Banner

"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

Contributors

  • Rev. John Samson
  • Rev. David Thommen (URC)
  • John Hendryx
  • Marco Gonzalez

    We are a community of confessing believers who love the gospel of Jesus Christ, affirm the Biblical and Christ-exalting truths of the Reformation such as the five solas, the doctrines of grace, monergistic regeneration, and the redemptive historical approach to interpreting the Scriptures.

    top250.jpg

    Community Websites

    Monergism Books on Facebook

    Blogroll

    Latest Posts

    Categories

    Archives

    Ministry Links

  • « Latria v. Dulia in Roman Catholicism | Main | Sovereignty Revisited by Pastor John Samson »

    Free will vs. Free Agency

    Visitor: What's the difference between freewill and free-agency?

    Response: While descriptions may vary, I find the following explanation to be helpful. When it is said that people have no "free will" it does not mean that a person is coerced from the outside and must act against his will. Let that be clear up front. With this in mind, it is important that we learn to distinguish coersion vs. necessity. We are indeed free of external coersion but not free of necessity. Let me explain:

    What we mean by denying a (fallen) person has free will is that he/she will act, by necessity, according to the corruption of his/her nature. They are in bondage to sin meaning the love of God and His law are not the unregenerate persons' deepest animating motive and principle (nor is it his motive at all), in anything he does. No one is coercing a sinner to act as they do. Man eagerly volunteers his submission to sin. This means, the unregenerate person will always choose according to who they are by nature, driven by their disposition. In other words, our choices are all voluntary, but we are not free to choose otherwise because we will not understand spiritual things (1 Cor 2:14) and indeed are hostile to them, according to Scripture. Men love darkness and hate the light and will not come into the light (John 3:19, 20) Without the Holy Spirit, man, by nature, is hostile to Christ. In other words, we are in bondage to sin until Christ sets us free. Jesus himself says that a bad tree cannot bear good fruit, that a thornbush cannot bear figs. Jesus is teaching us that the nature of a thing determines BY NECESSITY (not coersion) the direction he/she will take.

    Consider the concept of free will by applying it to God Himself. If freedom were defined as the freedom to choose otherwise, let us ask ourselves, does God have such freedom to choose otherwise? In other words, can God freely choose to do good or evil as He pleases? No, of course not. God in his essence is holy and therefore, by definition, cannot sin or be unholy. If he sinned or broke His sure promise He would no longer be God. The same kind of example can be applied to the glorified saints in heaven. God has sealed them in righteousness and they can no longer sin, and more than this, they have no ability to sin or choose otherwise. Yet we consider them the MOST free of all creatures.

    Thus the Bible defines freedom, not as the freedom to choose otherwise in any way we please (contrary to our innate disposition), but as holiness, freedom from sin. Read Romans chapter 6. When Jesus says He will set people free, He does not say they are now free to choose good or evil but He will set them free from the bondage of sin. And where there is bondage, by definition there is no freedom. Yes we have free agency, that is, we can voluntarily choose according to our desires, but because our desires are in bondage to corruption of nature this is not freedom in the Biblical sense. Liberation of the will occurs when the Holy Spirit acts to free us.

    Consider the opposite theological position which affirms that God elects people based on some kind of forseen faith. If God already knows who will be saved even before He creates them, then such a reality (their salvation) is fixed and cannot be otherwise. Thus God would be wasting His time to try to convert persons whom He knows will never come to faith. Synergists say that God is trying to save every man, yet such a position is untenable if God already knows who is to be saved, that is, unless you are willing to concede that God is not omniscient, but then you would be denying that He is indeed God.

    If God knows the end from the beginning exhaustively then He knows who will be saved even prior to creating them. There is certainty here, an unchangable certainty. An additional problem with this is that it means that there is no real free will in this Arminian foreseen faith position because the future is already certain and cannot be otherwise. Yet in this same view God does not determine this future, and thus something else, like Fate perhaps, determines who will believe. The position is so untenable that many traditional Arminians have fled to become open theists who believe God has no exhaustive foreknowledge of the future. But this heretical view will not stand and is sub-Christian.

