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Of Free Will: Session 1-Bryan Wheeler

Of Free Will: Session 2-Ron Young, Sr.

Of Free Will: Session 3-Pastor Alpheus Atkin

Of Free Will: Session 4-Jeff Riddle

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The power and office of the intellect and will in man before the fall, this freedom lost by the fall

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015The power and office of the intellect and will in man before the fall. Man’s free will. This freedom lost by the fall — a fact unknown to philosophers. The delusion of Pelagians and Papists. Objection as to the fall of man when free, refuted.

8. Therefore, God has provided the soul of man with intellect, by which he might discern good from evil, just from unjust, and might know what to follow or to shun, reason going before with her lamp; whence philosophers, in reference to her directing power, have called her “to hegemonikon”. To this he has joined will, to which choice belongs. Man excelled in these noble endowments in his primitive condition, when reason, intelligence, prudence, and judgment, not only sufficed for the government of his earthly life, but also enabled him to rise up to God and eternal happiness. Thereafter choice was added to direct the appetites, and temper all the organic motions; the will being thus perfectly submissive to the authority of reason. In this upright state, man possessed freedom of will, by which, if he chose, he was able to obtain eternal life. It were here unseasonable to introduce the question concerning the secret predestination of God, because we are not considering what might or might not happen, but what the nature of man truly was. Adam, therefore, might have stood if he chose, since it was only by his own will that he fell; but it was because his will was pliable in either directions and he had not received constancy to persevere, that he so easily fell. Still he had a free choice of good and evil; and not only so, but in the mind and will there was the highest rectitude, and all the organic parts were duly framed to obedience, until man corrupted its good properties, and destroyed himself. Hence the great darkness of philosophers who have looked for a complete building in a ruin, and fit arrangement in disorder. The principle they set out with was, that man could not be a rational animal unless he had a free choice of good and evil. They also imagined that the distinction between virtue and vice was destroyed, if man did not of his own counsel arrange his life. So far well, had there been no change in man. This being unknown to them, it is not surprising that they throw every thing into confusion. But those who, while they profess to be the disciples of Christ, still seek for free-will in man, notwithstanding of his being lost and drowned in spiritual destruction, labor under manifold delusion, making a heterogeneous mixture of inspired doctrine and philosophical opinions, and so erring as to both. But it will be better to leave these things to their own place, (see Book 2 chap. 2) At present it is necessary only to remember, that man, at his first creation, was very different from all his posterity; who, deriving their origin from him after he was corrupted, received a hereditary taint. At first every part of the soul was formed to rectitude. There was soundness of mind and freedom of will to choose the good. If any one objects that it was placed, as it were, in a slippery position, because its power was weak, I answer, that the degree conferred was sufficient to take away every excuse. For surely the Deity could not be tied down to this condition, — to make man such, that he either could not or would not sin. Such a nature might have been more excellent; but to expostulate with God as if he had been bound to confer this nature on man, is more than unjust, seeing he had full right to determine how much or how little He would give. Why He did not sustain him by the virtue of perseverance is hidden in his counsel; it is ours to keep within the bounds of soberness. Man had received the power, if he had the will, but he had not the will which would have given the power; for this will would have been followed by perseverance. Still, after he had received so much, there is no excuse for his having spontaneously brought death upon himself. No necessity was laid upon God to give him more than that intermediate and even transient will, that out of man’s fall he might extract materials for his own glory.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 15-Henry Beveridge Translation

Free Will

September 9, 2014 1 comment

At this very moment you are reading these words because you choose of your own free will to read them. You may protest and say, “No! I didn’t choose to read them. I was given an assignment to read this book. I really don’t want to be reading it.” Perhaps that is the case. Nevertheless you are reading it. Maybe there are other things you would rather be doing at the moment, but you have made a choice to read it nevertheless. You decided to read it instead of not reading it.

I don’t know why you are reading this. But I do know that you must have a reason for reading it. If you had no reason to read it, you simply would not have chosen to read it.

