Search


You searched for 'COMPATIBILISM'

I've found 4 results!




1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 9: Of Free Will - Commentary Simon Wartanian | 4,434 views | 555 Words | 04 March 2015 21:41
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/1689-Baptist-Confession-Chapter-9:-Of-Free-Will-Commentary/1028&search=COMPATIBILISM&precision=exact

Chapter 9: Of Free Will

I would like to take a look at the freedom of will endued to us by God. Is it libertarian free will of which most of the non-Reformed find essential for love? Is it another kind of freedom? Does our freedom mean that God is not Sovereign? Does God ordain our free actions? These are some questions that we’ll have to wrestle with. For this study I am greatly for my understanding among others indebted to the following authors:

  • Jonathan Edwards – The Freedom of the Will
  • R.C. Sproul – Willing to Believe - both the book (see review) and also the video series
  • Thaddeus J. Williams – Love, Freedom, and Evil: Does Authentic Love Require Free Will? 

Calvinists are always leveled the charge that our understanding of God’s absolute micro-managing sovereignty makes men as puppets and robots. One wonders what the reason was for the Westminster, Savoy and 1689 to offer a chapter on free will if they thought that people were merely puppets and robots as many critics like to mock Calvinism.

In section 1 we will have our longest discussion of the will. There I hope, with Edwards’ Freedom of the Will, to lay the understanding of the human will as believed by Calvinists which I believe happens to be biblical and logical. I have chosen to do this for two purposes: 1) I want to understand Edwards' position better first hand from him. Edwards is difficult to read and understand and sometimes you have to read sentences and paragraphs over and over or look somewhere for explanation to understand what he's getting at. 2)  And I would like you to understand Edwards’ position on the will which is the commonly held view by Calvinists. In the following sections we will try to lay some things concerning man's will in the four states, from innocence until glory.


§1 God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice

  1. God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice, that it is neither forcednor by any necessity of nature determined to do good or evil. 1
    1. Matt.  17:12; James 1:14; Deut. 30:19[1]

God Ordains Human Actions

From chapter 3 it is clear that God is sovereign and ordains even human actions. Therefore the freedom spoken of here is not autonomous freedom.

Section 1: God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree. (See commentary)

His sovereignty and orchestration and ordaining extends to all things whatsoever comes to pass, the good and the bad. Chapter 5 which speaks of God’s providence is even clearer on this:

The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his providence, that his determinate counsel extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sinful actions both of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, which also he most wisely and powerfully boundeth, and otherwise ordereth and governeth, in a manifold dispensation to his most holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness of their acts proceedeth only from the creatures, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.

If even the evil actions of men are under His control how much more the good actions? For the case that God ordains and is sovereign even over the evil actions of men and yet holds them accountable see chapter 3 section 1 where I try to argue just that from the biblical texts. In consistency with what the confession said in chapters 3 and 5, the freedom spoken by the 1689 is not a freedom of will from God’s sovereignty, but freedom of will within God’s sovereign decree.

Edwards on the Will

R.C. Sproul, in Willing to Believe, presents Augustine as have taught the following four conditions of the will:

  1. Posse non peccare is the possibility not to sin. This is what Adam and Eve had when they were originally created by God.
  2. Posse peccare is the possibility to sin. This Adam and Eve also had prior to the Fall.
  3. Non posse non peccare is the impossibility not to sin. These all the descendants of Adam until freed by Christ have.
  4. Non posse peccare is the impossibility to sin. This is what those in Christ will have in the eternal state.

Points 1 and 2 concern the State of Innocence (section 2),  Point 3 is for those under the State of Sin (section 3). Point 4 is for the State of Glory (section 5). Those who are redeemed in Christ are not fixed in any one point, but find themselves in points 1-3.

The Nature and Determination of the Will (Part I, section I-II)

But what is freedom in the Calvinistic sense then? What do we mean when we speak of freedom of choice? None better than Edwards has defended the Freedom of Will as understood by Calvinists:

And therefore I observe, that the Will (without any metaphysical refining) is, That by which the mind chooses any thing. The faculty of the will, is that power, or principle of mind, by which it is capable of choosing: an act of the will is the same as an act of choosing or choice.