    Hope this helps
    jwh

    Posted by John on September 9, 2006 07:49 PM

    Comments

    Thank you for your careful explication of the classical Reformed understanding of this dilemma. The distinction between “free will” and “free agency” is, indeed, quite technical, and you have set it forward here in relative simplicity. Also, your distinction of “freedom from” and “freedom for,” with the positive valuation given to the latter, is very fine. Bravo. Allow me to push you on two points that I think is quite important.

    (1) Necessity vs. Coercion

    You are right to distinguish between these two. Coercion is a sub-set of necessity – that is, someone who does something by coercion is acting by necessity, but someone who is acting by necessity is not always coerced. Coercion has to do with acting against one’s own will, while necessity has to do with not being able to act otherwise. You argue that when sinners sin they are acting of necessity but not coercion. But, what about the event of salvation? If human beings aren’t coerced to sin, that means that they would rather – given the choice – go on sinning instead of being saved. Thus, if they do become saved, a fundamental reorientation has occurred that would not otherwise have occurred based on their free agency. Salvation is coercion is this model.

    Also, the concept of necessity in a strict Newtonian sense is very problematic in that it ultimately reduces everything to causal chains – even salvation. And once things are reduced to causal chains, you have a very difficult time avoiding Supralapsarianism of the traditional form, of having to say that God in some sense causes sin and evil, etc. We need to get past this kind of mentality, and it seems to me that if we did so this ‘free will’ vs. ‘free agency’ distinction would have to be radically reshaped. But, that’s a project for another day.

    (2) God and Freedom

    This is the section where you develop the distinction between ‘freedom from’ and ‘freedom for’ – which is a very fine section. But, it seems to me that you misstep when you (rightly so) ground this notion in terms of God’s own freedom. But, your discussion of God’s freedom leaves a little to be desired. You wrote: “Consider the concept of free will by applying it to God Himself. If freedom were defined as the freedom to choose otherwise, let us ask ourselves, does God have such freedom to choose otherwise? In other words, can God freely choose to do good or evil as He pleases? No, of course not. God in his essence is holy and therefore, by definition, cannot sin or be unholy. If he sinned or broke His sure promise He would no longer be God.” The crucial mistake here is to treat good and evil as things independent of the action of God. That is, ‘good’ and ‘evil’ don’t exist in the substantive or idealistic sense – they are concepts without any theological content apart from the action of God. God’s actions define what is good and what is evil. For it to be any different, ‘good’ and ‘evil’ would be beyond God, and we would essentially have a neo-Manicheanism on our hands.

    God is not constrained by ‘good’ and ‘evil.’ Rather, God determines from eternity what kind of God he will be. In his freedom he makes this decision. He could have chose to be otherwise. But, because of the kind of God that he determines himself to be, he is not otherwise. God’s freedom for his trinitarian being and for humanity and his creation is a “freedom for’ founded in an even more transcendent freedom – namely, the freedom to be precisely as God chooses to be.

    WTM

    Thanks for your comments.

    God has revealed Himself historically as a holy God who cannot lie. Thus to say he could do otherwise after revealing Himself as such is an impossible supposition. God is the same, today, yesterday and forever. He does not change His essence according to whim. He is who He is and has revealed Himself as Holy and without contradiction. He is a God of Truth as opposed to falsehood, because this is who He is.

    Are you trying to assert that God in His essence could be finite if He wanted? or internally inconsistent? infintely corrupt as opposed to infintely holy?

    This too is an impossible supposition. It is saying that he could be something other than He is.


    #2 you said >>>>But, what about the event of salvation? If human beings aren’t coerced to sin, that means that they would rather – given the choice – go on sinning instead of being saved. Thus, if they do become saved, a fundamental reorientation has occurred that would not otherwise have occurred based on their free agency. Salvation is coercion is this model.