Every choice that we make in life we make for some reason. Our decisions are based upon what seems good for us at the moment, all things considered. We do some things out of intense desire. We do other things with no awareness of desire at all. Yet the desire is there or we wouldn’t choose to do them. This is the very essence of free will—to choose according to our desires.

Jonathan Edwards, in his work The Freedom of the Will, defines the will as “that by which the mind chooses.” There can be no doubt that human beings do indeed make choices. I am choosing to write, you are choosing to read. I will to write, and writing is set in motion. When the idea of freedom is added, however, the issue becomes terribly complicated. We have to ask, freedom to do what? Even the most ardent Calvinist would not deny that the will is free to choose whatever it desires. Even the most ardent Arminian would agree that the will is not free to choose what it does not desire.

With regard to salvation, the question then becomes, what do human beings desire? The Arminian believes that some desire to repent and be saved. Others desire to flee from God and thus reap eternal damnation. Why different people have different desires is never made clear by the Arminian. The Calvinist holds that all human beings desire to flee from God unless and until the Holy Spirit performs a work of regeneration. That regeneration changes our desires so that we will freely repent and be saved.

It is important to note that even the unregenerate are never forced against their will. Their wills are changed without their permission, but they are always free to choose as they will. Thus we are indeed free to do as we will. We are not free, however, to choose or select our nature. One cannot simply declare, “Henceforth I will desire only the good” anymore than Christ could have declared, “Henceforth I will desire only evil.” This is where our freedom stops.

The Fall left the human will intact insofar as we still have the faculty of choosing. Our minds have been darkened by sin and our desires bound by wicked impulses. But we can still think, choose, and act. Yet something terrible has happened to us. We have lost all desire for God. The thoughts and desires of our heart are only evil continuously. The freedom of our will is a curse. Because we can still choose according to our desires, we choose to sin and thus we become accountable to the judgment of God.

Augustine said that we still have free will, but we have lost our liberty. The royal liberty of which the Bible speaks is the freedom or power to choose Christ as our own. But until our heart is changed by the Holy Spirit, we have no desire for Christ. Without that desire we never will choose Him. God must awaken our soul and give us a desire for Christ before we will ever be inclined to choose Him.

Edwards said that as fallen human beings we retain our natural freedom (the power to act according to our desires) but lose moral freedom. Moral freedom includes the disposition, inclination, and desire of the soul toward righteousness. It is this inclination that was lost in the Fall.

Every choice I make is determined by something. There is a reason for it, a desire behind it. This sounds like determinism. By no means! Determinism teaches that our actions are completely controlled by something external to us, making us do what we don’t want to do. That is coercion and is opposed to freedom.

How can our choices be determined but not coerced? Because they are determined by something within—by what we are and by what we desire. They are determined by ourselves. This is self-determination, which is the very essence of freedom.

To be sure, for us to choose Christ, God must change our heart. That is precisely what He does. He changes our heart for us. He gives us a desire for Himself that we otherwise would not have. Then we choose Him out of the desire that is within us. We freely choose Him because we want to choose Him. That is the wonder of His grace.

1.Every choice we make is for a reason.
2.We always choose according to our strongest inclination at the moment of choice.
3.The will is the choosing faculty.
4.Fallen human beings have free will but lack liberty. We have natural freedom but not moral freedom.
5.Freedom is self-determination.
6.In regeneration, God changes the disposition of our heart and plants a desire for Himself within us.

