“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
-- John 3:16 (ESV)
I grew up in the Cumberland Presbyterian church. My friend Laird says it is Arminian in theology. I believe that is an over simplification, however, the congregation that I belonged to in Lebanon, Missouri definately believed in the "who-so-ever-will" doctrine. In most sermons I heard growing up there was a section near the end where the preacher would explain that you had a choice to make, that Jesus was standing there at door of your heart knocking, waiting for you to open the door to your heart. I developed a theology of the will. I believe without reservation that we were free to choose or not choose God and this would determine our eternal state. When I got to High School my geometry teach had a us do an exercise which he called "writing your own math, language or game". In essense, what you would do is form a set of definitions (starting points) and the reason from there the conclusions derived from those definitions. It was fun. We had fellow students created D&D like games, athletes simply explained their system of training, and I of course explained the freewill to the class. That was not the title of my paper or talk but that is what I was getting at. I explained how each of us had a will and that as we experinced life our will would make a decision on what to do with those experinces. When I was finished my teacher said I was a "fatalist". I did not know what that meant and it troubled me. But given my "system" if a person was presented with the exact same circumstances, would he or she make the exact same decision each time. Say I was choosing which car to buy, given the exact-- and I do mean exact same -- situtation would your will ever choose one thing over another consistantly. So is the will an organ of the body that functions a certain way? The heart beats and pumps blood, it can do nothing else except not do that and then it is going to kill you. The stomach is made to digest food. When it does not, it will kill you. Where is the will and what does it do? If I am free to choose, based on what? Do I choose based on reason, on emotion, on what? My teacher also said that I beleived in "determinism". I did not know what that meant either. There are several types of determinism that are prevelant. There is Freudian determinism which says that we choose based on our drives. Often said to be sex but his definition of sex is way too broad and includes things that I'm just not comfortable grouping all together. Then there is biological determinism. Our DNA determines our decisions. We like blue or green or pink due to DNA. Which also brings us to chemical determinism, we make decisions based on body chemistry; what we ate, the drugs we take, the bio-chemical processes of our brain which create our decisions. My thoughts on all of that said, "Hey, I beleive in freewill!" "Don't change my system to make me like all of that!" I beleive in freewill because our freewill is what God uses to save us. He gives us a choice and then what we do with it is what determines our eternal fate. "HEY, I BELEIVE IN FREEWILL!" But saying it louder did not really do much for the logical struggles I was having. If the will is supreme, what is the will? Where is it located? If it is not mind and emotions, what is it? (I was taught we have a mind, will and emotions.) Why must God bow to our will? If our will is so supreme, what makes it able to decide to do good or bad in terms of a decision for Christ? Would God really bring us to a point that we could choose eternal bliss or eternal punishment and make it sit in the balance, one or the other being just as likely to win out? If so, would our desire for some pet sin create a situation where we would not choose God? Would that not make our emotions more important than our will? In my own system, doesn't it seem that deciding to accept the free gift of salvation seem like a work? Which of course makes the gift not free if I am earning it through my decision to "accept the free gift of salvation".
The second step that really made me think about my theology of freewill happened years later. Something else that really change my ideas of freewill is the fact that as an adult, I really did not have all choices equal to me. Many things limited my choices. My education education was a limiting factor, which was limited by my families economic situation which was limited by ...and the list went on. I often got things that I asked for from the Army in terms of assignments, however, within the confines of my job specialty. As much as I thought freewill was supreme in how God deals with us, in my life I understood that there was a lot limits to my choices. If the will is so important, why is it so powerless?
In the end, I could not accept a type of determinism which was based on a theology of the freewill. I felt if I was to restore a real human being who actually had a chest with a heart in it and that God made, I must give up this theology of the freewill. I could not accept a theology which said that our salvation was based on merit, merit of our decisions. Yes, we have a will and we have choices to make, but freewill could not save us, only God can save us.