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Please Get This: A Free Will Is the Equivalent of Reprobation

Sometime during my youth I heard the song “I Give You Freedom.” It stuck. That’s just how I am with music; it’s both a blessing and a curse. And by the way, that’s why the music Christians sing is so crucial. It both reflects and shapes what we believe, and what it teaches us endures. Well, I didn’t hear the song again for years, but it has been discussed quite a bit in the blogosphere as a result of this video from Pensacola Christian College. I’ve now heard a portion of it again from a newly released recording. The gist of the song is this: God is speaking, telling us that although He can do anything, He is releasing us to our own choice; whether or not we choose Him is entirely up to us, because “only willing love is worth the price.” The song ends this way: “I’ll never force you, for I love you so. I give you freedom; is it yes or no?”

That song is but one expression of a common belief that God has left it to individuals to make up their own minds regarding what they will do with Him. He has, we are told, put His hands behind His back, refusing to interfere, lest we be automatons. Interesting. How does such a notion compare with the Scriptures? What would it look like if God were to give us the sort of “free will” or “freedom of choice” of which many professing believers speak and sing? I offer several reflections:

1. No one since the fall has had a free will. Because of the sin of Adam, we have a bent toward sin from conception, and sin offers only the worst kind of bondage, not freedom. (Rom 5:12; 8:7-8; Ps 51:5; 58:3)

2. No one since the fall has had the ability (freedom)—or even the desire—to seek God. We don’t want Him. Unassisted by Him, we will look for God the way a convict looks for a detective. “Free to choose,” every sinner since Eden chooses rebellion, not repentance. (Is 53:6a; Rom 3:10-11; 1 Cor 2:14)

3. Were God to leave us in the state, we would be hopelessly enslaved to sin. God’s inactivity would never result in man’s ennoblement. For God to leave a man to his own choice is the equivalent of reprobation (though Scripture presents reprobation as more than divine passivity). There is a sense in which all that God has to harden a man’s heart and make him a reprobate is, well, nothing. God didn’t have to “zap” Pharaoh to harden his heart (Ex 4:21; 7:3, 13-14; et al); Pharaoh was glad to oblige and harden his own heart (Ex 8:15, 32; 9:34); indeed, Pharaoh was “zapped” from birth. If God says to the sinner “your will be done,” that sinner is damned.

4. The only reason anyone is born again is because God graciously intervenes, saving the sinner from his own wicked choice. Scripture uses various pictures to describe this initiating act of God. It is illumination—the opening of blind eyes. It is drawing—the compelling of the sinner to seek Him. It is the gift of faith and repentance—God providing the very responses from the sinner He requires. It is God’s sovereign choosing; it is predestination; it is election. (1 Cor 2:6-16; 2 Cor 4:3-6; John 6:44; Eph 2:8-9; 2 Tim 2:25; Acts 11:18; Eph 1)

I’ve used no theological terms. I’ve simply referenced and quoted Scriptures. And, frankly, after years of trying to argue against God’s sovereign and initiating grace myself, I’ve come to rest and rejoice in it, though I don’t claim to comprehend it. What I do understand is this: God’s intervening grace isn’t presented to us in the Bible as a cause of debate or confusion, but as the first of the many spiritual blessings He has lavished upon us (Eph 1:3-4)!

Here’s the bottom line and my own testimony: I’m saved because of God‘s choice, not mine. I’m saved because God mercifully intervened, giving me mercy rather than freedom and the damnation such freedom would inevitably have brought. In the words of John 1:13, I’ve been born again not because of my will or choice, but because of God’s. And Scripture calls that grace.


