"...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)


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  • « Help for Preachers! | Main | Resolved: To Remember The Gospel »

    Important and Often Overlooked Fact

    For clarity, when the majority of Synergists say that man has free will, what he really means is that causal determinism is false – not that the natural man has the moral ability to chose Christ. Secondly, when a Calvinist says that man does not have free will, what he means is the natural man is spiritually impotent (his affections are in bondage to a corruption of nature) and thus does not have the moral ability to chose Christ.

    In this both both sides agree: the desires of the natural man (who do not have the Holy Spirit) are naturally inclined toward evil, thus all he does does not spring from a heart that loves God, even his so-called "good works" since they are not done in faith. And if your "good works" are not done from faith, that is, to please and glorify God, then they have no redemptive element. This inclination is the result of being born in Adam ... fallen, that is, born into a broken relationship with God, and a person (by nature) can be no other way unless he is set free by Christ so that the relationship is mended.

    Unbeknownst to many, these are truths that every true follower of Christ knows, even if we do not mean the same thing when we use the phrase, “free will.” Thus, these truths form part of the common ground shared by all true followers of Christ. The question is whether the freedom granted to us in Christ is effectual or ineffectual? Whether we are quickened (regenerated) while we are still dead in transgressions or whether those without the Spirit can understand and love Christ apart from regeneration. The Scriptures answer: "Even, when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ..." (Eph 2:5). So, according to Scripture, while we were still unregenerate, Christ, through the Holy Spirit, quickened us by grace, making us alive in Him. Since a natural man cannot understand spiritual things unless God grants his Holy Spirit to renew our hearts, he will not come unless first quickened. Those dead spiritually (without the Holy Spirit), by definition, do not have faith. Faith is the result of a renewed heart, not the cause of it.

    But with regards to the ideas of “free will” and determinism: the central issue has to do with whether things happen contingently or by necessity. Do our natures drive us to make choices by necessity or may we choose against what we are. "You do not believe because you are not of God," Jesus said to those Jews he was debating with. When set free when united to Christ, He gives us a new heart that willingly and voluntarily chooses Christ of necessity.

    Libertarian free will and molinism simply do not square with what we believe to be true about God as plainly revealed in Scripture. Therein lies the main issue. (see John chapters 8 and 10).

    Posted by John on January 8, 2007 07:21 PM


    What do you mean by Molinism? For as I have understood it, Molinism is an acceptable belief (I do not believe it though, I am determinist) for those who want to maintain 'freechoice' and God's foreknowledge. It seems to me that it is the only alternative (Molinism that is) for those who want 'freechoice'. Either that or Open Theism...

    Molinism was originally a system that was first developed by Luis de Molina, and was adopted in its essential points by the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in the counter-Reformation in opposition to Calvinism.

    Molinism combats what they claim to be the heresy of the Reformers, according to which both sinners and the just have lost freedom of will. It maintains and strenuously defends the Tridentine dogma which teaches:

    1) that freedom of will has not been destroyed by original sin, and
    2) that this freedom remains unimpaired under the influence of Divine grace (Cf. Sess. VI, can iv-v in Denzinger, "Enchiridion", ed. Bannwart, Freiburg, 1908, nn. 814-15).

    In contrast to Molinism, we believe that the will (that is the affections which drive the will) are in bondage to a corruption of nature. By definition, therefore, the will is not free. If something is in bondage it is not free, but rather, enslaved. Only the grace of God in Christ sets us free by quickening us, turning our heart of stone to a heart of flesh, that with a new heart, we willingly (and most freely) believe.

    Molinism (and all forms of synergism) believe faith is produced by our unregenerated human nature. Both Molinism and Armianianism are attempts to maintain free will, when none exist. A man is either regenerate or unregenerate, there is no Biblical evidence of an in-between state, so to affirm a post regenerate-preconversion state would be raw unaided speculation. On the contrary, the bible affirms one is either regenerate or unregenerate (natural, w/o the Holy Spirit) The natural man chooses sin by necessity, and the renewed man likewise chooses Christ by necessity, because he is "of God" by nature. The Holy Spirit does not merely give a general grace to the unregenerate. If he remains unregenerate he will not believe. It requires a supernatural raising to life while we are yet dead in trespasses in order to bring man to faith. The glory is all to God, not partly to God and partly to nature.

