Freewill as to Inclination and Choice

J. N. Darby.

<41023E> 268

(Notes and Comments Vol. 1.)

All men speak about freewill is nonsense - free and will do not go together - there is no will till a person is decided and determined. Man is perfectly free to will, as far as constraint by another goes; in truth, as far as man's faculties go, he cannot be otherwise, i.e., it is his own will where he has one - his body, his acts may be constrained, and fear may make him will as other inclinations would not have led him, but his will as will is always his own. The moral part of the matter does not lie there, save as having one's own will is sin, i.e., determining without reference to God, instead of obeying - the claim of independency to have a right to act supremely, without reference to another having authority over us - it is what determines the will, and makes it what is called "free," i.e., our own, in which sin lies - the power of such and such things over the heart. I admit this alleged freedom, i.e., the pretension to be independent of God, to be the very principle of sin - it is rejection of God and His authority, but the ally of this is "pleasant to the eyes, good for food, a tree to be desired," etc. - confidence in God making us happy lost, and so objects desired, and then will in activity. Only, lust having thus come in when will is set right, the lusts remain as a hindrance, and power is needed to deliver. Does not this amount to the will not being a proper faculty of the soul at all? Something existing, even when inert? Will is "I" in the determination of activity - there is none when it is not determined; when choice is made, then there is will (i.e., may be), the lust or desire, which has gained the mastery over "I," leads "I" to intentional activity towards the object desired. And it is the same in God, only the objects of intentional activity are not, of course, any desire which moves Him in the object - save Christ - but the creatures of His own wisdom. He is Author from Himself.

A creature could not be a creature and not imperfect, and hence liable to fall - I add could not be in the truth; hence, in a glorious state he "abode not in the truth." As to man he fell tempted, when something above and out of his state was presented, having lost sinfully his confidence in God.

269 Perfectness, in good, belongs to God - all else must be imperfect because it is not God.

As regards indifference, i.e., absence of preference, foreknowledge does not imply the direct appointment of the fact, but it does suppose a necessary consequence, though it may be necessary if - thus, if a creature, being imperfect, be exposed to temptation, he will certainly fall; I may act on it, as a certainty, i.e., God may, who perfectly knows the bearing of all things, without the smallest compulsion on the person - He may have seen it right to leave the creature exposed to it, and have this moral trial. There was way to escape, no necessity, no predisposition to evil - it was the necessary imperfection of the creature, a question whether there should be any free creature at all, and moral condition exist in the world; if there were, it could not be otherwise, issuing in the bringing about the previous purpose of redemption, purposed before, not based upon the fall of man.

But "free" needs to be examined; willkuhr (absolute will) and wahl (choice) are given as the elements of freedom or freewill, but it is said it is not an indifference which supposes no inclination more to one than another. Freedom, it is said, is in not being compelled, and in taking counsel and choosing. Now the absence of compulsion is clear, but choice is another thing.

First, what is will? I believe nothing more than the exclusion of other inclinations by one predominate one. This exclusion may come from strength of passion, or a superior motive - there may be an abnegation of will to obey another, recognising his authority, but will is only a predominant inclination; but it has no moral character where there is not the knowledge of good and evil. Thus, an animal gratifying its lusts - there is no relation violated, though violence may now be come in. How far then has arbitrary self originated choice? It is said it is not indifference - there must be inclination - this is not then simple self-originated choice. I choose within a sphere subjected to me - out of it, I cannot; I may desire, which may prove my moral state, but I cannot actually choose. But in that order of things, mentally subjected to me, at least, either it is rightly subjected or not; if rightly, I am a creature - it is by the will of another. So it was in Adam's case in innocence - he was set to dress the garden, and keep it, he did so freely, but according to the order of his mind, and the garden's order - so that self-will, i.e., a determination or desire was not in exercise - he did what had to be done according to the perfect order of his own mind, and it was delight because it was the order of his mind, in which it worked freely without a craving of desire. Now that tests have come in, it is another thing; will is now desire appropriating something to self, at least mentally.

270 Now to have will free, clearly there must be no compulsion - I say, I need not do it, I am not obliged; but when we speak of will or choice (willkuhr) I have clearly cast off God - am not subject to Him, i.e., the sole, true, determining motive for creature will is wanting, and all is really evil. But if I am already inclined, I am on the way to a determination, and in fact determined, unless some other inclination, more powerful, comes in - ease, or passion, or pleasing some one. If I have only the first inclination, my will goes that way - my will is formed, not self-originated. I may by conscience see I ought to do so, and intend to do it, when the predominant motive is not there (for I admit conscience - knowledge of right and wrong in all), but when the motives come to act, then the will is formed - if I am absolutely indifferent, no will takes place; if I am not, the will is determined, saving a more powerful motive; thus choice and self-originated will is a mistake. When I say "he has a very strong will," it is another thing - it is carrying out my will by firmness of purpose against other men's opposition. Take three objects, A., B. and C. I do not understand why it should be said that if we are equally inclined to A., B. and C., we cannot be to A. and not A. It is not so, if inclined only to A. and B., for in that case I am equally inclined to take A., and B. that is not A. But this supposes that I am forced to take one or another as incompatible, else the inclination would be to both. If I must choose, the A., and not A. have equal power - not in A. by itself, for if I am inclined to A., I cannot be inclined at all to not A.; but when another thing I am inclined to involves not A., I am not directly or positively, but as a mere consequence equally disposed to not A. Now if it is A. or B. or C. it is the same thing, because each is compared with each, and one loses the other two in any case, and my positive will can only be governed by one. But if it is A. or B. and C., and I am inclined to each individual equally, my will is formed by the two at once, because the predominant inclination is two to one - yet it fixes on no particular two, so that it comes to the same thing, unless accidentally determined.

271 I admit therefore liberty of will as far as freedom from compulsion - I am free to will; my will is never free - will is a determined purpose. But to say that an inclined will is not formed by what inclines it, is false upon the face of it. If nothing acts upon it to incline it there is no will at all - there is indifference, i.e., no will. A nature inclined to good is perfectly free in obeying - it is what is called the law of liberty; but a nature indifferent to good and evil, or inclined to the latter, cannot choose the good - it is indifferent to it, or inclined the other way. If personal persuasion, or terror lead it to the good, it has not chosen the good, but been formed by the influencing motive - you cannot say indifferent, for then there can be no choice - if you say preference, or inclination one way, the choice is already made.

I may be told that I may be inclined to a given thing, and conscience arrests me. Very right; but then I am not free* to choose, but bound and rightly bound. Man being governed by motives, all may be and is foreknown, he being perfectly free, constrained to nothing - if absolutely originated, it would be hard to say so - but I do not believe man capable of originating anything.

{*This is right, but not sufficiently explicit. "Free" is ambiguous - I am always free as regards external forcing; but conscience recognises an obligation, and, save Atheism, also obligation to divine authority. In either case, choice or will becomes simply sin. I admit the difference of conscience and authority, but, in either case, will is simply evil, rather choice, for it denies the obligation. I am free, but not free to choose, save as free from compulsion.}

Inclination without necessity, is not tenable ground. Absolute indifference, to make man free, is absurd, for then will cannot be determined, but is a partially determined will - determined to good or evil; if to evil, it is a hard case to set it so, and make it responsible as a free person; nor is it more so if to good. It is not simple probation. Besides, if there be already an inclination, it shows that such inclination is a nature, not a will, and hence the whole ground taken is false.

But further, choice has nothing to do with freedom. A nature in perfect accordance with the order in which I am set, is free - such is called, morally, the law of liberty, when I will in nature what God wills in authority - so Adam, setting aside the forbidden fruit, was free in the garden, but had no choice to make; God chose to put a matter of choice before him, as a probation or test, but His doing it specially, and by this ordinance, proved it was not so otherwise. Nor is there any difficulty in God's full foreknowledge, only it supposes what is - our nature - and He supplies the occasion in which man shows himself without any influencing at all, and then God shows Himself in grace.

272 Then the imperfection and fall of the creature, if tested in this state, exists - the forbidden tree is there to test it - perfectly free as far as any influence of God is concerned, but, because so, showing what it was. God knew perfectly well the result, but it was the effect of creature-nature, it is only when we really see this, we get free from it. So God knew human nature, and all its details under certain influences, and in certain positions, and presents Christ. It is free, but shows in freedom what it is. The independence of the unfallen creature, and the enmity of the creature, with a will and lusts, who had separated from God, would not have been shown without these things. But it was display of what the creature was, not choice, or, if you please, display of what choice in the creature, when tried, was, i.e., will without God, and will against God - separation from God; distrust of His goodness began it, but will and disobedience followed - I speak of man.

But choice, to make out righteousness, is all a blunder, because if man had not gone wrong, there was no righteousness to make out - if he had gone wrong, in heart and will, choice was no good to make out righteousness, to say nothing of setting aside Christ. Return to God - faith - is alone the path of it that became perfect in its object - the Father revealed in the Son, in Christ, and in the revealed purpose of God, when, as Man, He has taken the place of Glory, Head over all. The responsibility came in by-the-bye, however real, as it is, and its reality the basis of the bringing out of the other, in the first Adam, the perfect purpose in the Second.

