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The critique that in Reformed theology there is no free will is a great misunderstanding. Chapter IX of the Westminster Confession of Faith is entitled “Of Free Will”. Usually this misunderstanding is based off a different definition or lack of understanding of how free will/freedom is defined in Reformed theology. Therefore in the beginning we must define “freedom”. John Murray gives a helpful definition
Freedom is thus defined negatively and affirmatively, as the absence of compulsion and self-determination respectively.
In other words, freedom exists when the act with not from force and the person acts as they desire. This freedom is also the basis of accountability. Murray argues that a person is responsible for their actions because those actions are the outworking of the person’s will (or volition). Persons are responsible for their volitions because volitions are given energy by the person they belong to. It therefore follows that a person’s volition is an expression of who they are. It reflects their mind, their heart, their biases, and their prejudices. (more…)
When we discuss Calvinism and the question of “free will” comes about, it is helpful to break things down for the sake of clarity. It may be helpful to start with human action and move backwards to consider what determines a person’s action. The point of this post is to demonstrate what the root of our actions is. It is not about “free agency” but about the root of our free actions. The term “free will” is often used rather sloppily, in general terms. Yet the Calvinist and the non-Calvinist often mean something different by the term. I find the term helpfully defined in many places but for the sake of this post John Murray’s will be used
the will of man is regarded as autonomous and undetermined, and capable of volition good or bad, apart from any previous conditioning by our moral and religious character (Murray, Collected Writings, 2.60)
Here is a very helpful discussion/debate on the teaching of Romans 9
It has been asked about the doctrine of Total Depravity, “If we are totally depraved, then how did we come to know of this estate of sin and misery?” Beza, in his works discussing the question “For what ends the Holy Spirit use the preaching of the Law?” is helpful here.
Citing John 9:41, (Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains) Beza reminds the reader that in our fallen estate, corruption reigns in us to such an extent, that we are ignorant of our ignorance. In our fallenness, we are pleased with those things which ought to displease us. We suppress the light of truth that we have as Paul states in Romans:
Rom 1:20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
Rom 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Rom 1:22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools;
Rom 2:1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.
“Ah! sir, the Lord must have loved me before I was born, or else He would not have seen anything in me to love afterwards.” I am sure it is true in my case; I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love.
Spurgeon, Charles H. (2010-05-14). A Defense of Calvinism (Kindle Locations 61-63). . Kindle Edition. (more…)
The inevitable question arises when we witness a committed and faithful Christian leave the Church. It raises the question “Can people who are saved lose their salvation?” In Reformed theology this answer falls under the letter “P” in the acrostic TULIP. Generally called the Perseverance of the Saints it speaks to the elect and how they can never ultimately fall away. In the subject of the Perseverance of the Saints, God is the active agent and the objects of God’s perseverance are the saints. This needs to be understood rightly because otherwise it might suggest that the persevering is something that we do in and of ourselves. Of course Reformed teaching holds that the elect truly do persevere to the end. But the reason they persevere is because God perseveres or as R.C. Sproul has termed “God has preserved them”. In the teaching of “the Perseverance of the Saints” I usually re-phrase it as “the Perseverance of God” to emphasize the divine agency. To emphasize that God continues to maintain the elect and if he didn’t there could be no Church at all. (more…)
Ambrose (lived 340-397) was an archbishop. He was considered one of the doctors of the Church because of his wisdom in dealing with issues of the Church. Calvin, writes concerning Ambrose in his “A Treatise of the Eternal Predestination of God”.
Ambrose summarizes why all men don’t come to Christ, because God does not effectually touch their hearts. Now for the Calvinist, this is nothing new. Ambrose should say this because it comports with Scripture. But for those who would try to argue that Calvinist doctrine popped up out of thin air in the 1500s they would be either ignorant or liars. We should be charitable and before calling men liars at least give them the lesser accusation of being ignorant.