Matt Slick's opening debate on election versus free will against Jesse Morrell

by Matt Slick
8/23/2016
Jesse Morrel Page

Following is my opening statement that I read at the beginning of my debate with Jesse Morrell.  it is modified from the original opening statement that I had first written.

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The Bible is the inspired word of God and is completely sufficient to teach us what we need to know about Him and ourselves. My studies of God’s word have led me to adopt a particular view of God’s sovereignty and man’s dependence upon him.

I believe that God elects people into salvation based on his sovereign will I deny that God looks into the future to see who will believe in Him under different circumstances, and then chooses them based on that position.  I also deny that God does not force people to believe.  And, I deny that God is arbitrary in His election. I also affirm that the unbeliever has free will, a sinful free will, and that the unregenerate cannot choose God due to their enslavement to sin.  I affirm that all the elect freely choose to believe in God when God regenerates them.

Let me support my position by beginning with Yahweh’s nature.

God has the quality of aseity.  This is his eternal non-contingency, his eternal independence of all things actual as well as potential He depends on nothing for his existence or his decisions. Furthermore, His aseity is a quality of His nature alone, no created thing has it. He is the only being in all existence who is independent and completely self-guided. Only God has the power of independent, self-determination. Only God self-originates his choices independently of creation.  He generates his self-caused decisions out of his own holy, eternal nature. To teach anything other than this is to misrepresent God and join in the cults in preaching a false deity.

Now, idolatry occurs when someone takes the divine qualities that belong to God alone and attributes them to a created thing. Idolatry occurs such attributes as God’s independence, his eternal self-sufficiency, his non-contingency, and his aseity, are attributed to something in the created order. And such is the case, with many who hold to what is called libertarian free will which asserts that sinful man’s will is the self-generated, self-caused, and the self-enabled source of good and wisdom when it comes to choosing Christ.  It asserts that goodness self-emanates out of the unregenerate’s sinful heart and he then chooses to believe in God. This is a false and dangerous teaching.

So, let me refer to what the Bible says about fallen man.

  • He has deceitful heart that cannot be trusted (Jer. 17:9)
  • His heart of is full of evil as Jesus said in Mark 7:21-23
  • He loves darkness rather than light (John 3:19)
  • He cannot come to God on his own (John 6:44, 65)
  • He does not seek for God and he does no good (Rom. 3:10-12)
  • He is helpless and ungodly (Rom. 5:6)
  • He is a slave of sin (Rom. 6:20; John 8:34)
  • He is not able to subject himself to the law of God (Rom. 8:7)
  • He cannot receive spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14)
  • He is dead in his sins (Eph. 2:1)
  • He is by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3)
  • He is at enmity with God (Eph. 2:15)

These Scriptures, and others, are foundational to a proper biblical understanding of the inability of the unregenerate man to come to Christ out of his own self-generated, why is and good act of choosing Jesus as Savior.  God’s word tells us that the unbelievers do not have the capacity for a self-guided, self-determined, self-originated, and self-caused decision to trust in Christ because he is enslaved to sin (Romans 6:20), cannot receive spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14), can do no good (Romans 3:10-12), cannot come to Christ unless it is granted to him from God the Father (John 6:65), etc.

Now, if in the light of the Scriptures, we conclude that the unregenerate is enslaved by his sinful and ungodly nature, then he cannot come to Christ based on his own, sinfully enslaved free wil How then how can he be saved?  The answer is again found in Scripture.

  • It is God who puts the fear of him in people’s hearts (Jeremiah 32:40)
  • He opens the heart to respond to God’s word (Acts 16:14)
  • It is God who appoints people to believe (Acts 13:48).
  • He chooses who is to be holy and blameless (Eph. 1:4)
  • He predestines us to adoption (Eph. 1:5)
  • He calls according to His purpose (2 Tim. 1:9)
  • He chooses us for salvation (2 Thess. 2:13)
  • He grants the act of believing (Phi1:29)
  • He works faith in the believer (John 6:28-29)
  • He grants us repentance (2 Tim. 2:24-25)
  • He draws people to Himself (John 6:44)
  • He grants that we come to Jesus (John 6:65)
  • He predestines us to salvation (Rom. 8:29-30)
  • He calls us according to his own purpose and grace (2 Timothy 1:9)
  • He causes us to be born again (1 Pet. 1:3)
  • He makes us born again not by our will but by His will (John 1:13)

The Scriptures speak God’s sovereign election, his sovereign choice to choose people for salvation.  We see this exemplified in God’s choosing of Paul the apostle.

