Is "free will" explicitly stated in the Bible / Do Protestants accept it as tradition

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sabrinaofmn

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I understand that “free will” is compatible with Scripture as well as common sense and Church Tradition. Obviously, people in the Bible made choices as we each make choices today. However, I question absolute “free will”. Each day when I get my son dressed, I offer him the choice between two shirts. Obviously this is really no choice at all, only a perceived choice. I would contend that our own free will is similar. Much of our path is set - the time of our birth, our socio-economic status, our looks, genetics, etc., etc. In many ways we choose only within a limited set of options. The aforementioned factors along with God’s divine providence and spiritual forces acting upon our lives paint a picture of a very limited free will as opposed to absolute free will. The real issue is how “free” our “free will” really is. I don’t want to start a philosophical discussion on free will; rather, I have a very specific question. My question is this: is “free will” explicitly stated in the Bible, or is this yet another instance wherein Protestants are accepting Tradition without acknowleging that they are accepting Tradition? Is “free will” another argument against sola scriptura?
 
The argument for free will can be built up from scripture, just like the Trinity, even though neither is explicitly named. During Christ’s agony in the garden, He cries to the Father, “Not my will, but thine be done”. From this we can see that Jesus made the choice to submit to His Father’s will, that He could just as easily have fled and prevented His death. Since Jesus was like us “in all things but sin”, the fact that He possessed free will shows us that we possess it also.

Regarding absolute free will:

Free will must exist for one specific purpose: To freely choose to love God. If we couldn’t do that, we would be like the animals, who serve God by their existence, and cannot choose to do otherwise. Thus, the gift of free will means something. What does it mean? It means that when we love God, it is our choice, and therefore that love is infinitely superior to the “love” of say, a dog for its master. It means that at the end of our lives, when we make it into Heaven, it will be our choice, not God’s. You are correct when you liken our free will to your son’s choice of two shirts because, in the end there really are only two choices: Love of God, or rejection of God.
 
I would just like to say, at least as far as I am concerned that there are many things that Protestants do that is not written in scripture and that comes to use by way of tradition. We do not end with the Bible but start with it and measure all things by it.

The difference I think lies in that Protestants do not believe that they can make proclamations or claims that are equivalent to that of the scripture. The constitution is not amendable.? I don’t know that that is a good analogy.

One thing that I have noticed from my time on this bulletin board is that Protestants and Catholics know very little of themselves much less that of the other Faith. All of my views on the Catholic Church are turning up to be more or less false, which is bad because I got most of those ideas from apparently misinformed Catholics.

I have heard many good arguments against sola scriptora on this bulletin board. But my feelings are this… The Scripture is a terrible way to understand God but it is the best way that we have available on this Earth.

Sometimes I think that people get too concerned with “Who Serves God Best” and fail to concern themselves with “How Can I Best Serve God.”

Sorry about the rant. It is a great question. Where in the Bible does it talk about free will?
 
define the term “free will”?

If you mean “the ability to make choices”, I agree – and even Calvin would agree – that all men have the ability to make choices. If you mean “the ability to choose to do things which are pleasing to God”, we have a much larger problem to deal with – which probably can’t be resolved by exchanging posts which are less than 5000 characters in length. 👍
 
I think more accurately it would be the "ability to make choices that are displeasing to God, because we are the only Earthly creatures who claim that ability. When a lion kills, it doesn’t displease God.
 
Somewhere in Scripture it says “I put before you, life and death. Choose life that you may live.”

Don’t forget Deuteronomy 29.

We have a choice. That is CLEAR.

No choice? No free will.
 
I think that, while humans are endowed with free will, very few of our choices are actually free will decisions; the rest are guided by the Holy Spirit.

For example, let’s say that you’re going out to lunch, and you have to decide between a McDonald’s and a Burger King on opposite sides of the street. You choose, apparently by your own free will, to go to the Burger King. While you’re in there, a madman runs into the McDonald’s with a machine gun and kills everyone there. Meanwhile, you sit safely in the Burger King while the situation across the street is brought under control.

