The Staunch Calvinist

"Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God." - Jonathan Edwards

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A Review of RC Sproul's Willing to Believe & Thoughts on Free Will

... 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 th...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 4: Of Creation - Commentary

...is created by the will of God (Rev. 4:11). Everything that was created, was created in the space of six days (Ex. 20:11). I think it is indisputable as to what these words meant for the writers of the Confession. When reading old authors from the 17th century, it is not unusual to read them dating events from the creation of Adam. The six days of creation had the same span as normal six days as they experienced them. They have no knowledge of the mess that theologians have made about the simple reading of Genesis 1 in our modern time. It is not that there was absolutely nothing said about the days, but it was not such a mess as it is now (Augustine, for example, believed that everything was created in a moment). All these things were created very good (Gen. 1:31). Nothing was created evil or sinful, but they were all good and sinless.


For His Glory

The Lord God King of the Universe is the Creator God Who created the world ex-nihilo (out of nothing) in the space of six days. The Creator did this not because He lacked something, but was pleased to manifest His glory to His creatures. Therefore, we believe that the whole creation exists to display the glory of its Creator. Everything was created for God's own glory and for God's own purpose. Creation is the free act of the triune Yahweh to create the world and everything in it, visible and invisible, out of nothing for His own purpose and glory.

Since God is all-sufficient in and of Himself, creation did not add anything to Him that He did not possess, rather, creation displayed and manifested His glory to others. In Psalm 19:1, we read, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” The heavens, i.e., space and sky, display the glory of God. Oh, how long can we sometimes stare in the night to the beautiful starry heavens? Or, how are we struck with amazement when we see pictures of outer space and pictures taken by the Hubble Telescope? All these things, which are normally out of our visible sight, still bring glory to the Creator. When we see them, we are filled with awe and reverence for the Creator. Creation is actually meant to display the glory of God to us. In Isaiah vision of the Lord Jesus, the host of heaven worships and praises God with the following words:

Isa. 6:3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

The earth does not merely contain His glory, but is full or filled with His glory. His holiness displays itself in His glory in the created world. The holiness of God is glorious and it fills the whole created world through His glory. That was God's purpose in creating, namely, to display His glory and for people to acknowledge it. In Romans 1:20, we read that God's “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” The glory and power of God is displayed in the created world in such a way that no one would make an excuse before His Majesty. The power and divine nature of God displayed in the created world is undeniable and sufficient to render us without an excuse before Him. When God created, there was no higher goal than creating for Himself and to display His glory. He could not have depended for His glory on His creatures, which were yet uncreated, for He is completely independent of His creation for H...


A Review of Jeffrey D. Johnson's The Fatal Flaw

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The Paedobaptist Positions

To start, he lays down all the division of Paedobaptism. He numbers 8 –

  1. Fides Aliena (Faith of Another) – the church supplies the faith necessary for the infant. Those who hold this position understand that faith is a necessary prerequisite for baptism. But this faith could not come from the infant, thus the Church supplies the faith that is necessary. Those who take this position also believe that baptism removes Adam’s guilt and “cleanses the heart of its inward depravity.” (p. 6, Augustine, Origen)
  2. Fides Infusa (Infused Faith) – Faith is given at the point of baptism. When the infant is baptism, they are also given faith in that act.
  3. Fides Infantium – Luther said “In baptism the infants themselves believe and have their own faith.” Luther was the proponent of justification by faith alone and thus for infants to be saved they had to believe. The faith of another could not do it for them. Faith is not transferable.
  4. Sacramental Symbolism – This is Ulrich Zwingli’s position which taught that water baptism had no bearing upon the Spirit’s internal work. It was merely an external sign and symbol. Unlike the Roman Catholics and Lutherans, Zwingli did not believe that water baptism administers faith.
  5. Pre-credobaptism – Baptism comes before the infant having faith. It does symbolize faith and union with Christ, but does not guarantee it. This is the Reformed Paedobaptist position. The Westminster says: “The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongs unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in His appointed time.” (chapter 28, paragraph 6)
  6. Presumptive Regeneration – I’ve not had much interaction with the Dutch Reformed position here in Holland and I’ve heard only mischaracterizations of it, so I can’t say if this is the position of every church here (I live in the Netherlands). But through the influence of Abraham Kuyper, the church sought to bring baptism closer to faith. This position basically says that we believe that infants have faith and are Christian until proven otherwise. “Although it is not certain that baptism regenerates all infants, the church assumes regeneration until proven otherwise.” (p. 15)
  7. Baptismal Regeneration – This is the position which Johnson identifies with the Federal Vision theologians, which basically says that baptism impart faith to all infants to whom it is administered, elect and non-elect. Baptism regenerates all covenant children. Zwingli divided the sign and the sacrament, Federal Vision says “God’s promise assures us there is basic, fundamental unity between the sign and the thing signified. The water and the Spirit cannot be divided.” (p. 16, from The Federal Vision, edited by Steve Wikins and Duane Garner)
  8. Paedofaith – Some Federal Vision theologians claim that covenant children are regenerate from the womb. Basically, Christian parents receive Christian and thus believing children from God. “God gives us children with faith. Covenant children begin life as believers, not in need of conversion, but endurance (cf. Heb. 10:36). They should be received and raised as children of Go...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 9: Of Free Will - Commentary

...l, 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. Consistent 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 having 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 yet 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? Many agree that 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...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 19: Of the Law of God - Commentary

...an tabindex="-1"[6]