If any think it is a more perfect definition of the will, to say, that it is that by which the soul either chooses or refuses, I am content with it; though I think it enough to say, it is that by which the soul chooses: for in every act of will whatsoever, the mind chooses one thing rather than another; it chooses something rather than the contrary or rather than the want or non-existence of that thing. So in every act of refusal, the mind chooses the absence of the thing refused; the positive and the negative are set before the mind for its choice, and it chooses the negative; and the mind’s making its choice in that case is properly the act of the Will: the Will’s determining between the two, is a voluntary determination; but that is the same thing as making a choice. So that by whatever names we call the act of the Will, choosing, refusing, approving, disapproving, liking, disliking, embracing, rejecting, determining, directing, commanding, forbidding, inclining, or being averse, being pleased or displeased with; all may be reduced to this of choosing. For the soul to act voluntarily, is evermore to act electively. Mr. Locke (1) says, “The Will signifies nothing but a power or ability to prefer or choose.”[2]

The will is the faculty by which the mind makes the choice between options. The will’s determination is not forced by outside forces, but is voluntary by nature. Edwards is not speaking of coercion, but of the soul choosing according to its pleasure. By determining or determination of the will is meant that the choice is thus and not otherwise. Edwards says:

By determining the Will, if the phrase be used with any meaning, must be intended, causing that the act of the Will or choice should be thus, and not otherwise: and the Will is said to be determined, when, in consequence of some action, or influence, its choice is directed to, and fixed upon a particular object. As when we speak of the determination of motion, we mean causing the motion of the body to be in such a direction, rather than another.[3]

This is the idea that we would have gotten even without the definition of the phrase. But, says Edwards, if we say that the will is determined, then we must ask what determined the will. The determination of the will is an effect which supposes a cause. The cause, which makes the will to be determined to one choice rather than another, is the motive. There is cause and effect relationship between the motive and the will. The choice that the soul makes is in accordance to its desires, this means that every choice has a reason. Nothing that we choose is without motivation or reason. Edwards says, “A man never, in any instance, wills any thing contrary to his desires, or desires any thing contrary to his will.”[4] But what then determines the will to one thing rather than another, is it chance, is it fate? No, it is the person itself, or to be more precise–the motive:

that motive, which, as it stands in view of the mind, is the strongest, that determines the will. But may be necessary that I should a little explain my meaning.

By motive I mean the whole of that which moves, excites, or invites the mind to volition, whether that be one thing singly, or many things conjunctly. Many particular things may concur, and unite their strength, to induce the mind; and when it is so, all together are as one complex motive. And when I speak of the strongest motive, I have respe...




1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 5: Of Divine Providence Simon Wartanian | 3,488 views | 555 Words | 04 March 2015 21:17
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/1689-Baptist-Confession-Chapter-5:-Of-Divine-Providence/1024&search=COMPATIBILISM&precision=exact

Chapter 5: Of Divine Providence

Are divine sovereignty and human responsibility incompatible? What do we mean by providence? How does the providence of God work? Does God use means? How does the providence of God relate to the wicked and the Church?

This chapter is in many ways connected with chapter 3 about God's Decree. Therefore, the interested reader is directed there for more about God's divine sovereignty.


§1 God the good Creator of all things

  1. God the good Creator of all things, 1 in his infinite power and wisdom 2 doth upholddirectdispose, and govern all creatures and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, to the end for the which they were created, according unto his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will;  7 to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, infinite goodness, and mercy. 8
    1. Gen. 1:31; 2:18; Ps. 119:68[1]
    2. Ps. 145:11; Prov. 3:19; Ps. 66:7
    3. Heb. 1:3; Isa. 46:10-11; Dan. 4:34-35; Ps. 135:6; Acts 17:25-28; Job 38-41
    4. Matt. 10:29-31
    5. Prov. 15:3; Ps. 104:24; 145:17
    6. Col. 1:16-17; Acts 17:24-28
    7. Ps. 33:10-11; Eph. 1:11
    8. Isa. 63:14; Eph. 3:10; Rom. 9:17; Gen. 45:7; Ps. 145:7