Now we could say that you could have chosen to eat at McDonald’s just as easily as Burger King. But if you had chosen McDonald’s, your life would have ended abruptly or at least changed drastically. Obviously, that wasn’t in God’s plans for you; he must have guided you in some way to the Burger King.

We can see many examples of decisions we made in the past that may have seemed like free-will choices, but if we had chosen otherwise, our lives would have been altered dramatically. In fact, it seems as though most of our decisions are like this. So it seems to me that, for all our talk of free will, it’s actually God who influences us to make some of the choices that we do.

Any thoughts?
 
Dr. Colossus:
I think more accurately it would be the "ability to make choices that are displeasing to God, because we are the only Earthly creatures who claim that ability. When a lion kills, it doesn’t displease God.
… is that we are not pre-fallen Adam. We all sinners in Adam, and we are all also sinners by choice – that is, when presented with the choice to do what God wants us to do or what we ourselves would rather do, we choose “my will” rather than “thy will”.

I am going to deviate from the M.O. of using only Scripture to deal with Catholic advocates for one moment to talk about the issue of choices in general.

Imagine for a moment that there is a table before you, and on that table are two plate. The plate to your left has a lovely salad with lo-cal blue-cheese dressing and a glass of water; the plate to your right has a greasy cheeseburger and fries with an icy Coke. As you sit there looking at them, you realize you are hungry – and as you get up to leave, you realize that you are locked in the room. So you have a choice: eat or go hungry.

I know myself: I’d eat. But what would I eat? Would I choose the salad or the cheeseburger? I know myself: I’d choose the cheeseburger. And if I am honest with myself, I know I would always choose the cheeseburger. No matter how many times I found myself in the room unable to leave and faced with that choice, I’d always choose the cheeseburger.

Now before we go anywhere else in this discussion, would you say that I was actually choosing if every time I was in the room – whether it was once or 1,000 times or more – I ate the cheeseburger and not the salad?
 
… that this was a great non-Biblical example.

Nice job.
 
Like many other things in scripture, “free will” is not discussed as a philosophical topic with extended explicit analysis. Even a casual reading of the Old and New Testaments, however, reveals tons of examples of people exercising their free will in cooperation with God’s grace or in opposition to it. In the Book of Acts 7:51 Stephen tells the elders in the temple: “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit just as your ancestors used to do.”

This verse says a great deal about free will and the willfulness of man. We really cannot excuse our choices by contending that we do not have free will. Grace for example, does not make us or force us to do anything. Instead, grace enables us to make the right choice. God will not force us to love him. We have to choose God or we choose ourselves.
 
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Shibboleth:
I would just like to say, at least as far as I am concerned that there are many things that Protestants do that is not written in scripture and that comes to use by way of tradition. We do not end with the Bible but start with it and measure all things by it.

The difference I think lies in that Protestants do not believe that they can make proclamations or claims that are equivalent to that of the scripture. The constitution is not amendable.? I don’t know that that is a good analogy…
There is an apparent contradiction in these two paragraphs. If some things come to use in Protestant circles by tradition, as stated in paragraph #1, than, contrary to paragraph #2, they in practice become equivalent to those things that come strictly by scripture. There is also wide debate as to what comes to us by scripture because of the many differing interpretations of scripture.

Moreover, most biblical interpretation and teachings are governed by tradition. In fact, even the way scripture is studied is governed by tradition. The main question is: What church and its tradition have the authority granted by Jesus Christ to interpret and properly teach it to His flock? Which church has the promise of Jesus Christ, as expressed by St. Paul in 1Tim 3:15, to be the “pillar and bulwark of the truth.”?
 
