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"...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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  • Rev. David Thommen (URC)
  • John Hendryx
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    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.

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  • « Quick Definition of the Worst Kind of Legalism | Main | You have an "A" »

    What is the Nature of Saving Grace?

    The fact that fallen man needs grace does away with free will altogether. Even classic Arminians readily acknowledge that apart from some kind of prevenient grace man's will is in bondage and cannot believe (and therefore not free). So the debate is not whether man has a free will or not. This has already been determined. The debate really centers around what the nature of God's grace is... whether sufficient and effectual in Christ alone who provides everything we need (including a new heart to believe) or insufficient and ineffectual apart from man's unregenerate will.

    Posted by John on April 23, 2011 06:42 PM

    Comments

    I have a question, what do you mean by "free will?" Also, just because man has no freedom regarding saving grace it it does not necessarily follow he completely lacks free will.

    David:

    Talking about freedom of the will, it is important to define the terms... so we must ask, free from what? Is the natural man free from sin? No, he sins of necessity due to a corruption of nature so he is not free.

    More importantly we should ask how the bible itself defines freedom...

    The Bible declares that fallen man's will and affections are in bondage to sin and therefore his will is not free. Man has a volition but nothing, and I repeat, nothing he wills to do, does he do for God's glory and therefore his choices are completely in bondage by who is he by nature in his corruptions. In every choice he make, if he can only choose to do evil, and cannot do otherwise, is that how the Bible defines freedom? The Bible defines freedom as "freedom from sin" Where Jesus says "if the son sets you free you will be free indeed" the context is sin." Just before this he said, "everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin."

    To teach man has a free will overthrows the gospel ... it is because man is not free that he needs Christ to set him free.

    John,

    I'm afraid I still don't understand what your definition of free will is. You have pointed out what it means to be free from and what freedom is, but not what is free will?

    David,

    Apologies for not being more plain ...Let me clarify... I affirm that man has a will and that he makes voluntary choices ... yet those choices are not free but made of necessity. Fallen man makes no choice with the love of God as his motive, so his will, which by nature loves darkness, hates the light and is hostile to God (John 3:19, 20 & Rom 8:7), cannot choose good and is, therefore, not free.

    Historically in the church theologians and biblical scholars have traditionally understood the phrase 'free will' to mean that one has in his or her power the ability to choose good or evil. (this was the central debate in the reformation. See Luther's Bondage of the Will and Calvin's Bondage and Liberation of the Will). The Reformers and I define the "bondage of the will" as a person who makes choices of necessity toward evil due to a corruption of nature (not by coercion from the outside). The "choosing of NECESSITY" aspect is what makes it not free. It cannot and will not do otherwise.

    We declare with the Scripture that fallen man does not has a free will, because he is a slave to sin (John 8:34, 36) and only Christ can set him free. His will and affections are in bondage to a corruption of nature and therefore sins of necessity. And if we cannot choose otherwise than sin (apart from grace), then the will, left to itself, is not free, but in bondage to necessity of our fallen nature.

    For further clarification, Calvin once said, "We allow that man 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)

    So even though the will is not coerced from the outside, it is still not free because it makes choices of NECESSITY according to its corrupt nature. And this is why Jesus said, he who sins is a slave to sin and if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed. The context of which Jesus speaks of freedom of the will is that of freedom from its' bondage to sin.

    Synergists teach that 'salvation depends on human will', but the Bible teaches that 'it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." (Rom 9:16)
    &
    No one can believe in Christ unless the Father grants it (John 6:65)

    I really like you have written...........What you have laid out in your post certainly is very helpful. When can I expect the next one?

    According to your theology, if every one think like this, there will be big change.

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