Providence may be defined as:

Divine providence is the governance of God by which He, with wisdom and love, cares for and directs all things in the universe. The doctrine of divine providence asserts that God is in complete control of all things. He is sovereign over the universe as a whole (Psalm 103:19), the physical world (Matthew 5:45), the affairs of nations (Psalm 66:7), human destiny (Galatians 1:15), human successes and failures (Luke 1:52), and the protection of His people (Psalm 4:8).[2]

It is the God the good Creator who governs and directs every step in the Universe. He is the standard of goodness. He means and intends everything for good (defined by Himself), while man means it for evil (Gen. 50:20). Everything He does is most holy and wise, free and immutable, and for His glory (Isa. 46:8-11). He upholds the universe by the power of His word, He directs history to its predetermined end (Heb. 1:3; Eph. 1:11), He disposes of good and evil and governs every molecule and atom the way He pleases (Dan. 4:34-35; Isa. 45:7; Ps. 115:3; 135:6; Eph. 1:11). Why? To the glorification of His attributes! See chapter 4, for the purpose of Creation. This is closely connected with God's decree in chapter 3 (see commentary there). God's sovereign decree could be seen as the blueprint of history, while God's Providence is the execution of that blueprint or plan.


§2 God, the First Cause

  1. Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly; so that there is not anything befalls any by chance, or without his providence; yet by the same providence he ordereth them to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently. 2
    1. Acts 2:23; Prov. 16:33
    2. Gen. 8:22; Jer. 31:35; Ex. 21:13; Deut. 19:5; Isa. 10:6-7; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 27:31; Matt. 5:20-21; Phil. 1:9; Prov. 20:18; Luke 14:25ff; Prov. 21:31; 1 Kings 22:28, 34; Ruth 2:3

He is the primary and first cause, even of sin, but not the doer thereof. As affirmed in 3:6 and will be affirmed here below, God has not decreed what He has willed and left it alone. Rather, He guides it to its predetermined end by the means He decrees. God's decree is His sovereign plan and blueprint. God's providence is the working out of that decree in actual history. God's sovereignty does not “violate” man's will or coerces him to do something against their will, but works according to the nature of second causes, that is, the nature of man and his abilities. Look at chapter 3 for God's sovereignty over evil and His eternal decree, where it is shown that God is absolutely sovereign over everything including sin, yet sinless.


§3 God Uses Means

  1. God, in his ordinary providence maketh use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them at his pleasure. 
    1. Acts 27:22, 31, 44; Isa. 55:10-11; Hosea 2:21-22
    2. Hosea 1:7; Luke 1:34-35
    3. Rom. 4:19-21
    4. Ex. 3:2-3; 2 Kings 6:6; Dan. 3:27

This seems impossible to non-Calvinists, don't ask me why, but they always seem to think that if God is truly sovereign, then we can't be free or can't make “geniune choices,” or that we should just sit and do nothing. I've never understood that aspect of anti-Calvinism. The Scriptures teach both God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. A simple example is found in Philippians 2:12-13:

Phil. 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Why would Paul say to the Philippians to work out (not work for) their salvation, if in the next verse He says that it's God who does it? Because Paul understands that God makes use of means. God commands us to do certain things, grants us the grace to perform them and works His sovereign will through that. Another example is in Acts 27. Paul is on a sinking ship.

Acts 27:21-25 Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. 22 Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, 24 and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.

God had promised Paul to save him and those who are with him in the ship from death, but how? Does it matter how these people act or what they do? The Scripture further says:

Acts 27:31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.”

