would share a small portion of it that is particularly well written and makes what I believe are excellent points on this subject -

    Strange as it may seem there are many today who insist that they believe in salvation by grace, yet they insist that man has the power to "make a decision for Christ." They argue that "God loves everyone, equally and alike," yet they are sure that He is going to send some people to hell for ever. They affirm that the Bible teaches that the Creator of all things is surely omnipotent, but they are also quite confident that finite man is fully capable of obstructing the will of God...

    More than a century ago a great man of God, A. P. Adams, penned the following: "I wish to add a word further in regard to the salvation of all men, suggested by the following extract which I clip from one of my exchanges. The extract is as follows: The Rev. B. W. Ward, the popular Boston evangelist, and efficient superintendent of the Bleeker Street Mission, thus beautifully illustrates the gift of salvation: A friend of mine invited me into a jewelry store, and asked the clerk for samples of their pocket knives. Placing the price of the best one alongside of it, on the counter, he said, 'Ward, I want to make you a little present. There's a knife and there is the price of it. Make your choice. Take which one you will as a momento from me.' Now, said the evangelist, whose knife was that while it lay there on the counter? It wasn't mine. It would become mine by my deciding to accept it; but without such an act on my part is was not for me. So of salvation. Jesus has paid the price, but the sinner must decide whether or not he will reach forth and take it before it becomes his.

    "In this extract it will be seen that the salvation of the individual is made to depend upon his own decision. THE SINNER MUST DECIDE, and as he decides so will his future destiny be to all eternity. Thus one's salvation is practically made to depend on one's self. God and Christ have done, or are doing their part, and now they simply wait for the sinner's decision. By the way, how long did God wait for the 'decision' of Saul of Tarsus when 'it pleased God to call him?' Most people, however, would accept the above extract as a correct presentation of the case, and would assent thereto without any hesitation. But there is a fatal defect in the illustration. The case of the one choosing the knife is NOT PARALLEL TO THAT OF THE SINNER CHOOSING SALVATION, because the former has his EYES WIDE OPEN and knows full well the value of what is presented to him for his choice, while the LATTER IS BLINDED, and knows not what he does. 'But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ ... should shine unto them' (II Cor. 4:3-4).

    "The Bible plainly teaches that fallen man is blinded to the truth; the soulish man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned, and the soulish man has not the Spirit. Thus the sinner does not realize and appreciate the value of the salvation that is offered to him. In the first place, he does not know that he is lost, and hence feels no need of salvation. Secondly, this sinner does not know that the salvation offered him in Christ is worth anything. All he has to go by in determining its worth is the lives of those who profess to possess it, and they for the most part, are very deficient illustrations of its merit. Furthermore the sinner is surrounded by circumstances entirely adverse to his acceptance of Christ. And finally, worse than all, 'the mind of the flesh,' a corrupt nature, an 'evil heart of unbelief,' a 'body of death,' that leans toward the bad and opposes the good continually; and mark you, all these things are circumstances over which the individual has no control and for which he is not to blame.

    "Again, mark you, that if he overcomes these unfavorable circumstances and in spite of them does accept Christ, it must be by some power OUTSIDE OF HIMSELF, for in himself he would never have any power for his own deliverance. This is the teaching of the seventh chapter of Romans. God must deliver him if he is delivered at all! He must bring him to a knowledge of his lost condition, so that he will feel his need of a Saviour, and He must give him repentance and faith. God must open his eyes so that he shall not only see the need, but also the priceless value of salvation, that like the apostle Paul, he will be willing to count all thing but dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord.

    "And he must be endowed with power to overcome the evil around and within him. All this help must come from God, and must be imparted to the sinner before he can make the slightest movement toward salvation. Are there any such elements as these in the case of the man choosing the knife? Is it not plain that that illustration and the case of the sinner are NOT PARALLEL at all? And yet just such illustrations are constantly presented as setting forth exactly the case of the sinner in 'his' choice or rejection of salvation in Christ! The fact is there are many factors to be taken into account in the regeneration and new creation of a human being. It is no such small matter as picking up a little present that a friend passes over to you. Hence these illustrations are very faulty and misleading" - end quote.