    When we are born, we have no choice in the matter. It is a gift. God has given us eyes to see yet we do not complain that we were coerced into having them. Lazarus was not asked his opinion before Jesus resurrected Him. Likewise, the new birth is granted to us, restoring us to who we were meant to be. It is a gift of grace, not a choice. We love God only because he first loved us. God says he will make our heart of stone to a heart of flesh that we might obey. We always resisted God until he gave us a new heart. Further more, Jesus Himself says "no on can come to me unless the Father draws him" The words in the Greek used is "drag" or "compel"

    No one can believe unless God grants it (John 6:65) and all who God grants believe (John 6:37)

    And importantly, when we believe the gospel it is no longer a matter of free agency but free will. The Holy Spirit quickens our hearts changing its very dispositoin and we desire to believe. Because the Spirit gives us the mind of Christ we see the truth, beauty and excellency of Christ for the first time when the Spirit opens our eyes to the gospel. So salvation is a matter of free will because Christ has set it free. Bondage of the will ONLY refers to the unregenerate state.


    Shalom

    John

    I have been tremendously blessed by your blog and articles concerning the doctrines of God's Sovereign Grace. God opened my eyes to this woderful truth almost exactly one year ago and am still learning my way around this theology.
    So pardon my ignorance, but I have a nagging question about free will.
    If free will is defined as the ability to choose otherwise, then both God and man cannot claim to have it. Sounds great but...
    My question is, how did the devil and Adam and Eve all choose contrary to their nature?
    The devil was perfect in all his ways til wickedness was found in him.
    Adam and Eve were created perfect and walked in fellowship with their Creator. How is it that they chose contrary to their perfect, sinless natures and fell into sin?
    Are they the lone exceptions to the universal law of free will? Did they have a range of choices that exceeded even what God is able to choose.
    I would appreciate your insight.

    God Bless

    (1) Doctrine of God

    God could have been other than he has determined himself to be, but now that he has determined himself to be thus, we can have confidence that he is thus. The important thing to remember is both that God has truly revealed himself to us and that God is beyond all human conception such that human conception only holds true in terms of God as God enables it.

    (2) Coercion and Salvation

    Your analogy to birth, or to eyes is misplaced. In those cases, there was not a free choosing agent prior to the determination of birth or eyes. That is, one does not exist prior to birth only to by necessity (but not coercion) undergo birth.

    In order to get to the point of salvation, the sinful person’s free agency must be violated (as per the boundaries of this construction), because that sinful person would – in that sinful state – prefer to go on sinning, and this preference must be denied by the Spirit in the moment of regeneration, if not at the moment one dedicates oneself to God. Thus, salvation is coercion in this model. I do not wish to argue that this coercive act is not a gift – it certainly is understood as a gift and as a wonderful gift. But, it is nonetheless based on coercion – that is, on an overriding of human free agency.

    WTM

    you said >>>>Your analogy to birth, or to eyes is misplaced. In those cases, there was not a free choosing agent prior to the determination of birth or eyes. That is, one does not exist prior to birth only to by necessity (but not coercion) undergo birth.

    WTM, you are confusing the command to obey God with the ability to do so. Man was in bondage to sin ... he has no freedom except to act according to his corrupt nature. He voluntariliy chooses to reject Christ and it cannot be otherwise apart from grace. That is the whole point of my short post. By defintion man cannot choose good because his heart is always inclined to evil. He is only free to act within the bounds of his own character/desires/disposition. A leapard cannot change its own spots. Jesus in John 10 states that persons do not believe BECAUSE they are not his sheep, not visa versa. A bad tree does not produce good fruit. BUT MAKE THE TREE GOOD and it will produce good fruit. That is God's perogative, not ours.

    Further, the work of the new birth is God's act. It is never once spoken of in the imperative in Scripture. We do not give new birth to ourselves. We are passive in the act. We are born again unto faith, we do not have faith in order to be born again. Faith does not come from the unregenerated human nature. (John 1:13; 1 John 5:1, John 6:63, Rom 9:16) In fact, no one can believe unless God grants it (John 6:65). Spirit gives birth to spirit and flesh gives birth to flesh.

