"...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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  • « John Calvin's Letter to Cardinal Sadoleto | Main | Peter and the Keys »

    The Will is Not Free But In Bondage

    "It is false that the will, left to itself, can do good as well as evil, for it is not free, but in bondage." - Martin Luther

    Likewise it is false that the will, left to itself (apart from grace), can choose to come to Christ (John 6:65), for it is not free, but in bondage ... for "the devil has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2 Cor 4:4) ... and has "taken them captive to do his will."(2 Tim 2:26) ... and intrinsically "the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.(1 Cor 2:14) because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so. (Rom 8:7) So there is "no one understands; no one seeks for God.... no not one. ( Rom 3:11) "So then salvation "depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." (Rom 9:16)

    Posted by John on May 10, 2012 10:50 AM


    Some say we can preach the gospel and not 'get into Calvinism or reformed theology' well whatever a name someone wants to give it matters not to me, but I do not see how one can preach the gospel without at least leading into the fact that man is dead and incapable of doing what God commands.

    The Catholic Church actually teaches this as well, according to the Council of Orange. Man cannot have free will apart from God's grace. However, the difference lies in the fact that the Catholics believe that one's free will is restored at Justification. Grace restores the will and enables it to choose to pursue God . . . or not. There never has been anything Pelagian about official Catholic doctrine.

    However, grace, in their view, enables the soul to receive and live into salvation, whereas the monergist would say that the enlivened soul will live into salvation. Of course the Lutherans (most of them) do not believe in eternal security and neither do the Arminians. But ALL of them agree that the human will is not free . . . apart from the grace of God. :)

    The Orthodox Christians are another story. While they believe the human will has not been utterly damaged, they do believe that the human nature has been corrupted to such a point that mankind can do nothing for their own salvation apart from the grace of God. This amounts to much the same thing as the Catholic (and even Lutheran and Arminian view). In none of these schemes is it believed that God owes us salvation for our works (i.e. that we earn our salvation). What is believed in most of these schemes is that faith that is mere intellectual assent is not saving faith.

    The Lutherans (originally) would say that the right kind of faith alone saves. The Catholics of the time would have defined faith as intellectual doctrines and so said that alone this intellectual faith does not save. One must put one's trust in God (i.e. faith working itself out in love - active faith). The Orthodox point out that scripture says "so you see a man is justified by what he does and not by faith alone." They would point out that one must live out one's faith.

    But, again, they insist that this is all of grace.

    The major difference, then, comes in the view of justification. The Catholic (and Orthodox?) view is that justification is intrinsic - it actually makes you righteous, whereas the reformation view is that justification is extrinsic and makes you appear righteous before God. The Lutheran saying would be "simul iustus et peccator" - at the same time justified and a sinner. Thus, for the Protestant, our efforts make no difference. We are still sinners (that is how we understand Romans 7). The Catholic understands justification as changing our state from sinner to justified. Therefore, we are very much in the same position as Adam and Eve. If we remain in a justified state we are saved. If we lose our justified state through mortal sin, we are lost and need to re-acquire that justified state through confession.

    Monergists believe that the "quickening" of the soul by grace is irresistible. Arminians and Lutherans believe that the soul is quickened to faith, but that it may choose otherwise.

    For Monergists, faith is passive and either happens or doesn't happen. If it does it is because regeneration has occurred. For Arminians, faith is a possibility due to the prevenient grace of God. The role of faith for the Arminian is that it is a prerequisite to regeneration (the opposite of the monergist argument). But they nonetheless believe that one cannot believe unless grace precedes. I have read Catholic theologians who speak about prevenient grace in the same way.

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