    ...Someone will ask, "Will God save men eventually against their will?" The answer is no!...We have only to consider the case of Saul of Tarsus to understand the miraculous power of the Lord to change the leopard's spots and melt the heart of stone. There are those who suppose that God could not convert a soul unless that depraved and lost soul gives to almighty God that permission. I only wish they would ask the apostle Paul, that great despiser of Christ and hater of His Church, that persecutor of Christians, who while on his way to Damascus was suddenly cast to the ground and converted. No man was ever more hateful toward Christ than was Saul of Tarsus, yet, when his turn came to see the light, he changed in an instant, crying out in fear and trembling and with bitter repentance, "Who art You, Lord?" and "What will You have me to do?" Did God ask Saul of Tarsus whether or not he wanted to be saved? Or did He say to Ananias, "He is a chosen vessel unto Me to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel" (Acts 9:15)? It is only God who can change the human heart...Jehovah does all of His pleasure. As I have purposed so shall it come to pass," says the Lord. Where do these man-made preachers get the notion that man is a FREE MORAL AGENT? Indeed, he may be free in some minor things that concern his personal conduct, but concerning God's eternal purpose for him HE IS NOT FREE to do his own will, for "it is NOT OF HIM THAT WILLS or HIM THAT RUNS, BUT GOD THAT SHOWS MERCY" (Rom. 9:16)...In the day of the power of God, men are made willing and, having been quickened by that Spirit, renewed in mind, having been given a heart of flesh, they do come most willingly, having been made willing BY HIS POWER. What an exalted view is this of our OMNIPOTENT GOD AND SAVIOR!

    There is an overwhelming desire in my heart that God's precious people might know that GOD IS GOD, glorious in power, fearful in praises, DOING WONDERS. I long with a great longing that His people will repent of ever having believed the insipid and useless traditions that make the almighty God seem to be a victim of the will of His own creation. It is my opinion that most of the theology of the church system is stupid prattle that seeks to render the almighty God impotent by robbing Him of His omnipotence. It teaches that God gave His Son that all the world through Him might be saved and then renders His sacrifice hopeless by leaving ninety-nine percent of all His creatures in the hands of the devil for all eternity. Such a doctrine as that belittles the power and wisdom of God and does despite to the Spirit of grace, the atoning work of Christ, and the precious blood that He shed...Such a doctrine as that is, undoubtedly, one of the "doctrines of devils" of which Paul warned. I say that because I cannot think of anyone outside of the devil himself who would be happy with the prospect that Calvary was such a colossal failure! But the preachers, including some who profess to be in the "Kingdom Message," would lay down their lives for such an abominable heresy!


    [ December 20, 2002, 07:29 PM: Message edited by: Ken H ]
     
  2. Rev. G

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    Yes, human beings are free moral agents. [​IMG]
     
  3. Me2

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    Man does not have the ability to disagree with God.

    That means he is not a Free will moral agent.

    He doesn't Have the power and wasn't given that power.

    [ December 20, 2002, 09:34 PM: Message edited by: Me2 ]
     
  4. npetreley

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    I enjoyed that very much. As for whether or not we're free moral agents, I'd be more comfortable offering an opinion if I thought we had a concensus on what it means to be one.

    That last bit, #3, leaves something to be desired in terms of description. I do believe we are (partially) free to act as we please, but we do so with a moral inclination toward sin. IMO, that means we have a type of freedom but are not free moral agents.

    I say "partially" because I also believe God intervenes in the affairs of men in ways that have little or nothing to do with salvation. God may veto Our freedom to do as we please at any time, and that action may have nothing whatsoever to do with our eternal destiny or anyone else's, but only because God wills it to be so according to some other purpose of His.

    [ December 21, 2002, 01:21 AM: Message edited by: npetreley ]
     
  5. BobRyan

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    There is a point-counter-point sequence through which the dialoge limps along.

    Just when you "think" that a point has actually been "heard" and repsonded to - by the other side - they go back a step - pretending never to have heard the point - or even their own response to it.

    In this case - the depravity of man that is this "disabling" feature of our sinnful nature THAT God's own John 12:32 "DRAWING of ALL mankind" addresses (EVEN by Calvinist standards). Just when we "think" the point has been heard and the conversation has moved on one tiny step to the next point that this would require - back we go to "What if you had never observed that WE too use John 12:32 for the ENABLING of mankind"..

    And so - round and round in circles we go. But the discussion above really only works by pretending that we never had the previous discussion.

