Does “fallen man” retain some shred of free will to put his trust in Christ?
Does “fallen man” retain some shred of free will to put his trust in Christ? Wow, that’s some inquiry! Numerous debates and discussions have arisen from this question.
Yes! Without a Shadow of a Doubt, say the sceptics. But the author would exclaim, “Really! ”
For many Christians, the verse “John 3:16” which reads, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” serves as the cornerstone of their argument. But now we wonder, “What does this well-known scripture actually say and teach about the free will of fallen man to choose Christ?” At the risk of being labelled a heretic and burned at the stake, I would say – Nothing whatsoever.
In that case, and I think this is the case, what is the text actually telling us? Not to mention the fact that we should always read it in the context of the rest of the Bible. Does it insist that every individual has the right, the ability, and the means to choose or reject Christ as their personal Saviour? No, I would contend.
The Simple A and B.
The Scripture is actually presenting a simply A and B – (A) Everyone who believes in Christ will be saved. (B) Will be granted eternal life.
In other words, “Whoever accomplishes A (believes) will obtain B (everlasting life.)”
Not everyone who reads “John 3:16” will become a believer. It also says nothing about the natural or moral capacity of corrupted / fallen man. While the phrase “free will” is often bandied about, the reality is that, apart from the “true liberty” that God’s grace grants through being “born again,” there is “no free will” present in mankind, only “human will,” and even that is confined nay imprisoned within a “fallen nature” that is held captive apart from God’s grace.
It could be argued (incorrectly, in my opinion) that while “John 3:16” doesn’t explicitly teach that a non-Christian can choose Christ without being reborn and experiencing regeneration first, then the heavenly supply of faith, it certainly implies that contention. It’s a lovely theory and certainly accommodates our inherited thinking and serves to pacify our ideas of “Justice, Mercy, Love and Grace.”
That’s not the theory I’d subscribe to, and here’s why. The answer to it however is elementary. However, let me say that it’s a valid question to pose
All persons who study God’s Word and all theologians agree on a very fundamental rule of thumb when it comes to interpreting Scripture.
Implication, Superiority and Subservience.
“An implication drawn from any Scripture must always and continually remain subordinate to the explicit teaching of Scripture.” Subordinate in this respect meaning “subject to or under the authority of a superior.” The superior here being the actual statement of “John 3:16” not the implication.
The actual declaration of “John 3:16,” not the inference, is the superior here; hence, “an implication derived from any Scripture must always and always remain subservient to the express teaching of Scripture.”
We should never, never turn this idea around when understanding Scripture, because doing so drastically alters the reality and the truth being disclosed and exposed.
With this in mind, we must return to “John 3:16” and ask, “If the text is saying that there nevertheless exists universally in unregenerate humans, to use a well-known metaphor, “an island of capacity to select Christ,” then it rejects the very obvious and very unambiguous teaching of Jesus himself to the opposite.
There was no opportunity for argument or counterargument in Jesus’ teachings. He made it quite clear that “no man can come to him without God doing something to give him the power to do so,” particularly drawing or as the phrase truly means pulling him. – “John 6:44” – The Greek word translated “draw” is helkuo (ἑλκύω), it’s a “Verb” which we know is a doing word which means “to drag” (literally or figuratively).
Plus, we should keep in mind that lost and unsaved people in themselves do not have the ability to come to God. Scripture makes it very apparent that individuals “in the flesh can accomplish nothing to satisfy God,” which is very close to the definition of the term “flesh” used to describe a fallen human being. The Apostle Paul explains that “the fleshly mind is enmity against God; because it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can it be” –“Romans 8:7”. So, it’s clear that humans can’t appease God in their natural state.
Words like “but” and “if” and “or” may seem little, yet they actually carry with them a wealth of meaning, implication, and the weight of whole thought. The following verse – verse 8 says – “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you” – “Romans 8:9.” The “if” here refers to the presence of the Holy Spirit within a person and is a crucially little word. The concept of being “sealed” at the moment of one’s regeneration provides a clear demarcation between those who have experienced the new birth and those who have not. The finished work of Christ at Calvary really “saves us from God.”