46 Responses

  1. Amen!!

  2. I, for one, am eternally grateful that God does not leave us to our own will, desires, and direction.

  3. Chris, I could say “Amen” to much of what you have written, but you come short of the Book of books. If a lost man does not have a free will why does the Bible say “And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely”? (Rev. 22:17) And IF the jailor at Phillippi did not have a free will, a choice to make, why did Paul and Silas tell him that IF he would believe he WOULD BE (future) be saved? IF a lost man does not have a free will, why did Christ say to a group of lost men as recorded in John 5, “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (verse 40)? While I believe the King James to be a reliable translation, the KJV translators translated this verse as though the verb is “will come” in the negative. A literal translation from the Koine’ Greek would be, “. . .ye are not willing to come (an infinitive) to me, that ye might have life.” Strange, is it not, that Christ would hold these lost men accountable for something they did not have, freedom of choice? You and I are saved, not BECAUSE we believe, as you so aptly pointed out from John 1:13, but a man will be saved IF he believes. The salvation process is all of grace as it is God that enables men to believe, John 1:13 (see also 1 Peter 1:21). Hebrews 6 will also throw a monkey wrench into your theology. Lost men “went along” with the Holy Spirit but fell away (no “if shall” in the literal translation) when it came to Christ. It is impossible to renew them again unto repentance. They choose NOT to believe so God will hold them accountable, forever. Keep looking up, JT.

  4. Chris,

    Let me see if I’m understanding your point correctly. Are you arguing that repudiating Calvinistic soteriology on the grounds of free will is pointless because it simply pushes the problem back a bit further? That Scripture clearly reveals that man’s sinfulness is so enslaving that God is consciously ensuring that his wrath will be poured out on all those whom he does not elect to regeneration, faith and conversion (in no particular order)?

  5. Chris,
    I don’t see the enabling power of the Holy Spirit anywhere in your essay. The Spirit is the link between Sovereignty and Free Will. God is Sovereign and he gives us the ability to say yes, if we will. He commands us to Believe, and sends us to Hell, not for the sin we committ, but for rejecting the Free Gift of his Son. The Scripture you quoted is true, as is all Scripture. He does Choose, He does Predestinate, but it His good pleasure to choose those (not being bound by the time he created for us) that will believe, thus following the plan he created before the foundation of the world. He then predestinates those He has chosen, not to be saved (this is election) but to be conformed to the image of His Son. You are correct when you say that it is Grace, We do not even deserve the opportunity that He gives us.
    Because of Him,

  6. Jim,

    Thanks for chiming in. However, your comment confuses me, and I’m not sure what your position is.

    First you say (contrary to much of the Scripture in my original post, I believe), that man has a free will and can thus choose God unassisted. I believe that that’s a denial of the doctrine of depravity that permeates the Scriptures. Just so we’re not tripping over semantics, if you want to call man’s will free, then you must acknowledge that he is capable (or free) only of choosing sin if left to himself. That’s why I say he is not genuinely free.

    However, you later say, “The salvation process is all of grace as it is God that enables men to believe, John 1:13.” That was the whole point of my post!

    So do you believe that man is genuinely “free” in the sense that he is able to choose God without God’s initiating influence (as the first part of your post suggests) or not (as the end of your post suggests)?

  7. Chris,

    May I encourage you to read the book “The Dark Side of Calvinism” by Geoege Bryson. He Biblically refutes each of your assumptions with clear and cogent arguments. It is an excellent refutation of soteriological Calvinism…all 5 points of which are simply not found in the Word of God. http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Side-Calvinism-Calvinist-System/dp/1931667888/ref=pd_bbs_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1212860134&sr=8-3.

    Having studied this issue for over 40 years, I am more confident than ever before that just because someone is not a soteriological Calvinist, doesn’t mean he is an Arminian. I prefer the title “Biblicist.” Just because some of us reject “perserverance of the saints” doesn’t mean we don’t hold to eternal security. Isn’t “preservation of the saints” a more theologically sound phrase?

    I never cease to be amazed at those Fundamental Baptists who want to be identified with Calvin when they reject 90% of what he taught outside of salvational matters.

    May those enslaved to the heresies of Calvin and his offspring go back to the Bible instead of eating the husks of such a heretic.

  8. Hi, Steve.

    First, I think the work of the Spirit is very much the key in what I’m describing, and that is probably most evident in the 1 Cor 2 and 2 Cor 4 passages I cited.

    I think this statement of yours is avoiding the problem:

    “God is Sovereign and he gives us the ability to say yes, if we will.”

    That’s the point: we won’t.

    Also, I think trying to avoid a theological dilemma by saying that God chose those whom He knew would believe in Him wreaks havoc on language and theology. That’s how I understand this statement of yours:

    “He does Choose, He does Predestinate, but it His good pleasure to choose those (not being bound by the time he created for us) that will believe”

    If I’m understanding you correctly, you are making man sovereign, giving him the determinative choice. You’re say man believes and therefore God (based on His foreknowledge) elects; I think Scripture teaches precisely the opposite of that.