 

R. C. Sproul-Essential truths of the Christian Faith pg 179 Copyright 1992 (www.ligonier.org)

Prevenient Grace and Semi-Pelagianism Pt 7

August 11, 2014 1 comment

A Deficient View of the Power of Grace

This reinforces another important conclusion. Divine saving grace is irresistible. Arminianism mitigates the power of grace by its view of prevenient grace. Arminians hold that grace has no power in the life of its recipients unless a person activates that power by his free will. This indicates that the determining factor of salvation rests not in the hands of God but in the hand on the one who exercises free will in a favorable response to grace. In other words, divine grace is completely resistible. Nonetheless, Arminians like Olson deny that Arminianism is man-centered and that the free choice of the sinner is the deciding force determining salvation. He insists that it is the grace of God that inclines one to choose and this choice is defined as “nonresistance”34 to divine grace. However, he seems to forget that the corollary of libertarianism means equal resistance to grace otherwise man is not regarded as free. This poses serious problems for the doctrine of prevenient grace.

Resistible Grace. Many Arminians take pains to explain why a person chooses Christ when under the influence of prevenient grace. But little is said about those who reject Christ under the same influence. For example, Thomas Oden, a Wesleyan, states:

Grace works ahead of us to draw us toward faith, to begin its work in us. Even the first fragile intuition of conviction of sin, the first intimation of our need of God, is the work of preparing, preventing grace, which draws us gradually toward wishing to please God. Grace is working quietly at the point of our desiring, bringing us in time to despair over our own unrighteousness, challenging our perverse dispositions, so that our distorted wills cease gradually to resist the gift of God.35

This statement could easily fit the theology of any Calvinist if the grace described here were irresistible. However, the Arminian concludes that such grace is resistible. What is peculiar about this description of prevenient grace is that this could never be the experience of the one who resists it. In what sense does this grace draw one to faith, convict of sin, prepare one to please God, causing such a person to despair over unrighteousness, challenging their perverse dispositions and yet in the end they still resist the gift of God? How does the Arminian describe the work of prevenient grace in the life of the person who resists it? Wesley’s answer was to exhort men to “stir up the spark of grace which is now in you, and he will give you more grace.” Thus, the sort of grace Oden describes does not seem possible unless a person of his free will chooses to allow God to supply more of this grace at each nascent stage of being awakened to the truth of the gospel and one’s spiritual need for it. The Arminian is at pains to say that salvation solely rests upon God’s grace and non-resistance to this grace, but God appears not to supply it unless one wants it. The picture is one in which grace is withheld until further movements toward acceptance release it in evermore incremental stages. In the end, it is dependent upon man’s free choice to cooperate at every step of the way toward saving faith. That however, appears indistinguishable from semi-Pelagianism.

Roger Olson, demurs. He says,

Wesley anticipated the Calvinist accusation that by affirming even grace-enabled free will he was opening the door to Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism. He rejected that criticism as invalid, attributing all goodness in human beings to God’s supernatural grace: “Whatsoever good is in man, or is done by man, God is the author and doer of it.”36

The problem with this statement is it is not possible for God to supply the grace and the goodness unless the recipient continues to long for more of it. And this points out a major problem for the Arminian. The Arminian wants to avoid any charge that salvation rests ultimately upon human free will. They want to say salvation rests upon divine grace. Olson says, “The decisive factor [for the reception of salvation] is the grace of God – from beginning to end.”37 He says, “The only ‘contribution’ humans make is non-resistance.”38 But Olson fails to mention if at any point between beginning and end that the recipient of grace resists it, then grace fails to be effective. The Arminian conception of grace cannot save as long as it is resisted. Let’s consider this problem further.

Unbelief a Gift. Remember that according to Arminianism, prevenient grace supplies the gift of libertarian freedom (i.e. contrary choice). Prior to prevenient grace, man’s will was in strict bondage to sin which concurs with the Calvinistic doctrine of Total Depravity. Thus, if the Arminian says that the will to believe is a gift of initial prevenient grace, then they must also affirm that the concurrent will to disbelieve is also a gift of grace since both responses are necessary if libertarian freedom is true. It is not exactly an appealing point to say that the will to disbelieve is a gift of grace, but that has to be a necessary corollary to the fact that grace is what first supplies libertarian freedom.