    God's salvation to his elect is not like a child drowing and then God reaching out to take his hand if He is willing. No, the child does not have the capacity to reach out his hand so God is like a parent who would jump in the water and make certain his child was safe. That is the true love of a parent. What loving parent would just stand on the side of the boat and only save the child if he reached out his hand. True love is not like that. True love gets the job done. God knows better than us, and thus his love does not leave it up to our weak and broken will, lest we would all perish.

    Well then this is an error on my part. I had always assumed that Molinism had dealth with God's foreknowledge and not necessarily with man's will. I understood how it would be a viable alternative to Open Theism in the realm of God's foreknowledge, but if what you say is true, then I understand your oposition to it.

    Regarding foreknowledge, free will, etc. and the Roman position...

    First, the Catholic Church condemned Pelagianism as heresy, right? So the "totally free, don't need no grace nohow" position was nixed.

    Second, they condemned Semi-Pelagianism as heresy at the Council of Orange. So the "mostly free, just need a little bit o' grace" position was nixed.

    Then, at Trent, they basically condemned the Augistian position of deadness in sin.

    So what options are left? The RCC's position isn't Arminian, though it's similar. Can anyone actually summarize their position? They seem to have condemned everything!

    On this point:

    ''The natural man chooses sin by necessity, and the renewed man likewise chooses Christ by necessity, because he is "of God" by nature.'' would you expand your understanding hereon with regard to seeing, OH, I AM IN BONDAGE TO MY OWN SINFUL NATURE, what role do I have then, and how is it understood, when I respond to the understanding of being in bondage to my will?

    Is this the "first" good work I do after the revelation?


    Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
    Eph 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
    Eph 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

    I hope my question is clear?



    that is a great question. Roman Catholicism has essentially abandoned any semblance of Augustinian soteriology. i.e. have basically taken back on their word at the Council of Orange in 521 -- which condemned Semi-Pelagianism since that is the positon they have now embraced at Trent. In other words, Trent and the Council of Orange are contradictory councils. Just take a look at Oranges' canons 6-8 and compare them with Trent. They cannot be reconcilled.

    In response to your question>>>> "OH, I AM IN BONDAGE TO MY OWN SINFUL NATURE, what role do I have then, and how is it understood, when I respond to the understanding of being in bondage to my will?"

    First of all, good question. Raising our resposnibility is important because the Bible raises the question as well. But we must note that our moral inability does not alleviate us of responsibility. Just as a person who borrows $10 million and squanders it in Vegas is still responsible for to repay his debt, so the sinner in Adam is responsible to obey God's Law perfectly even though he is morally impotent to do so. The command to believe the gospel is also a command that the natural man is impotent to obey, since, by nature he hates the light and will not come into the light (John 3:19, 20).

    The purpose of the law is not to reveal our ability but our inability, even the command to believe in Jesus Christ. Through the law comes the knowledge of sin (Rom 3:20) Only the gospel accompanied by the grace of God, that is, the work of the Holy Spirit germinating the seed of the gospel (so to speak) in the hearts of those He came to save. Man cannot come to Christ apart from grace (John 6:65). He is responsible to do so and if God passes over and does not save that person, only the sinner can be blamed for his hostility to God. The problem is not with God's law, but the problem is with man's heart.

    When someone understands this it is obvious that God has begun to do a work in his heart. Spurgeon once said: We hold that man is never so near grace as when he begins to feel he can do nothing at all. When he says, 'I can pray, I can believe, I can do this, and I can do the other,' marks of self-sufficiency and arrogance are on his brow."
    - C. H. Spurgeon


    C.H. certainly had some profound sound things to say and write about all things Jesus!

    Thank you for yours too!

    This blog "Reformed Theology" and you men of God conducting it in the Name of the Lord has gotten me addicted!


    John H,

    Of course they can be reconciled! The Pope is infallible and he says they don't conflict, and who are we to argue with a man in ruby slippers? :)

    I once read an article (can't remember where) by someone who was annoyed that many Calvinists (esp. Sproul in this guy's case) kept using "Arminian" and "Semi-Pelagian" almost as synonymns. This guy's point was: yes, both systems are synergistic, but they are not at all the same, because (1) Semi-Pelagianism teaches that man makes the first move toward God, and then God responds with grace to help him along, whereas (2) Arminianism teaches that God must make the first move toward sinful man by His grace, and then man responds with his weak, sick will.

