Monday, April 04, 2005

Will of Man

"... and I will go as far as Martin Luther, in that strong assertion of his, where he says, ‘If any man doth ascribe of salvation, even the very least, to the free will of man, he knoweth nothing of grace, and he hath not learnt Jesus Christ aright.’ It may seem a harsh sentiment; but he who in his soul believes that man does of his own free will turn to God, cannot have been taught of God, for that is one of the first principles taught us when God begins with us, that we have neither will nor power, but that He gives both; that He is ‘Alpha and Omega’ in the salvation of men." (Charles H. Spurgeon from the sermon ‘Free Will A Slave’ (1855) referring to Luther's book, The Bondage of the Will).

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13, KJV, emphases added).

There has been a good discussion over at Joe's concerning the free will of man. I replyed to Joe saying,

"(Joe), you said, 'Calvinism, as I understand it, does teach free will, but only after salvation.'
This would be an inaccurate statement. Free will is a tricky subject, but not quite as complicated as some make it. We are basically free to think, act, and will as our current nature allows. Meaning, before regeneration, we are unable to do anything which pleases God. It is not as if God gives us "free will" once we are born again. What happens is our nature changes. We are given a completely new nature. The old is gone and the new remains. We are free moral agents. Now we are able to think, act, and will in a way which can please God, as His grace allows."

However, my friend, D.Mann, wrote a good response to what I wrote at Joe Missionary. I understand now that free will is something that is given to us after regeneration. Christians throw around "free will" all the time that we just assume what it means. Another blogger pointed out that it's historical definition is

"the ability to make choices without any prior prejudice, inclination, or disposition. The natural capacity of the human will to make free moral decisions."

This belief, he echos from Scripture, is "unbiblical and foolish."

This blogger, Rand, also wrote,

"free agency":
'By a free and responsible agent we mean an intelligent person who acts with rational self-determination.'

God does not MAKE anyone sin, the "agents" do exactly what they want, they are ruled by their nature (whether it be holy, or ungodly)."

This is a biblical explaination of how we (in our finite minds) reconcile God's sovereignty with man's responsibility.

Anyway, I just wanted to admit I was wrong in my definitions, and to clarify what I believe. It is my wish and prayer that I will continue to be semper reformanda, always reforming. Thank you to those of you who continue to press on and hold sound doctrine high above man's approval. Correction and encouragment is always welcome.

Soli Deo Gloria!


Daniel said...

There's some problems with the Calvinist accepting free will at any level (even for a regenerated believer).
Philosophically, Calvinism holds to soft determinism, aka compatibilism (See Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology book, the ch. on providence. This completely rules out free will in the libertarian sense, which is needed for an adequate defense of the problem of evil (Check out Alvin Plantinga).
Or maybe Calvinists need to adopt some aspects of Molinism in order to have free will for believers.
Another important question for the Calvinist is if Adam had free will? Compatibilism rules that out. But that's harder to fit with Scripture.

Julianne said...


Why don't you explain to me how Molinism reconciles the existence of a sovereign God with the existence of evil?

Julianne said...

Also, do you really think free will is possible? Making a choice solely without any prior prejudice, inclination, or dispsition?

Daniel said...

Here's a real brief explanation of Molinism. If you want a better one, read Paul Copan's "That's Just Your Interpretation" or William Lane Craig's "The Only Wise God" (Be careful 'cause Craig can get a little boring. Copan's easier to understand).

Molinism teaches that God's knowledge is so vast that He knows every possible world that He could have created. This means that His knowledge is filled with all possible of future contingencies. In other words, He knows not only what will happen, but what could have happened in every situation.

Look at 1 Sam. 23. Here David rescues the town of Keilah from the Philistines. After all, while David is still in Keilah, he receives word that King Saul is pursuing him to kill him. So David asks God if supposing he stayed in Keilah, would the citizens of Keilah betray him over to Saul? God answers yes. So David leaves Keilah before Saul gets the chance to capture him. This shows us that God not only knows what would happen, but what could happened in certain circumstances. Another example can be found in Matt. 11:20-24.