Denial of Further Grace. But Arminianism cannot resolve the main conundrum here. Further effusions of divine grace are withheld if the recipient does not use his libertarian freedom to respond positively to the grace given. This seems a cruel by-product of the gift of libertarian freedom. Only if you use that freedom correctly will God supply more grace, otherwise you are barred access to further grace. One might take Thomas Oden’s description of prevenient grace as something that happens wholesale at one time resulting in the freedom to exercise faith and thus procure salvation once and for all. But no Arminian would say that God’s grace is dispensed in every case all at once and then faith is exercised to procure salvation. Everyone’s conversion experience is different. Some respond to the call of the gospel immediately and without any intervening deliberation. But many more experience various promptings, convictions, awakenings to spiritual need, God-ward directed desires, increased understanding of the gospel, and so forth before exercising faith. These come in successive stages or waves and in varying intensity and so forth. Each occurrence culminates eventually in saving faith, but only if each occurrence of grace is responded to positively. If at any point the sinner resists these occurrences of grace then he cuts off further supplies of grace. Each successive act is wholly dependent on the positive response of the recipient, otherwise further acts are denied. Thus, it is not just one act of free will that procures salvation, but several and perhaps enumerable acts of free will. Thus, no matter how important and necessary divine grace is, in the end salvation is primarily conditioned and dependent on free will and only secondarily upon grace. Arminians are at pains to emphasize the priority of grace, but the final accent rests upon free will.

The Beggar Analogy. Olson offers a couple of analogies to describe the Arminian position on grace and free will. One is borrowed from Arminius himself.39 A rich man representing God offers a beggar alms. The only condition of the beggar receiving the alms is that he simply reach out his hand to take it. The principal source for the receiving of alms is not the liberty of the receiver, according to Arminius, but the liberality of the giver. Olson takes this analogy and expands it.40 The rich man bestows the gift upon the poor man by offering him a check that simply needs to be endorsed and then deposited in the bank. Olson says surely no one would suggest that the decisive factor for the reception of the check was the endorsing and depositing of it in the bank. But there are several problems with this analogy. First, there is the assumption that the beggar/ poor man recognizes that he is poor and desperate and needs the money offered him. Again, the Arminian would say this recognition comes as part of prevenient grace. But as we have seen, it only comes if the person responds positively to each “spark of grace” offered along the way. Every aspect of grace as Thomas Oden earlier described it would have to be positively responded to (or as Olson says, not resisted). But what do we make of the one who resists? If it is always possible to resist prevenient grace then grace is only made effective by one’s freely cooperating with it. Otherwise grace has no power to save. If grace was truly effective in the analogy Olson presents then the poor man would need to do nothing. The money would be automatically deposited into his bank account. But Olson would likely object. In this case, such a deed would be done apart from his freedom to accept or reject it. But that does not follow from the nature of the analogy. What beggar would refuse an automatic deposit to his bank account? Why is he begging in the first place? The point is, grace by its very nature does the work Thomas Oden described earlier and it does so irresistibly moving the recipient to saving faith. But that is the Calvinist position not the libertarian position of Arminians.

The Failure of Grace. So we are still left with the question of what to make of the one who resists grace. If two persons are the equal recipients of prevenient grace and one resists while the other does not, what explains the difference? Did grace succeed in one case and fail in the other case? The Arminian would be awfully hard pressed to say grace failed for the man who resisted. It was wholly dependent on his free choice to resist. But once you say this, then it is no longer dependent on grace. Furthermore, you must say the same for the man who did not resist. Was grace more powerful for him? Again, the Arminian would have to be compelled to say no if grace is to be regarded as non-partisan in its effects. It depended on his freely accepting the grace offered. The Arminian would not want to say that the one who does not resist actually gets a little extra grace to push him over the fence whereas the other doesn’t get quite enough. That would make God unfair and it would be hard to distinguish from a deliberate determination of God to be inclined to save one person over the other. For Arminianism grace must be an equal opportunity employer. Each person should receive an equal share of grace. Thus, it is extremely difficult to avoid the fact that in the end the deciding factor is not primarily God’s grace but man’s free will that procures salvation. And again, this state of affairs essentially amounts to semi-Pelagianism. The only way one can truly affirm that grace is what saves is if grace in the end is irresistible and wholly efficacious in its salvific results for the one who believes in Christ.