Some people tried to escape from the ship, but God had determined to save only those who remain on the ship. God's sovereignty worked out through the men staying in the ship. God used the means of the men staying on the ship to save them from death. Many more examples could be given, but we must believe that God ordains the ends as well as the means thereto. God didn't just decree to save these men, no matter what. What if some of them tried to commit suicide, or jumped in the water, or tried to kill each other. God had decreed to save all of them, therefore, it doesn't matter what they do, right? Wrong! See also paragraph 6 of chapter 3.

Dr. Sam Waldron comments on the second paragraph, which is also relevant here, writing:

A course of events consisting of a series of free and contingent events is said to produce a predetermined result. The proof of this statement is the many places in which free or random actions are the necessary conditions of divinely determined events (Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 27:23-24, 31; Matt. 5:20; Phil. 1:19; Prov. 20:18; Luke 14:25-33). Victory in war is predetermined (Prov. 21:31), but careful preparation of your equipment (Prov. 21:31) and wise guidance are recommended (Prov. 20:18). The random shot of the Syrian bowman was the means of bringing about the predetermined death of Ahab (1 Kings 22:28, 34). Ruth was a gift of the Lord to Boaz (Prov. 19:14), but she met him by coincidence (Ruth 2:3). Understanding that God controls the world through means should keep us from three things.[3]

God ordains both the ends as well as the means. An instance of God working above and/or against the means, is when He works supernaturally, as in the virgin birth of Christ, and Sarah bearing Isaac in her old age. The natural course of things do not allow such a things, but such is the power of God, that He transcends what is natural and normal, and can work over and against these. Not that these things are external to God, or something. Rather, these are laws which He Himself has instituted, and sometimes, for His purposes, it pleases Him to work above and against them.


§4 His determinate counsel extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sinful actions

  1. The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his providence, that his determinate counsel extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sinful actions both of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, which also he most wisely and powerfully boundeth, and otherwise ordereth and governeth, in a manifold dispensation to his most holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness of their acts proceedeth onl...



1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 3: Of God's Decree - Commentary Simon Wartanian | 7,066 views | 555 Words | 04 March 2015 20:58
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/1689-Baptist-Confession-Chapter-3:-Of-Gods-Decree-Commentary/1022&search=COMPATIBILISM&precision=exact

Chapter 3: Of God's Decree

What does it mean that God is sovereign? Does God control all things? Does God ordain and is sovereign even over sin? What about election? Does God choose who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell? Did God predestine because He saw what was going to come to pass? Does it matter what we do? Does God ordain the ends as well as the means?


§1 God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity...whatsoever comes to pass

  1. God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably1 all things, whatsoever comes to pass2 yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; 3 nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather establishedin which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree. 5
    1. Prov. 19:21; Isa 14:24-27; 46:10-11; Ps. 115:3; 135:6; Rom. 9:19; Heb. 6:17[1]
    2. Dan. 4:34-35; Rom. 8:28; 11:36; Eph. 1:11
    3. Gen. 18:25; James 1:13; 1 John 1:5
    4. Gen. 50:20; 2 Sam. 24:1; Isa. 10:5-7; Matt. 17:12; John 19:11; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28
    5. Num. 23:19; Eph. 1:3-5

Introduction

There is no truth of Scripture more hated by some and cherished by others than the doctrine of Divine Absolute Sovereignty. The natural man cannot bring himself to accept such a doctrine, yet the child of God who believes this precious doctrine loves it, magnifies the Lord through it and finds his rest in it. The Confession is clearly and unashamedly Calvinistic in its view of the absolute, free, irresistible, micro-managing sovereignty of God. Every molecule moves the way it does because God from all eternity has willed that it be so. From eternity past to eternity future nothing will occur to the mind of God which He didn't already know and ordain. He possesses all knowledge, actual and possible (chapter 2:2). The Confession doesn't go into the Hyper-Calvinistic error of disregarding man's will and responsibility, but rather affirms that the liberty of second cause agents (men) are established because of God's decree. The liberty here discussed is obviously not the mythical libertarian free will. There is no such thing as libertarian free will. Libertarian Free Will says that one can go against all inclination and nature, which is impossible and ridiculous. Jonathan Edwards in his The Freedom of the Will shows the absurdity and impossibility of such a will. Rather, moral agency or free will, biblically defined, would be the freedom to do whatever one desires. The Bible speaks about a limitation upon the desires and inclinations of the natural man; this limitation is our sinful natures from which sinful actions are born. See chapter 9 for our discussion of man's free will, moral inability, moral necessity and libertarian free will.

