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.

Christian Integrity
R.B. Thieme, Jr.
pp. 70-72

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7 Comments on “Free Will and the Angelic Conflict”


  1. it is the supreme knowledge almost unhuman to be explain thisway i have to be humble reading from smeone who study the subject of the real but invisible powers hoverings on top,thank you.

  2. Duane Says:

    Hi Glen!
    I came over from Rose’s. This is an interesting narrative.
    From the 1st I saw the Movie “Amadeus” it was obvious to me that (was it Salieri?) the enemy of Mozart was a proper educated, hard working gentleman, while Mosart was an impetuous sinner, that was an allegory of God showing satan: “See this undisciplined child? He is going to glorify Me.”

    More to the point, I have been fighting determinism for months now. I’ve been studying at Bobby Grow’s “Evangelical Calvinism”, hoping that a Scottish reformed, Tf Torrance Calvinism having a different flavor than Federal Calvinism would allow the individual just enough choice to accept the salvation already arranged and offered to him or reject. After a couple of months of following along, the most Bobby (God bless him) can give me, is that God calls the elect (those who will accept Him). Why the reprobate reject Him is a mystery. Bobby is highly educated and highly intelligent, yet his response seems rather tentative.
    My response was “Jerusalem Jerusalem how many times would I have gathered your children…but you would not.” If that makes Jesus semi-pelagian, then I am too. If He is not then neither am I.
    Any how. glad to meet you. Would love to cross swords with someone just to spar for a change.

    Duane

  3. Glenn Says:

    Hi Duane,

    Thank you for stopping by. I also regularly lurk at Bobby’s blog. I find his posts on the differences between Federal and Scottish Calvinism interesting.

    While there are many differences between the two I suspect that both the Federal and Scottish flavors of Calvinism would agree that God’s purpose in human history is redemptive while Dispensationalism teaches that that God’s purpose in history is doxological (to glorify God).

    Whereas Reformed Covenant theology centers upon God’s plan of salvation and makes redemption the ultimate purpose to history, Dispensational theology gives recognition to multiple workings of God, not just to His redemptive program. Speaking of the book of Revelation, John Pilkey writes of this larger perspective:

    “It furnishes an authoritative context larger than the Gospel of salvation and larger than salvation itself. . . .As mortals, we remain in various kinds of trouble; and salvation strikes us as an all-consuming, universal concern. Yet the angels of heaven have never been saved; the demons cannot be saved; and the redeemed in heaven have nothing from which to be saved. If life in the resurrected state has a purpose, goals must exist beyond salvation. Because the book of Revelation has been given to us in our present mortal condition , we are able to anticipate these goals despite our natural preoccupation with personal salvation.”

    Part VI: NEW TRUTHS OF THE KINGDOM ARISTROCRACY
    APPENDIX A: REFORMED AND DISPENSATIONAL THEOLOGY
    pp. 12-13 (PDF pages 144-145 of 146)

    This difference comes through very strongly in the this post. Thieme makes the entire point of human history to be glorification of God. I don’t think that any Calvinist would do that.

    Thank you for stopping by!

    Glenn

  4. Duane Says:

    Hi Glenn!

    Thanks for the info. I did not know that about Calvinism’s central purpose being redemption, and dispensational being doxology.
    My observation is that Calvinists explain that God works everything for His glory, which drives me nuts because I don’t think God needs to boil 10 billion persons in lava eternally for His glory. on the other hand, if His purpose is redemptive, and total depravity rules out free will, then there is no reason to not save the whole lot of us. The only reason I can think of for God to not have universal salvation, is there was not enough Jesus Christ to atone for all of the sin. God would have to assuage the balance of his anger on the reprobate:
    IOW Not giving all an opportunity for salvation (tantamount to saving them in Calvinism) is absurd.

    I’m mostly dispensational, but I am not as committed to that system as I am opposed to the Federal Covenantal system and the preterist system.

    Maybe you have read Ron Frost at Bobby’s or at His own “Spreading Goodness”. He calls it “affective theology”. I am suddenly soured to “Spreading Goodness” as a concept because Bobby Tells me Ron is limited atonement. That is goodness not spreading, but goodness with a great high wall around it, the elect safely inside, and the remainder as the clay of God, soon to be fired in a lake of fire.

    But I love his concept of Affective purpose: God created us (the “elect” for Ron) for relationship with God. His purpose is for us to get to know Him better and better, to get to know His love more and more intimately, through Word and Spirit, until we begin to spread the love of Christ through the Church and world. It is a lovely, realistic and I believe Biblical concept that can only lead to God’s glory and our edification. Limited Atonement contradicts his concept. I would love to explore this further.
    I believe I need to however; outside of the Limited Atonement community, because God so loves the World that He gave His only unique son that whosoever believeth…

    Thanks Glenn!

  5. Glenn Says:

    Hi Duane,

    I agree that Calvinism does have contradictions that I have never been able to resolve. In fact I have come to the conclusion that the contradictions cannot be resolved. I have found that almost all of the Calvinists I have met do believe in limited atonement. Even though there are supposed to be “four point” Calvinists out there I don’t think there are very many.

    It appears that the reason Calvinists generally hold to limited atonement is because they believe in God’s “absolute sovereignty.” When they say that God is absolutely sovereign they mean He decreed everything that would happen in eternity past. Given that God has decreed in eternity past who would be elect and who would be reprobate, it seems outright crazy to them that God would have Jesus Christ die for everyone. I have read Calvinists who say that it would have been a “waste” for Christ to have also died for the reprobate. I have no idea what four point Calvinists believe regarding God’s “absolute sovereignty” and how, or if, they try to reconcile this with unlimited atonement.

    If you are interested in reading about the problems with the Calvinist doctrine of absolute sovereignty I would suggest checking out CALVINISM: A Closer Look by Daniel Gracely. The entire book is online and has some very interesting arguments. In fact, the first chapter of the book discusses this.

    Thank you for stopping by.

    Glenn

  6. Glenn Says:

    Duane,

    I forgot to touch on the affective theology that you mentioned. I do read Bobby’s articles on it but I have not looked at Ron Frost’s blog. It doesn’t sound bad to me but I have never been able to completely get a good, fundamental understanding of it.

    I do believe that Adam and Eve were created to have a perfect relationship with God and that when we believe that perfect relationship is set on the road to complete restoration. Of course, with my understanding of the angelic conflict, I don’t believe that the perfect relationship with God was the underlying purpose of Adam and Eve’s creation.

    Glenn


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