Another question begs for an answer. Is not God’s grace the most compelling and powerful force on earth? Why wouldn’t it be if God desired the salvation of men as much as Arminians claim He does? Olson is unequivocal about the foundation for Arminian theology. It is protecting the character of God as primarily good and loving.41 This would seem to provide the impetus for a magnanimous display of love toward all of humanity. In an Arminian account of matters, what reason would a God who desires the salvation of all men yet respecting their free will would not use every powerful resource He could muster to persuade men short of forcing them to believe? And if that is the case, then how could such grace possibly be resisted? The only answer the Arminian can give is that man simply has the free will to refuse grace and for no other reason.

Free will is not an adequate answer to this dilemma. Oden quotes Wesley on how prevenient grace works. Wesley says, “God recreates our freedom to love from its fallen condition of unresponsive spiritual deadness.”42 This explains the responsiveness of some who receive prevenient grace, but it does not explain the unresponsiveness of other recipients of prevenient grace. The freedom God creates in prevenient grace to love must also be the same freedom it creates to hate. But hate is more indicative of the fallen condition of man which is rightly described here as “unresponsive spiritual deadness.” This undermines the whole nature of prevenient grace. Arminians consistently emphasize that prevenient grace is meant to induce responsiveness not continued unresponsiveness even though they explicitly acknowledge the latter must be true because libertarian freedom is necessary for salvation to be meaningful. In other words, a relationship with God cannot be meaningful unless one is free to reject it. Libertarianism teaches that any choice made that could not as easily not been made must necessarily be a choice that is determined by outside forces and therefore coerced. A coercive choice is no choice at all. So unresponsiveness to grace is a necessary corollary of libertarian freedom as unattractive as that seems to the Arminian.

But, the problem is unresponsiveness is characteristic of spiritual deadness and Arminians seem unwilling to recognize this as part of the logical result of their doctrine of prevenient grace. To say prevenient grace provides the renewal of free will makes no sense. The freedom to choose to love God and exercise saving faith is not a problem. Calvinists agree with this in substance as long as freedom of choice is defined as acting willingly or voluntarily in accordance with one’s regenerated nature. But to say free will also creates the equal freedom to reject God is simply to say that the person still retains the conditions of spiritual deadness that prevented them from loving God or exercising faith in the first place. Arminians believe that Original Sin and Total Depravity placed the will in bondage and that prevenient grace restores the will with libertarian capacities. But to say that the recipient of prevenient grace can resist all such grace and continue to reject God is to say that grace fails for some. In fact, it is non-existent for those who resist it. Grace is only present and effective (i.e. successful for leading one to salvation) for those who do not resist, but this is what Calvinists have said all along. Grace is irresistible.

Furthermore, since libertarian free will by its nature has no antecedent causes and choices are contingent and therefore unpredictable, the libertarian must concede that there is no explanation for why one responds with non-resistance to grace while another resists it. But this is an absurdity. Few rational people believe choices never have their reasons. Choices always have determining causes even if we cannot always determine what those causes are. Again we come back to the same pressing questions. What reason does the recipient of prevenient grace have for resisting it? If God’s grace is powerful and compelling then what keeps one from being persuaded by it? Would we not say that this person is somehow blind to what other recipients of grace see? If so, would they still not be in bondage to their spiritually dead nature that blinded them in the first place? If the other recipient of prevenient grace is able to see, what reason explains why he does so? The Arminian has eliminated the failure of God’s grace so the only alternative lies in the person himself. To say belief or unbelief depends strictly on the contingent, unpredictable, causeless choice of the recipient of grace is to be mired in the arbitrary confusion that libertarian freedom amounts to. Therefore, the choice of believing and not resisting grace must be regarded as virtuous and the choice of the one who resists grace and refuses to believe is decidedly un-virtuous otherwise how do you explain the difference? So then, the problem reduces itself to the conclusion that one person believed because he was the better person than the one who did not believe. And if that is the case, the Arminian is forced to wrestling with the more serious criticism that their view of salvation amounts to worksrighteousness. It depends on the particular virtue of the person who believes.