God orders every event in such a way that He is sovereign over every step, yet in the same time the second cause agent is not being coerced to do anything against their desire, but out his own desires and freedom carries whatever God has from all eternity decreed. We may not understand how this is done, but I believe that such is the testimony of Scripture. It is not for me to understand how the two work together, rather, it is for me to believe that it is such if I see both in Holy Writ. On a personal level, there is no truth that I cherish more than knowing the Triune God, and knowing Him as the only Sovereign. It is not merely “in the head” doctrine, but it is a doctrine that I praise God for, cherish daily and find comfort in daily.

Some years ago, I came across the Doctrines of Grace through the Facebook page called Reformed Memes Daily and I remember seeing something from Romans 9:18. I was amazed that the Bible had such things to say and wanted to study this issue. Apparently, I had not read that passage before. It was not easy, but I promised God that I would believe anything that His Word teaches, no matter how painful. Through my study I tried to collect as many verses as possible in regards to God's sovereignty as are relevant and that I could find from daily Bible reading and other books. More about my journey can be read here. The document where I put these verses was the reason that this website was made. It is found here.

What I will seek to provide below is a case for God's absolute control of everything, thus justifying paragraph 1 of this chapter. Here we will touch on issues which are relevant to chapter 5, Of God's Providence, but we will direct the interested reader from chapter 5 back to paragraph 1 of chapter 3. In General Sovereignty, I will deal with texts which speak of God's sovereignty over history and His counsel. In Particular Sovereignty, I will try to deal with God's sovereignty over specific things such as evil and human actions. By no means is this an extensive case or discussion of God's absolute sovereignty, but I believe that it is nonetheless a decent biblical case for that.

General Sovereignty

First, let's start with verses about God’s Lordship over the world.

Neh. 9:6 You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.

He not only has created the world out of nothing, but He keeps the world in existence. Genesis 1:1 should be enough to prove God’s sovereignty over the creation that He has made. Everything is dependent upon Him. Without Him all would perish. All things, from stars to ants and angels to men are dependent upon Him for their every moment existence. He is the Creator and Sustainer of everything. The God of the Bible is both the Creator and the Governor of the world. He both has created everything, and He keeps everything in existence.

Acts 17:26-28 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

He has determined where everyone is to live. He has determined the countries in the world with their boundaries. Not only has He done that, but in Him we have our being. In Him and because of Him we are able to do anything and everything. He is the Uncaused Cause, He is the Primary Cause, we are secondary agents. Anything we do, we first need to “borrow” power and strength from Him. Thus, whatever I do, whether evil or good, I still am dependent on Him for whether He will grant me power and ability to dow what I will or not. Man is in no way independent from God, but in everyway dependent even when we deny that. The Scripture is clear that we're dependent upon Him for everything. The great Particular Baptist commentator, John Gill, said the following:"The natural life which men live is from God; and they are supported in it by him; and from him they have all the comforts and blessings of life; and all motions, whether external or internal, of body or of mind, are of God, and none of them are without the concourse of his providence, and strength assistance from him; though the disorder and irregularity of these motions, whereby they become sinful, are of themselves, or of the devil; and their being, and the maintenance of it, and continuance in it, are all owing to the power and providence of God."[2] He is the independent and the self-sufficient God, we are dependent on the Independent One and we are not sufficient in and of ourselves, unlike Him. We are dependent in everything upon Him. We are dependent on Him even for our daily bread, as we pray (Matt. 6:11).

