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

  • 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 this topic has no much significance for the average Christian. Luther responded by saying that how isn’t it of any significance for people to know if they must do things for salvation or it comes wholly by the grace of God. For Luther, the subject of free will could not be divorced from Sola Fide and Sola Gratia and it is therefore important to understand. Luther taught the doctrine of Augustine, who taught the doctrine of Paul, who taught the doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Luther strengthened the argument of foreknowledge in regards to free will. He said that if God knows all things, then there could be no choice B. Foreknowledge makes certain that our choices will happen. Luther taught that “God foreknows nothing contingently, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His own immutable, eternal and infallible will.” As RC says about Luther’s view: God wills what he foreknows and foreknows whatever he wills.

    Luther taught about the necessity of choices. If God knows all things, doesn’t that make our choices necessary and therefore somehow compulsory? Luther started his discussion of necessity in The Bondage of the Will by saying that “necessity” is a bad word. It gives the idea of compulsion and against one’s will, which it not what Luther means by necessity. What he meant by “necessity” is that the choices are certain to happen because of God’s perfect foreknowledge. He absolutely did not mean that the choices are against man’s will. They’re certain to happen.

    One last thing about Luther, he didn’t like the term “free will.” He thought that it gave men a wrong notion of human freedom, what people often think when they say free will is the ability to do both the good and the bad. This Luther rejected. I also think that the term free will, if used it must be used with qualification. Perhaps moral agency or moral responsibility is a better term.

    John Calvin

    Now we come to the giant himself, whose name is mostly associated in the free will and predestination debate: John Calvin. RC observes that Calvin taught nothing that Luther did not about free will.

    Calvin believed that free will meant the ability to freely choose without compulsion. He’s in line with the Augustinians before him. He, like Luther had a distaste for the term “free will” and thought it a too high and lofty title for the reality. Because he believed that the will is determined by the nature of man, as sinful man can only sin because that is all that he desires, therefore to call it free is too high and lofty. Surely man has a desire for the good, but it’s not the good that is defined by God. Everyon...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 15: Of Repentance Unto Life and Salvation - Commentary

    ... continued through the whole course of our lives because this body of death will always produce sin that needs to be repented of. So it is the duty of every Christian to repent of his particular known sins particularly and ask for forgiveness from God for his sins. We may also ask for forgiveness of unknown sins to us or which we do not remember, but the Confession specifically calls us to confess and repent of sins which we particularly and definitely know (we can point a finger on them).

    The very first point in of Martin Luther 95 Theses was:

    1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ``Repent'' (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.[6]

    The Bible and the Reformers thus taught that repentance was not something we merely did at the beginning, in conversion, but we repent—we turn away from sin and toward God every day. As we sin every day and confess our sins with repentant hearts. We make it our aim to repent every day from all known sins and to confess them to the Lord so that we may be forgiven (1John 1:8-2:2). We seek to live a life that is in constant war with the flesh (Gal. 5:17) and that is through faith and by grace overcoming the flesh.

    There is not much more to say in this section. There is the one-time repentance where we turn from sin and toward God, and we place our faith in Christ and are justified. And there is the continued day to day repentance where we seek to mortify the flesh and turn from all our sins by the help of the Holy Spirit. We should live a life of repentance.

    §5 There is no sin so great that it shall bring damnation on them that repent 

    1. Such is the provision which God hath made through Christ in the covenant of grace for the preservation of believers unto salvation; that although there is no sin so small but it deserves damnation; yet there is no sin so great that it shall bring damnation on them that repent; which makes the constant preaching of repentance necessary. 2
      1. Ezek. 16:60; Matt. 5:4; 1 John 1:9
      2. Luke 19:8; 1 Tim. 1:13, 15

    This continual life of repentance is the provision which God hath made through Christ in the covenant of grace (1John 1:9). God has designed and commanded the Christian life to be a life of repentance and renewal unto salvation. For what reason? ...for the preservation of believers unto salvation. This is how God keeps us for Himself and in Christ. It is a means whereby the elect  do  not lose faith and do not perish in their sins. Lastly, the Confession points out that even the smallest sin deserves damnation, but also that there is no sin so great that is shall bring damnation on them that repent. Such is the amazing grace of God that His forgiveness and grace is so unbelievable and wide that He will forgive every sin imaginable if we repent and turn to Him by faith in Christ. Therefore, this makes the constant preaching of repentance necessary (Luke 13:3, 5), whereby people are reminded that God is willing to forgive every and any sin committed by them who turn to God in repentance and faith in the Lord Christ.

    God knows that we will not fully overcome sin in this life (1John 1:8), yet He loves and provides for us a way to cleanse ourselves through continual confession of our sins. There is not a sin so great that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord! All the sins of God's people were placed upon the spotless Lamb and God punished Him for us. All our sins were paid for 2000 y...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 4: Of Creation - Commentary

    ...ears based on the genealogies of Genesis. They do not seem to contain any gaps, and even if they did, they would not mount up to millions of years. Millions of years will only come when you first make the days of Genesis to be long ages, not because of anything in the text, but because we're forcing something upon the text. I’m also comfortable with this view based on giants who went before me in interpreting the text. It is not a hot issue for me. I accept it by faith based on what I can see in the Word of God. This Confession says that everything was made in the space of six days, it’s not a giant leap to assume that they meant regular days like the ones they had.

    Martin Luther tried to refute the error that Augustine introduced in saying that God basically made everything in 1 day or a moment, saying:

    When Moses writes that God created heaven and earth and whatever is in them in six days, then let this period continue to have been six days, and do not venture to devise any comment according to which six days were one day. But if you cannot understand how this could have been done in six days, then grant the Holy Spirit the honor of being more learned than you are. For you are to deal with Scripture in such a way that you bear in mind that God Himself says what is written. But since God is speaking, it is not fitting for you wantonly to turn His Word in the direction you wish to go.[3]

    It is interesting to see what Calvin says about the age of the earth in the 16th century. Speaking of objections to preaching the doctrine of predestination, he gives other doctrines which are mocked by the ungodly:

    A rebellious spirit will display itself no less insolently when it hears that there are three persons in the divine essence, than when it hears that God when he created man foresaw every thing that was to happen to him. Nor will they abstain from their jeers when told that little more than five thousand years have elapsed since the creation of the world. For they will ask, Why did the power of God slumber so long in idleness? In short, nothing can be stated that they will not assail with derision. To quell their blasphemies, must we say nothing concerning the divinity of the Son and Spirit? Must the creation of the world be passed over in silence? No! The truth of God is too powerful, both here and everywhere, to dread the slanders of the ungodly, as Augustine powerfully maintains in his treatise, De Bono Perseverantiae (cap. 14ñ20).[4]

    In the debates and discussions about the age of the earth between Christians, I have never yet heard someone bring up Christians from the past who believed the earth was millions of years old. It is the common and traditional Christian position that the earth is relatively young. In a lot of old literature (commentaries or books), people would reference events from the creation of Adam, and these numbers would not be in tens of thousands or millions. Even the Jews, seeing how Josephus does his chronology in The Antiquities of the Jews, believed in a relatively young earth. The reason to doubt the age of the earth was not exegetical, but was external and I believe, forced on the text of Scripture. While it may be possible that there are gaps in the chronologies of Genesis, I have not studied the issue deeply, still, this wouldn't give us an earth which is millions of years old, or indeed, 4,6 billion years old according to modern scientists. To fit the data that modern scientists have discov...