The Staunch Calvinist

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

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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 9: Of Free Will - Commentary

...ufficient to bring the desired effect. Edwards observes the common way we understand and use certain words and concludes that the “common notion of Necessity and Impossibility Implies something that frustrates endeavor or desire.”[12] From there he goes on to observe three things:

  1. The general idea we get from things that are necessary is that they will be or are in spite of any supposable opposition.
  2. “These terms necessary, impossible, irresistible, &c. more especially belong to controversies about liberty and Moral Agency, as used in the latter of the two senses now mentioned, viz. as necessary or impossible to us, and with relation to any supposable opposition or endeavor of ours."[13]
  3. As the word necessary is relative to some supposable insufficient opposition; so likewise “when we speak of anything as necessary to us, it is with relation to some supposable opposition of our Wills, or some voluntary exertion or effort of ours to the contrary...Things are said to be what must be, or necessarily are, as to us, when they are, or will be, though we desire or endeavor the contrary...”[14]

This is how these words are "vulgarly” (i.e., commonly) used and understood. But is this how it is used philosophically and how theologians have used it? Rather, 

...if any one should affirm after this manner, That it is necessary for a man, or what must be, that he should choose virtue rather than vice, during the time that he prefers virtue to vice; and that it is a thing impossible and irresistible, that it should be otherwise than that he should have this choice, so long as this choice continues; such a one would use the terms must, irresistible, &c. with either insignificance, or in some new sense, diverse from their common use; which is with reference, as has been observed, to supposable opposition, unwillingness, and resistance; whereas, here, the very supposition excludes and denies any such thing: for the case supposed is that of being willing, and choosing.[15]

The key words are used in a different sense than usual. Usually, they are used with reference to some opposition, but in the example given, there is no opposition from the will. Therefore, the words are used in a different sense by philosophers and metaphysicians, which excludes the idea of opposition. It is used to speak of God's existence being necessary and which could not be otherwise; it is used to speak of God's nature, his loving righteousness and hating sin. God is not forced to do that. There is no opposition that He has to struggle against, rather those things are merely expressions of what His perfect nature is. Thus the way in which we will speak of necessity is not to be understood in common sense, rather by philosophical necessity the very idea of all opposition of the will is excluded! Basically, necessity, as used by philosophers and Edwards, is nothing other than certainty. Edwards writes:

Philosophical Necessity is really nothing else than the full and fixed connection between the things signified by the subject and predicate of a proposition, which affirms something to be true. When there is such a connection, then the thing affirmed in the proposition is necessary, in a philosophical sense; whether any opposition or contrary effort be supposed, or no. When the subject and predicate of the proposition, which affirms the existence of any thing, either substance, quality, act, or circumstance, have a full and certain connection, then t...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 3: Of God's Decree - Commentary

...../post/1689-Baptist-Confession-Chapter-2:-Of-God-And-Of-The-Holy-Trinity-Commentary/1021"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 !--cke_bookmark_600S--!--cke_bookmark_600E--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 at the same time, the second cause agent is not being coerced to do anything against their desire, but out their 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 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 regard 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. Under the section General Sovereignty, I will deal with texts which speak of God's sovereignty over history and His counsel. Under 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 it.

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 a...


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

...es 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. Everyone wants a happy family, a good house and wants to be helpful to others, but not in the manner that God has prescribed. We want worldly good, but without the Spirit of grace we are unwilling to will spiritual good. We have no desire for God.

Calvin further taught that the Fall had also a huge effect on our intellect, he taught the noetic effects of the Fall. It’s not only that we die and are alienated from God because of the Fall, but that the Fall of Adam had a huge impact on our thinking. To be sure, unbelievers can think correctly and invent great things, but we do not always think correctly or learn easily as that would’ve been had not man fallen. That’s why the revelation of God about Himself is necessary for us.

Calvin taught that we sin freely, yet by necessity. He distinguished between moral and natural necessity as would Jonathan Edwards later clearly did. Moral necessity concerns the nature of the agent, for example God is necessarily good, He cannot be otherwise than good and holy. Man, after the Fall has been taken captive to sin and is a slave of sin and sins because he wills nothing but sin. People are quick to object by saying “that makes people robots and they cannot be held responsible,” but they’re not consistent in not ascribing glory to God. God is by necessity good and holy and we praise Him for that because He is good and cannot be bad or sin. But who would dare say that God is therefore not free? Are choices are determined by our desires. If our desires are evil we will make evil choices, if our desires are good we will make good choices. In Calvin’s words “Therefore, if the free will of God in doing good is not impeded, because he necessarily must do good; if the devil, who can do nothing but evil, nevertheless sins voluntarily; can it be said that man sins less voluntarily because he is under a necessity of sinning? This necessity is uniformly proclaimed by Augustine, who, even when pressed by the invidious cavil of Celestius, hesitated not to assert it in the following terms: “Man through lib...


Welcome To The Staunch Calvinist

...w.thecalvinist.net/post/1689-Baptist-Confession-Chapter-7:-Of-Gods-Covenant-Commentary/" target="_blank">Of God’s Covenant (1689 Federalism)
  • Of Christ the Mediator (including a case for the Substitutionary Atonement, Active and Passive Obedience of Christ, Definite Atonement and answers to passages used against the doctrine)
  • Of Free Will (with the help of Jonathan Edwards, the consistency of Moral Agency being found in carrying one's desires, the inconsistencies of libertarian free will, explanation of necessity and inability)
  • Of Effectual Calling (with a case for infant salvation)
  • Of Justification (faith is a gift and regeneration precedes faith)
  • Of Adoption
  • Of Sanctification
  • Of Saving Faith
  • Of Repentance Unto Life and Salvation
  • Of Good Works
  • Of The Perseverance Of The Saints (A positive case for the Reformed doctrine and responses to passages such as Hebrews 6 and the like)
  • Of The Assurance Of Grace And Salvation
  • Of The Law Of God (Threefold Division of the Law, the Decalogue before Moses, a brief exposition of the Decalogue, ceremonial and civil laws, the abiding moral law under the New Covenant in the OT prophecy and the NT, Threefold Uses of the Law, The Law and the Gospel)
  • Of The Gospel, And Of The Extent Of The Grace Thereof
  • Of Christian Liberty And Liberty of Conscience
  • Of Religious Worship And the Sabbath Day (A case for the Regulative Principle of Worship and the Christian Sabbath)
  • Of Lawful Oaths And Vows
  • Of The Civil Magistrate
  • Of Marriage
  • Of The Church
  • Of the Communion of Saints
  • Of Baptism And The Lord's Supper
  • Of Baptism
  • Of The Lord's Supper
  • Of The State Of Man After Death And Of The Resurrection Of The Dead (Intermediate State Hades, Sheol, Heaven; A Case for Amillennial Eschatology; critique of Premillennialism)
  • Of The Last Judgment (Endless punishment in Hell contra Annihilationism)
  • ...