    Am I understanding you correctly?

    If Scripture says God has chosen us (and it does), I believe it means precisely that, and that we can’t dilute it by appealing to His omniscience—especially because apart from His intervention, no one can or will seek Him (which was the main point of the original post).

    Finally, Scripture teaches (especially in Eph 1:5, 9, 11) that God has done all of this on the basis of His own pleasure and will, not anything in us.

    Not that we’ll solve this centuries argument on MTC, I realize… :)

  9. Gary, feel free to engage the points of my initial post rather than lobbing grenades about some theological system. Do you disagree with my understanding of the fallen condition of man? If not, where am I mistaken? Do you believe I have misused the texts, say, which teach that there are none seeking after God or capable of understanding spiritual things without divine assistance? If so, which ones, and how? Do you really believe that the natural man is capable of choosing God on his own, apart from an initiating work of God? If so, where do you find that in the Scriptures?

    Pleases engage what I’m saying rather than merely throwing out accusations about what I might believe or what someone else has written about it. I’d appreciate it.

    p.s. I’m not a Baptist. :)


    With that, I’m out of the discussion until at least Monday. Feel free to chime in, but don’t expect a response over the rest of the weekend. Thanks for reading, and have a great Lord’s Day.

  10. When Satan told Eve she would not “surely die”, define for me the type of death God described would happen. I submit physical death was a curse, and spiritual death was the result of man’s disobedience.

    If man is “dead in his tresspasses and sins”, how then can a dead man raise himself from the dead?

    Jesus said, “Let the dead bury their dead”. I submit there is but One who can raise the “spiritual dead”, and that is Jesus Himself! Man has no power over his own spiritual deadness! Therefore, being dead, we were justified through His Blood!

    He whom God “quickened” (made ALIVE) must be a metaphor, right?

    Five points all the way, and PRAISE GOD , HE chose me for He first loved me before I loved Him!

  11. Chris,

    Outstanding article! A great celebration of God’s initiating grace and recognition that salvation is SUPERNATURAL!

    Of course man has a will – you never denied that – just a will under the curse of sin. Does the Bible offer an invitation – and even command – for “all men everywhere to repent” and “come, drink, freely?” Absolutely! Which places the responsiblity upon man. When he does not receive/believe an individual bears full responsibility and cannot somehow blame God for his unbelief. John 1:12 emphasizes the point.

    Yet God graciously and miraculously saves. “Moving of the Spirit,” “Power of the Gospel,” “Divine Unction” or whatever else it entails – salvation is God’s miraculous and merciful act from beginning to end! John 1:13 emphasizes the point.

    Thanks for emphasizing Biblical salvation!! As you said, without theological terms and citing controversies. Another favorite hymn, sung by every fundamentalist believer celebrates, “To God be the glory, great things He has done…”

  12. Ouch! This took me back a lot of years to the summers that I worked at camp. Up to that point I had never heard this song before (by Al Smith, if I remember correctly), but it was one that we taught the junior-aged boys and girls at camp. Hearing this brought a flood of heartbreaking memories: the children who would “get saved” every year; singing “Into My Heart” for 30+ minute invitations, and the counselor who incredulously asked the assistant camp director, “Do you really mean that there’s more to getting saved than just asking Jesus into my heart?” We had the “joy, joy, joy, joy down in our hearts,” but I realize now that in many cases we failed miserably to teach the Gospel, which is the “power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16).

    Count me as another who is eternally grateful that God does not leave my salvation (or sanctification) up to my willingness to “choose” Him! It’s been a long road from easy believism to Calvinism, but my appreciation of tulips has grown tremendously in recent years. :)

    Thanks for this post, Pastor Anderson. I hope that it challenges each of us to think very carefully about the theology that we sing! Have a blessed Lord’s Day!

  13. Thanks for this post.

    Just read this on the page “Spurgeon’s sermons” at The Spurgeon Archive

    “I do not come into this pulpit hoping that perhaps somebody will of his own free will return to Christ. My hope lies in another quarter. I hope that my Master will lay hold of some of them and say, ‘You are mine, and you shall be mine. I claim you for myself.’ My hope arises from the freeness of grace, and not from the freedom of the will.”
    Charles Haddon Spurgeon

    p.s. how’s the computer, if I dare.