    In Christ,

    Bob

    [ December 21, 2002, 08:36 AM: Message edited by: BobRyan ]
     
  6. Hardsheller

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    Bob,

    If I have read your posts correctly, You believe you could have said "no" when you finally said "yes" to Jesus. Is that correct?

    If so, then (and this is a very serious question)- Why didn't you?

    Was it something in you that would not let you say no or something from Him or in Him?

    Obviously you did not become a Christian in a vacuum. What part did the Father, Son and Holy Spirit play in Your Personal Salvation?

    What part did you play?

    I'd be interested in hearing how God got you from Point A (Your Lost Condition) to Point B (Your Saved Condition).
     
  7. BobRyan

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    Well - "as we all agree" - after the fall the sinful nature of man results in the Romans 3:9-20 condition that we call "total depravity".

    Mankind - unnable to Choose life - unnable to obey or submit to God's Law (Romans 8:5-9) such that the heart does not submit itself to God's law - neither indeed "can it".

    But of course God soveriegnly "chooses" to divinely - supernaturally - "Draw All Mankind" John 12:32. That drawing "As we all agree" is "More than Sufficient" to ENABLE what total depravity DISABLES (to quote a Calvinist post on this board).

    So "As Christ stood outside the door of the heart" - and knocked - I heard His voice and being enabled to choose - I chose to open the door. "IF any one Hear my Voice and Open the Door - I will come in"

    Come unto Me ALL who are weary and heavy ladened and I WILL (then - in that sequence) give you rest.

    (To as many as Received Him - to Them - He gave the right to be Called the children of God)

    The fact is - many Christians claim that exact same model for their own salvation. God Drawing them - and that Drawing - being the source of their "Ability" to "receive Him".

    Why didn't I choose rebellion EVEN though God was Drawing me, supernaturally ENABLING what total depravity had disabled as He "Drew me to Him"?

    Hmm - Adam "chose" death while ENABLED to choose. Lucifer CHOSE death while ENABLED to choose obedience. And yet many angels chose to remain faithful even though ALSO enabled to choose. Amazing how free will works that way. Some chose one course and others - a different course.

    ==========================================

    Question for Calvinist:

    Did God "force my will" - if my will was to sin continuously in total depravity?

    Or did God "change my will" so that I am now ACTING/Choosing on the dictates of a new will?

    Or was God willing sin "For me" all along and now He changes His mind and is "willing life" for me?

    Is He willing that after coming to Christ and being "drawn" by Christ -- I now expose the flaws in Calvinism - or am I willing it of my on accord? (Or do you argue that only Calvinists can go to heaven)?

    In Christ,

    Bob

    [ December 21, 2002, 03:07 PM: Message edited by: BobRyan ]
     
  8. KenH

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    The drawing of God is always effectual. God never, ever fails when He draws. All that God draws to His Son, come to His Son. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. [​IMG]
     
  9. Frogman

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    Amen, Bro. Ken.

    Bro. Dallas
     
  10. Hardsheller

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    Bob,

    It was really a simple question - Let's try again.

    If you could have said "No" when you said "Yes" to Jesus - Why didn't you?

    I didn't say NO because I:
     
  11. Hardsheller

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    Bob,

    You wrote - Question for Calvinist:

    Did God "force my will" - if my will was to sin continuously in total depravity? NO

    Or did God "change my will" so that I am now ACTING/Choosing on the dictates of a new will? YES

    Or was God willing sin "For me" all along and now He changes His mind and is "willing life" for me? NO

    Is He willing that after coming to Christ and being "drawn" by Christ -- I now expose the flaws in Calvinism - or am I willing it of my on accord? (Or do you argue that only Calvinists can go to heaven)? No - He would not have you kick against the pricks. You're probably willing it on your own. No - it's only Baptists who go to heaven! [​IMG]
     
  12. tnelson

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    JOhn 6:44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

    In this passage the Father draws or gives the ability to come. Also those that the Father gives the ability to come to Him will be raise up. This statment that our Lord made is taken lightly by to many. There is no free will here.

    by His Grace
    mike
     
  13. BobRyan

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    So now you "See" the problem with Calvinism. It claims that God changed my will so now I CHOOSE to follow Christ due to the John 12:32 DRAWING.