We know that Paul the apostle, before he was regenerated, persecuted the followers of Christ. As he was traveling to murder Christians, he was approaching Damascus.  A light from above flashed and he fell to the ground (Acts 9:3). The Lord said to him, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”  Paul was blinded and told to go see Ananias. But Ananias was afraid of Pau In a vision, Jesus said to Ananias, “Go, for he is a chosen [ekloge Strongs 1589] instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel,” (Acts 9:15). 

Do we see Paul exercising his sinfully enslaved free will in coming to Christ?  No. What we do see is a man who was motivated out of his murderous, sinful, depraved heart and he exercised his free will in the persecution of Christ himsel Yet, Jesus intervened and chose Paul to be a minister to the Gentiles. In order for this to happen, Paul had to be saved.  Therefore, Jesus chose the individual Paul for salvation and granted it to him in order to accomplish his sovereign will.

Now, I said earlier that I believe in both God’s sovereign election and man’s free will and that they work together. But of course, I define the unbeliever’s free will in light of scriptural revelation which reveals that he is restricted to sinful choices. The unbeliever cannot, of his own sinful, unregenerate free will, self-cause the good work of belie

That is why we have verses that talk about God appointing people to believe, predestining them to salvation, opening their hearts to respond to God’s word, granting belief, granting that they come to Christ, causing them be born again, et These verses are not necessary if man freely chooses to do the good work of believing in Christ based on the wisdom and ability of his sinful natur But, these verses are there because of man’s inability.

Now, I want to clarify what I am saying about God’s election and our free will and to do that I need to explain the difference between temporal priority and logical priority in regards to regeneration.

Temporal priority means that one event happens before another event and that there is a period of time between the cause and the effect. Logical priority means that the events are simultaneous, but one is necessary for the other to occur.

Let me illustrate.

In a light bulb, whenever electricity is present, light is also present. They occur simultaneously.  But, electricity is the cause of the light. Light is not the cause of the electricity. Therefore, we would say that even though they occur simultaneously, the electricity is logically prior to the light.  It is not temporally prior where electricity must be in a light bulb for say five seconds before light occurs. Logical priority says that electricity must be in place in order for light to occur, but that they occur at the same time.

Likewise, regeneration precedes faith the same way electricity precedes light. It is not a temporal preceding, but a logical one. Regeneration is the necessary event that enables our free will choice to believe in Christ. God changes us, makes us born again (1 Peter 1:3).  God sovereignty elects people into salvation before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) and also predestines them into salvation (Ephesians 1:5).  Then, at the time of God’s choosing, he regenerates them and they freely believe. This is why John 1:13, which is speaking of being born again, says that we are “born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”  1 Peter 1:3 says, “but we are caused to be born again.”  And, Phi1:29 says, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake."

My position is both biblical and logical I avoid assigning the idolatrous position of self-generating, independence to human, sinful free will. I start with God, not with man as the standard of truth in this regard.

My position affirms the biblical teachings of the depravity of man, his enslavement to sin, his inability to accept spiritual truths, and his incapacity to self-generate good works. My position also includes the truths revealed in God’s word which show that God opens our minds to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45), appoints people to believe (Acts 13:48), predestines people to adoption (Ephesians 1:5), grants the act of believing (Philippians 1:29), grants us repentance (2 Timothy 2:25), and causes us to be born again not by our own will but by his (John 1:13).

When we look God’s election and man’s free will we must never apply our sensibilities to the Almighty. We must always subject our thoughts and our desires to his sovereign revelation. We must not use sinful man as the standard of truth when it comes to salvation. We must, instead, look to God.

 

 

 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.