  14. Chris,
    Great post. I’m glad to have “stumbled” across your blog. A little divine serendipity I think!

    You wrote, “Here’s the bottom line and my own testimony: I’m saved because of God’s choice, not mine. I’m saved because God mercifully intervened, giving me mercy rather than freedom and the damnation such freedom would inevitably have brought. In the words of John 1:13, I’ve been born again not because of my will or choice, but because of God’s. And Scripture calls that grace.”

    All I have to say is, “Amen!”

    Also, I think that you nailed one of the fundamental issues squarely when in response you brought the discussion back to defining total depravity. How we view our “will” is inseparably linked to what the Scriptures teach on our true fallen, dead and enslaved condition apart from Christ.

    I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog posts. Thanks!

  15. Chris,

    Thanks for that very well written post. I didn’t realize you had so many arminians…I mean “biblicists” in your readership. :)

    A phrase that a friend of mine used in a paper a while ago that was helpful to me in articulating the truths you have laid out is “God grace is the decisive factor in human salvation and perseverance.”

    Of course we have a will. God never saves us against that will. When we believe in Christ we are using our will to choose him. But it is not our unaided will. For as you have pointed out with clear Bible texts giving ample support our will is affected by the fall so that without the powerful grace of God intervening we will never choose Christ. But when God’s grace works in our life to bring us to salvation it is effective in what it intends to accomplish. God’s amazing Grace captures our will and breathes life into it so that we will choose him! That is what regeneration is all about!

    I have found John Frame’s critique of libertarian free will to be particularly helpful found in his Doctrine of God. Also Sam Storms’ Chosen For Life has an outstanding treatment of this issue. But as you have made it clear, one need turn no further than their bible to see these truths you have defended.

    Thanks for your post and your blog.

  16. Chris, I apologize for the confusion. Let’s keep it simple. If I hold to a specific doctrine and later
    find that that doctrine is contradicted by any point of Scripture. I have to abandon or at least
    adjust my doctrine. You state man does not have a free will. Being totally depraved, all of his
    choices are evil ones. The problem with your premise is that it contradicts Scripture. “And
    whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely”? (Rev. 22:17) If a man cannot will, this
    verse is meaningless. Steve had the key connecting point. God commands men to repent,
    knowing they do not have the ability to do so, but He will enable them to make the right choice,
    IF they are willing. But if you are correct, lost men do not have free wills which contradicts Holy
    Maybe, just maybe, I can help you see it thru another venue. How can you or I, yet being totally
    depraved in and ofourselves, do any good thing? I trust you preached a good message today,
    being faithful to the Word. You did it thru the enablement of the Holy SPirit of God. That’s
    exactly how God saved you. I am not sure of going on to “irresistible Grace” but I do believe that
    both of us resist the grace of God, much more often than we would like to confess. Men have free
    wills. You did not have to go to church today. Being totally depraved how did you do such a
    “good thing”? By God’s enabling grace. That’s how he saved you. You had to be willing,
    “whosoever wills may come” by God’s enabling power. Salvation is all of God. He does it all.
    And He has set forth that man must be willing. You nor I were saved BECAUSE we were
    wiling, (JOHN 1) but IF we were willing. Unworthy but His, Jim

  17. Jim,
    If I may join in the discussion for just a minute, if I understand him correctly Chris is not saying we are saved against our wills or even apart from our will. Certainly repentance and faith are expressions of our will. The point that Chris is arguing against is whether our will is free to do so apart from God’s grace. Many today would argue that for a will to be free it must be able to make any choice independent any external influence. This is usually described as libertarian free will. The scriptures that Chris so aptly laid out clearly demonstrate that the will of man is seriously affected by the fall. It is corrupted by sin so much that apart from God’s intervening grace we will not choose him. You are so concerned with what the scripture says … and that is good. So you need to deal with the scriptures that Christ used. For they certainly seem to support what he was saying. All he is saying is that if you want your will to be absolutely free from any external influence then you will never choose God.