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sabrinaofmn:
My question is this: is “free will” explicitly stated in the Bible, or is this yet another instance wherein Protestants are accepting Tradition without acknowleging that they are accepting Tradition?
Do not say, “Because of the Lord I left the right way”; for he will not do what he hates. Do not say, “It was he who led me astray”; for he has no need of a sinful man. The Lord hates all abominations, and they are not loved by those who fear him. It was he who created man at the beginning, and he left him in the power of his own inclination *. If you will *, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice *. He has placed before you fire and water, stretch out your hand for whichever you wish *. Before a man are life and death, and whichever he chooses * will be given to him. For great is the wisdom of the Lord; he is mighty in power and sees everything; his eyes are on those who fear him, and he knows every deed of man. He has not commanded anyone to be ungodly, and he has not given any one permission to sin (Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 15:11-20).

Those Protestants that accept free will have no explicit statement in Scripture to fall back on because they reject the deuterocanonical Scriptures of which Sirach is one.*****
 
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sabrinaofmn:
My question is this: is “free will” explicitly stated in the Bible, or is this yet another instance wherein Protestants are accepting Tradition without acknowleging that they are accepting Tradition?
Do not say, “Because of the Lord I left the right way”; for he will not do what he hates. Do not say, “It was he who led me astray”; for he has no need of a sinful man. The Lord hates all abominations, and they are not loved by those who fear him. It was he who created man at the beginning, and he left him in the power of his own inclination *. If you will *, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice *. He has placed before you fire and water, stretch out your hand for whichever you wish *. Before a man are life and death, and whichever he chooses * will be given to him. For great is the wisdom of the Lord; he is mighty in power and sees everything; his eyes are on those who fear him, and he knows every deed of man. He has not commanded anyone to be ungodly, and he has not given any one permission to sin (Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 15:11-20).

Those Protestants that accept free will have no explicit statement in Scripture to fall back on because they reject the deuterocanonical Scriptures of which Sirach is one.*****
 
Please define “absolute free will”.

If I stand on the edge of a ten-story building, I can make the choice to jump or not jump. If I chose to jump, I do not have the choice of obeying the law of gravity or not obeying the law of gravity. If by “absolute free will”, one means the ability to do whatever one desires to do, then obviously no human has ever possessed “absolute free will”. Adam and Eve could not choose to be disobedient to God and not suffer the consequences of their disobedience, even though they desired to live in a fantasy world where they could commit sin and live without the consequences of their free will choice for sin. ( A fantasy world not unlike the fantasy world that many believers in “Once Saved Always Saved” dwell in).

Free will is only meaningful in terms of our moral choices. I can freely choose to cooperate with the graces that God gives me that allows me to be obedient to his will, or I can choose to reject the sufficient grace that God gives me to be obedient to his will. Questions about preferring cheeseburgers to salads are questions about matters of taste – * de gustibus non est disputandum*, in matters of taste there is no dispute. God creates us with particular tastes, I may prefer chocolate over vanilla, and another person may hate chocolate but love vanilla. Our innate preferences in matters of taste are really irrelevant to questions involving free will.
 
Free will is a slippery term. Autonomous free will is completely absent in Scripture.

Romans 9 militates against absolute free will in Salvation. We have free will according to our kind. And unregenrate person has free will according to his nature. We were all dead in our sins. A dead man can do nothing. So a person must be quickened by the Holy Spirit before he can “choose” to repent and believe. A baptized person is a different story.

A dog has free will. But only according to his nature. A dog can choose to bury a bone. But the same dog cannot choose to drive a car. His will is restricted to his nature. It is the same with humans. An unregenerate person is God’s enemy because of original sin. It is not in his nature to choose to love God without God first acting upon that person to make his will inclined toward God. This happens by Baptism or some supernatural act on an unbaptized person (who is old enough to make decisions). But noone starts the faith process by an act of their will. God always moves first. Whether he arranges for us to be baptized or he calls someone who has not it always begins with God. This is the constant theme of scripture. God is Sovereign. Man is not. That is the key to understanding this whole subject.

The Augustinians and Thomists among your are the ones who are the most consistant followers of the contours of scripture regarding God’s will and our own. No one has autonomous free will. You will find it no where in scripture.

“Jacob have I loved Esau have I hated”.

