The Old Pelagian Idol Free-Will

[Update: Thanks to some conversations with some dear, thoughtful brothers, I’ve revised this post, which I can do, since here on the blog I am my own editor.]

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of questions about so-called “free will,” questions in the vein of, “So you’re saying we don’t have free will?  What about this pencil?  I can drop it right now if I want, right?”  To this I respond, “Yes, but can that action save you?”

I found it tempting in this instance to distinguish between “important” decisions and “unimportant” ones – that is, “saving” ones and “non-saving” ones – but, as my brother pointed out in the comments, that is a false dichotomy.  God is sovereign over every decision, not just the big ones. “The lot is cast in the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD,” says Proverbs 16:33.

As another brother helped me understand, autonomous free will is a lie. “Autonomous” means “self-governing” or “self-ruling.” And, if the Bible teaches us anything about man’s place, it is that he is far south of ruling his own world, even his own thoughts, desires, and decisions.

Autonomous free will, then, is an idol of man’s own making. It has no part in the gospel. You will never find it in any biblical gospel presentation. You will, in fact, never find it connected with salvation anywhere in the Bible. Period. End of negation.

What is troubling, then, is not the existence of this lie in the world, but the existence of this lie in the church. We will continue to explore the far-reaching effects of this lie, but it will suffice to say for the time being that Christians ought to stand up finally, free of the fear of other men and free of the condemnation of being “divisive,” and say with love in our hearts and tears in our eyes, “Stop believing this lie! Stop depending on your own damnable wills! Depend wholly on Jesus and His grace! He is sufficient! He is powerful to save and sustain and shepherd! Trust in Him, not you!”

This false doctrine amounts to false worship and church death.  John Owen, for one, thought as much.


About B Treece
loved by God before I ever loved Him, saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone by the authority of the Bible alone to the glory of God alone, made to enjoy Him forever, happily married with wonder-filled children.

3 Responses to The Old Pelagian Idol Free-Will

  1. Gary says:

    Britt, I think you are trying to force a false dichotomy: random choice vs saving choice.

    First, there are more than two categories here. For example, whether or not I interact with my neighbors to proclaim the gospel is certainly not a saving choice, but neither is it a random meaningless choice. Second, implicit in the argument for a free random choice is the notion that God does not care about the random choices. I’m not sure we can make that assumption, and I would argue that God’s omniscience speaks against that. Finally, I think the clear testimony of scripture shows that God is sovereign over all things great and small, “random” or not. The lot is cast but the result is in the hand of the Lord. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand — there’s no sense of God being sovereign over some but not all things.

    I think ultimately a better way to think of the will is always in the context of desire. We have a will that is completely FREE to do ONLY what we desire. I am free to drop the pencil IF I desire to drop it. If I desire to hold it, then I will hold it. However, we are not free over our desires….

  2. B Treece says:

    Fair enough – is the update any better?

  3. Pingback: Am I a Calvinist Pharisee? « Your Cross on My Back

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