    Is this accurate? I guess anything synergistic wouldn't sit well with a Reformed theologian, but there does seem to be a distinction.

    So for example, when Orange concludes with "The sin of the first man has so impaired and weakened free will that no one thereafter can either love God as he ought or believe in God or do good for God's sake, unless the grace of divine mercy has preceded him," it doesn't seem to rule out God giving "the grace of divine mercy" by calling a person, tapping his shoulder as it were, but leaving the choice to the individual.

    I'm not a synergist, but I want to make sure that I don't loosely call an Arminian or Catholic "semi-pelagian" if it isn't accurate.


    thank you for this response!


    Just as a person who borrows $10 million and squanders it in Vegas is still responsible for to repay his debt, so the sinner in Adam is responsible to obey God's Law perfectly even though he is morally impotent to do so.

    That portion "IN ADAM" is powerful.

    When we see the "adamic" HOUSE clearly enough, we then can realize the great LOVE STORY of the Bible, that God has a HOUSE as well.

    This HOUSE, oh the wisdom of God! is past finding out!!

    When we are established in Truth, "Him", we receive all that He is and all that He will be hereafter!

    This is to wonderful for me!!!

    Bless you and this group, Reformation Theology.



    Yes - you have a good point there. I believe it is important that we differentiate the semi-pelagian and the Arminian. I just read a book by Roger Olson (An Arminian) who was annoyed that Calvinists often loosely apply the term "Arminian" to all synergists. Since the Arminian stresses prevenient grace., that is, the work of the Holy Spirit prior to salvation, drawing the sinner to himself, he differentiates himself from the semi-pelagian who believes man must make the first move. A classic Arminain believes that semi-pelagianism is heresy.

    It is good to never misrepresent our theological opponents. The Arminian believes that both he and the semi-pelagian are synergistic but that only Arminain theology is an "evangelical synergism".

    Here is an essay I wrote on Prevenient Grace if you have interest in exposring the subject further

    This gloss on Molinism doesn’t seem accurate. Molinism isn’t compatible with Libertarian free will since God selects a given possible world to instantiate and in such a world Jones does what God immutably foreknows what Jones would do in that world with no exceptions. Molinism is therefore just as deterministic as Calvinism, although it is a type of circumstantial determinism. Molinism is therefore a Frankfurt Counter-example write large.
    Historically Molinism was formulated not so much to combat Calvinism but Banezian Thomism. And non-Banezian Thomists also endorse the Tridentine doctrine that the power of free will has not been lost and can be restored under the influence of grace. Consequently that thesis is not a specifically Molinistic one. When Catholics speak of free will they do not have the libertarian conception in mind, for LFW is not compatible with a variety of Catholic dogmas, not the least of which is the Beatific Vision or the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Molinists to Scotists with Thomists in between are consequently species of Augustinianism. What they mean when they speak of free will is rather the notion of free volition, that nothing acts on the will with efficient causality which leaves out the necessity of alternative possibilities. It is just in the case of all three that God’s pre-emption of grace is not efficient causation but another form of causation. Consequently, Scotists, Thomists and Molionists all preserve the Augustinian teaching on the necessity of grace logically prior to any motion of the human agent in the act of faith. With Augustine they proclaim that grace frees up the will/volition/power of judgment to choose the good. This is why Molinists and Co. believe that grace is necessary to move the power of volition to choose the good, it is just that that grace comes through various pre-ordained circumstances in conjunction with the gratuitously given faculties of human nature. Molinism, along with Scotism and Thomism therefore do endorse a type of synergism, but not necessarily the Arminian kind. Augustine for example endorsed the idea, which is why they do. God who makes us without our choice does not save us without our choice. This is why Augustine thinks that we actually contribute to our justification.

    For a sophisticated and concemporary eludication of Molinism, see Flint's, Divine Providence: The Molinist Account.


    If grace frees up the will in Moninism, is it freeing it from the bondage to sin and thus bringing one effectually to Christ, or is the person still in bondage to sin?

    Is the person regenerate, or as Classsic Arminains asay with prevenient grace (partially regenerate). In other wors, can an unregenerate man, in any circumstance, believe the gospel?

    If molinism believes that he can then it is no less a form of synergism an this is the heart of the problem.

    Augustine and the counsel of Orange did not allow for any kind of synergism: "...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)

    In other words, even the very desire for faith itself comes from God. A person without the Holy Spirit cannot do so (1 Cor 2:14).

