Written by John I. Maynard |
Monday, January 23, 2023
How does the biblical doctrine of “Free Will” address the popular notions of “gay Christianity” or what has been called Side B or Revoice theology? This false teaching claims that one’s sexual orientation (a Freudian concept not a biblical one) is present at birth and is unchangeable. Indeed, this teaching considers it abusive to attempt to turn a redeemed sinner from his perverse and abominable desires to right, good, natural and God-honoring sexual desires. But WCF 9 teaches us that when we come to Christ in faith and repentance, he fundamentally changes us into a “new man.”
It is almost universally accepted today that a person who identifies as homosexual was “born that way” and therefore it is “who they are.” Supposedly no one of any intelligence would question this belief, but does God’s truth as revealed in the Bible contradict this widely held assumption? The God of our faith is the Sovereign Creator of all. Would he create someone who is born with a sin which defines who he is and for which there is no redemption? Chapter 9 of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) entitled “Free Will” provides a biblical perspective which can shed some much-needed light on questions about sexual identity and sexual sin.
WCF 9.1 starts out by declaring a simple and vitally important truth: “God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined to good, or evil.” Made in His image, every individual has the power of self-decision, and the choices we make are never “forced” or “determined.” Outside forces might and often do influence our choices, but we are reminded again and again in Scripture that we will be held personally accountable before God for the choices we make (Romans 1:20,32; John 15:22).
WCF 9.2 addresses the condition of man in this regard before the Fall, in what can be called man’s “state of innocency.” In the Garden before the Fall, humans had both the “freedom and the power to will and to do that which was good and well pleasing to God.” Adam was fully capable of doing good “yet mutably, so that he might fall from it.” And of course, that’s exactly what he did. Adam had both the liberty and the ability to choose not to eat the forbidden fruit, but he failed the test with disastrous consequences for all his progeny.
WCF 9.3 addresses the condition of man after the Fall, now having “lost all ability to will any spiritual good.” Fallen man apart from Christ is still at liberty to do good, but because of his rebellion, he has lost the ability and the desire to choose to do good. Such a man “being altogether averse from that good and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself or to prepare himself thereunto.” No outside force makes him do evil and he retains his free will after the Fall, but he freely chooses to do evil because by nature he wants to do evil. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:13-15; see also Romans 8:5-8).
Can man in his fallen condition blame someone else, even his Creator, for his moral failures? God declares again and again in Scripture that when we come before Him in judgment, we will have no excuse for our sin (Romans 1:20). Where does that leave you and me along with Adam and Eve after the Fall? We are hopeless, helpless, in need of deliverance, desperately in need of a Savior, with no ability to “convert ourselves or to prepare ourselves thereunto.”
WCF 9.4 opens the door to the good news: “When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin.” The yoke is broken and the slave to sin is set free by grace and this grace “enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good.” In Christ, we regain our ability both to want to do good and then to act upon our desires and actually to do what is “good and pleasing to God.” In Christ, we have been delivered from the domain of darkness, the oppressive rule and reign of Satan, and we are a “new man” under a new ruler in the Kingdom of Christ. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). From the moment of rebirth, we learn to hate the sin we once loved, and our former desire to sin is replaced by a new deep-seated desire to do only what is pleasing to our Lord and God.
But alas, are we still able to choose to sin after salvation? “… by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, nor only, will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.” Romans 7 and Galatians 5 describe us as a conflicted people, free to do good, but also free to do evil, but most importantly with a restored ABILITY and DESIRE to do good. We are no longer slaves to sin, but sin still indwells us, often deceiving us and tempting us to sin. By grace and with the help of the Holy Spirit we actually have the ability NOT to sin, and yet, we often choose to sin and thereby grieve the Spirit. Of course, if our faith is genuine, we will never persevere in sin but will always return to Christ in repentance.
So, how does the biblical doctrine of “Free Will” address the popular notions of “gay Christianity” or what has been called Side B or Revoice theology? This false teaching claims that one’s sexual orientation (a Freudian concept not a biblical one) is present at birth and is unchangeable. Indeed, this teaching considers it abusive to attempt to turn a redeemed sinner from his perverse and abominable desires to right, good, natural and God-honoring sexual desires.
But WCF 9 teaches us that when we come to Christ in faith and repentance, he fundamentally changes us into a “new man.” We are a “new creation” and actually capable of real change through the ministry of the Spirit. Thus, Paul can say with respect to past sinful life patterns, “…such were some of you, but you were washed, you were sanctified….” (1 Co 6:11). Total change is of course never fully realized in this life, but through the grace of progressive sanctification, the Holy Spirit is always at work to deliver us from remaining sin. “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
Some will say that they never chose their orientation, and certainly none of us can always recall when, how and why we have chosen to sin or were enslaved to a sin. More often than not, we wake up to our sin when we are suffering the consequences of it. But this doesn’t change the biblical truth that we did in fact make a choice to sin, whether we were conscious of it at the time or not. Our inability to recall our decision to sin, does not change the fact that each of us has made that choice again and again.
The last word on “Free Will” is the best! WCF 9-5 gives us peek at the glorious future which awaits all who persevere in Christ to the end: “The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to good alone, in the state of glory only.” When we enter into the glory to come, we will be perfectly and unchangeably free and able to do good and good alone. This is almost too good to be true for the child of God who is weary from war with his sin. Imagine life without indwelling sin, when in our final state we will not only not want to sin, but we will not be able to sin. “We shall be like him because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). What a glory to come!!
John I. Maynard is a Ruling Elder of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Orlando, Fla.