    To me the clearest place that is taught is:

    John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

    John 6:63-65 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

    You must be drawn by God to be saved. Yes you make the choice, it is your will that repents and believes, but that will must be regenerated, it must be touched by the saving grace of God and made alive or else it won’t want to come. And if it is touched by God’s saving grace, it will come because it will want to.

    One of the best books you can read (outside the Bible) on this is Chosen For Life by Sam Storms. I would heartily recommend it.

  18. Chris,
    It seems to me after reading these posts, that the sticking points are (and this is nothing new): Is the grace of God RESISTABLE? And was the election of God UNCONDITIONAL? I believe that it is the enabling power of the Holy Spirit that gives man the chance to obey the command to believe. This is why the timing of salvation is of the Lord as well. Heb 6, though talking about those who will never be saved, gives us great insight to the drawing power of the Holy Spirit. We are made partakers, we are enlightened, this is how a “dead” man (in his trespasses and sins) can act like a living man. The power is not his, but the Spirits. We , empowered as we are with this heavenly gift, can say yes or no to the grace of God, This is Free Will. Without this enlightenment, or Gift we would be bound to our natures, and thus ALWAYS making the wrong choice. So left to ourselves, yes of course we would choose our sin. This is TOTAL DEPRAVITY. But the scripture is full of watching God limit himself as he deals with us. Look at the countless times he gives orders to his people in the OT. Then empowers them to obey. We also see the flip side, them having the power to obey, but choosing something else. God is SOVERIEGN, but he limits himself, this does not make man soveriegn. Choosing according to foreknowlege (1 Peter 1) does not make God slave to our desires, but gives us accountability for a choice that we (through His power) can now make either way. God’s foreknowlege is foreordination, (not in essence but in function)because he cannot lie. To say that

    You’re say man believes and therefore God (based on His foreknowledge) elects;

    shows a lack of understanding of the infinite God. And believe me, I do not understand that scope either. We tend to think of God in our terms. He did not “look ahead” into history and see who would believe, and choose them. That would be binding Him to our choice. The fact that He is not bound by time puts him in both places “at the same time” as it were. He is Infinite God, He created time for us. It is not necessary for us to categorize something that is beyond our scope, I am not saying this to cop our either, Chris, but this is truly where Soveriegnty and Free Will come together.
    Sorry for the length. I appreciate your answer.
    Because of Him,

  19. Thanks, all, for your input. I’m really not sure what I can say that won’t just be a repetition of my original post, so I’ll just point you back there for clarifications of what I mean. I do hope you’ll consider it further. If we get anything right, it had better be this!


    Sam, it appears that Spurgeon hasn’t read Bryson. :)


    Ken Heizer! It’s been a long time—like 20 years! So glad you chimed in, friend. I’d love to keep in contact with you!

  20. Last post (I think),
    The problem with your point is that it is impossible for a lost man to believe (from your line of thinking). How can a man be saved by believing if he has to be regenerated in order to believe? He needs to have access to the heavenly gift (Heb 6) in order to have the ability to believe. But at the same time, this freedom does not dictate his answer. He can say “no” with this freedom (Still Heb 6). This ability to be saved (given by God “lest any man should boast”) keeps salvation all of God. Man can take no credit for what he has no power to do, and what he will not do if left to himself. But Thank the Lord, no man ever born has been left to himself. John tells us that this light has enlightened everyman that cometh into the world. To go too far to the left or right will give Satan cause to bring reproach upon the name of the Lord. Let us not be bound to a system but the Book of Books!!!
    Because of Him,

  21. Steve and Jim,

    I’ve avoided using theological terms or even theological conclusions, attempting to draw my points directly from explicit texts. However, if we are going to talk theology, what you’re advocating is what has traditionally been labeled asSemi-Pelagianism, which I believe has an inadequate view of the extent of the fall and can easily result in a distortion of the gospel. I don’t say that lightly at all, friends.

  22. And on and on we go. My best friend is a die-hard Calvinist, and I am not (doesn’t make me an Arminian or a semi-pelagian – which are heretical). We have debated this same thing for the last 10 years (since freshmen in college) and all we got was stronger in both of our respective positions.

    All I can say is balance is found in Scripture. You cannot do away with man’s free will, or he is no longer made in God’s image. You cannot do away with the absolute sovereignty of God, or He would not be God. These two concepts do not fit together logically. Finite man will never be able to understand an infinite God. We mess things up every time we try. This is where I see the Calvinism/Arminianism debate to be. It will be debated by godly men until Christ returns.