Now of course it is true that the choice of a person who believes in Christ is virtuous and the choice to remain in unbelief is un-virtuous. Unbelief is sin. Belief is righteous. This being the case, salvation cannot depend upon the free will of man to resist or not resist the grace of God (John 1:12-13; Rom. 9:16). The grace of God must be wholly responsible in every aspect of the reception of salvation. This means that grace must first transform the recipient as matter of course such that his nature is regenerated and made capable of seeing and believing. Such a transformation must of necessity lead to saving faith as a divinely enabled gift not a humanly initiated work otherwise grace is nullified. The power of grace rests in its efficacious nature as dispensed by a gracious God. If the power of grace can only be activated by the virtuous choice of the believer, then salvation would be by received only by people with prior virtue. Indeed belief is a virtuous response, but not one that is rooted in one’s free will. The virtue of faith and repentance rests wholly in the efficacious and irresistible nature of transforming grace. Salvation depends on God who has mercy (Rom. 9:16). No one can come to Christ unless he is drawn by the Father (John 6:44). This drawing power cannot be resisted because all who come to Christ are the same people God gave to Christ (John 6:37). This is why Jesus says no one comes unless it has been “granted” by the Father (John 6:65). Thus, saving faith is wholly a gift of divine grace that obtains necessarily in the life of the recipient. It is not a gift that can be rejected, but then again, neither is it a gift one would ever desire to reject. When God changes the heart of a sinner (Ezek. 36:26-27) the sinner willingly comes only to Christ (John 10:3-5, 14) and with full joy (Psa. 13:5; 51:12; 110:3). Thus, contrary to all protests, the Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace is rooted in semi-Pelagian notions that undermine the nature of true grace.

Scott Christensen-Prevenient Grace and Semi-Pelagianism

 

34 Ibid., p. 157.
35 Thomas C. Oden, John Wesley’s Scriptural Christianity, p. 249. Picirilli gives a similar explanation for how grace impacts the one who believes, but says little about the one who does not believe. See Grace, Faith, p. 155-58. He says, “When we come to try to explain why some, when hearing the gospel, give more evidence of… conviction than others, we are not always able” (p. 158).
36 Arminian Theology, p. 169.
37 Ibid., p. 166.
38 Ibid., p. 165.
39 Ibid.
40 Ibid., p. 166.
41 Arminian Theology, p. 97-114.
42 Thomas Oden, John Wesley’s Scriptural Christianity (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), p. 249.

Prevenient Grace and Semi-Pelagianism Pt 5

July 28, 2014 1 comment

An Incorrect View of the Human Will

Inherent in Arminianism’s deficient view of the impact of the sin nature upon the unbeliever is a corresponding view of the human will that does not comport with Scripture. Olson states that prevenient grace liberates the will from its bondage to sin and allows it libertarian freedom. He states, “All classical Arminians believe in libertarian free will, which is self-determining choice; it is incompatible with determination of any kind. That seems to amount to belief in an uncaused effect – the free choice of the self to be or do something without antecedent.”27 In the libertarian conception of free will, choices that are caused are choices that are coerced and coercion is a hindrance to freedom. In other words, free will means the absence of any hindrances (impediments) to the choices one makes (i.e. it is freedom from hindrances). Hindrances and impediments are primarily the various internal and external influences or causes that may direct the will towards a particular choice including one’s desires, his nature, or arguments in defense of a particular choice. Olson states that free will “includes being able to do other than one wants to do and other than one does.”28 He states that free will is “the personal power of choice over motives and between alternatives.”29 Thus, the will must have the power to override any motives that might direct our choices.

