The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Friday, May 4, 2012

God's Ignoble Gambit: How Free Will Destroys the Cross

Reformation Bible College

God’s Ignoble Gambit: How Free Will Destroys the Cross

Doctrine of Christ


Thomas Booher

Sanford, Florida
May 2012

            No matter how you dice it, the fall of man necessitated the death of Christ if God were to provide salvation. While the argument over the means of receiving salvation has often centered on free will versus election, most have opted to take some route through the Bible that has God allowing man to fall of his own free will, hoping to get God off the hook for the entrance of evil into humanity. If He creates man with the ability to choose obedience or disobedience, the choice itself is entirely up to man. This allegedly keeps God free of the charge of being an evil architect. Closer inspection will reveal that it is when God is not the first cause of evil’s existence that His goodness is lost. It is free will, and not God’s predestination of the Fall, that casts a shadow over the character of God, because man’s choice leads God to predestine His sinless Son to die for sinful man as a reaction rather than a God-glorifying plan.   
            C.S. Lewis in his classic book Mere Christianity said regarding the Fall, “Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently He thought it worth the risk.”[1] This is the basic position of many who espouse a free will theology, and many Calvinists even seem to falter and default to a position similar to this regarding the Fall. Most acknowledge that God knew Adam and Eve would disobey, but chose to use their disobedience as opportunity to send His Son to die for man and offer salvation. The question is, how could God guarantee man would disobey if He did not predestine disobedience since He created Adam and Eve good? There is either autonomous free will, or God sovereignly predestining the Fall. That is the only two options. Thus, Lewis was right when he said that God would be taking a risk if He limited His sovereignty and left it up to man to choose between life and death.
            In his book Almighty Over All, Sproul Jr. argues that it is God who changed Adam and Eve’s inclination so they would be willing to eat the forbidden fruit.[2] He is not arguing that God sinned, but that God is the Creator of sin. Logically, this would have to be the case, since Genesis 1:1 says in the beginning all there was, was God. Everything that exists finds it’s being ultimately flowing from God. Those who hold to a free will position say that God inclining Adam and Eve to disobedience is a sin itself, making God evil. Scripture however, and not man’s feelings and opinions, should have the final say on this matter, and Paul in Romans 9:19-24 answers the free will theologian’s objection. These verses say that God has the power and the right to do whatever He wishes with His creation. God has chosen to glorify Himself through preparing some for honor and others for dishonor, some for wrath to be destroyed, and others to receive mercy and grace. Proverbs 16:4 says “The Lord has made all for Himself, even the wicked for the day of doom” (NKJV). God ultimately designed the day of doom to glorify Jesus Christ. Hebrews 10:13 says after Christ made a sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God and waits until all His enemies are made His footstool. This happened according to God’s foreordained plan, being foretold through prophecy for centuries, and not as a reaction to man’s misuse of free will.[3] 
            Since God is worthy of all glory, honor, and praise, it makes sense for God to predestine the Fall.  God gives glory to Jesus His Son as a man through the Fall by having His Son take on human flesh and redeem His bride and the creation from sin, making Christ pre-eminent and the firstborn over all Creation (Col. 1:13-23).[4] It is God’s prerogative to do as He pleases with His own creation and to make His Son, who is worthy of all glory, honor, and praise, the only sinless man to ever live and Savior of the cosmos. If this is what the Fall of man accomplished, to make us children of God through the blood-bought redemption of Christ according to God’s plan,[5] then man should heartily applaud it, for God has demonstrated His vast glory perfectly through His Creation, and has even become man through His Son Jesus Christ!
            Conversely, the free will theologian has to concede that God’s plan to send Christ as Lord and Savior was one He never desired to enact. Begrudgingly He would have sent His Son, and why? Not as part of His glorious plan, but because His gambit had backfired. He took the risk Lewis spoke about, and it failed miserably. Why the risk? Free will theologians will say because true love requires freedom to choose. This may be true, but God’s sovereignty over all does not preclude the fact that man still is the one who choose to rebel. God spoke, and there was light. He tells the planets how to orbit, and they orbit precisely as He commands. He decreed, and man willingly rebelled. It was part of His plan, but He uses secondary causes, like man’s will, to accomplish His grand glory story.[6] Thus man, and man alone, is responsible for his sin.
