Whether we have a free will or not, isn’t the real question that solves the underlying reality. Certainly we would all agree that we are impacted by outside influences in everything we do. The wind blows cold and we shiver. The sun beats down on us and we sweat. We are given undeniably logical reasons for doing something and we are likely to do that. Unless, of course, our reasons for action have been influenced by another force, perhaps illogical but almost unexplainably irresistible, such as an emotional reason. We can do “silly” things for love, bravery, selfishness and personal pride. Not all our reasons for action have to make sense. Not all our actions have an unregrettable outcome either. So in a way, it is almost undeniable that our “free will” is influenced by inputs, whether it be our environment, actions of others or the advice of others, including possibly God and His word. And what Christian would dispute that God even controls our environment and all that entails.
However, that really isn’t the crucial issue. In every decision, there is a microscopic squeak in time, where we actually make the move to go either one way or the other. Perched on the razor sharp point of the moment, we will either choose to go one way or the other (or perhaps even another of the sometimes innumerable paths available). What happens to us, at that pivotal, all-important moment, as we decide how we will act.
On mundane, fleshly issues, such as when will we fall asleep, or when will we sip on a glass of water and just how much water will we sip, I don’t know that it matters so much. The consequence is not immediately evident, although I have no problem even granting that each of these little actions and their timings, are all orchestrated by God, leading to the ultimate end result. As He knows the number of hairs on our head, certainly a constantly changing number on every person in the world, (which would in itself keep every computer in the world busy for the task) I don’t think it’s presumptuous to think that God does control even the mundane actions, all resulting ultimately in His glory.
The real question comes in trying to figure out just how men could ever choose to disobey or reject God. As we sit on that pinnacle of decisive action, able to go either way, does God nudge us to go one way or the other, or do we shift our own weight and decide which way we want to go?
The reason this is such a distressing and important subject is because we know that there is nothing we can do to earn righteousness in God’s eyes. Oops, now I’ve started talking about things not so mundane or simple as slurping water. Our eternal destiny is suddenly in the headlights. When the issue of our salvation or damnation comes up, it is of course, much more important to get the answer right. So, we may not care why we take three deep breaths, rather than two shallow breaths, but let’s get this part right, now. I’m not making fun of this, because it really is more important.
So, why do we choose to believe in Christ, resulting in our salvation, or choose to reject Him, causing our eternal separation from Him, our damnation? Is it by the power of God, or is it by our own choice? What is that driving force that ultimately makes us tip and go one way or the other. That little finger that tips our scales. At that tiny, undefinable squeak in time, there is something that causes us to go one way or the other: to God or away from Him. So what is it?
Most of us will readily agree we are taught in scripture that, as fallen humans, we contain nothing in ourselves to cause ourselves to turn to God. Despite all the purely logical and beneficial reasons to turn to God, it just isn’t in our nature. Enter the wonderful love of God. When we give in to God’s overwhelming love, we are not acting out of our own strength or motives. We are only doing what God has designed us to do. With a love calling to us, stronger than any romantic novel could every try to verbalize, how could we ever pretend we were the instigator or initiator of this relationship. Without a doubt, we love because, yes, “because” He first loved us. There is no other reason this could happen. Here is the driving force we were looking for. That true underlying power, that tips us as we truly fall off that momentous peak, and forever fall-fall in love with our Creator, knowing He will catch us. For that is ultimately what we are relying on, that God has provided for our eternity, as shown through Jesus. We are trusting that Jesus alone can save us. He is our only hope. We get no credit and knowing our own feebleness, we want no part in undergirding our own salvation. To rely in our own selves would be the ultimate in folly. We know. So God had drawn us with His love. But how do the unbelievers fall the other way, to their destruction?
The driving force that tips the unbeliever to reject God and rebel against Him is not the same force that cause us to turn to God. It is not the love of God. As the unbeliever sat upon the pinnacle, he chose to not be won over by the love of God. He acted, not as God wanted him to act, but on his own. God has offered his love but “they would not”. Men are lost by their own actions, when they step outside God’s direction and act on their own power. We are saved by God’s power alone, the lost are lost by their own actions. We are told throughout scripture why men are judged by God, because they rebel against Him. Yes, because they reject God. We are also told that we are saved by turning to God, but that is not by our own strength or driving force, but by the love and action of God. It is a faulty logical assumption to think that salvation and damnation must be caused by the same driving force. (This is where many get stuck and cannot see the logical conclusion, because they assume both must be caused by the same driving force.) It only make scriptural sense that we, believers, are saved by God and men are lost by their own rebellious actions.
The driving force behind faith and ultimate joy and life in God is God and His love.
The driving force behind evil and rejection of God and all He offers, is man’s action in rebelling. They would not (let Him gather them under His lifegiving, surrounding love.)
So back to the original question, are we saved or lost by God or by our own choice? The answer is Yes and Yes.
Saved by God and Lost by their own choice.
PS-Certainly it was no surprise to God, that some would reject Him. But that doesn’t mean He caused it. Knowing and causing are not necessary equivalents. When it says that He created some for honor and some for dishonor, it was because He knew that would be the outcome, yet He still made them.
PPSS- I believe that the Bible clearly teaches that God loves the world and as such has truly offered the narrow path to them. If God had not actually offered it to them, how could He hold them responsible for rejecting Him? They are responsible for their rejection of Him. God doesn’t play word games and hide His true meaning. When He judges them for their actions, that is exactly what He is doing. But never fear, just because they are responsible for rejecting God, it does not mean that we are on the other hand responsible for accepting God. Again, the driving force, the responsible party in each is different.