Heb. 1:3 “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

Our beloved Lord is not only God, but He is the One who directs everything in the Universe. He is the one who upholds everything by His power. You are not dead, because the Lord Jesus is upholding you right now and giving you life. The Earth is not destroyed, because Jesus reigns as Sovereign over all things. The Universe is not turned into chaos, because Jesus reigns as Supreme. This word “upholds”, in the Greek is the word φέρω (phero), which has the basic meaning of carry, bear, move, bring forward and uphold.[3] So, He is the One who is moving everything, bringing everything forward in the Universe to its proper, predetermined and designed end. He brings it to the end that He has determined. He brings it to the place that...




A Review of RC Sproul's Willing to Believe & Thoughts on Free Will Simon Wartanian | 2,456 views | 555 Words | 22 February 2015 00:23
http://www.thecalvinist.net/post/A-Review-Of-RC-Sprouls-Willing-To-Believe-Thoughts-On-Free-Will/942&search=COMPATIBILISM&precision=exact

R.C. Sproul – Willing To Believe

The Controversy Over Free Will

Although read in Dutch[1] I’ve was motivated to get this work by watching RC Sproul’s teaching series on the book called Willing to Believe[2]. It helped understand the issues surround the question of human freedom and sovereignty. I remember that it was not much later than that I was studying Jonathan Edwards’ The Freedom of the Will, which was somewhat difficult.

In this great work this master theologian gives a historical theological study of important theologians throughout the history of the Christian church on the question of human freedom. He goes through some Christian heroes and giants of the faith like Augustine, Edwards, Luther and Calvin. Also some who were non-Christian and anti-Christian in their theology and thinking like Charles Finney and Pelagius. Lastly, theologians who belong more to the in house debate between Arminianism/Semi-Pelagianism and Calvinism, like Jacob Arminius himself.

The Pelagians

Pelagius was a British monk living in the fifth century and he is known to have a huge dispute with Augustine on the nature of man and free will. Pelagius reacted to a seemingly harmless prayer of Augustine which said: Grant what Thou commandest, and command what Thou dost desire. Harmless doesn’t it? Well, that’s not what Pelagius thought. He thought it outrages, because it showed man’s total dependence on God to graciously grant the ability to obey Him. Pelagius believed that commandment presupposes ability. What many nowadays believe. He said that God would never command something that man was not able to do. Therefore, everything that God commands man is able to do. So, away with Romans 8:7-8.

He further taught that Adam was in no sense the federal head of the human race. Adam was created mortal and would have died even if he didn’t sin. All men are born in the state that Adam was in. Adam gave man bad influence, not a sinful nature otherwise known as Original Sin.

He taught that the nature of man was basically good and that sinning didn’t effect that basic goodness of man.

Man has a free will to do good or evil and to obey God in all things.

Jesus’ death was not substitionary, but it was as an example for us.

People can live sinless lives, and in fact some have lived sinless lives.

The grace of God is important, but not essential. What I mean is that it would be awesome if one uses the grace of God for obedience, it will make things much easier, but it is even possible to obey without the grace of God.

This among other things are the things that he believed. I think, for any serious Bible student, they must conclude that this places him outside of Christian orthodoxy. Pelagius and his teachings were condemned in 418 and you would think that it will be the last thing heard of Pelagius, but then arises Charles Finney many centuries later in America.

Charles Finney

Charles Finney taught things very similar to Pelagius. In fact, he was more Pelagian than Pelagius.

He rejected the doctrine of justification by faith alone, which is the heart of the Gospel message.

He rejected the penal substitionary atonement of Christ in place of the believers. He posed the Governmental and Moral Influence theories of the atonement. He taught that all that was needed for conversion was good argumentation and persuasion. His influence is seen in the decisional evangelism/regeneration of our day, when people are told to make a “choice” for Christ. Or to make to choose Christ to be born again.

It is interesting to observe that this is the vision of the secular culture. That man is able to do anything possible. We think we are not bound by nature to anything. We think that we are the gods of our destinies.

The Semi-Pelagians/Arminians

After Augustine’s sharp critique of Pelagius the church did not stay on the Augustinian position, it’s not surprising seeing that man hates the fact that he’s dependent on God for the good that he does and is unable to do that which he ought to do.

