What does Jesus mean when he says in John 6 that “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” Is he saying that God must take the first step by inwardly wooing and attracting men to himself, which then gives everyone the ability to make a free-will decision? Is Jesus implying here that God is at work in the hearts of all men, even though most people reject him? Or is Jesus teaching in this passage that God sovereignly and mercifully draws the elect to himself and enables them to believe in Jesus? That’s what’s on tap for this episode of White Horse Inn as we continue our year-long exploration of the Gospel of John.
Craig Marshall: “Sometimes we think that if God would just perform some kind of miracle in our generation, people would have faith. But in Jesus’ day, and throughout the Old Testament as well, amazing wonders were being performed, and yet unbelief and grumbling was often the response. What we need is a new heart.”
Term to Learn
The essence of free will is choosing according to our desires. The will is free to choose whatever it desires. With regard to salvation, the question then becomes, what do fallen human beings desire? Jonathan Edwards said that as fallen human beings we retain our “natural freedom” (the power to act according to our desires), but lose our “moral freedom” (the disposition, inclination, and desire of the soul for righteousness). In the Fall, we lost all desire for God. But because we can still choose according to our desires, we choose to sin and are accountable to the judgment of God. In this sense, the freedom of our will is a curse. All human beings desire to flee from God unless and until the Holy Spirit performs a work of regeneration. That regeneration changes our desires so that we will freely repent and be saved.
This understanding of human free will is not deterministic because determinism teaches that our actions are completely controlled by something external to us, making us do what we don’t want to do. This is coercion and is opposed to freedom. How can our choices be determined but not coerced? Beause they are determined by something within — by what we are and by what we desire. They are determined by ourselves. This is self-determination, which is the very essence of freedom.
(Adapted from Essential Truths of the Christian Faith by R.C. Sproul)