Reformed Theology

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity:

God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata—of creatures that worked like machines—would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free.

Saint Paul of Tarsus, the Apostle:

So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory? (Romans 9:16-23, ESV)

From John Frame, The Doctrine of God, pp.146:

What if it turns out that we are robots after all—clay fashioned into marvelous robots, rather than being left as mere clay? Should we complain to God about that? Or should we rather feel honored that our bodies and minds are fashioned so completely to fulfill our assigned roles in God’s great drama? Some creatures are born as rabbits, some as cockroaches, and some as bacteria. By comparison, would it not be a privilege to be born as an intelligent robot?

Indeed, what remarkable robots we would be—capable of love and intimacy with God, and assigned to rule over all the creatures. Is it not a wonderful blessing of grace that, when we sinned in Adam, God did not simply discard us, as a potter might very well do with his clay, and as a robot operator might well do with his malfunctioning machine, but sent his only Son to die for us? Risen with him to new life, believers enjoy unimaginably wonderful fellowship with him forever.

As we meditate upon these dignities and blessings, the image of the robot becomes less and less appropriate, not because God’s control over us appears less complete, but because one doesn’t treat robots with such love and honor.

Tim Challies blogged today about Augustine’s Four States of Man:

Before the Fall After the Fall Regenerated Glorified
able to sin able to sin able to sin unable to sin
able to not sin unable to not sin able to not sin able to not sin

In the first stage of man, we say Adam was “able to sin” and “able not to sin”. However, he was not truly free. This is what bugs me about the 1689 Confession’s (and WCF) statement about the “liberty of mutable will”… (Thankfully the next chapter says God “directed it all to his glory.”)

Edwards’ The Freedom of the Will (and Concerning the Divine Decrees, etc.) helped me move beyond the notion that Adam was truly “free”. Edwards says that knowledge after-the-fact (if it is not a hallucination), makes an event necessary, that it actually happened. So it is with God’s foreknowledge: his knowledge that something will happen makes an event just as necessary as if it were after-known by us. So, if it is a necessity that it could not happen any other way, in what sense was the will truly free to do any other than what was foreknown?

The Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world (or in other translations, before the foundation of the world, the names of the elect were written in the book of the Lamb who was slain). Therefore, it had to happen the way it did.  The sovereignty of God governed Adam’s mutable will just as much as his sovereignty governed those who were gathered together against Jesus (Acts 4), and just as much as his sovereignty governs everything today. If Adam was truly free, then Jesus was a Plan B rescue mission. But no, the covenant of Grace was Plan A all along.

When Lewis wrote Mere Christianity, he was doing it as an apologetic work to reason with unbelievers (e.g. it could be that his free will thing was merely milk and not meat to him, but I could be wrong). So Christians who use the “robots can’t love” argument are playing with mudpies when they could take the offer of a holiday at the beach.

I love C.S. Lewis, but Edwards would have none of that free-will talk. Just the same, Calvinists out there would do well to be respectful to Lewis, one of the 20th century’s greatest theologians, who, like the Law in Galatians 3:24, was a schoolteacher to many of us.


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