Before creating the world, God in his foreknowledge knew every possible human choice in every possible situation. Then he decided to create the world that brought him the most glory and that had the most creatures that would fully enjoy His glory.

As for free will, I agree that it's a little of a misnomer. However, just because our decisions are influenced by different factors doesn't mean that our decisions are determined by those factors.

Paul Copan writes, "I have free will because my choices are not determined by prior causes ('causal necessity') and I am able to be a self-mover or self-determiner. I—and not my character or inner states—decide. So certain traits such as stubbornness (or being easy-going) and feelings such as depression (or cheerfulness) are not the sum total of who I am. It is my soul or my very self—the I—that has certain character traits, feelings, and states. As a self-mover or chooser, I have the capacity to choose. It is the I that experiences various events and undergoes the changes of life, but these should not be equated with the I. So all of these 'influencing factors' (motives, character qualities) may be sufficient to account for my choices, but they don’t necessitate them."

Daniel said...

Oh, by the way, I agree with your definition of "free agency." When I use the term "free will" I basically mean the same thing as you do when you say "free agency."

The difference is that I believe that God gives prevenient grace as His powerful Word is preached (Rom. 10:14). This grace enables the hearer to make a free response in regard to God's saving grace. The hearer can then decide to choose to follow Christ or to reject Him. And God's saving grace can be resisted by the hearer (Acts. 7:51).

Julianne said...

I am still reading your first post. However, I do have a response to the last one.

Your last papragraph sounds no different than an Arminian would write.

Acts 7:51 is speaking of those who are not of the Elect. They will and do resist the Holy Spirit.

I don't understand why it is so difficult to understand Romans 9:14, "It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy." (NIV) or NLT, "You can't get it by choosing it or working hard for it."

Even if some receive this "prevenient grace", salvation is, as you claim, still something which must be chosen by the individual. This is leaving the choice of salvation to the individual. This is not "having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will." (Eph. 1:11)

So on a different not (for my own curiousity, I also must ask you, do you believe that this prevenient grace is only given to the Elect?

Julianne said...

EDIT: So on a different NOTE, not NOT.

Daniel said...

Prevenient grace is given to anyone who hears the Word of God. Of course, this excludes those who have never heard. This grace enables the hearder to choose freely to trust Christ or reject Him.

As far as Rom.9 and Eph. 1 go, we must remember that these passages need to be interpreted in light of their context. I have different understanding of these verses.

It is really easy to use verses as prooftexts without examining how Rom. 9 fits into the entire argument of Romans or how Eph. 1 fits into Ephesians. That's not to say that you have misinterpreted these verses, only that it is difficult to provide the needed exegetical examination for the comments section on a blog.

I'll start working on writing an answer on my blog and in the coming weeks maybe you provide the needed critique that will help me refine my views.

Julianne said...

I still do not see how you can biblically and logically (from Scripture) say "This grace enables the hearder to choose freely to trust Christ or reject Him."

This is not found in Scriptures. In fact, there are many other verses(besides the ones I gave) which say the exact opposite.

Your point of contexts is very important. It is the very contexts of Rom. 9 and Eph. and others which make this idea of "prevenient grace" seem more unbiblical the more I think of it.

I'll check your blog for the upcoming exegetical examination.

Joe said...

Hi Julianne,

I can't reply to this thread as I am run-over-by-a-truck sick right now, but I do have a quick answer to your question about inserting a URL into a word (or two):

Type your post, and then highlight the words you would like to contain the link (for example, "Joe says..."). With the words "Joe says" highlighted, click on the little link icon in your Blogger Create a Post toolbar (it's in between "text color" and "align left". Then insert the URL in the little pop-up box and you're set!

Your text should now look like:

"Joe says,..."

Julianne said...

Daniel, back to your post on Molinism, I agree with you wrote that
"God knows every possible world that He could have created...[and]in his foreknowledge knew every possible human choice in every possible situation. Then he decided to create the world that brought him the most glory and that had the most creatures that would fully enjoy His glory."

