Free Will is not Free Ability

Grace 101

The other day I mentioned the Calvinist vs Arminian debate.  If there is any way to kill a blog like this, getting into that discussion would be it.  No, I am not going there.  I just want to clear up something that puzzles many people.  Yes, I have my perspective on the theological issues, but I am not planning to write about that.

When Adam and Eve sinned, it was a one way deal.  They could choose to sin, but they couldn’t come back.  Why?  Because they died!  That’s what God told them would happen.  If they ate of the fruit, in that very day, they would die.  And they did die.  Because they were dead, there was no way for them to return to the life God wanted for them.

This really isn’t hard for us to understand.  If you have ever stood on the edge of a cliff, you should understand this.  You have the freedom to throw  yourself off the cliff.  But once you do, you don’t have the freedom to fly back up to where you were standing.  That opportunity is gone once you “die” to the security of the cliff.  When you take that forbidden step and submit your life to gravity, you have to suffer the consequences.

Now, let’s push that illustration a little further.  Suppose, on the long way down, you change your mind.  Are you free to do that?  Of course!  You can change your mind.  You just can’t do anything about your circumstances.  You still have free will.  But you no longer have free ability.

In the “Fall” (pun more than intended) Adam and Eve chose to step into sin, but they had no ability to step out of sin.  No matter how much they regretted their choice and wanted to get back to the Garden, the Scripture says that the way was closed.  The choice was made.

Notice that God set up a system of sacrifice even then.  He told them that the life and blood of another would cover their sins.  He still loved them, but there was a distance between them and Him.  Somehow, and it is a mystery, that blood covered their sins and allowed them into the presence of God.  But not back to the Garden.  He would speak with them and care for them, but it would not be the same.  No matter how well they obeyed from that point on, it would never restore what they had lost.

And when the Law was given, with all its rituals and rules, it was not given to restore the people and give them life.  It was to cover their sins and point them to another day, when their sins would be gone forever.

So those who are lost in sin can still desire communion with God.  They can feel a sense of what has been lost.  They can live in awareness of their sin and fear of their future.  Apart from the Lord, people can still feel empty and alone and anxious.  Something is missing, but they don’t know where to find it.  And, no matter how much they might discern or how much they might desire, their will is not enough.  They simply do not have the ability to save themselves.

That’s why we needed a Savior.


Filed under Freedom, Grace 101, Grace definition, Theology and mystery

2 responses to “Free Will is not Free Ability

  1. Jerry Huber

    Hi Pastor, Any suggestions for a guy, recovering Narcissist (if that exists), who wants his Marriage healed…but after 7 years of being sexually adrift from my wife…I find it hard to hang on.

    My wife was raised in a Legalistic home…I was not. I became a Christian in ’91 thinking all my ‘stuff’ was gone…but it’s not. Now, we are in a toxic cycle where I continually never measure up & deserve her love, & I devolve into my injurious upbringing…we’re really messed up. My wife refuses marriage counseling; she says it’s ALL me.

    I’m really struggling today. Need prayer, Thanks!


    • Hi Jerry! I took off your ID information before I approved the comment, but I am very willing to communicate with you directly if you would like to write through the contact email. In the meantime, I will certainly be praying for you.

      Basically, I don’t have the kind of information I need from your comment to make any intelligent suggestion. But I can make some observations and give some opinions. First, yes I believe there is such a thing as a “recovering narcissist.” I believe that Jesus can do anything and can even change/heal the innermost heart. I have met one man who was presented to me as such by several counselors I respect, but I watched him exhibit narcissistic characteristics throughout our conversation. So, there is a healthy skepticism, but I truly believe it is possible for a narcissist to change.

      If you would be willing to take some time to ask the Lord to show you how you have hurt your wife and write those things down to send to me, I think that would be a good first step. She is obviously angry and closed to you. Why? Without focusing on her charge that it is all you, what do you see that is you?

      Give me more of your background (age, how long married, kids, etc). That will help also. And I would like very much to hear what changed in you when you came to Christ. That would give us a good start. I realize that takes time, but there are many advantages to writing this down.

      Let me know if this would work for you. Again, I am praying for you.

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