    John 6:63 says that the Spirit gives life and the flesh counts for nothing. That is whay Jesus said no one can believe on him unless the father grants it (john 6:65). The new birth is necessary for faith unto justification.

    While we were yet dead in sin, He quickened us (Eph 1L5). No one believes when still dead in sins.

    It appears that molinism is talking in philosophical categories, while Augustine, Luther and Calvin spoke of it in biblical terms.

    Yes, Molinism does affirm, like all forms of Augustinianism, that the will is freed from bondage to sin. As far as efficacy, since Augustine didn’t spell out the kind of causal efficacy was operative, Augustinians have differed on it (Scotism, Thomism, Molinism, etc.). Consequently, Molinists will agree that persons are effectually drawn by grace but they will differ on what that efficacy amounts to with the Reformed. Their position is closer to that of the Lutherans for example. You might find it helpful to look at Flint’s work or Bellermine’s to see how Molinists actually interpret efficacy.

    Molinists affirm that unregenerate persons cannot believe the gospel, which is why pre-empting or condign grace is necessary. But, they do not think that it follows that just because grace is a necessary condition, that it is a sufficient condition, otherwise it would not be the belief of the agent. Consequently, they are syngergists at certain points. Augustine too was a syngergist at certain points, namely the idea that grace allows us to choose freely, even to fall away for some (which is why the Lutherans hold this view) and that we contribute to and increase our justification. There is a difference between synergism without divine pre-emption and synergism with it. The former is semi-Pelagianism and the latter is not. Augustine maintained that pre-empting grace never did away with natural human freedom to his dying day.

    The passage from Orange doesn’t preclude synergism, it just precludes completely autonomous action and the two ideas are not mutually entailing (Canon 4). It doesn’t follow that if God acts first that God acts alone, especially in light of the fact that divine causality is not a temporal kind of causality and in fact transcends the ways that temporal causes function. For Augustine and the majority of the scholastics, grace always preempts. That is to say that the preemptive activity of grace and the motion of the will can only be logically distinguished and not temporally so. God does not remove or override nature for Augustine so that grace enhances our faculties (Canon 19). This is because God’s own creation is not intrinsically opposed to him, lest Manicheanism be shown to be true. The problem with nature for Augustine is not that it is sinful per se (Canon 19), but that while good it is lacking sufficient power to hit the mark. Grace adds the power to do so. (Canon 5-8)

    Consequently, Molinists fully agree with 1 Cor 2:14, Jn 6:63, etc. Along with Augustine, they don’t think that nature is intrinsically obliterated of value and power at the Fall. Since Molinism is an attempt to explain the conceptual content of the Scriptures, it is going to use philosophical categories, just as Augustine did and practically everyone else, not excepting Luther and Calvin. Historically, Molinists were able to and did a fair amount of Biblical exegesis. In fact, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to be an Augustinian without synthesizing Revelation and Reason, since that is a big part of what Augustine is up to. Because the Reformers on the whole have a different philosophical outlook and a different anthropology than Augustine, they end up with a different gloss on the relation between Revelation and Reason. What is at issue among the various Augustinian traditions is not what the verses say but what they mean, what is their conceptual content?
    In any case, Molinists are not Libertarians and it isn’t obvious how Molinism is incompatible with the decrees of Orange, let alone Trent. I say this as a non-Molinist, so I don’t really have a dog in the fight.


    I believe you are incorrect about Augustinian theology. Even the very deisre to ask, seek, knock etc is because of grace.

    If two persons both receive condign grace (in the molinistic scheme), why then does one believe the gospel and not the other? Is the reason grace, or nature? What makes the two persons to differ?

    Also I was reading Providence & Prayer : How Does God Work in the World! by Terrance Tiessen who himself appears to embrace a kind of molinism claims over and over that molinism believes in libertarian free will.

    You claim earlier that all this means is voluntary. But all Calvinists even believe that. Determinism is not something only that God does but our choices are also determined by our natures. Apart from grace, even you admit that a person cannot accept Christ in molinism. If true, this is not libertarian but compatibilistic.

    It would appear that you arte asserting that Molinism believes the will has compatibilistic freedom prior to grace and libertarian afterward?

    Even God and the glorified saints wills are compatibilistic. IN that glorified state neither God nor saints can sin because of their natures ... so their choices are always compatible with their nature.