There came a position which was somewhere between Augustinianism and Pelagianism. Which rejected the Pelagian heresy, and out of concern for man’s personal responsibility tried to elevate the freedom of the human will in the matter of salvation. They believed that man was badly wounded by the fall. Death is the punishment of the fall. Man’s dispositions are inclined to evil. But there still is in man the ability to resist the grace of God. Although man is dead in sins and is a slave of sin, yet he is still able to resist the effective grace of God and thereby frustrate the plans of God.

Here RC introduces the difference between mongergism and synergism. Monergism is the teaching that there is One Power which is in work in us when regeneration happens, in that we are passive. Synergism on the other hand teaches that man and God cooperate to bring the salvation of man. Arminians may not like the word synergism, but it describes what they believe. They believe that God does everything that He can to bring men to Himself, and He wants all men to come, but yet some refuse to come. Therefore, the will of man is that which effectuates salvation. The Augustinians disagreed.

Jacob Arminius

Later in the 16th century came Jacob Arminius who studied in Geneva (Calvin’s city) and was a Calvinist, but later came to doubt his Calvinism. He agreed with Calvinism about Total Depravity, but where he differed was the nature of grace. Many of the statements of Arminius about human depravity, could be amen’d by Calvinists, but not those about the nature of grace. Basically, he believed that grace was resistible. It was necessary, but not essential in the sense that for anyone to be saved he needs grace, yet grace alone can’t do it, it must cooperate with man for its effectiveness. Man can resist the grace of God.

He also believed the common belief even of our day that the election of God was based on who would believe or not believe like the Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians.

The Augustinians & the Reformed

This book was written to defend and clarify the Augustinian doctrine of free will, which is the Reformed doctrine of free will. Here I want to survey some of the theologians and their thoughts concerning free will. Let’s start with Augustine.

Augustine of Hippo

Augustine was the ardent opponent of Pelagius. He was the one who answered and challenged Pelagius and it was because of his prayer that Pelagius was outraged. They are so radically different from each other.

Augustine believed and taught the doctrine of Original Sin. The doctrine teaches that because of Adam’s disobedience and because Adam was the representative of the whole human race (the root of the tree), therefore by his disobedience the whole human race was thrown into misery and sin. He stood in the place of those born of men and women. He believed that death (both spiritual and physical) was the punishment of the disobedience of our first parents.

He taught that all men have free will (liberum arbitrium). What they lacked was liberty (libertas). Augustine defined free will as the power to make free choices without any compulsion from the outside. In that sense every person has free will and is free to do as he pleases. What man in the Fall has lost is libertas. Augustine (and RC) understands libertas as the ability do that which is required of us. God commands man to be holy and obey Him, but since the Fall man has not been able to do that because he lost the libertas to will to that which is good. Because as Jonathan Edwards later would clearly say is that man choses according to his pleasure and desires, the only problem is that the Scriptures everywhere describe our desires as sinful. Man is free do all that he desires (liberum arbitrium), but in the Fall he has lost his desire to do good (libertas).

At this point RC introduces some helpful Latin phrases (I love the fact that he many times explains what words mean):

  • Posse non peccare is the possibility not to sin. This is what Adam and Eve had when they were originally created by God.
  • Posse peccare is the possibility to sin. This obviously Adam and Eve did.
  • Non posse non peccare is the impossibility not to sin. These all the descendants of Adam until freed by Christ have.
  • Non posse peccare is the impossibility to sin. This is what those in Christ will have in the eternal state.

Augustine like all Calvinists rejected Pelagius’ foreknowledge view of election and taught that God predestined according to His good pleasure without “looking into the future.” He predestined not because men believed, but He predestined so that men would believe.

Martin Luther

Some more than thousand years later there came a dispute between Desiderius Erasmus and Martin Luther. Luther taught the Augustinian view of freedom and predestination and Erasmus was on the Semi-Pelagian side, only he seemed to think that ...