  23. It is truly sad that what is not understood fully has to be pigeon-holed, or categorized to be marginalized. Chris,
    If I were semi-pelagian, I would not say that man does not seek after God, I would not say that man left in and of himself will not say yes to God. I would not say that he has no power to believe in and of himself. I am not a hyper-calvinist, neither can I call myself Arminian, nor semi-pelagian. If that makes me a Biblicist… so be it. I take that comment as a compliment, not in the derrogatory manner in which it was intended by Ryan. The Free Will of Man and the Sovereignty of God are not contradictory concepts, or they both would not be taught in the way in which they are in Scripture. They fit together, just not in a way that has been systematized or made part of a movement. To need this speaks to our insecurity, Why can’t we let the Scripture speak and let it stand on its own.
    I appreciate the discussion, the lack of personal attacks accompanying it, and the spirit of seeking truth that I believe is driving it. Hopefully we can allow the Spirit to keep us moving in the right direction.
    Because of Him,

  24. Steve, I appreciate that it is frustrating to be pigeon-holed or misunderstood. That wasn’t my intention, and if I’ve misrepresented what you believe, I apologize. That is, however, how I understood the arguments you put forward.

    FWIW, I went out of my way not to promote “Calvinism” with the post. It wasn’t even in my mind (which is why Ben’s question initially puzzled me). I didn’t mention “the C-word” or “the A-word,” but instead cited and explained biblical texts that deal with the natural man’s unwillingness and inability to seek God unless divinely enabled to do so. I believe those texts were essentially dismissed rather than engaged by those in disagreement. Contrary to the way the discussion was eventually framed, I believe that this is a matter of exegesis, not just theological systems (as necessary as systemization is).

    I maintain that were God to “leave it to us” as the song says, we would all be damned. Again, our wills are bound to sin, and thus really aren’t free. God’s leaving us in that state and leaving the choice to us rather than intervening would be the equivalent of reprobation. We need His enabling mercy, not His passivity.

    I’ll not plan to post more here unless I’m directly questioned.

  25. I need just one clarification from the other side of the debate. Exactly where in Scripture is the free will of man explicitly “taught”? I can point to scores of Scriptures where the sovereignty of God is actually taught, but have yet to come across any verse in the Bible that “teaches” that man’s will is free.
    On a side note to Jon S., to say that man’s having a free will is what it means to be made in the image of God goes way beyond the text of Scripture. There is absolutely no way that you can substantiate that from the text. Sorry.
    Chris, it’s been great to read how you have been the true “biblicist” in this little debate on your blog. It’s not about Calvin, it’s about what the text says! Bravo!

  26. Kris,
    The free will of man is manifested from cover to cover, Gen. to Revelation. Rev. 22:17, the Holy Spirit and the Bride3 are saying “come” to the lost. “And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” God does the enabling, but man MUST be willing. Lost man must be willing. See Acts 16:31, Paul told a lost jailor to believe and “…thou shalt be (future) saved.” One last reference, Jesus told lost religious men that they were not willing to come to Him that they might have (it was possible) eternal life (John5:40). If they were unable to be willing, why did Christ hold them accountable for something they had no control over? Unworhty, but His, Jim

  27. Jim,

    One of the historic arguments against man’s total inability is certainly the assumption that the commands of the Bible contain an implicit affirmation that man is able. But I think this is reading something into the text that is not there.

    Some dismiss as nonsensical the idea that God will hold to account those who do not trust Christ if they do not have the ability to will to do so. But what of this hypothetical counter-example: if a man incurred $2 billion of credit card debt, does he not have the responsibility to pay it even if he has no ability to do so? Even though he should pay it, he can’t. Responsibility does not prove, or necessarily assume, ability.

    His clay pot,

  28. (Poking my head back in.)


    To add to that, the Bible is filled with commands that the natural man cannot possibly obey—he doesn’t want to, nor is he able to. To argue that a command (such as “be perfect as your Father is perfect” in Matt 5:48) assumes the ability to accomplish it will lead to some strange conclusions.

    (Poking my head back out.)