    If, molinism believes that faith is not effectual after grace then what compels a person to make a choice?.

    Monergists are of the belief that God does not force us but gives us a new heart and we believe, so says the Scripture. God does not do the beliving for us. The Bible says that God turns our heart of stone to a heart of flesh that we might obey. The reason some don't believe, Jesus says is because of who they are. In John 8 he says the Jews he is debating with will not belive because they are children of the Devil. And he reiterates that the reason they do not believe is they are not of God. John 10 likewise Jesus says that those who do not believe are this way because they are not his sheep. In other words, their nature determines their choice.

    No one is willing by nature but is made willing by grace. They are given a new heart, new eyes and ears to hear.

    When Jesus says, apart from me you can do nothing, it does not mean something. What makes us to differ from men who dfo not believe is grace. If you say it is man's will, then why is he different?

    Augustine said:
    a person does not even begin to be changed from evil to good by the first stirrings of faith, unless the free and gratuitous mercy of God produces this in him…. So, therefore, we should think of God’s grace as working from the beginning of a person’s changing towards goodness, even to the end of its completion, so that he who glories may glory in the Lord. For just as no-one can bring goodness to perfection without the Lord, so no one can begin it without the Lord. -Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, 2:23

    I have quite a number of quotes here in the following link which show that Augustine himself did not allow for any synergism when it comes to believing the gospel. After the short essay at the start there are numerous quotes from Augustine with source:


    Sorry for the delay. First, I am not an Augustinian and I am not a Molinist, so I have no desire to argue for the truth of either view. I am merely trying to aid you in getting clear as to what the positions in fact are. ( I don’t endorse Open Theism either.)
    It is true that for Augustine even the desire to ask is caused by grace, but Augustine doesn’t think it is an efficient cause. Nothing acts on the will with efficient causation for Augustine, which is why he rejects Stoic causal determinism, for example. This does not for Augustine rule out the will participating in the divine will in moving itself. Augustine to his dying day maintains both positions because he doesn’t see the relationship between my act and God’s as between two particulars but more like two causes and one effect. Since God’s causation isn’t temporal, it does not violate but rather grounds the willing activity of the human agent. If Grace did all the work, in Augustine’s mind, this would be tantamount to endorsing Manicheanism since it would imply that nature was obliterated at the fall and human nature was now *intrinsically* evil.
    I am not interested in getting into a spoof texting battle with Augustine. I will say that I have read over a dozen volumes of Augustine and that the best Augustinian scholars, Markus, Teske, Brown, Rist, Bonner, et al agree with this gloss. If you read their works, I’d wager that you will find their arguments compelling.
    For a Molinist why does someone believe the Gospel, because given their essence, they would choose to believe in such and so circumstances. This is consistent with Augustine who thinks it is possible to be regenerate and un-believe and fall away. This is why the Lutherans are in fact closer to Augustine on this point than the Reformed. The other does not believe for the same reason, their essence is such that under no circumstances would they believe, grace or no grace. You may choke at this point thinking that God’s power is sufficient to cause otherwise, but on your view humans are able to alter what God eternally wills to be the case, namely human nature to be whole and intact. The principle is the same, Calvinism and Molinism just locate it in different theological locations.
    For Augustine, grace perfects but does not override nature. So grace frees up the natural will to will the good in such a way that God is its telos. It is not that unbelievers for Augustine can’t will the good, they just can’t will it in the right way, with God as its telos, but rather as themselves as the telos. This is what differentiates denizens of the City of Man and the City of God. Secondly, natures don’t will anything and neither does grace. Persons use wills and not the other way around. If God wills to create as opposed to not create, what explains why God chooses one over the other? We can’t say his nature, because God has his essence necessarily, but even on your Calvinism, God it is not necessary for God to create. So John, what explains the choice to create? Nothing causes God to do so and having a reason won’t be sufficient because we can think of reasons that God has for not creating. Reasons aren’t causes in any case.
    Molinists, especially in the last 30 years thought for some time and some still do, that their view is compatible with Libertarian conception of freedom. But in light of the grounding objection, many Molinists have agreed that it is incompatible with Libertarianism. If the trans-world essence of an individual grounds God’s knowledge of what an agent would do, hence middle knowledge, then the essence will determine what the agent does. So suppose that God knows that Jones will do X at T1 at world W. God instantiates W. Can Jones do otherwise at T1 than X? No, because God would have to instantiate world W1. This clearly violates the alternative possibilities condition on libertarian freedom.
    Determinism is the thesis that antecedent states are sufficient to render inevitable one single and unique consequent state. On a Molinist gloss, it is under the influence of grace that a person is free to believe, so that the thinking is that in such and so circumstances, Jones will believe. By voluntary Augustine means something like judgment. The will never looses its power of judgment or choice. But having such a power doesn’t imply that it is free. So that even if some agent, God or you, choose consistently in accordance with your nature, it doesn’t imply that the agent is free.
    If we take the Edwardian line that nature determines choices, here are some things to think about. First, God’s nature doesn’t determine his choices because God chooses between alternatives and he doesn’t have to create or save anyone, lest grace no longer be gratuitous. Here’s another case. Satan was created holy, righteous, etc., no? If so, then Satan’s nature should have made it impossible for him to sin. He sinned. The same goes for Adam and Eve. Were they created righteous? Then their choices should have been only righteous, correct?
    I admit that in Molinism grace is necessary such that apart from grace someone can’t believe. But it doesn’t follow from the idea that God wills first, that God wills alone. In any case, Molinism is just another version of soft determinism as is Calvinism, Thomism or Scotism.
    Given the notion of trans-world essences for indivduals that contemporary Molinists endorse, I can’t see how they could endorse Libertarian freedom either before or after regeneration since what explains and renders inevitable what they do in the world God creates is their essence. Consequently, it is very hard to see a crucial Christian distinction between person and nature in deterministic schemes. Does Jesus’ nature explain why he makes the choices he does? Is the incarnation God suppressing human nature?
    For myself, I don’t think that in Heaven either for God or for the saints their freedom is compatibilistic but Libertarian. The inability to sin only implies compatibilistic freedom if there is only one good to choose between so that free will is necessarily defined as a choice between objects of opposed moral value-good vs. evil. I don’t see any good reason for thinking this, either that there is only one Good or that free will requires this. Libertarian freedom only requires a plurality of objects of choice, it does not require objects of opposed moral value t choose between. Just so long as God or the saints have a plurality of good things to choose between, they can have libertarian freedom. Consequently, how will you interpret Matt 26:39 or Jn 6:38? Is Jesus’ will opposed to God? Don’t we call willing in opposition to God sin? Is this monergism or synergism? It would be interesting to see how you understand these passages.
    Compatibilism isn’t the idea that we always will consistently with our nature, but the idea that freedom and determinism can both be true. The kind of comaptibilism that you endorse has the subsidiary thesis that natures determine our actions, so that case our actions are just consistent with our natural desires but are determined by them. It is a much stronger claim.
    As for Molinism thesis that faith is not the determined effect of grace, you need to remove from your thinking the conflation of effectual with efficiency causation. Second, nothing compels the person to make a choice, even on your own Calvinism, you don’t think people are compelled to make a choice.
    As a former Calvinist, I am familiar with the standard Reformed explanations as to why belief occurs so we can skip those and save some time. But here is a question for you. When Jesus says that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, does the tree refer to persons or to natures? If the latter, what is the difference between that view and Pelagianism? I am quite familiar with Jn 8 but I don’t see anything there about their essences determining their actions. God is the creator and sustainer of all natures and Christ is the image of God and we are made in that image so that I can’t see how we can alter what Jesus is.
    I agree that apart from Jesus we can do nothing, it doesn’t follow that with Jesus do nothing freely though. I do not say that it is man’s will because wills do nothing, persons do. Persons using wills do all kinds of things. People who set their minds on evil things and accustom themselves to such things are in bondage until they have a change of mind.

    Hi Perry

    you said >>>>But it doesn’t follow from the idea that God wills first, that God wills alone.

    Nor does it in Reformed Theology. God does not will alone. He gives us a new heart and new eyes that see. Yet we still choose voluntarily. It is effectual only because our new heart sees the beauty, truth and excellecny of Christ ... an impossible supposition for the man who is not yet born again.

    John 6:37 teaches that ALL THAT THE father gives to Christ will believe in Him (as does v39) that ALL that the Father teaches will come. Not "some" but all. John 6:65 likewise teaches that no one can believe unless God grants it. This is a syllogism - a universal positive and a universal negative, which means that when God wills to save a person He actually does. He is not merely giving them a choice ( in their old nature), but actually saves them. I highly recommend that you put your philosophy aside for a moment and consider what this Scripture is saying in this chapter. What do you do with the fact that verse 37 says "ALL" that the Father gives to me will come to me and no one can come to me unless God grants it? The conclusion is inescapable. Jesus does not allow for any but one conclusion here. That people do not believe unless they are his sheep.

