What is meant by liberty? Hodge, “By liberty we mean the inalienable prerogative of the human soul of exercising volition as it pleases. In this sense man is as free now as before the fall.” Understand an important point what something has changed in the Fall but it wasn’t freedom or agency. It was ability. What we are able to do has changed. That we act in accordance with our nature has not.
What is meant by ability? Hodge, “By ability we mean the capacity either to will in opposition to the desires and affections of the soul at the time, or by a bare exercise of volition to make oneself desire and love that which one does not spontaneously desire or love.”
Reformed theology therefore affirms that liberty exists in the person. This liberty to will is not in opposition to its desires and affections. I think this is key. That the ability of humanity is not a constitution of the soul while liberty is. Restated, the soul has “liberty” not “ability”. Humanity therefore wills according to their pleasure but they cannot will themselves to desire differently from what pleases him.
The will is moved in accordance with the moral condition of the heart. To state in the negative, the act of the will cannot change the moral condition of the heart or act contrary to it.
- This inability is absolute. Humanity has no power (direct or indirect) to fulfill the moral law or to receive Christ. Humanity has no power (direct or indirect) to change his nature that would increase their power, and therefore they can not do their duties without grace, and man cannot prepare himself to receive grace.
- This inability is moral. Humanity since the Fall still has as before the Fall all the constitutional faculties that are required for moral agency. This inability (that is moral) is ground solely in the wrong moral state of those faculties. It is the evil moral disposition of the soul. It isn’t an issue of Liberty. It’s an issue of the moral ability.
- This inability is natural. This means it is not accidental. Inability is innate and is in the moral state of our souls by our nature. This natural inability in humanity exists in the universal state of our souls and has been propagated since the Fall
- The inability is not natural in the sense that it is original. Man was not created with this inability. It is not natural meaning how humanity was created. This inability is not the result of a “constitutional deficiency” or “development of our natural moral faculties” originally given by God.
Scripture attest to these
“Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.” Jeremiah 13:23 ESV
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”” John 6:44, 65 ESV
“So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. Romans 9:16 ESV
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.” 1Corinthians 2:14 ESV