Free Will and the Angelic Conflict
Beliefs in both free will and the angelic conflict have been a gulf of difference between me and other Christians as long as I can remember. To hold to these two doctrines will cause anyone to view everything from the micro (other people) to the macro (world events) in a completely different manner.
I never interpret bad decisions by other people (or myself) as a “the devil made me do it” or even a “God made me do it” situation. I do believe that both God and the Devil do influence all of us, that we all know right from wrong and that we are allowed by God to make our own decisions. Does saying that God influences me, rather than God compels or decrees all my actions make me some kind of heretic? I don’t see how even though I have read as much implied by other Christians.
The following quote is from R.B. Thieme, Jr.’s teaching on free will and why it is necessary to resolve the angelic conflict:
God invented human volition to resolve the angelic conflict, the prehistoric warfare between God and Satan. As one of the most powerful angels, Satan abused his freedom by revolting against God (Isa, 14:13-14; Ezek. 28:14-16) and then accused God of being unloving and unjust in sentencing him to the lake of fire (Matt. 25:41). God created the human race in answer to Satan’s false charge. God made man lower than the angels, established him on one planet in the universe, and endowed him with free will. The human race is a demonstration of God’s perfect essence in relation to free individuals. Volition is one characteristic that man has in common with angels. Thus, through mankind Satan and his demons are shown that they are responsible for their own condemnation.
In order to strip Satan of all defenses, God demonstrates His perfect love and integrity to man under every possible variation of historical, personal, and spiritual circumstances. Some people live in the ideal environment of Eden or the Millennium; others amid the terror of the Tribulation. Some are born into nobility and wealth; others into relative obscurity and poverty. Some have advanced under the spiritual heritage of Israel; others under the divine dynasphere of the Church. Each life is a unique demonstration of human volition and divine grace in the angelic conflict.
Man was never designed to be equal. We are born unequal, and human free will insures further inequality. The more decisions people make, the more unequal they become. Some people make wise decisions that create future options for greater decisions; others make wrong decisions that close down future options. No two people are equal, but in every case man in his own strength is too weak to resist the craft and power of Satan. We acquire strength by relying on the power of God.
In all dispensations the Lord Jesus Christ is the key to history; Jesus Christ controls history and personally entered history to defeat Satan at the cross (Eph. 6:11-13; Heb. 2:9, 14; 1 Pet 3:19, 22). The glorification of Christ is the purpose of man’s existence, and in bringing all things into conformity with the divine objective, God treats each person on an individual basis.
God had you personally in mind when He designed the universe. He decreed a plan for your life that gives you unique opportunities in which to exercise your free will. As you freely choose to obey or disobey God’s mandates, you create your own integrity or duplicity, success or failure, happiness or misery, reward or retribution from the love and integrity of God. But whether or not you succeed in the Christian life, God continues to treat you as an individual, not as attractive or unattractive. He continues to faithfully provide logistical grace. Likewise, we must learn to treat others as individuals, not as rich or poor, smart or stupid, black, white, or brown, someone who can advance us or who might hinder us. In impersonal love [agape] from our own integrity, we must offer toleration, thoughtfulness, and kindness to all. Each human life plays an essential role in revealing to Satan and all the angels the absolute integrity of God (1 Cor. 4:9b; Eph 3:10; 1 Pet. 1:12).
In perfect justice God permits Satan the freedom to prove his boast that he is equal with God (Isa. 14:14), but Satan continually fails. He usurped the rulership of the earth from Adam, but has never been able to control his ill-gotten kingdom. Like a roaring lion, Satan is angered and frustrated (1 Pet. 5:8) because the counterfeit millennium he seeks to establish is marred by arrogance, evil, suffering, and disaster while God’s plan of grace extends the blessings of divine impersonal love to all mankind. God’s perfect character is demonstrated toward every human being; divine impersonal love reveals the integrity of the subject, never the merit of the object. With us or without us, through us or in spite of us, God will win the angelic conflict. Christ purchased the salvation of every human being (1 John 2:2), and God desires that all believe in Christ (2 Pet. 3:9); but even those who emulate Satan’s arrogance and reject the riches of God’s generosity inadvertently reveal God’s justice. Like Satan the unbeliever rejects the love of God; then, after maximum grace before judgment (Gen. 3:6; 15:16), eternal condemnation expresses God’s uncompromising integrity.
For the wrath of man [maladjustment to god] will praise You [God]. (Ps. 76:10a)
In the negative volition of every unbeliever, Satan witnesses his own culpability and God’s patience, kindness, and fairness. But God’s love and integrity are revealed to the maximum in the mature believer. The doctrine of the angelic conflict explains the importance of human volition: Our free decisions to reside and function in the divine dynasphere enable God to glorify himself by blessing us. The angelic conflict also explains why increasingly marvelous blessings on earth become the criteria for eternal rewards in heaven (Luke 19:26; Rom. 8:14-18, 21). The positive volition that glorified Christ in the devil’s world will much more glorify Him in eternity.
R.B. Thieme, Jr.