"...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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  • « Heresy is not a Victimless Crime | Main | Two Recommendations »

    Question on The State of Man's Will Before the Fall

    Visitor: Hello Sir, I would like to ask you a question that has picked my brain for a while now....
    All of the human race was deemed guilty at the Fall, this I understand. Now not one single person can do anything good in the sight of God, because his nature is to do evil, and he can not determine his own nature, this I also understand. But what was mans nature before the Fall? If it was good, then how did he Fall? And if it was not good or bad, then....we arrive at the Arminian's argument for a supposed 'freewill.' If good tree produces good fruit, then how did Adam produce bad fruit if He was good?? I'm sorry if this is a question you cannot answer now, if you can't, then thank you for reading, but if so, I would greatly appreciate hearing your response to this.

    Response: Hi, thanks for your inquiry regarding the question of free will. Up front we should clarify so we don't misrepresent anyone here, that both Classic Arminians and Calvinists believe in total depravity. That is, both positions affirm that fallen man is utterly impotent in his own strength to believe on the gospel. So neither of them believe in free will, apart from some kind of grace. Left to himself, man has no hope both would affirm. The difference becomes more apparent when we see that Arminians believe in a concept called "prevenient grace", which temporarily place humanity in a state above their depravity so they can choose to believe OR not. Of course this begs the question because if two people have the same grace then what makes them to differ? Jesus Christ or something else? The Calvinist/Augustinian/Monergist, on the other hand, believes that God grants a new heart to the sinner in regeneration effectually enabling him to believe and persevere to the end. This grace itself makes the will free ... i.e. it is no longer in bondage to sin but loves righteousness and believes the gospel.

    So again, we see that for both parties, the natural man's will is in bondage to sin. So apart from grace he has no free will - he is impotent, unless God does something. We believe His Holy Spirit, in uniting us to Christ, must give us eyes to see and ears to hear.

    Now that this is clarified, per your question regarding the state of man before the Fall ... we affirm that pre-fall man was not in bondage to sin. With Augustine we affirm that Adam was "able to sin, and able not to sin" (posse peccare, posse non peccare). His nature was inclined to good (thus making his sin all the more greivous), but as you can see, God did not create Adam and Eve sealed in righteousness, that is, like the unchangable state we will be when sealed in glory with Christ. So we could say that Adam and Eve were in a state that was free from the bondage to sin, but not free from its influences. They were being tested. In glory, of course, we will all be be completely free from sin's influences. The Westminster Confession, in Chapter 4 On Creation, says:

    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.

    Reading Romans 6 and elsewhere we see that the Bible defines freedom, not as "free to do otherwise" as Arminians do, but freedom from sin. Christ sets us free, and we have a small taste of it now, but will drink it fully at the resurrection. Consider, God is the most free and yet He is unable to sin. His very nature makes it impossible because He is holy. Yet we still consider He and the gloried saints as the most free. They actually have less 'libertarian freedom' (as Arminians define it) than we do, since they can only choose good. They dont have the 'libertarian freedom' to choose evil because they are sealed in righteousness by nature. The point I am making is that Arminains we importing a philosophical idea of freedom rather than letting the text of Scripture speak for itself about what freedom is.

    So lets return to your original question. if we ask, did pre-fall man have a free will? We must first ask, "free from what?" If you mean was the will free from the bondage to sin, the answer is uneqivocally yes. But, was it free from God's eternal decree? Obviously not. Consider chapters 2 & 4 of the Book of Acts. Both chapters say that the crucifixion was ordained by God.

    "this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men." Acts 2:23 "...truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place." Acts 4:27, 28

    Notice that God actually ordained the most evil event in history to certainly take place through lawless men, yet the lawless men are fully accountable for their actions. They will be judged for them. The point is that God ordains all things to come to pass (Eph 1:11) and yet men's sins are imputed to them. One could say, He ordains sin, sinlessly. So while Adam and Eve were free from the bondage to sin (pre-fall), God still ordained all things that came to pass. And the Fall certainly did not take God by surprise. In fact, He knew that the Fall would take place even before He created the world. If His forknowedge is certain then these events could not be otherwise, no?

    Hope this helps

    Posted by John on July 29, 2009 05:39 PM


    Thank you for posting your answer to this question. This point can often times be hard to articulate, but you handled it very well.


    That was a clear answer and very helpful to me.

    I have been pondering the doctrine of "predestination".

    In the answer you gave, you touched on the Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace.

    Your definition of "prevenient grace" made me wonder if this is the Arminian solution for "predestination"?

    What do you think?

    I have come to think "backwards" within my mind holding the revelation of the Truth Paul is establishing in Romans and Ephesians about myself also being predestined.

    Tell me if this is sound reasoning in your view?

    I say that I know that I am predestined because I also answer the question the same as Peter, the question posed by Jesus:

    Mat 16:13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"

    My firm belief and answer to His question is also:::>

    Jesus is the "Christ", the Son of the Living God.

    I also confess the Lord Jesus and believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead.

    And also I believe He came in the flesh and dwelt on earth a Historical and Eternal being, born of the Virgin.

    Based on those three truths I now enjoy the Blood purchased right to enter daily God's Presence with thanksgiving and His courts with Praise.

    Also, the quotation from the Confession establishes for me the reality of just "who" was present during the "first" day of creation and "where" the causes of evil come from. I see three immediate realities present just before God "created" light.

    One, the heavens and earth were in a state of void and mass confusion. The created heavens and earth were not "created" evil.

    Two, "darkness" was over the surface of the deep; this "darkness" is a creation, a "fruit" of some production by some dark creature/s "prior" to this creation. It is this darkness that is the source of all evil in this present heavens and earth.

    And three, we see clearly the Eternal Third Person, the Holy Ghost, has been here a part of this creation from the beginning. He it is Who vindicated Jesus. He could not do so if Jesus in the last ticks of His breathing as a man on the Cross "sinned" against God! Just one nanosecond of sin by Jesus while hanging on that Cross would have doomed Him and all of us to everlasting separation from God the Father and the Holy Ghost!

    As the confession points too, there were fully five days of creating before, out of the second half of the six day, Adam was formed out of the earth a sinless, dependant creature.

    I did not see nearly as clearly as now, after reading your answer to the question the significant reality of "LFW" and its importance in this debate with Arminian doctrines.

    It is very frightening to me to see just how rebellious I came to be in foolishly desiring to be "free" of my dependence of and from God.

    I sadly went the way of error and now the consequences I suffer for being so rebellious are very real.

    I have come to rejoice continually though in the fact that I was predestined and foreordained to this inheritance, to become conformed to the image of and united to Christ for eternity. And these words grow ever so clear in my mind and heart and experience every time I ponder them:::>

    Eph 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins
    Eph 2:2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience--
    Eph 2:3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

    Finally, that one portion of those verses cited there, it seems to me defuses the notion that God loves and saves all mankind from what is described as eternal damnation. That portion is: " the rest of mankind". Clearly Paul didn't think so. He clearly is seen by his writings making a distinction between the Elect of God and the reprobate.

    I am humbled everyday now and greatly rejoice in God my Savior through Jesus Christ my Lord through Whom by "One" Spirit, I too, have access to the Father of Grace and Mercy and Peace!

    May Our Good Lord continually shine His Grace upon you as you make these things perspicuous!

    Great answer John. Very clear.

    Wow, John. That was a really great explanation. I feel smarter after reading it.


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