  29. Jim,
    Thanks for the references you cited, but these verses do not explicitly “teach” that man has a free will. You are interpreting. I will submit my mind to that of the Scriptures, but not man’s reasoning from the Scriptures. Please show me a clear statement from Scripture where man’s free will is “taught.” God’s sovereignty is implicit throughout the Bible, but it is also explicit – “The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble!” Ps. 99:1. I find no explicit teaching like that concerning the free will of man.

  30. I liken this debate to the Energizer Bunny. It keeps going and going and going and ……………………………………….

  31. This analogy is incorrect:

    But what of this hypothetical counter-example: if a man incurred $2 billion of credit card debt, does he not have the responsibility to pay it even if he has no ability to do so? Even though he should pay it, he can’t. Responsibility does not prove, or necessarily assume, ability.

    The Lord isn’t asking anyone to pay the debt. They can’t. That is where inability lies. He is asking them to accept his payment of the debt. Quite a different matter.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  32. Still, Don, do you believe that unbelievers are able to “accept His payment of the debt” unaided by Him? Can a natural man, left to himself, choose God? That’s the point of the post.

  33. Hi Chris

    If one has a will, he is capable of choice. I think Calvinists deny human nature in their definition of will.

    There is a lot to be said on this issue, more than I want to take the time for here.

    But I do acknowledge that something more than mere ability to choose is necessary for a man to be able to choose Christ. Read Rm 10 and you will see what it is, I think. This is where the enabling comes in, but it is resistable.

    I have to beat it to the office, so I’ll leave it there. Maybe I can give you a bit more later.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  34. Chris,

    To answer your last reply to Don of which Don hit on.

    Absolutely not. Man cannot come to God without God giving him the ability. Left to himself, man will not choose God.

  35. Man left to himself is already exposing his own “will”. He wills to reject God on a daily basis. Someone, other than man, has to overshadow man’s will, and create in the man a new will. That Man is Jesus Christ. To make the claim man has a choice in rejecting God’s Will, when God Chooses to Elect a sinner to be His child is making the claim that man’s will is equal to, or greater than God’s Will! As someone sitting in the pew, I have to reject that belief.

  36. Hi Chris

    Just a few more thoughts at the end of the day… I am back late from a Bible study in a neighbouring town, pretty good turnout, so I am home happy.

    First, Jon S made this comment:

    To answer your last reply to Don of which Don hit on.

    Uhh… I still can’t quite make that one out, Jon, maybe you can clarify?

    Now as to this will business… I did some reading on it this afternoon. I found a quite interesting article in the Detroit Seminary Journal by Gerald Priest that seemed to indicate Jonathan Edwards conceived of something like almost “two wills” to solve the problem this presents. The article is entitled “Andrew Fuller’s Response To The ‘Modern Question’ – A Reappraisal Of The Gospel Worthy Of All Acceptation” and it comes from the Fall 2001 edition, beginning on p. 46. (I may not be stating Edwards position exactly right, just trying to summarize several lengthy paragraphs of discussion in one brief statement.)

    My point in mentioning this is that the problem of man’s will has bedeviled Bible believing preachers for a long time. Men with greater minds than ours have wrestled with it, sometimes making statements that no one is completely comfortable with. It is not an easy problem to solve.

    What you have stated in the article (and several others have repeated in the thread) is standard fare for Calvinists [or should I say ‘neo-Calvinists’???] It is, it seems to me, a much too simplistic answer and easy answer. It fits a humanly constructed system, but still really doesn’t answer the questions concerning the nature of the will.

    If the pat answer of Calvinism really satisfied, no one would question it. At least, no Bible believer would. But many do.

    I think the reason for this state of affairs is that the Lord has not seen fit to fully reveal the nature of the human will, the full details of the tension between sovereignty and responsibility, and the nature of the divine drawing and the human receiving. Thus we keep wrestling with the data, and, mostly depending on our presuppositions, come up with competing systems. AND no one ever proves anything, except that we like to argue.

    Earlier I pointed to Rm 10. I would like to point out that it is preaching that seems necessary for salvation to be possible. I would like to expand that a little bit to mean ‘special revelation and the proclamation thereof’. In other words, as men preach the word, lost men are able to receive or reject that word. If they receive it, they are born again. If they reject it, they are still damned.