    Salvation requires God's intervention to change our hearts. Your presupposition appears to be that God has no right to overcome our hostility or even overcome our will which I would argue is not a biblically based concept. You are reading your thoughts into the text here, I believe. All men run from God as a thief does a policeman. No where does the Bible say that God has no right to overcome our will. I would argue that this is your philosophy or unaided logic, not based in Scripture. Please show from Scripture where God has no right to do this. If you cannot then your argument is null and void.

    Bible declares that man cannot change Himself. No one believes apart from grace. Would you argue that a man can believe the gospel apart from the Holy Spirit? And if God must intervene with grace it WILL AFFECT man's will. Why do you think we pray for unbelievers? We pray for them in the hope that God does something to change their will. Otherwise prayers for them are in vain. If God can do nothing to change their hard heart then they will continue in sin.

    Further 'if thou art willing' is a verb in the subjunctive mood, which asserts nothing...a conditional statement asserts nothing indicatively." "if thou art willing", "if thou hear", "if thou do", "believe in the the Lord Christ" declare, not man's ability, but his duty. ...to think that any command from God to believe or obey the gospel, must somewhow imply the moral ability to to do so is miusguided. Of this same mistake Dr. Luther said to Erasmus, "when you are finished with all your commands and exhortations ... I’ll write Ro.3:20 over the top of it all" (which says "...through the law comes knowledge of sin."). In other words, the commands exist to show what we cannot do and our inability to repay our debt to God BUT THIS DOES NOT does not take away our accountablity to do so.

    If we owe a debt we cannot repay we are not alleviated of responsibility.

    Does it follow from: 'turn ye' that therefore you can turn? Does it follow from "'Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart' (Deut 6.5) that therefore you can love with all your heart? What do arguments of this kind prove,
    but the 'free-will' does not need the grace of God, but can do all things by its own power...But it does not follow from this that man is converted by his own power, nor do the words say so; they simply say: "if thou wilt turn,
    telling man what he should do. When he knows it, and sees that he cannot do it, he will ask whence he may find ability to do it.


    Brandon:

    Thanks for the inquiry. And no the definition of free will is not the ability to choose otherwise. This is the Arminian definition. There is no free will unlesss Christ sets us free. And when we are free we simply act according to our natures. So if we are unregenerate we do nothing nothing out of love for God and so we are in bondage to sin. If the Spirit regenerates us, we now have a renewed heart which loves God and desires to obey him....an impossible supposition prior to regeneration. We are now slaves to righteousness according to Rom 6. In this case we do not come kicking and screaming but willingly.

    Yet we will not be fully sealed in righteousness until Christ transforms our bodies to be like Christ where there will be no more sin.

    John,

    Thanks for an interesting discussion. I'd like to comment on your interaction with WTM.

    I think the first rule of apologetics/argumentation is "understand your opponent." The slightly lesser known "prequel" to the first rule is "make sure your opponent is actually an opponent."

    As far as I can tell, WTM used the same terms you did using the same definitions you did. That he pushed your conclusions to their logical extreme is not an oppositional move but a friendly one. One should recognize, appreciate, and mention this friendly move before counter-attacking. As it is, you've lashed out at nothing and left WTM without a thoughtful response.

    Yours in Christ,
    Jason

    Jason

    thanks for your comment. Sorry WTM. If you took offence I apologize. But Jason ... I am not sure how my post constitutes "lashing out" at anyone. I do apologize if such an impression was given but I made no ad hominem arguments against him as a person, just simply deconstructed, what I believed to be faulty theology. I agree with you that discussions should always be friendly whether opponents or not, and I am not sure where you think it became unfriendly.

