Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Freedom of Inclination and the Likeness of God

In my last post on Ware’s response to Roger Olson in “Perspectives on the Doctrine of God,” I showed that to have the “freedom of inclination” is to have no freedom at all—for, if we can only do that which our flesh wants us to do (that being evil and sin according to the Word), then we can NEVER choose to do that which is right. However, the Scriptures constantly exhort God’s children to do right and to shun the evil; therefore, with the Spirit of God inside of us, we now have a power to please the Lord that our flesh could not produce on its own. But the problem with Bruce Ware’s beliefs regarding salvation is that, EVEN AFTER SALVATION, a person STILL can’t choose to do what is right. If Ware had it his way, salvation wouldn’t have accomplished ANYTHING!!!

Ware writes in his attack on Olson’s chapter,

“Interestingly enough, Olson seems actually to sense that FREEDOM IS A MATTER OF CHOOSING WHAT WE MOST WANT, despite his formal rejection of this concept. In the paragraph following my previous quotation of Olson, he proposes that God was free—in the libertarian or noncompatibilist sense—when he created the world. But in describing God’s freedom in creation, Olson writes, ‘Nothing within God or external to God caused him to create the world. SOMETHING INCLINED HIM TO DO IT and he chose to do it, WHICH IS DIFFERENT FROM HAVING TO DO IT.’ My interest is in Olson’s comment that ‘something inclined’ God to create. If God has an inclination (he is more strongly inclined this way than another) to create, and he chooses to create according to this inclination, doesn’t it make sense to say that his freedom is precisely his ability instead to have done otherwise? In this case, would we not be saying (trying to keep libertarian freedom intact) that GOD COULD HAVE FOLLOWED A LESSER INCLINATION OR GONE AGAINST HIS TRUE INCLINATION IN CHOOSING INSTEAD NOT TO CREATE? How does it make sense to think of freedom as our ability to choose what we are not inclined to do, or to choose contrary to our strongest inclination? Indeed, it makes no sense. Here, as with all decisions, VARIOUS FACTORS ARE AT WORK GIVING RISE TO A STRONGEST INCLINATION, and freedom is constituted precisely not with the ability to choose contrary to that inclination but rather to choose in accordance with it. In short, when God created, he did what he most wanted, and in this he was free” (“Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: Four Views,” page 192).

Let’s look at the statement made by Olson that Ware can’t seem to shake out of his mind: “Nothing within God or external to God caused him to create the world. Something INCLINED HIM TO DO IT and he chose to do it, which is different from having to do it.”

I have a problem with Ware’s response. First, how dare he actually believe that God was FORCED to do something by the thought of an inclination? I mean, after all, this IS God we’re talking about. And God is not obligated to do anything except EXIST! So ANYTHING God does in His existence is TOTALLY VOLUNTARY!

Here, I noticed, while reading Bruce Ware, that he seems to argue for a “necessity” of choice as an effect of inclination, which is similar to what process theists John Cobb, Jr, and David Ray Griffin argue about man NEEDING free will. Like process theists, Ware argues that there is some other necessity in God; but David didn’t think so. Let’s read his words:

3 When I observe Your heavens,
the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which You set in place, (E)
4 what is man that You remember him,
the son of man that You look after him? (F)
5 You made him little less than God [c] [d]
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You made him lord over the works of Your hands;
You put everything under his feet: (G) [e]
7 all the sheep and oxen,
as well as animals in the wild,
8 birds of the sky,
and fish of the sea
passing through the currents of the seas. (H)
9 LORD, our Lord, how magnificent is Your name throughout the earth! (Psalm 8:1-9, Holman Christian Standard Bible).

David praises God in Psalm 8 because the Lord wasn’t bound by necessity to do these things. He says, “WHAT IS MAN that you remember him…?” What is man? That is a good question. Who are WE to think that God was bound to do something that He did? He didn’t have to. Because He is God, He invents the rules—and He had every right NOT TO CREATE US! According to Bruce Ware, God had “freedom of inclination,” that being “freedom to create us”; but as I’ve said countless times, IF freedom exists, then doesn’t freedom give me MORE THAN ONE OPTION? When Calvinists such as Bruce Ware attempt to REDEFINE freedom as a single option, we see that Calvinist freedom is little more than necessity and obligation. And I don’t think either of those words fit an Almighty God who didn’t need humanity then and doesn’t need humanity now!

The church father Irenaeus responded to Ware’s idea of “freedom of inclination” hundreds of years before Bruce Ware even redefined freedom:

“If, then, it were not in our power to do or not to do these things, what reason did the apostle have, and much more the Lord Himself, to give us counsel to DO some things, and to ABSTAIN from others? But BECAUSE MAN IS POSSESSED OF FREE WILL FROM THE BEGINNING, and God is possessed of free will (IN WHOSE LIKENESS MAN WAS CREATED), advice is always given to him to hold fast to the good, which is done through obedience to God. God has preserved the will of man free and under his own control. This is not merely in works, BUT ALSO IN FAITH” (Irenaeus, c. 180, E/W, 1.519; from “A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs” by David W. Bercot, editor. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008, page 287).

God has always had free will—He’s always been able to do whatever pleased Him. But Bruce Ware doesn’t understand that when a person chooses to do what they want, they also make a choice—to REFUSE TO DO THAT WHICH THEY DON’T WANT TO DO! The act of deciding itself involves more than one alternative. So in every action made, we choose one thing but REFUSE countless others! This is what free will, choice, is all about…

Man possesses free will, the right to choose whatever he wants to, because God possesses free will—and He chose to create the world because He wanted to. There is, however, a phrase Irenaeus gives us that I think is ingenious to his entire argument:
“man is possessed of free will from the beginning, and God is possessed of free will (IN WHOSE LIKENESS MAN WAS CREATED)…”

Man has received free will as part of his being made “after His likeness,” the likeness of God. To deny this is to demonstrate little knowledge of what we know about the Creator.

God had reasons for why He did what He did—but He wasn’t OBLIGATED to do what He did. Like the Lord, we too, have reasons for why we do things—but we don’t HAVE to do those things; the choices we made DID NOT have to turn out the way they did! Having free will, then, is an aspect of sharing the Lord’s likeness. To remove “free will” then, is to make us more like the animal kingdom—and less like the Creator. But Scripture tells us that man was made “a little less than God” (Psalm 8:5, HCSB).

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