The Human Will: The Bird With The Broken wing
Excerpt from Loraine Boettner’s classic book The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination.
Man is a free agent but be cannot originate the love of God in his heart. His will is free in the sense that it is not controlled by any force outside of himself. As the bird with a broken wing is “free” to fly but not able, so the natural man is free to come to God but not able. How can he repent of his sin when he loves it? How can he come to God when he hates Him? This is the inability of the will under which man labors. Jesus said, “And this is the judgment, that light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil,” John 3 :19; and again, “Ye will not come to me, that ye may have life,” John 5:40. Man’s ruin lies mainly in his own perverse will. He cannot come because he will not. Help enough is provided if he were only willing to accept it. Paul tells us, “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be. So they that are in the flesh cannot please God:” Romans 8:7. To assume that because man has ability to love he therefore has ability to love God, is about as wise as to assume that since water has the ability to flow, it therefore has the ability to flow up hill; or to reason that because a man has power to cast himself from the top of a precipice to the bottom, he therefore has equal power to transport himself from the bottom to the top. ~Loraine Boettner (1901-1990)
This illustration of the ‘bird with the broken wing’ proves only one thing and one thing only! I.e. man’s inability to come to God! Nothing more!
We must not conclude that just as the maimed bird may have a ‘desire to fly’, the natural man has a desire to come to God! As Boettner points out in the very next paragraph, the natural man ‘hates God’ and therefore has no ‘desire’ to come to Him! As the scripture affirms, “The carnal mind is ENMITY against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be”! [Romans 8:7] The words of the ‘natural man’ unless he be sovereignly regenerated are forever – “Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways”! [Job 21:14]
Then there are those who say that the illustration of the maimed bird is a poor one, for the bird scripturally speaking should actually be dead! Those who belong to this school of theology would insist that it would be just as sensible to visit our cemeteries and call on the occupants of the graves to come forth as to exhort those who are dead in trespasses and sins to throw down the weapons of their warfare and be reconciled to God.
While in many ways the natural man is indeed spiritually dead to the things of God, there is indeed a vital difference between a spiritually dead soul and a lifeless body! At least A.W. Pink and I think so. For he writes – “Such reasoning is unsound, for there is a vast and vital difference between a spiritually dead soul and a lifeless body. The soul of Adam became the subject of penal and spiritual death; nevertheless it retained all its natural powers. Adam did not lose all knowledge nor become incapable of volition; nor did the operations of conscience cease within him. He was still a rational being, a moral agent, a responsible creature, though he could no longer think or will, love or hate, in conformity to the law of righteousness.
It is far otherwise with physical dissolution. When the body dies it becomes as inactive, unintelligent and unfeeling as a piece of unorganized matter. A lifeless body has no responsibility, but a spiritually dead soul is accountable to God. A corpse in the cemetery will not “despise and reject” Christ (Isa. 53:3), will not “resist the Holy Ghost” (Acts 7:51), will not disobey the gospel (2 Thess. 1:8); but the sinner can and does do these very things, and is justly condemned for them. Are we, then, suggesting that fallen man is not “dead in trespasses and sins”? No indeed, but we do insist that those solemn words be rightly interpreted and that no false conclusions be drawn from them. Because the soul has been deranged by sin, because all its operations are unholy, it is correctly said to be in a state of spiritual death, for it no more fulfills the purpose of its being than does a dead body.
[Quoted from A.W. Pink’s – ‘The Doctrine of Man’s Impotence’ Chapter 6 – The Problem ]
I do agree with you. We all allude to what scripture says and you may have put it in better words. Thanks!
I like your blog very much dear Brother and am thankful for all the material you have made available, I shall be visiting here more often and your work for The Lord shall be in my prayers! With Christian Love, Mike!