    If we examanine what was said, the post was simply correcting the (false) presupposition that God cannot overcome our will which is an idea that has no biblical basis. Further it showed the faulty belief that the natural man can act toward his salvation apart from grace. This is, in fact, what WTM was arguing whether he himself believes it or not. Many of his comments were philosophically based so I asked him to show from Scripture where such ideas existed. So I ask, why is it wrong for me to counter the argument by showing how it has faulty presuppositions? There was no attack leveled at his person as far as I could see. Am I missing something?

    you said >>>>>you've lashed out at nothing and left WTM without a thoughtful response.

    WTM and myself exchanged arguments and I merely exposed falsehood ... which I do not consider to be an attack but rather something that can benefit everybody. And it certainly was not "at nothing". If he can counter it, he should be able to have a "thoughtful response". If he pushed my beliefs to a logical extreme, which is what arguments do to opponents all the time, then mine was merely a response to answer it and show how the logic was based on a false supposition.

    Text is a tricky thing because you cannot always tell the expression of the person you are discussing with. The post was not lashing out or mean-spirited and after re-reading it again, I am not sure how conclude it was unfriendly. I would pretty much answer in the same way again if I had to re-write it. If it is caustic, it is not meant to be. If it appeared to be so then my sincere apologies to WTM. No offense intended.

    WTM,

    I just read through your comments, and I think that you assume too much in your first argument for coercion in salvation in the Reformed model. You said:

    "...Coercion is a sub-set of necessity – that is, someone who does something by coercion is acting by necessity, but someone who is acting by necessity is not always coerced. Coercion has to do with acting against one’s own will, while necessity has to do with not being able to act otherwise. You argue that when sinners sin they are acting of necessity but not coercion. But, what about the event of salvation? If human beings aren’t coerced to sin, that means that they would rather – given the choice – go on sinning instead of being saved. Thus, if they do become saved, a fundamental reorientation has occurred that would not otherwise have occurred based on their free agency. Salvation is coercion is this model."

    If, as you suggest (correctly) that one is not coerced when he does something willfully, even when that willful action is necessary, then it does not stand to reason that salvation is coercion in the Reformed model: because, in the Reformed model, God sovereignly creates a new heart which willfully (although necessarily) chooses Christ. If the newly created heart/newly regenerated nature willfully chooses, then, whatever other category of necessity may apply, coercion certainly does not. Necessity by virtue of sovereign creation, perhaps. Necessity by virtue of the natural desire of the Spirit-born consciousness. But not necessity by virtue of coercion. The natural man will never choose God, but the new creation always will -- naturally, necessarily, but not coercedly.

    I just wanted to point that out, since confusion on that particular point seems to have sparked something of a debate.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Nathan

    Jason you seem to know a lot about how WTM would respond?

    John,

    I must say that I'm taken aback that you would presume to tell me what I am really arguing about and what I am not. As it turns out, I'm quite Reformed in my thinking. I simply wanted to press the logic of the matter to its conclusion. Thus, your responses were completely (at least so it seems to me) off the mark.

    John and Nathan,

    You both make the very accurate distinction that in the moment of regeneration God does a soverign work in the heart of the fallen human person. However, this change is manifestly contrary to the free agency (the willful perpetuation of sin) of the fallen human person. This, as per the original definition of the terms, is coercion. This is a very precise claim. I am not arguing about whether we should understand the process of salvation differently, etc. I am simply arguing that per the terms set up at the beginning, the moment of regeneration must be understood as coercion.

    Nice to meet you all, btw. :-)

    Hello again WTM

    well brother, then I must have completely misunderstood you because it seems to me to be precisely what we are talking about. I didn't think I was "presuming" anything just taking what you said to its logical extreme, just as you were doing. If my understanding of your words are wrong then then I have still no idea what our discussion is about, so apologize for wasting your time.

    Nice to meet you too. Shalom :)

    BTW, as I understand it, coersion is when one is taken kicking and screaming, and unwillingly toward an object.
    But if we chose by "necessity" we go willingly toward an object. So coersion would not be the right word for what happens when God regenerates us, but rather BEFORE He regenerates us?

