In this last post, I end the discussion of proving the doctrine of inability. We can prove the doctrine of the inability of man is by discussing the work of regeneration. This is not a work where man is able to regenerate himself. This is not a work where man can make a decision to be regenerate either. Because the ability to make a spiritual decision implies that the person is spiritually able. The work of regeneration is a work of God that demonstrates God’s power:“having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,” (Ephesians 1:18–20 ESV) And all Christian duties are therefore “the fruits of the Spirit”: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22–23 ESV)
And the doctrine of the inability of humanity is proven “from the consciousness of every convinced sinner.” What makes conviction so great is not the sins that the person has committed. But the recognition of the sinfulness of their heart. It is the recognition of how they have hated the divine and holy things and from this has stemmed the actual transgressions.
The doctrine of the inability of humanity is shown from the experience of the human race notes Hodge. “If any man has ever naturally possessed ability to perform his spiritual duties, it is certain that no one has ever exercised it.”
Regarding the estate where the regenerate or born again person are introduced by grace, the Westminster standards affirm.
- The regenerate Christian remains a free agent as they were prior. The regenerate Christian is willing always from his desires.
- And the act of regeneration by the Holy Spirit has implanted something that was not there prior. A new “principle, habit, or tendency in the affections of the soul, which, being subsequently nourished and directed by the indwelling Spirit, frees the man from his natural bondage under sin, and enables him prevailingly to will freely that which is spiritually good.” The Christian however remains in a type of conflict because there remains the old corrupt moral habit of soul. There remains tendencies so that Christians do not perfectly will only those things which are good but those with are evil.
When the Christian is glorified in heaven, the Confession teaches that humanity continue as before, free agents. However, in heaven in their glorified state they have lost their old corrupt state forever. Additionally, those dispositions that were implanted in the Christian in regeneration are perfected and their whole person is brought to the measure of the stature of perfect “manhood in the likeness of Christ’s glorified humanity.” In heaven we are perfectly free of our corrupt moral nature and unchangeably disposed to holiness.1. Adam was holy and unstable. 2. The unregenerate person is unholy and stable (fixed in unholiness). The Regenerate person has two opposite tendencies competing for their heart, with the person caught in the “middle”. But the tendency to holiness implanted in the regenerate person prevails in the end. 3. Glorified persons are holy and stable.
All are free, and therefore responsible. The hope of posting this series on free will as understood by the Reformed confessions is that there would stop being these characterizations that don’t even represent what the Confessions teach. Hopefully, the critic of the Reformed confessions can start with the confessions, understand what is being said and what isn’t being said. Then they can go from there and disagree but hopefully in understanding what is being said they will see how this is true to Scripture and common sense.