            Meaningless pain and suffering is hard to swallow. In fact, it is impossible. Even the suffering of the souls in hell is for the grand purpose of God’s glory. One of the great comforts for the Christian is that God works all things together for his or her good (Rom. 8:28), including pain, suffering, and death. They have redeeming qualities. This is what gives the Christian hope in times of pain and persecution, torment and tragedy, when life is dim and death is at the door. To turn the question on the free will theologians, how can God be working all things together for His, His Son’s, or anyone else’s good, by taking a risk with the cosmos’ fate? Romans five makes it clear that in Adam all die. Since mankind died spiritually at the Fall with Adam, how can God say that all things work together for good? Did God work the Fall of man for Adam and all of humanity’s good? No, He could not have because He had no control over it! Then if sin, suffering, pain, and death entered without the purpose of demonstrating God’s glory, without any purpose on God’s part at all, how can God really be working anything together for good since true “good” is God being glorified? It would be more accurate in that case to say that God is salvaging all things for those who love God and are called according to His emergency back-up plan. If man fell without God’s purposing it, everything that follows is a result of man’s sin, and not God’s initiative, not God’s plan. That thought is terrifying, dreadful, because God is not in control of His own Creation. Rather than a perfectly constructed story designed first to last by God for God, His Son, and His people, it is the story of how God’s gamble didn’t pay off and what He did to try and fix his mistake. 
            Can such a state give anyone hope? To be saved in such a scenario would be like the captain of a ship, who also built the ship, tossing his passenger the only life vest on board, the one that was meant to save his only son, after he had let the passenger steer the ship and sink it by slamming it into an iceberg. The passenger drifted through the cold waters and nearly froze to death, but in the end washed ashore and survived thanks to the life vest, though only after enduring an extended bout with pneumonia. It was the captain’s poor discretion, letting the passenger steer the ship that he himself had built and he alone knew how to operate, that put the passenger, and the captain and his son, in such a plight. Yes, he warned the poor passenger not to hit any icebergs, that if he did he would die, but if the captain had known the passenger could wreck the ship, why did he give the passenger the opportunity in the first place? Even further, why would he then give the only life vest to the reckless passenger rather than his own innocent son? This is senseless, evil even, if not planned for good.   
            When theologians say man retains free will after the Fall, they not only contradict Scripture but also say that Christ died for every single man and woman, but that man gets a second chance to exercise free will rightly. In other words, man chooses their eternal destiny. Max Lucado says as much:
All complaints were silenced when Adam and his descendants were given free will, the freedom to make whatever eternal choice we desire. Any injustice in this life is offset by the honor of choosing our destiny in the next….Have we been given any greater privilege than that of choice? Not only does this privilege offset any injustice, the gift of free will can offset any mistakes.[7]     
            The mistake would be, ultimately, with God, would it not? Free will is more a curse than a blessing when it results in the damnation of the human race. It becomes blasphemy and idolatry when it eclipses not only God’s sovereignty but overcomes the work of Christ on the cross for His people, rendering His sacrifice of no effect! God again is left wishing everyone to choose the good, to choose His Son, and yet His plan fails yet again. Why does Lucado esteem free will as the greatest privilege that we have been given when through it we fell into sin and thwarted God’s will? I would suggest another privilege that God’s people have been given as the greatest privilege, it is found in 1 John 3:1 (NKJV) which says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” This is only possible because of God’s sovereign plan and choice, not our free will. Further, Romans 8:14-17 states we will be glorified together with Christ.  
            In God’s plan, we end up being children of God because Christ died for us and spiritually marries us. This union with Christ results in His Spirit indwelling us, and even in our glorification together with Christ! Certainly our end state in heaven is a higher state than even Adam and Eve’s before the Fall. This is a plan that brings not only Christ as man glory, but His people glory too, and it cannot fail, because God is sovereign, and man is not.

[1] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (HarperSanFrancisco; Revised & Enlarged edition, 2001), 48
[2] R.C. Sproul, Jr., Almighty Over all (Baker Books Publishing; 1999), 53-54
[3] R.C. Sproul, The Truth of the Cross, (Reformation Trust Publishing, 2007), 103
[4] Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington, The Great Exchange: My Sin For His Righteousness, (Crossway Books, 2007), 41
[5] John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, (William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1955),  43
[6] Westminster Confession of Faith, Cha 3.1
[7] Max Lucado, Cast of Characters: Common People in the Hands of an Uncommon God, (Thomas Nelson, 2010), 108

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