    It would be the moment of regeneration, as opposed to the moment of awakening to faith, that is founded on coercion. Yes.

    WTM

    Yes ... That is why in my earlier post I quoted John 6:44 which says that no one can come to Christ unless God "drags" him. The word used here is the same word in the Greek for the authorites when they dragged the apostles from the marketplace in the Book of Acts.

    But regeneration does happen instantaneously like the turning on of a light in a dark place. The Spirit quickens us, opens our eyes, unplugs our ears and turns our heart of stone to a heart of flesh. But yes, right before this happens, there is a resistance to all non-saving forms of divine working and all calls of the gospel.

    My previous opposition to what you said was that I misunderstood you to be saying, (as many do indeed say), that there is something inherently wrong with God overcoming our will in this way. But there is no Biblical principle one can point to. People oppose this because of extra-biblical presuppositions.

    I have been to churches and heard many persons erroneously say that God cannot violate our will. But why not? There is no principle in Scripture which says He cannot do this. In fact violating our will in many circumstances may express true love like a parent who knows better than a child:

    For example, if a child ran out into the middle of the street and was to be run over, a loiving parent would not call from the sidelines hoping their child might use their "free will" to save themselves from the car. No. If they loved the child they would run out at the risk of their own life and scoop up their child to MAKE CERTAIN that they were not run over. I would be glad if my parents violated my will in such a circumstance. Likewise God's love saves us and gets the job done.

    Solus Christus

    Let me explain my point a little more clearly:

    1. Regeneration cannot said to be coercive, in the sense in which we're speaking, because coercion involves the forced agency of the person in question, i.e., he is forced to "do something" that he does not want to do. (remember your definition of someone who "acts" be necessity, etc.).

    2. Repentance/faith is not coercion because, even though the person's agency/activity is involved, it is a willful agency/activity. So in neither regeneration nor repentance is coercion possible. One is the creative work of God toward us, that does not demand any activity on our part. The other is the natural, necessary, willful response to God's creative work in us, and thus is not coerced.

    If you extend your definition of coercion to include activities which are performed on or toward us, then we arrive at a completely different idea of coercion (I was coerced to be rained upon today, I was coerced to fall to the ground when my chair broke, etc.). This broad definition is really not relevant to the discussion, but it's the definition we would have to assume to substantiate your claim that regeneration is a form of coercion. That broad form of coercion would better be labeled God's sovereign creative prerogative, or something like that. God can create, ex nihilo, creatures who will naturally behave a certain way. That's what he does when he regenerates.

    Blessings,
    Nathan

    Great comments, guys! I, TOO, have been very blessed by this blog.

    John, I love your example of a parent rescuing a child from an oncoming car. This notion of God not being able to violate our wills is certainly not found in Scripture.

    Also, to anyone who believes we are "forced" to believe, think about this. F=-F ie, A force implies something pushing BACK. Dead men don't push back :-p

    God bless

    John,
    Thank you for the response. Sorry for the misunderstanding of your definition of free will. I didn't read the text carefully enough.
    However, I can imagine an Arminian arguing against man's inability to choose otherwise by citing Adam and Eve as an example. The Arminian will claim that if Adam & Eve were in full union with God, how is it that they made a choice contrary to their nature which surely was a reflection of God's nature?
    It doesn't appear to me that they were coerced by Satan to eat the fruit, because he did not force them to, but only enticed them.
    So, i'm not sure how I would answer him on this.
    But, if as you believe (and I agree), man cannot choose otherwise then I'm still at a loss to explain Eve's choice. Were Adam and Eve unique among all people? Were they the only beings created with absolute free will to decide between good and evil? Were they neither regenerate or unregenerate?
    I fully believe that unregenerate man can desire to do nothing but sin and that regenerate man can choose nothing but to glorify God, but it seems Adam and Eve were oddballs of sorts. A triangle peg that fits neither in the square or circle holes.
    So, do the angels fall into this third category as well?
    The devil and his angels appeared to choose otherwise so they must fit into this Aregenerate camp. Is this idea at all biblical?
    This question has troubled me for some time now. Your wisdom on this matter is much appreciated so that I may better understand the doctrines of God's sovereign grace.