Libertarian free will also affirms that the power of God’s Word and even the powerful gracious influence of the Holy Spirit cannot determine choices that are made. They can have an influence and must have an influence in persuading the will if one is to be saved, but the will is the final arbitrator in whether to resist or embrace the influence God and His Word may have upon it. Olson says, “God’s influence lies directly on every subject so that nothing can happen without being pulled or pushed by God toward the good. However, free and rational creatures have the power to resist the influence of God. This power was given to them by God himself.”30 Nothing can determine choices except the self-determining power of the will. Anything else that would determine the choices the will makes is regarded as coercive. Without such freedom Arminians believe human beings cannot be responsible for their actions.

But Scripture nowhere teaches a libertarian concept of free will. First, it teaches that God ultimately determines all that takes place. As the Psalmist says, “The LORD has established His throne in the heavens; and His sovereignty rules over all” (Psa. 103:19). And again, “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Psa. 115:3). The Psalmist also notes God’s ownership rights upon the world: “The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” (Psa 24:1; cf. Deut. 10:14; Exod. 19:5; Job 41:11). Paul says, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36). One cannot argue with the Supreme Lord of all. The Potter has the right to do as He pleases with the clay (Isa. 45:9-11; cf. Matt. 20:1-16). God’s sovereignty extends from the broad flow of history (Dan. 2:21; Acts 1:7) to the most minute detail of everyday existence. “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matt. 10:29; cf. Luke 12:6-7). All God’s actions and future plans are unconditionally made. “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it” (Isa. 46:9-11). “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Num. 23:19; cf 1 Sam. 15:29). God’s sovereign plans are irrevocable by anyone or anything. Nebuchadnezzar after being humbled by God acknowledged His sovereignty in this regard saying, “For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What hast Thou done?’” (Dan. 4:34-35). This indicates that God’s sovereign determination extends to the choices and actions of human beings (Prov. 16:1, 9; 19:21; 21:1; Isa. 46:9-11).

Scripture also rules out libertarian freedom by teaching that we cannot act apart from what our natures dictate. God never acts in such a way as to mitigate the immediate causes of one’s actions. Those secondary and immediate causes are connected directly to our human natures. The Biblical concept of human nature refers specifically to the spiritual disposition of the heart and mind. It is mission control central (Prov. 4:23). We are bound to our natures that determine the sorts of choices we are capable of making. In this regard, both Jesus and Paul make it clear that unregenerate mankind is in bondage to sin (John 8:34; Rom. 6:17). Paul says to believers in Titus 3:3: “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” This enslavement to the sinful nature is the normal disposition of all unbelievers. There is no possibility of being inclined to repentance, faith or any truly undefiled act of righteousness in such a state of existence. In other words, the will remains in bondage to the sinful nature and all one’s choices are directed by such a sinful nature. A bad tree cannot produce good fruit (Matt. 7:17-18; 12:33-35; 15:18). Jeremiah communicates this truth in a memorable manner: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil” (Jer. 13:23). Mankind has no freedom to act contrary to his nature. And the sinful nature never inclines a person to seek God or exercise faith and repentance. Furthermore, these passages do not support the notion that some superintending grace mitigates the impact of the sinful nature. Salvation in no way depends upon the will of man (John 1:13; Rom. 9:16). The consistent affirmation of Scripture is that men are in unmitigated bondage to sin. They have no universally divinely endowed freedom to escape it.

Scott Christensen-Prevenient Grace and Semi-Pelagianism

 

27 Arminian Theology, p. 71.
28 Ibid., p. 129.
29 Ibid., p. 174.
30 Ibid., p. 131.

Bible Logic Fallacies of Libertarian Free Will Theism

The following numbered items are common assumptions made by synergists (Arminians, Roman Catholics and semi-Pelagians) in rejecting the bondage of the will and God’s sovereign grace in salvation.