    Another passage that seems to illustrate this point is Mt 13 and the parable of the sower and the seed. In each case, the seed has the same power. In each case, different reasons are given for the success of the seed: the activity of the devil, the wavering of the soul under worldly pressure, the distracted soul immersed in worldly amusements, and the willing soul who receives the word gladly. I’ll not go into a detailed look at it, but I think that you can see where I would be going with that much.

    Ultimately, you can keep debating all this all you like. I used to get into these arguments pretty regularly, but I am really tired of them. I don’t think they are all that profitable and they don’t seem to me to serve much of a spiritual purpose.

    I jumped into this one here simply because it seemed the one illustration “proving” the Calvinist point was going entirely in the wrong direction and making a caricature out of the opposing points of view. I don’t think anyone who is a Bible believer argues that man has the capacity of choosing to satisfy his debt of sin. It’s kind of slanderous, actually, to suggest that your opponents believe that.

    Ok, gone on long enough. I’m counting this as ‘therapy’ as I ‘unwind’ from my Bible study.. we were in Revelation 15 tonight, a pretty dramatic chapter. The fireworks start next month with Rev 16.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  37. Sorry for the confusion Don!

    What I meant to say was that I was replying to Chris’s question, even though you had already done so. I was in a hurry. What can I say.

  38. Don, I certainly agree that there is a divine power in the preached Word of God. No doubt. But your position still seems to run into trouble with 1 Cor 2:14. The natural man can’t benefit from the preached Word apart from the intervening ministry of the Spirit. So we’re back to the inability of the lost to respond to God apart from divine initiative. No?

  39. Hi Chris,

    Re: 1 Cor 2.14, I think you are reading more into this than is intended by the passage, because of the other passages telling us to simply preach the Word, and that by hearing belief comes. So a holistic approach to the passages concerning the power of the Word has to inform our understanding of 1 Cor 2.14. It can’t contradict the other passages.

    Anyway, I don’t want to get into a long back and forth on this, just making the point that I think the systematic approach is too simplistic and doesn’t account for everything. If it did, we wouldn’t be arguing.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  40. Hi, Don.

    Re: 1 Cor 2.14, I think you are reading more into this than is intended by the passage, because of the other passages telling us to simply preach the Word, and that by hearing belief comes. So a holistic approach to the passages concerning the power of the Word has to inform our understanding of 1 Cor 2.14. It can’t contradict the other passages.

    Or the opposite is true. I could as easily say “I think you’re reading more into Rom 10 (or less) than is intended, because of the other passages telling us that preaching without divine illumination is ineffective. So a holistic approach to the passages concerning the need for illumination has to inform our understanding of Rom 10. It can’t contradict the other passages.” :)

    Consider point 4 of my original post. Or don’t. We’re getting nowhere.

  41. “We’re” getting nowhere.”

    Dido, brother. Dido.

  42. You’re trying to get somewhere???

    That is my point exactly. It’s a fruitless argument. There is no final authoritative answer and we are all coming to the table with our own presuppositions. In my opinion, it’s not worth getting agitated about.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  43. Chris,
    I agree with your post 100%. Dead men can’t believe without the quickening of God – it is all of Grace. Keep up your great work!

  44. Well, Ryan, the fact that I’m getting nowhere with Don doesn’t mean that I have any doubt about the fact that we’re right. :)

    And that song is still hideous.

    BTW, thanks for chiming in. It’s always great to hear from old college friends. Ho, Z! ;)

  45. I was a paramedic for a long time. A long time. I never saw a dead person ever shock him/her-self back to life. Never. Dead is dead. Declared so by the MDs who pronounce it. Once it’s pronounced, quick the resuscitation. The next step is bury them. Dead. Gone. No chance. It’s over. Goodby. Dead people don’t write books, buy groceries, go to the ballgame, etc (but sometimes they do vote, go figure). They are dead.

    If God says we are dead in our tresspasses and sins, my friends, we can never, NOT EVER, hope to save ourselves. We are dead, dead, dead. But God be praised for his quickening Spirit. He is the Great Physician who raises us from the dead by his power and grace to life everlasting. Thanks for the GREAT post, dear brother. I agree 100%

  46. Oh, and I’m not a calvinist, btw. I’m not arminian either.

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