    We agree with you that all have a will, yes (which is not seperate from the person), and the person uses it for evil until the holy Spirit quickens him YET while He is still dead in sin (Eph 2:5) There are no regenerate persons who are not saved. And there are no unregenerate persons who are. A man must first have eyes if he is to see, no? and ears if he is to hear. It appears that in your understanding a person can believe before he understands (that is before he is spiritual), OR has no spiritual eyes and yet able to see, and hear before he has ears to hear. But God must first give ears to hear. Humility is not natural to those not born again. IN the council of Orange, taking up Augustine's cause, it says that even the very humility to believe is a gift of grace. Why do some have humility to believe and not others? Grace! It is grace that makes us to differ from others, lest we boast that we did it. IN your view, you appear to be able to thank God for everything else, except your faith, apart from grace. Yes, you say God gives grace to all, but why do some make use of it and not others?

    The question is -- Are we saved by Christ alone or are we saved by Chirst plus something else? As soon as you add the something else, it is not salvation by Christ alone, as if His crosswork were not sufficient.

    If a person is drowning do we merely call to him and tell him to reach out his hand and if he doesn't we cannot help? No, if it is in our power we jump in and haul him to the boat to make certain he does not perish. Which is more loving, a person who waits for the drowing person to exercise his will or a person jumps in to actually save him, gets the job done to make certain they are safe. This is how people act in real life. If God's love less than humans? It would appear to be so in a scheme which simply depends on what man does. God love is a personal love, not a nebulous love for all but no one in particular.

    We believe the gospel because we are quickened, we are not quickened because the believe (as synergists claim). An unregenerate man does not see the beauty and excellency of Christ, according to Scripture. Apart form the Holy Spirit man's nature will ALWAYS fall short of God's demands. Why? Because of his nature? Even you acknowledged that apart from grace he will not choose good. If you put aside your philosophy for a moment and look at the Scripture, it plainly teaches that the Spirit gives life and the flesh counts for nothing JOhn 6:63). This is why Jesus said that no one can come to him unless God grants it (65). Verse 37 and 39 plainly teach that grace is effectual. and 44 teaches that all that the Father draws He will raise up at the last day. This does not mean we don't have a will .. it means, as Augustine teaches, that the will is only made good by grace.

    you said >>>>>If Grace did all the work, in Augustine’s mind, this would be tantamount to endorsing Manicheanism ..."

    IN Reformed Theology, God does not will for us either. Monergism simply means that God does all the work in regeneration, since only Christ can do what we cannot do for ourselves. But once regenerate, it is we who believe - God does not believe for us .. we thank Him for it because we would not be able to believe unless God changed our hard heart of stone to flesh. IN Ezekiel it says that God changes our heart of stone to flesh THAT WE MIGHT OBEY.

    Augustine, in his four fold view of man expresses it correctly. (a) able to sin, able not to sin (posse peccare, posse non peccare); (b) not able not to sin (non posse non peccare); (c) able not to sin (posse non peccare); and (d) unable to sin (non posse peccare). The first state corresponds to the state of man in innocency, before the Fall; the second the state of the natural man after the Fall; the third the state of the regenerate man; and the fourth the glorified man.

    Augustine (nor Calvin) did not deny that fallen man still has a will and that the will is capable of making choices. He argued that fallen man still has a free will (liberium arbitrium) but has lost his moral liberty (libertas). The state of original sin leaves us in the wretched condition of being unable to refrain from sinning. We still are able to choose what we desire, but our desires remain chained by our evil impulses. He argued that the freedom that remains in the will always leads to sin. Thus in the flesh we are free only to sin, a hollow freedom indeed. It is freedom without liberty, a real moral bondage. True liberty can only come from without, from the work of God on the soul. Therefore we are not only partly dependent upon grace for our conversion but totally dependent upon grace.

    This does not mean that God makes choices for us, as you seem to be suggesting, it means that,as the bible teaches, man must be given a new heart so that he may believe. God removes the heart of stone and gives a heart of flesh. As long as a person remains unregenerate he will he hostile to God (1 Cor 2:14).

    you said >>>>>By voluntary Augustine means something like judgment. The will never looses its power of judgment or choice. But having such a power doesn’t imply that it is free. So that even if some agent, God or you, choose consistently in accordance with your nature, it doesn’t imply that the agent is free.