It is impossible, even with the purest of motives, for anybody who is not in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit / sealed by the Holy Spirit to be subject to the law of God.
If unregenerate individuals had an innate and free will and inherent ability to “choose” Christ, it would then be a truism to say they could be subject to at least one of God’s commands – that of “repent and believe” allowing them to do something that would pleasing to God.
That’s a lovely idea, and one that may bring some solace to a lot of people. But if this were feasible, it would call into doubt the inerrancy of God’s Word and put the words of the Apostle Paul (outside of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.)
Monergism and Synergism
What do Monergism and Synergism, these two theological words are likely unfamiliar to the majority of God’s family, fundamentally teach?
Monergism teaches that fallen man has a “free will” to choose what he fundamentally desires – which should really be defined as “human will.” However, as the Scriptures reveal his desires are only wicked and that’s because those individuals lack the moral ability to come to Christ. Why? Because he cannot choose Christ precisely because he cannot act against his own will. He has no desire for Christ. All the time the individual remains in the flesh and unregenerate, and non-sealed by the Holy Spirit they will never choose Christ. Why? Because the individual cannot act against his own sinfully controlled and enslaved will.
These people aren’t interested in Christ at all. What they don’t want isn’t an option for them.
The effects of the sin are so severe that only God’s efficacious grace working in the heart can bring individuals to faith, and indeed grant spiritual life, and even the very faith to believe. To put it another way, if we had any pre-new birth option, then it would be a work in which we might brag, yet the Bible teaches that “By grace are you saved not if works lest any one should boast.”
Synergism holds to view that individuals have a part to play in the work of salvation – they decide to believe for whatever reason and thus God is obliged to provide new birth. Have the dead ever done or decided anything – It’s noteworthy to recognise that the Scriptures declare all outside of a “Saving Faith” in Christ to be “Dead in trespasses and sin…” – “Ephesians 2:1–2.”
Spiritually, we are unresponsive to God’s concerns until we give in to the Holy Spirit’s prompting – “Romans 8:8.” There is nothing good about us, and we have no interest in worshipping our Maker. There is no method to bring us back to life on a spiritual level. As a body is helpless on its own, so too are we unable to save ourselves or make up for our wrongdoings. Unfortunately, we are so weak that not even the desire to obey God is something we can conjure up. Because of our sin, we had already died. There must be someone who can restore life to the dead. Jesus, according to “John 1:4”, “was the life, and the life was the light of mankind.”
Jesus’ gift of everlasting life in heaven – “John 3:36” – “John 14:2” – “Titus 3:7” is supplemented with a spiritual life on earth that allows us to fulfil the purpose for which we were created. A dead soul floats around in our consciousness like a deflated balloon. We are so used to sin’s absence in our pursuit of ourselves and surrender to sin that we scarcely notice when it appears – “2 Peter 2:19” – “Romans 6:16.” Hearing and following the Holy Spirit’s summons results in repentance of sin and confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ – “John 6:44.” – “1 Corinthians 12:3” says the Bible. God forgives our sin and credits us with Jesus’ righteousness – “2 Corinthians 5:21” – and sends the Holy Spirit to reside inside us. The Greek word for “spirit,” Pneuma (πνεῦμα), literally means “breath” or “wind.” When we are converted, God’s breath fills that deflated balloon, reviving our once-dead spirits. The result is that this new spiritual life begins to convert us from lifeless, sin-filled carcasses to vibrant, alive children of God – “2 Corinthians 5:17” – “Ephesians 2:5” – “John 1:12.”
There are only two kinds of people in the world: the spiritually dead, who are corpses, and the spiritually living, who are alive. Religious belief cannot bring a dead person back to life. Our efforts, traditions, and accomplishments may appear to be indications of life, yet they lack the spiritual vitality to truly revitalise us.
Christ Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice to save us from Satan’s clutches. While sin kills, surrendering to God has the potential to transform your life. We have been granted new life by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, Lord, when we were before spiritually dead in our iniquities and sins – “1 Peter 1:2” – “Ephesians 2:13.”