Mel
 
melchior
  • A dog has free will.*
What moral choice is a dog making when he chooses to bury a bone? A dog is no more making a moral choice when he digs up the neighbor’s flowerbed than centuri0n is making a moral choice when he chooses between a cheeseburger and a salad.
  • An unregenerate person is God’s enemy because of original sin. It is not in his nature to choose to love God with out God first acting upon that person to make his will inclined toward God.*
Adam and Eve were created without the corruption of original sin. They possessed sanctifying grace in the garden, and they possessed the preternatural gift of freedom from concupiscence. Even though Adam and Eve were dwelling in a state of sanctifying grace and without concupiscence, they were able to freely choose to be disobedient to God.

You seem to be making a “Calvinist” argument that the regenerated Christians that have received sanctifying grace as a gift from God are incapable of acting sinfully. Do you believe that the “elect” cannot sin because that would be against their nature?
 
Matt16_18 said:
melchior
  • A dog has free will.*
What moral choice is a dog making when he chooses to bury a bone? A dog is no more making a moral choice when he digs up the neighbor’s flowerbed than centuri0n is making a moral choice when he chooses between a cheeseburger and a salad.
  • An unregenerate person is God’s enemy because of original sin. It is not in his nature to choose to love God with out God first acting upon that person to make his will inclined toward God.*
Adam and Eve were created without the corruption of original sin. They possessed sanctifying grace in the garden, and they possessed the preternatural gift of freedom from concupiscence. Even though Adam and Eve were dwelling in a state of sanctifying grace and without concupiscence, they were able to freely choose to be disobedient to God.

You seem to be making a “Calvinist” argument that the regenerated Christians that have received sanctifying grace as a gift from God are incapable of acting sinfully. Do you believe that the “elect” cannot sin because that would be against their nature?

Matt16_18,

Respectfully, you missed my point at every turn. Please read it again without reading into it.

My point about the dog was about creaturely limitations. I never said we cannot make moral choices. I didn’t even imply it. I was merely pointing out that we only have free will according to human nature. In other words free will is limited. God is the only one with absolute free will. You cannot will yourself to fly can you? So we don’t have absolute free will. It is limited to what humans can and cannot do by our nature.

As for Adam and Eve how does that relate? I am talking about mankind after the Fall.

My argument is not Calvinistic because a Calvinist would not necesarily believe in Baptismal Regeneration. My argument was classically Augustinian. A view that is fully acceptible within Catholicism. Absolute free will is not. As I understand it Predestination is * De Fide* in the Catholic Church. It seems many a modern Catholic has adopted the Arminian point of view. But some form of limited free will is Catholic dogma. And I appreciate that your church, unlike say the Orthodox, allow for various understandings whether Thomist or Molinist etc.

I just wanted to be clear that though I am not Catholic my argument was not Calvinist (I never mentioned limited atonement for example), indeed it is the view that *not a few Catholic scholars have held over the centuries.

Just wanted to clarify.

Mel
  • I hate when people say “not a few”. Shame on me. 😃
 
This is the Council of Trent 's perspective:

". . . .[F]ree will, attenuated as it was in its powers, and bent down, was by no means extinguished. . . .

". . . .[W]hile God touches the heart of man by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, neither is man himself utterly without doing anything while he receives that inspiration, forasmuch as he is also able to reject it; yet is he not able, by his own free will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight.

“. . . .[W]e are therefore said to be justified freely, because that none of those things which precede justification-whether faith or works-merit the grace itself of justification.”
 
Melchior

Could you define please what you mean by “absolute free will”? I totally agree that no human has ever possessed the ability to do whatever he or she feels like doing. As for God having “absolute free will”, what does that mean? Can God act against his nature?
 
Melchior

As for Adam and Eve how does that relate? I am talking about mankind after the Fall.

You are talking about human nature and free will, so we can talk about human nature both before and after the Fall. Adam and Eve had human nature before the Fall, and that nature is characterized by the possession of the gift of free will. My point is that one can exist in a state of sanctifying grace and freely choose to commit sin.

I am not trying to argue for the existence of something called “absolute free will”, since I don’t even know what that term is supposed to mean.
 
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