    It then claims that God who CHANGED my will - does so in a way that allows ME not only to CHOOSE life but also to CHOOSE to expose the flaws in Calvinism as MY "OWN" choice.

    Amazing!!

    In Christ,

    Bob

    [ December 21, 2002, 11:59 PM: Message edited by: BobRyan ]
     
  14. KenH

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    An unregenerate person can certainly reject truth and a regenerate person living in a still unredeemed body can certainly reject truth. We will never be free from the effects of the Fall in the Garden of Eden while we live in these fleshly bodies.
     
  15. BobRyan

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    And of Course Christ said that God "Draws ALL mankind unto Him" John 12:32.

    So your ENABLING through the principle of God's DRAWING - is a concept SHARED by both Arminian and Calvinist positions.

    IT is pointless then to argue (as this thread has done for post after post) that the Arminian view supposes man to be able to choose WITHOUT that John 12:32 principle - that SAME principle that EVEN Calvinism admits to be "sufficient" to ENABLE the action that Total Depravity "disables".

    The real "difference" with substance to it - is the one you identify above. BOTH are appealing to the DRAWING of God as the "power" that enables the choice - but ONE group says "God Draws ALL mankind" John 12:32 - while Calvinism claims "no not ALL mankind - just the arbitrarily selected FEW of Matt 7 on the Narrow path".

    In Christ,

    Bob
     
  16. KenH

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    The real difference we are seeing in this thread is that one side says God draws the sinner and the sinner finishes the job, while the other side says God draws the sinner and He finishes the job with the sinner in the loving arms of Jesus.
     
  17. Hardsheller

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    Bob,

    You wrote - "AMAZING!!"

    Yes it is Amazing. It's Amazing Grace all the way from Heaven's throne room to your heart.

    The very idea that a man cannot get up in the morning and choose to wear blue socks instead of red socks has nothing to do with Calvinism or God choosing you. We can still make choices after we are saved. We just have different spiritual loyalties and a different spiritual orientation.

    We can even still sin after we are saved! Amazing isn't it? We can even still want to sin after we are saved! Amazing isn't it?

    Those who believe in predestination do not believe that man is programmed in every detail of his life - at least those I associate with don't. I still choose to be sarcastic or not. I still choose to pray or not. I still choose to evangelize or not. I still choose to respond to your posts or not.

    Where do you get this idea that Calvinism equals some kind of "heavenly robotics?" that is a plague upon the earth?

    Man does not possess a total freedom when it comes to his physical capacities. We are limited in our strength and our ability to run no matter how much we might want to lift a million pounds or run like a greyhound. This is how God made us.

    We do not possess total freedom in our mental capacity. Sure I'd like to have the ability to read minds and totally recall everything I've ever read but I don't know many Einsteins and even he admitted his limitations. We are limited mentally and this how God made us.

    Why is it then so hard for you to accept that you are NOT FREE in your Spiritual capabilities and never were? You were born in bondage to sin and as soon as you were capable of making moral choices you made wrong choices because that was your nature. Born with a predisposition to sin you and I became sinners. That's the Way God made us. You couldn't help it - and I couldn't either. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

    Now that God has made us into New Men in Christ we have a new bondage and that is to Jesus Christ our Lord. So we have never been totally free spiritually. We were born in bondage to sin, enslaved to sin, free to sin, unable to not sin.

    We are now in bondage to Christ, enslaved to Christ, still free to sin but now in Christ we are able to not sin.

    Yes, Bob it is Amazing - And you and I don't have as much to do with it as we usually try to give ourselves credit. [​IMG]
     
  18. BobRyan

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    Especially given your choice of a solution - that God "Changes your will so that you now WILL to serve God and you CHoose life" but then you "will to sin" with that "will" that God has handed you - that is not you choosing anything but acting on the will that God has handed you.

    Quite amazing.

    In Christ,

    Bob
     
  19. BobRyan

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    I agree - this topic is where we really differ.

    So going with that difference - I would say that your "finishes the job" ending applies equally to "God Created Adam as a prefect sinnless being able to CHOOSE between good and evil and then Adam Finishes the Job".

    In Christ,

    Bob
     
  20. 4study

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    One thing I've never understood, so perhaps someone can explain it to me, is why "choice" seems to equall "man gets credit" in Calvinism theology. In my mind, "free will", "choice" or whatever term one uses to describe it, doesn't suggest that at all.
     

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