How important is free-will when it comes to loving God?

I was reading a post over at Tim Challies’ site about Free Will. Tim raises some good points concerning the subject and includes a nice little chart from Augustine of Hippo that describes the various states of man’s condition.

The key point of the post deals with a statement by C.S. Lewis in his book, Mere Christianity:

Free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.

Is this truly the case? Is it really free will that makes love possible? Consider this: did we love God first or did he love us first? Did we choose to follow God, or did he first choose us? Now, if you’re a Christian, I expect that you’ll refer to your scriptures to answer these questions.

As I commented on Tim’s site, we are told in 1Cor 2:14 that in our natural state, we are incapable of comprehending the truths or nature of God. They’re utter foolishness unto our natural, depraved state. Now, either this is completely false or it isn’t. And if it is true, then how can we properly choose that which we cannot see, let alone comprehend? And if this is assertion is false, then what’s the point?

My point is this: as Christians, we operate on the notions of faith and grace. We believe what we believe out of faith. But it was grace that gave us the faith to believe in the first place. Take either of these components away and we’re merely religious people, no different than any other religious people. It is the notion of an active God that really separates our religion from the others in the world.

Based on these assumptions, is our free-will really that important when it comes to loving God with any sort of quality? Do we really gain anything by asserting our free will? Let’s suppose I have free will and have an IQ of 70. Am I really going to derive something paramount to Einstein’s theory of relativity just because I desire to? We’re talking, here, about overcoming a deficiency of intelligence. And to a certain extent this is possible. But I have yet to see any person or creature over come its nature. Just because you can here a parrot talk, doesn’t mean it has the nature of a man. And while I like to think my dog, Barkley, is a better “person” than most people I know, doesn’t actually mean he’s human. He’s still a dog.

This concept is pretty important to professing Christians. At what point do you stop insisting on your own rights and start taking God at his word? Just because an unregenerate man cannot turn from his ways and turn to God, in his own power, doesn’t alleviate the responsibility from him. Nor does it make God a tyrant by calling on men and women to do so.

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