Fallacy #1. God would not command us to do what we cannot do.

God gave the Law to Moses, The Ten Commandments, to reveal what man cannot do, not what he can do.

A. Premise #1 is unscriptural. God gave the Law for two reasons: To expose sin and to increase it so man would have no excuse for declaring his own righteousness. Why? Because in the context, he does NO righteousness. As Martin Luther said to Erasmus, when you are finished with all your commands and exhortations from the Old Testament, I’ll write Ro.3:20 over the top of it all. [“Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” Rom 3:19, 20] Why use commands and exhortations from the Old Testament to show free will when they were actually given to prove man’s sinfulness? The law came so that the trespass might increase (Rom 5:20).It exists to reveal what we cannot do rather than what we can do; our spiritual impotence, not our moral ability. Yes, God gave commands to man which man cannot do. Therefore commandments and exhortations do not prove free will. Nowhere in scripture is there any hint that God gives commands to unregenerate men to prove they are able to perform them. It no more unfair for God to call men to do something they cannot do than it is for a bank to call people to repay their debts (even if they don’t have the money to do so).

B. This premise is irrational. There may be many reasons for commanding someone to do something, other than the assumption that the can do it. The purpose, as above, may be to show the person his inability to perform the command. Thus, NOTHING can be deduced about abilities from a mere command. As Luther said, passages which state things such as “If thou art willing” and “whosoever believes” are spoken in the subjunctive (hypothetical) mood. A grammarian would explain that this is a conditional statement that asserts nothing indicatively. In such passages, what we “ought” to do does not necessarily imply what we “can” do.

C. The consequences of Adam’s disobedience on his descendants includes spiritual impotence in several areas: man’s inability to understand God (Psalm 50:21; Job 11:7-8; Rom 3:11); to see spiritual things (John 3:3); to know his own heart (Jer 17:9); to direct his own steps in the path of life (Jeremiah 10:23; Proverbs 14:12); to free himself from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:10); to receive the Holy Spirit (John 14:17); to hear, understand or receive the words of God (John 8:47; 1 Corinthians 2:14); to give himself birth into God’s family (John 1:13, Romans 9:15-16); to produce repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9; John 6:64,65; 2 Thessalonians 3:2; Philippians 1:29; 2 Timothy 2:25); to come to Christ (John 10:26; John 6:44); and to please God (Romans 8:5, 8, 9).

 

 

Read the remaining three fallacies here.

Chapter IX : Of Free Will

1. God hath indued the Will of Man, with that natural liberty, and power of acting upon choice; that it is (a) neither forced, nor by any necessity of nature determined to do good or evil.

a Mat. 17.12.Jam. 1 14. Deut. 30.19.

2. Man in his state of innocency, had freedom, and power, to will, and to do that (b) which was good, and well-pleasing to God; but yet (c) was mutable, so that he might fall from it.

b Eccl. 7.29.

c Gen. 3.6

3. Man by his fall into a state of sin hath wholly lost (d) all ability of Will, to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, (e) and dead in Sin, is not able, by his own strength, to (f) convert himself; or to prepare himself thereunto.

d Rom. 5.6. ch. 8.7.

e Eph. 2.1.5.

f  Tit. 3 3,4,5. Joh. 6.44.

4. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of Grace (g) he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin, and by his grace alone, enables him (h) freely to will, and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so as that by reason of his (i) remaining corruptions he doth not perfectly nor only will that which is good; but doth also will that which is evil.

g Col. 1.13. Joh. 8.36.

h Phil. 2.13.

i Rom. 7.15.18,19 21.23.

5. The Will of Man is made (k) perfectly, and immutably free to good alone, in the state of Glory only.

k Eph. 4.13.

The 1677/89 London Confession of Faith