    God Bless

    Dear Anonymous

    Greetings! Adam and Eve were not created as glorified beings who are sealed in righteousness, (as are the saints in heaven) In their very natures God made them good but with the capacity to transgress. God did indeed ordain the fall. It certainly did not take God by surprise. But Adam freely (that is apart from coercion) chose to rebel because it was still within the bounds of his nature to do so. Since he was not sealed in righteousness he could still overcome his natural inclination to good. Thus the heinousness of the fall.

    Chapter 4 of the Westminster Confession does a pretty good job of exxplaining it like this : II. After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness after his own image, having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it; and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. Besides this law written in their hearts, they received a command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.

    But as you know, our condition is not like that of Adam and Eve. The Holy Spirit is absent in the unregenerate so they cannot, by definition understand spiritual things. They do not have the mind of Christ so when they hear the gospel they cannot, I will say it again CANNOT, see the truth, beauty or excellency of Christ, but supress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom 1:18). They are by nature hostile to God so will not come into the light (John 3:19) unless God does a work of grace in them.

    Lastly Arminians are at a total loss to explain how God could have exhaustive foreknowledge even before creating man, knowing with certainty the choices they will make, which cannot be otherwise, yet have "free will". The future of history is fixed in their view. So how can they claim, even in their own system, that man has free choice or that God is trying to save every man. If God already knows who will be saved He would be wasting his time trying to save the ones He knows will never believe. This makes the Arminian position untenable.

    Thanks for the excellent response. By the way, I didn't intend to post anonymously. I'm actually Brandon from an earlier post. In my haste, I forgot to log in. Oops!

    If I understand the above correctly, we are regenerated by a sovereign act of God who gives us a new will (ie a new desire) so that we wilfully and necessarily (Nathan’s point) respond in repentance and faith and become slaves to righteousness, while at the same time being free from sin and no longer bound by sin (John H’s point).

    Fine

    But when that dynamic is continued further into the Christian life, I should be able, wilfully and necessarily, to obey God in all things and have no further need to confess sin. That suggests Wesleyan perfectionism which 1 John and Rom 7 refute.

    So what goes wrong? How is it that 100% of the regenerate wilfully and necessarily respond in faith, but that 0% of those responding in faith, wilfully and necessarily, obey perfectly thereafter, but instead, wilfully and necessarily, listen to their remaining (unwilful?) sinful desires ?

    Or does Nathan's ‘wilful and necessary’ only refer to us responding in faith, but thereafter our choices are wilful (which is perhaps a tautology) but not necessary? Are we in some sense restored to an Adamic state of non-necessary choice, without being sealed in the ‘necessary’ righteousness that we will have in glory ? (Yet somehow God will cope with that and 'drag' us to glory)

    I am not trying to be clever. I am genuinely confused why sanctification (philosophically, as well as in practice) seems so unlike initial regeneration. Or might Nathan’s post (elsewhere) on the Dual Nature of Christian Warfare be about to unravel this for me?

    Richard

    Richard

    It is Christ's righteousness that saves us, not our faith. We are saved by grace through faith. Faith does not add to the price of our redemption. Grace is ultimate, faith while necessary is merely penultimate. It is grace that gives rise to faith. The Holy Spirit unites us to Christ and we believe.

    Further we are not implying that faith is perfect, just as obedience is not perfect. For if we believed perfectly then we would obey perfectly. The two go together. The reason you do not obey perfectly is that your faith is not perfect (due to remaining corruption). Disobedience is an act of unbelief.

    When we partake of the Lord's table, it is not about our faith so much but about God's covenant promise to us. It "reminds" God, so to speak not to treat us as our sins deserve, becasue we are in Christ. We are in Christ because of grace, not because we have perfect faith. Faith yes, but not perfect faith. Only Christ's faith is perfect and he ever lives to intercedes for us.