That I agree with, however, I believe God has a "specific" knowledge (not a "proper" theological term, but one that I just made up*). Meaning, God not only knows every possible situation, human choice, etc. but that God (in the council of the Godhead) has sovereignly ordained this "specific" event, choice, whatever to occur.

I more to say (I always do). I'll get back to you soon.

*Please correct me on this if this seems unbiblical.

Julianne said...

Daniel, check out the first comment to Joe's most recent post here:

There is a good explanation of irresistible grace from John Piper.

Rand said...

Thanks for the mention Julianne!

As far as I'm concerned, on this issue, you are "bang-on!"

Keep contending for the Truth!

God bless you,

Julianne said...

I found this explanation of "middle knowledge":

"Middle knowledge is God's awareness of what an individual will freely choose in any given situation. And so God controls human choices by bringing about the circumstances in which they will make the choice that fits His purposes."

I can just picture god guiding us through the maze of life by "bringing about the circumstances" so that we make the right choice. This is not the God of the Bible.

Julianne said...

Joe, thanks for the comment. Now I can finally make my posts less clutered. God bless,


Daniel said...

"That is not the God of the Bible." How you can say that? Have you studied the entire Bible and done careful exegetical work in every book?

That's a rather presumptious statement. It begs the question. You need to demonstrate that. You can't just assume that Calvinism is right and then interpret the Bible completely through that framework. Rather our theology must come from a careful exegesis.

What about the story of Joseph? Or the story of Abraham in Gen. 12? Here we see God using free human decisions (good and bad ones) as means to accomplish His purposes?

For instance, check out Gen. 37:12-17. Here Joseph is searching for his brothers. He goes to the two of Shechem, where they were last located. However, he can't find them. But he just happens to find a man there who just happened to overhear his brothers talking about going to Dothan. So Joe goes to Dothan.

The significance of this short incident might at first escape us. But, think about it, what happens if Joe never meets up with the man in Shechem? He never finds his brothers. He doesn't get sent to Egypt. His family dies in the famine. And the future nation of Israel is never happens. And with no Israel, no Jesus.

Of course, God brings circumstances into our lives to accomplish his plans. And He uses the free will of man or free agency, whatever you want to call it)as a means.

Julianne said...

First of all, you use language like "just happens" and "just happened." There is no coincidences in God's wise and perfect plan.

The thing about "middle knowledge" or Molinism (just a new name for the same thing) is that it leds to conclusions which ultimately view God as inactive in the unfolding of His plan. God has ordained the means as well as the end.

Daniel said...

Sorry, about the irony. I guess that missed ya. Of course, I don't believe in coincidences. I believe that God has preordained this world out of many possible worlds. So nothing is an accident.

I completely disagree with ya about your second point. I don't see how you can think that Molinism views God as inactive in His plan. After all, it is "His" plan. And He freely acts in His ordained actual world. Hence, answered prayer, miracles, the incarnation, etc.

Julianne said...


If God chose out of a lot of different possible worlds, then would you say that there could be a second best choice? A second best plan?

Daniel said...

In the long run, that question is not relevant. God chose to create the world that brought him the most glory and the most creatures to freely enjoy His glory.

Even John Piper says something like this on his website. He writes,

"The best-of-all-possible worlds means that God governs the course of history so that, in the long run, His glory will be more fully displayed and His people more fully satisfied than would have been the case in any other world. If we look only at the way things are now in the present era of this fallen world, this is not the best-of-all-possible worlds. But if we look at the whole course of history, from creation to redemption to eternity and beyond, and see the entirety of God's plan, it is the best-of-all-possible plans and leads to the best-of-all-possible eternities. And therefore this universe (and the events that happen in it from creation into eternity, taken as a whole) is the best-of-all-possible-worlds."

By the way, I too believe that God ordains both the ends and the means. In the Molinist view, the means are God-ordained circumstances.