In v. 8, the verb “fulfilled” means fulfilling the demands of the law and in v. 12, the noun “fulfilling” or “fulfillment” means that love meets the requirements of the law and is its goal. There is little difference between the two. As for those who would ask why nothing of the first table is contained, we first point them to our discussion above concerning 1 John 4:20-21 (see above) and then the words of Augustine:

Since in fact love is only made perfect through the two commands of love of God and neighbour, why is it that in both letters the Apostle mentions only the love of neighbour, unless it is because people can lie about their love of God, since it is put to the test less often, but they are more easily found guilty of not loving their neighbour when they behave wickedly towards others…in a question of works of righteousness it is usually enough to mention just one of them, but it is more appropriate to mention the one on the basis of which a person is more easily found guilty.[87]

This passage is in many ways similar to Galatians 5:14, therefore, there is no need to treat the Galatian passage separately. Love is the duty and goal of the Decalogue and on this point Matthew Henry observes:

If the love be sincere, it is accepted as the fulfilling of the law. Surely we serve a good master, that has summed up all our duty in one word, and that a short word and a sweet word--love, the beauty and harmony of the universe. Loving and being loved is all the pleasure, joy, and happiness, of an intelligent being.[77]

Finally, Arthur W. Pink connects this passage with Romans 3:31—

Love is the fulfilling of the Law because love is what the Law demands. The prohibitions of the Law are not unreasonable restraints on Christian liberty, but the just and wise requirements of love. We may add that the above is another passage which serves to explain Rom. 3:31, for it supplies a practical exemplification of the way in which the Gospel establishes the Law as the expression of the Divine will, which love alone can fulfill.[88]

1 Corinthians 7:19 – Keeping The Commandments Of God

For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God.

What are “the commandments of God” that are being referred to here? I believe that the moral law is being referred to here. It is interesting to note that whenever the word “commandments” (plural) is used and a list is given, it is always the Decalogue (Matt. 19:17-19; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20), the summary of the Decalogue (Matt. 22:37-40; Mark. 12:29-31) or Jesus’ commandment to love each other (John 14:15, 21; 15:10). Moreover, even if the singular “commandment” is used and a listing is given, it concerns the commandments of the Decalogue (e.g. Rom. 13:9). My point is that “the commandments of God” here refer to the moral law of God as summarized in the Decalogue and strengthened by Christ (Paul would later speak of the Law of Christ, see below). What is important is that we keep God's commandments. What is here encouraged and contrasted are the moral commandments of God and the ceremonial commandments of God.

Circumcision, which was the initiation sign of the Old Covenant, is here regarded as unimportant and not binding, over against “keeping the commandments of God.” Circumcision is the prime example of a commandment that is ceremonial. It was an essential part of the Old Covenant, but now it is a sign that has been fu...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 7: Of God's Covenant - Commentary

... Ghost. It is certain that God did grant the gift of the Holy Spirit under the old testament, and his operations during that season, but it is no less certain, that there was always a promise of his more signal effusion upon the confirmation and establishment of the new covenant. See in particular that great promise to this purpose, Joe 2:28-29, as applied and expounded by the apostle Peter, Act 2:16-18. “the Comforter would not come; but if he so went away, he would send him from the Father,” Joh 16:7.
  • Difference 13
    1. They differ in the declaration made in them of the kingdom of God. It is the observation of Augustine, that the very name of “the kingdom of heaven” is peculiar unto the new testament. It is true, God reigned in and over the church under the old testament; but his rule was such, and had such a relation unto secular things, especially with respect unto the land of Canaan, and the flourishing condition of the people therein, as that it had an appearance of a kingdom of this world. But now in the gospel, the nature of the kingdom of God, where it is, and wherein it consists, is plainly and evidently declared, unto the unspeakable consolation of believers. For whereas it is now known and experienced to be internal, spiritual, and heavenly, they have no less assured interest in it and advantage by it, in all the troubles which they may undergo in this world, than they could have in the fullest possession of all earthly enjoyments.
  • Difference 14
    1. They differ in their substance and end. The old covenant was typical, shadowy, and removable, Heb 10:1. The new covenant is substantial and permanent, as containing the body, which is Christ.
  • Difference 15
    1. They differ in the extent of their administration, according unto the will of God. The first was confined unto the posterity of Abraham according to the flesh, and unto them especially in the land of Canaan, Deu 5:3, with some few proselytes that were joined unto them, excluding all others from the participation of the benefits of it. But the administration of the new covenant is extended unto all nations under heaven; none being excluded, on the account of tongue, language, family, nation, or place of habitation. All have an equal interest in the rising Sun. The partition wall is broken down, and the gates of the new Jerusalem are set open unto all comers upon the gospel invitation. This is frequently taken notice of in the Scripture. See Mat 28:19; Mar 16:15; Joh 11:51-52; Joh 12:32; Act 17:30; Act 11:18, Gal 5:6; Eph 2:11-16; Gen. 3:8-10; Col 3:10-11; 1Jn 2:2; Rev 5:9.
  • Difference 16
    1. They differ in their efficacy; for the old covenant “made nothing perfect,” it could effect none of the things it did represent, nor introduce that perfect or complete state which God had designed for the church.
  • Difference 17
    1. They differ in their duration: for the one was to be removed, and the other to abide for ever; which must be declared on the ensuing verses.
  • Why Then The Law?

    If the Law and the Mosaic Covenant cannot save and offer salvation, then one might wonder to what end was it given? The question and the answer thereof is addressed in Galatians 3:19-24, which we will look at now.

    Gal. 3:19-24 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one. 21...