Posted by: minnow | August 17, 2009

In the Beginning: Free Will

I have been thinking a lot about the conversation I had with my on-line friend regarding the existence of hell.  At one point she said: “If we don’t accept Jesus in us, He won’t be in us.”  This statement advocates the classic “ask Jesus into your heart” behavior which may help in some ways to soften the hell doctrine for children but does not actually make a lot of sense.  If there truly is nothing good about man, in man, except for Jesus then how can man choose God?  If there is really no good thing in man until man chooses God then it really does not matter that babies go to hell; there’s nothing good in them anyway, even the ones we know and love. 

Pardon me, however, if I just can not go there.  I personally find it curious that God would allow His Son to become fully man  if there was nothing good in man or that He would send His son to die for man in which there is nothing good.  I also find it curious that Jesus would give Himself up for man in which there is nothing good.  What is the point?  It is like we would be saying God loved evil  so much He was willing to sacrifice His beloved Son on the off chance (actually an impossibility) that a very small percentage of that evil would recognize, understand, and embrace His sacrifice and exchange its own inherent evil for good.  Yet, if man’s nature is completely and totally evil (no good in it) how is it possible for any part of it to choose such an exchange?  I just can not follow such reasoning.  This same reasoning causes the Calvinists to say God chooses some (the elect) and causes  them to respond to Him (Irresistible Grace), leaving the rest to end up in hell.  The problem is: if that is how it works we just did away with free will without which we can not blame man for not turning to God–man can not without God making him–and so punishment in hell for not choosing God is unjust.  All of which kind of messes with one’s head if you ask me.  Yet it is the only way around the doctrine of nothing  good in man (Total Depravity).

I personally believe we were made in the image of God and we were part of the creation God declared good at the time of creation (Genesis 1:31).  I also believe both the potential for good and the potential for evil was in Man from the beginning.  We usually call it free will.  Adam and Eve did not suddenly become  evil when they ate the forbidden fruit.  Eating the fruit only gave them the knowledge  of what they were already capable of being (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:7).  If they were not capable of evil before they ate the fruit they never would have chosen to eat because they would not have been capable of. that. choice.  Calling unredeemed Man totally depraved (or evil) is popular but the reality is Man is just as capable of good as he is of evil.  Instead of telling the non-believer there is nothing good in him we should help him identify the good he is capable of as a reflection of his Creator. 

As risky as it may sound, if God is truly all powerful and all knowing then He too is capable of evil.  I realize that statement is heresy.  Yet, if He can not choose evil how can He be all powerful or all knowing?  Disallowing His ability to chose evil, or His exposure to it, limits His power and limiting His power diminishes His knowledge.  The fact that He can choose to do evil but does not proves His power.  The fact that He understands the superior power of good over evil proves He is all knowing.  When scripture calls for us to be perfect as God is perfect we are essentially being asked to follow in God’s footsteps by turning away from evil and choosing good.


  1. Unforunately I can’t explain my stance on that either. I don’t undersatnd or know the debate about calvinism, armaneism…. but I’ve wrestled as well and actually had many a crying session with my hubby saying if there’s nothing good in me if i’m just a shell with Jesus in it – why did He save me? and basically I have realized that it’s because I’m His creation and He knew we could change. I am still fully me though Jesus is fully me. I don’t know if there was NO good in me — but I know that I was full of sin which God could not stand to be with. I understand like I was saying now that it wasn’t just to save us — but it was because He had an ultimate bigger purpose and that purpose is centered on Him and not us. and that was why we were created and He didn’t give up on us, thank you God!!!

    I also don’t try to ‘tell unbelievers’ there is nothing good in them. actually there is very few people believers or not I even have debates/conversations on like this one. but very clearly there is no reason to approach a nonbeliever in this way.

    So that’s my response to this one. Isn’t a very good complete response in any way to what you said but that’s all i got 🙂 I am pretty sure I agree with ur 2nd to last paragraph – but not 100% on that of course but sounds like it could be right to me. I would agree that we have the choice / free will to ‘choose good or evil’ …. I just don’t think we can choose good/do good on our own. I believe choosing good = accepting Jesus and what He did for us. the opposite, choosing evil woudl be not accepting God’s gift and yes I do believe it leads to ‘destruction’

  2. not that I walk around telling anybody (including non believers) all of that. it’s not at the forefront of my conversations or ‘agenda’ when allowing the Spirit to work through me to impact others.

  3. Perhaps it is just a matter of you have more faith than I can muster. I simply do not understand how it is possible to be totally evil but choose God (good). What in a totally evil being is capable of a good choice? Some would answer–God puts something in us that makes us able. Then I must ask but how, if it is what God puts in us can we call it free will or even call it our choice?
    Please don’t misunderstand. I do not think you or anyone else who believes in a hell doctrine necessarily goes around telling non-believers they are totally evil or are going to hell as their first introduction to Christianity. I just think the hell doctrine and total depravity stance cause many non-Christians to avoid conversations with Christians altogether.

  4. […] against a literal interpretation of an eternal place of torment.  You can find some of those here, here, and here. My most recent post to reference hell was in June of 2013 and can be found here. The […]

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