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Volume 10, Issue 1: Doctrine 101

Volition Violation?

Patch Blakey

As a young Christian, I often heard it said that the sovereign God lets men chose to accept or reject Christ as their Lord and Savior. He supposedly did this because He didn't want robots who loved Him as a consequence of His sovereign intervention in their lives. Instead, He wanted men to love Him of their own volition. After all, would it really be love if someone were forced to love someone else against his own will?

An acquaintance, objecting to the sovereignty of God in the salvation of men, recently raised this same concern, but in a slightly different format. She asked me, "If you, as a parent, had a pill that would make your children love you, would you give it to them? Why not?"
The fact that I would not abuse my children so, even if I had such a pill, begs the real issue. These questions from my inquirer reflect a common trend in modern Christianity. We frequently and mistakenly tend to fashion God in our own image rather than recognize that we are made in the image of God. The Bible says that God is not a man (Num. 23:19) and that He doesn't think like a man would think (Is. 55:8-9). When we try to prove a theological point by asking how we would respond in a given circumstance and then presume that God would have the same response, we seriously err. After all, what parent would decide to make his child die, and yet, how many times does God make this decision each day?
A more biblical analogy is needed than that of parents possessing a love-pill capable of "mickey finning" their child's chocolate milk. "What if you were in a room with a bunch of dead bodies and you had a bag of pills that would make each dead corpse love you? Would you give it to them?"
First of all, we must agree that such a scenario is thoroughly ludicrous since dead people don't have any feelings or emotions or thoughts. However, what if you somehow, in a momentary fit of madness, erroneously believed the charlatan who sold you this bag of pills? Aside from the fact that you'd have a horrible time trying to force just one pill down the throat of a single corpse, let alone disposing of the entire bag on a room full of them, would you have violated the volition of a single cadaver? Would any of them have willfully resisted your attempt to try changing their disposition with regard to the way they felt about you? Not a single one would have protested. They are all dead.
"So what's your point?" someone will no doubt ask. "And besides, your analogy isn't biblical at all!" Oh, but it is!
The Bible describes each one of us as spiritually dead prior to regeneration: "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1; cf. Eph. 2:5, Col. 2:13, Jude 12). Although physically alive, our spirits were dead (1 Tim. 5:6), we were unable to discern spiritual truths or realities (Rom. 8:7_8), and such things seemed like pure foolishness to us (1 Cor. 2:14). We lacked any sense of the spiritual reality that surrounded us, including God, since God is Spirit (Jn. 4:24).
In the same way that a stillborn baby does not, indeed, cannot love his mother, neither can we, in our spiritually dead condition, love God. We were born into this world physically alive, but spiritually stillborn. On the other hand, a living baby naturally loves his mother. A mother needn't give her baby a love-inducing pill, even if such a silly thing existed. Babies naturally love their mothers because that's the way God made them.
In light of our spiritually dead condition, is it any wonder that Jesus told Nicodemus that unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven (Jn. 3:3)? When a baby is born, does his mother force her will on the child? No! Birth is the natural conclusion to the baby's in utero development. In a similar way, when God regenerates those who are spiritually dead, He has not forcibly changed their wills any more than Jesus violated the volition of Lazarus when He commanded him to come forth from the grave (Jn. 11:43). Lazarus was dead, so Jesus' command didn't violate Lazarus' will in the least. Lazarus didn't protest, "Aw man! I'd rather lie here dead and rot!" The principle is that where there is death, there can be no violation of volition.
Now, after God has regenerated a man or woman, what will his or her natural response be? Paul says it will mirror that of a child toward its parent, "... but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, `Abba, Father'" (Rom. 8:15). Whenever God raises someone from spiritual death or, put another way, causes them to be born again, they, like a newborn babe, seek their heavenly Father in love. This is a natural response for newborns, whether of babies toward their mothers, or of the spiritually newborn in Christ toward their heavenly Father. It is not just coincidental that the analogies of birth and babies are so prominent in the Bible in relation to new life in Christ.
No, God does not want robots, and yet He is sovereign over all things, including our salvation. If He were not, we would still be spiritually stillborn in our trespasses and sins. In refusing to acknowledge this truth, we act more like the automatons that we say God doesn't want than like the loving newborns we should be. Our task as spiritual newborns is to mature by growing in the
knowledge of God (Col. 1:10, Eph. 1:16-20, 1 Pet. 2:2,
Heb. 5:11_6:2). Let us begin by giving glory to our heavenly Father who by His grace alone made us alive in Christ Jesus while we were still dead in our trespasses and sins.

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