    Shalom
    John H

    Terrific comments my friends! I came to this site to get a better definition of free agency vs. free will. Thanks!

    Necessity and coercion are without distinction with the god of calvinism compared to the God who provides sufficient grace to all to have a choice (OSAS Arminian). The latter there is no necessity or coercion since grace is sufficient for all to have the choice. But in Calvinism there is irresistible grace: coercion necessity. For the god of Calvnism sends people to Hell without sufficient grace to have the choice. If it is evil for us to behave this way it is evil for the god of Calvinism. The Calvinist merely dulls down his senses and can't see the coercion but it's there because the person is made to do something agains his will. A person made to do something against their will is of the same opinion still so it is all a charade in Calvinism.

    God has the choice to freely choose evil but He does not because He is God, holy, righteous and true.

    Saints who will be in eternity future won't sin anymore because we entered into a relationship God to transform us and keeps us. That's the relationship we wanted and so He gives us. The free will is still free will from the outset of being kept in that new life to choose without ever sinning ever again in eternity future. That was our choice to be embraced in this life.

    That God foresees who will receive Him does not mean it is fixed, for it is dependent on our conditional response that He is able to foresee and account for.

    All along the way the will is free. Just because God can forsee it and adjusts for it, doesn't mean it is not free. We are sovereign free willed beings, not robots as in Calvinism. The latter's purpose is to degrade your conscience for it doesn't matter what you do, according to the theology you would do it anyway.

    Reality is you have any number of choices before you in any given instance, fully sufficient to constitute free will. Free will is free agency. That which is said not to be free will is not free so free agency must be free will.

    Never equate God's foreknowledge with a fixed a result. The result is not fixed because God is infinitely great and can see all the way down the line; actually, He does so from outside of time and space. Just because what will happen is going to happen is no reason to think it is fixed as in Calvinism. How boring that would be.

    Truly calvinism is the faith of dullards, aimed at and developed to lower your conscience.

    Calvinists are unsaved and going to Hell. No doubt about it.


    The problem with your argument is that you are trying to understand the mysteries of God. God knows what we will do, but He does not compel us to do it. He knows what I will have for dinner tonight, but He does not make me eat a particular food. The same is true about salvation. God knows who will accept His grace, but we still have the free will to accept or reject God's grace. Salvation is a gift, but we must accept the gift to receive it.

    David,
    I am admittedly new to this argument, but I am learning as I go. I think it is a mistake to say a blanket statement that Calvinists are going to hell. I think they are saved the same way you and I are saved. They are trusting in Jesus and the total sufficiency of his work on the cross. Precisely how they believe they arrived at the grace to trust is not what saves or damns; it is whether or not they trust, and they do, just as you and I do. This argument, as far as I can tell is over how one arrives at this grace to trust. Believing HOW one arrives at that grace to trust does not save in itself. it is the act of trusting. If one trusts, then that person saved. if that one who trusts believes that he came to that grace this way or that, ultimately is not what saves him. You are saying that these "Calvinists", who do trust, are dammed for the way they believe they came to the grace to trust. That is, in my opinion, plain wrong. It is as wrong for you to say Calvinists are going to hell as it is for a Calvinist to say you are damned because you believe in free will regardless if you trust Christ or not.

    first, you can't explain why god created satan if he knew that satan was evil. another thing, man does not have a free will if you believe Romans 9:18.
    debate a good atheist if you need clarification of these issues. they were decided centuries ago. god does not exist except in people's minds.

    @Andy
    You said, "god does not exist except in people's minds."

    That’s just an orphaned assertion in search of an argument.

    Next you declared "you can't explain why god created satan if he knew that satan was evil."

    Why not? He created us knowing that we are evil.

    You need to come up with better arguments than that. Otherwise you may have to begin doubting your doubts.

    Post a comment

    Please enter the letter "j" in the field below: