Well, it’s complicated

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.

Romans 1: 28 (Per biblegateway.com)

Let’s take a step back today. Recently we’ve been focused on some of the depraved sinfulness and idolatry (not that those are different things) of the Romans. And tomorrow we’ll jump back in with very specific sins and characteristics of those folks. But today let’s step back and start to examine a more philosophical question. Do humans have free will, and if so, to what extent?

We could spend volumes discussing and debating this, but I just want to address some of the problems that arise out of this verse today, verse 28. God gave them over to a depraved mind. And after that they did what ought not to be done. How can human beings be responsible for sin if God is “giving us over” to it?

Do you remember back to Exodus, when Moses is arguing with Pharoah over the ISraelites’ freedom, and the text tells us that God “hardened” Pharaoh’s heart? Once again, how can we have any concept of free will-freely making our own decisions and bearing the responsibility, – if God is doing weird stuff to our hearts and giving us over to do the very things we shouldn’t be doing?

Ok I think we should end there. Humans don’t have free will, sorry.

KIDDING. Kidding.

We can debate how much humans have free will, and honestly I think sometimes theologians and apologists give the concept of free will a little bit too much power, but I don’t actually think that Romans 1:28, or the Pharaoh -plague passages in Exodus provide good evidence that humans don’t have free will.

In fact, the verse today shows that God does respect our free will. Think about it: the Romans are so dead set on sinning and continuing in their wicked ways that they want essentially nothing to do with God. Well, God has a couple of options. 1) He could force the Romans to bow down to him like he deserves and obey his every command (this would be super painful to the Romans, because they so badly desire their sinful actions or 2) God can let the Romans follow their desire and he won’t even intervene anymore to stop them.

Which sounds more like free will?

Wasn’t it CS Lewis who said there are only two types of people: those who say to God “Thy will be done” and those to whom God says “Thy will be done.”

This post is day 49 in a 366 day series. If you’d like, check out one of our “Getting Started” posts to learn more about our overall mission to memorize the book of Romans in one year.

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