    Nor does it in Calvinism, Choice are volutary, Here is a choice quote from Calvin himself:

    " has choice and that it is self-determined, so that if he does anything evil, it should be imputed to him and to his own voluntary choosing. We do away with coercion and force, because this contradicts the nature of the will and cannot coexist with it. We deny that choice is free, because through man’s innate wickedness it is of necessity driven to what is evil and cannot seek anything but evil. And from this it is possible to deduce what a great difference there is between necessity and coercion. For we do not say that man is dragged unwillingly into sinning, but that because his will is corrupt he is held captive under the yoke of sin and therefore of necessity will in an evil way. For where there is bondage, there is necessity. But it makes a great difference whether the bondage is voluntary or coerced. We locate the necessity to sin precisely in corruption of the will, from which follows that it is self-determined." (John Calvin, BLW pp 69, 70)

    you said >>>First, God’s nature doesn’t determine his choices because God chooses between alternatives

    How do you know? Can you quote Scripture to verfify this or is this simply your philosophical speculation? The reason the saints in heaven and God Himself does not make the other choice is because of who they are. God is holy and cannot be otherwise.

    You mention Adam and Eve

    Neither Satan nor Adam and Eve we sealed in righteousness, unlike the saints in heaven who cannot sin.

    John 6:38 where Jesus says I came to do, not my will but my father's... Not sure how this contradicts anything Jesus as a human being yeilded himself up to God to obey the law perfectly. He does this so God will be satisfied with us.

    And look carefully at what that will actully is ... "And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day."

    How many will Jesus raise at the last day? All that the Father gives him.

    .... Not some but all.

    Is it because they believe that the Father gioves them to the Son?

    No Verse 37 precludes that possiblity. It says that ALL that the Father gives to Christ will believe on him and they will never be cast out.

    So here in the context of the verse you showed me, Jesus teaches that his grace is effectual. There is just no way around this...

    May the Lord richly bless you


    Was Christ free during His earthly ministry?

    I know that sounds like a simplistic question, but bear with me. We know that He has a fully divine nature begotten from the Father. We know He has a fully human nature from His mother. So all of His humanity has but one source; Mary. Anything else, any addition or deletion or alternative source for His humanity, and He is of a different order or kind of humanity than Adam and salvation could not be possible for those of us of Adam (I would think all of us reject Arius's Superman). We also know that will is a function not of person, but nature (Not my will, but Thine, etc.), otherwise the Trinity has 3 wills (or worse, Christ didn't have a human will, and therefore was less than fully human). Christ said that what He did He did freely. How is it that all mankind is bound, not free, yet He is? And being that all the circumstances and actions of those around Him that affected His earthly ministry were necessitated by their bound wills, could He have acted otherwise, i.e., was not not He as bound as they to act in the ways He did?

    Whatever can be said of our condition at birth is applicable to Him. If my human nature is guilty and bound to sin, then so is His, otherwise He has a different human nature that is not of Adam. If my human nature is not guilty and free to either sin or not, another explanation other than guilt and necessity is needed to explain man's condition.

    Anything we attribute to mankind's nature in general must be applicable to Christ as well. In case you don't get it yet, I am asking that you distinguish between Christ's 2 natures so as to examine ours.

    Don Bradly

    Hi and thanks for you post... but with all due respect, you are basing your entire theology on unaided human logic and not yeilding to the Scripture alone. The Scripture plainly says that natural man does not have the Holy Spirit and thus cannot understand spiritual things and thinks they are foolish (1 Cor 2:14) and that God gives us His Holy Spirit to his elect that we might understand the things frely given us. Apart from the Spirit uniting us to Christ, we can do nothing, including believe (john 1:13, 6:63,65, 1 John 5:1)

    The Scripture also said Jesus was without sin and born filled with the Holy Spirit. In fact, his Father was the Holy Spirit himself. You are making a classic Hebrew/ Greek mistake. In the Hebrew view, the body is not evil.

    So there is a clear difference betweeen Jesus at his birth and us. He had the Holy Spirit and we did not. You can argue philosophy all youwant but if it does not yield to Scripture it is not worth much.

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