But I think there is some confusion between choice between good and evil, and a judgment as to what is good and evil. Take the instance of the ass between two bundles of hay; this does not meet the case of choice at all - the supposition is that the two bundles are equally attractive, and there is only one desire - to eat - on the part of the ass. It was not choice between bundles, but equal attraction hindering action. I admit it could not happen, for if he turned his head for something else, the object would attract on one side, and it would eat - but the question is not met, for it is no indifference in the nature of the animal as to good and evil, or even as to objects having contradictory power in their nature, so as to act on different inclinations in the mind, and this is where the insoluble difficulty for all the philosophical class is. If there be good and evil, or mixed so as to require moral determination - if there be motive producing will - if all things are not alike - it must be on some disposition in man that the object acts, i.e., the inclination; the good and evil is there already.

273 It is complicated because there is conscience, and in general some sense of the authority of God, which is not an inclination affecting the decision of the question; hence, though the state be important, it is not all, for it is clear that the will of God ought to determine me, i.e., I ought not to be free to choose. "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work."

But further, with regard to freewill, man's likeness to God is an important point, for man was set to have a will and to exercise it; Angels were not. This leads us to a double sense of will.

First, the mere energy of nature which sets our practical powers in motion; this all active beings have, even animals - so Angels, only their activities, and what they will flows from the will of another, even God. But there is another sense of will, where I determine for myself from some motive; this Adam had in innocence, independent of the test of obedience which exercised him on the point whether his will was at any rate subject to God's, or what man is pleased to call "free." He was put into the garden to dress and to keep it; he dressed it as he pleased; he pleased himself in it - was meant to please himself - and, though in a little finite sphere, was in the image of God in this, which Angels are not. But he was in God's image in doing as he pleased simply; being governed by motives (which man calls being free, because it is not obedience to another), is a far lower state than the spirit of obedience, and so indeed in itself was Adam's, for Christ took the place of simple obedience and doing God's will.

No doubt we can have elevated motives, and so far our character will be elevated, but an undetermined will is clearly weakness; for it has not simply delight in good nor, by love of good, freedom from evil. To be undecided between good and evil, and to be determined by motives extrinsic to oneself is clearly a feeble and infirm, yea, an evil state. That God can act on us, in this state, by motives which elevate us, is true, but that is another thing, and is grace, and indeed connected with the gift of a new life; but, as to the condition, it is an evidently infirm and evil condition, to have to choose between good and evil, for it shows my will to be not morally determined for good - that I have not a will in good, not obedient in love - but a will to be governed, to be created, formed by some motive, perhaps a bad one.

274 Now I refer to an absolute will, as an image of God, though exercised in a subordinate sphere, and a contrast with a perfectly blessed state, such as Angels. It may be a title to have one without restraint from another, but till I have chosen, I have no will - what gives me one? If God and good, it is grace; if not, it is something else that is evil and self. Freewill belongs to God only, in its true sense - the right to please Himself identified, as it is, with the essential goodness of His nature; it belonged to man, in a finite way, within the limits of obedience. To say he was free to do evil, save as not outwardly hindered, is an abomination; now he is certainly inclined to sin, to say he is free to continue in it, equally so. He is bound to turn to good, but finds hindrance in an evil nature.

As regards God's choosing, out of all possible worlds, the best, it is a weak and foolish thought it seems to me, as the world must in thought be created to compare, and He who could think a good world and consequently approve of it by His thought, had no need to think a bad one to compare with it. His own thought, which in thought created it, could do so for His own glory, according to the perfectness natural to His own thought - I do not create by my thoughts, nor am I perfect to do so, and I compare; save as mercy and in gracious condescension to us, God does not think - we think, because we do not know. I do not admit that this created world is of God's counsels at all - it is a fallen one; besides it results in something, and the result must be the object of counsel, not the probationary productive process, though He may order all in it towards that result, but what is perfectly to the purpose, as means, may be utterly inadequate as an ultimate object of purpose, and if we attempt to justify it, as such, we must be wrong. The Christian has no doubt of this, because God has revealed the mystery of His will - the gathering together in one of all things in Christ.

275 NOTE. - The completeness of God's love, its perfectness, was shown in a double way - He could not give more, He would not give less. It is infiniteness in the fact and perfectness of the will - I mean of the will in love.

NOTE. - It is a blessed thing to see that what saves us - the death and resurrection of Christ - takes our affections also clean out of this world, and places them wholly, as to the very nature of them, in life and object elsewhere.