Apologetics: The Truth of Freewill

The concept of freewill gets tossed around a lot by both Christians and nonbelievers. The question is, do we have free will, and can we live our lives the way we want?

Free will is something that has been sadly twisted and corrupted by both Christians and Atheists alike. We no longer hold God’s original idea of free will, but our own concept. For a lot of us it is the freedom to choose how we live our lives and who we believe in. A common argument I’ve seen against God is the idea that God gave us free will, yet punishes us with Hell for not believing in Him. For the nonbeliever, this means we don’t have free will, which means God has contradicted Himself, which in turn means He doesn’t exist. However, this argument forgets something major: sin.

Paul talks about his freewill in Romans 7:15-20, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” 

Paul said he could never do what he wanted to do, nor live the life he wanted to live. He hated the things he did, yet he continued to do them. Why? It was not him that did these things, but the sin that dwelt within him. The evil he didn’t want to do, he did, and the good he wanted to do, he couldn’t do.

And so we have come to believe that free will is us choosing the life we want to live when in reality it is the virus of sin that decides the path our lives take. Paul commands us in Romans 6:12, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.” This is a command for those in Christ, but for those who live without, live in servitude to sin and its passions, not their own will. The concept of freewill we have come to believe is entirely false, as we will never have the authority to choose the path for our own lives, we simply follow the steps of sin.

So does God give us free will at all? He does, but we need to see the true concept of free will God has given us to understand. God gave us free will as a window to escape sin’s reign. It’s God opening the door to salvation, and the freedom He’s given us to take it. It has never been the other way around.

This is further seen in God’s very action towards us. His relentless pursuit. John 6:44 says, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” The gift of free will is the ultimate act of mercy towards us. It’s the gift Jesus gave on the cross, the open door to salvation. How sad it is that we would abuse this gift and use it as an excuse to live for sin’s passions.

However, this can also come with an argument. “It’s not freewill if we’re forced to choose God.” This comes because we haven’t yet seen the end of sin. Sin, when it’s finished, leads to death and destruction. In the novel, The Pilgrim’s Progress, by James Bunyan, Christian-the main character-realizes his home is about to be wiped out by a massive fire. This fire symbolizes the end of sin. However, a messenger by the name of Evangelist comes along and offers him the way to salvation. This symbolizes the gift of freewill. Christian willingly accepts this invitation, wanting to be delivered from sin’s destruction. If we could see sin’s end, we’d all want the salvation Jesus gave. This very thing, Christ has done, revealing to us our fallen nature and sin’s corrupted end through His Word. But alas, we’ve deemed these warnings as fables and have turned to serve another, far more gruelling and demanding master.

The weight of sin may be great, but the power of mercy is so much greater.