Friday, December 25, 2009

God's Freedom

“It seems that Dr. Geisler’s position leads inevitably to the latter: that in the final analysis, man is the one that actively, willfully, freely determines what takes place in the human realm. God’s ‘sovereignty,’ if we can use the term, is limited to giving the gift of freedom...God’s “responsibility” is limited to giving men freedom: NOWHERE IN THESE DISCUSSIONS DO WE SEE ANY EMPHASIS AT ALL UPON GOD’S FREEDOM. While it is definitional in Geisler’s view that man be free, it does not seemingly follow that when it comes to actions in time, it is definitional that God be free as well” (James White, “The Potter’s Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and a Rebuttal of Norman Geisler’s ‘Chosen But Free’”. Amityville, NY: Calvary Press Publishing, 2000, pages 60-61).

According to James White, Geisler’s discussion of man and free will does not involve God’s freedom whatsoever. However, how was man given the freedom he has? He was given his freedom from God. And why did God give it? Well, as Calvinists are quick to state, God did it unconditionally---He was not bound to anyone or anything OUTSIDE OF HIMSELF that forced His hand or obligated Him to give man free will. The Lord decided to do this because He wanted to!

I do want to pause here for a moment and say that I think White is right: I think God’s freedom should be discussed. Don’t get me wrong---I’m not siding with White in regards to Calvinist theology; I think that Calvinism deprives man of his God-given dignity and privilege. However, he is right to require theologians to account for God’s freedom in man’s responsibility. If theologians do not start to address this, man’s freedom will begin to look like self-proclaimed autonomy and cultural accommodation!

Although I think James White is right in his point about God’s freedom, I still think his view of man’s responsibility is wrong. There is biblical evidence of God’s freedom in bestowing freedom and responsibility upon man. In Genesis 1:26, God said, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; LET THEM HAVE DOMINION...over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen. 1:26, NKJV).

In verse 29, God tells the couple (Adam and Eve), “See, I HAVE GIVEN YOU every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; TO YOU IT SHALL BE FOR FOOD” (Gen. 1:29, NKJV). God gave the plants to the animals for food as well---but God first talks to the human couple and mentions what He has done for them. And why did God do it? Because He wanted to. He was not forced to do it.

Here we see a consensus of all three Trinitarian persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) in the granting of privileges to God’s human creation. God is not coerced into doing this, hence, God’s freedom is present within the first chapter of Genesis.

In Genesis 1:28, God gives the couple explicit instructions: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28, NKJV).

The word here for “subdue” is “katakurieusate.” This Greek word is a compound word consisting of two words, “kata” (over) and “kurieusate” (to be lord, an imperative). Adam and Eve were “lords” over the earth; and what “lord” exists that does not have power? This is why wives are told in Scripture to “submit to your own husbands, AS TO THE LORD” (Eph. 5:22). While husbands are not “God,” they are “lord” of the home (Gen. 3:16, 1 Peter 3:6) and are to be respected as such. Because husbands are “lord” of the home, they have power in the home that the wife or the children do not have.

God’s freedom consists in His decisions to grant His image as well as certain privileges to His human creation. Not only is this the case with responsibility in the Garden, but also our responsibility to repent and believe the gospel (see my work on Romans 9-11).

I agree with White in the sense that more theologians need to discuss God’s freedom. However, I don’t think that God’s freedom NECESSITATES Him choosing some and damning others. While Arminians believe in the freedom of God (both Classical and “Open Theists”), they differ with Calvinists in the nature of God’s freedom; Arminians stress that God’s freedom resulted in Him granting salvation to all who believe, while Calvinists believe that God picks and chooses some for salvation and others for reprobation. Regardless of which side we fall on, we must be willing to assess the beliefs of the other side and match them up with the Scriptures.

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