Free will vs God’s sovereignity

Free will song

In a post at the Calvinist Gadfly, the comments section has exploded with a discussion about the word in the song linked, and its validity in terms of the sovereignity of God. The fairly predictable “free-willers” chose to engage mostly with insults, assertions and of course, their own version of what is fair and not fair that even God is subject to. There was precious little Scripture quoted to support the premise in the song, yet plenty of dancing around the Scripture quoted to support the antithesis.

I have commented before on the free will issue here, and I continue to believe that man only has free will within the boundaries of his spiritual state. Man’s spiritual state is totally and utterly dependent on God and His mercy, as either regenerate or not. To assert otherwise is human arrogance to the extreme.

It continues to amaze me that people will recognize that God created everything there is, except the determining factors for His most important creation, the human soul. I have not yet heard a cogent explanation how that is possible. If God created all there is, that includes the environment in which humans make decisions. And if that is to be described as determinism, then so be it. I am comforted by the fact that God determines things, not threatened by it. The ‘free-willers” act as if reformed theology is somehow preventing a crowd of passionate, repentant, believing people to enter heaven because they are not elect. The whole point is that no-one can be repentant without being regenerated, and no-one can be regenerated by anything else than the mercy and grace of God.

So even if it appears that people are “choosing God”, they are doing so because they have been regenerated by God. It is just human arrogance that assigns the glory to themselves.

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8 responses to “Free will vs God’s sovereignity

  1. What I don’t understand is how they account for themselves being saved whereas others are not. What they are really saying is that they are better people than the unsaved. They are smarter, more resourceful, etc. They must be, since we all have free will, and the saved made better use out of God’s gift of salvation than they unsaved. What would they attribute this inherent goodness to?

    I Love John Owen’s “The Idol of Free Will“. Says it all.

  2. They will of course say that it is synergism, that they co-operate with the Holy Spirit. That does not remove the problem though, since one then has to establish the boundaries between the 2 wills at work, the human will and Gods will. And you have to accept that somehow the human will is co-equal in this co-operation, something completely foreign to the Bible.

  3. PL — You can’t really mean what you are saying, since you know Arminians who really do not feel that they are smarter or more resourceful — just more faithful and more humble; and most of them will acknowledge they have been taught by the Holy Spirit to a great extent. They just took the first step of faith…(which is not smart, nor resourceful, but giving up on your own resources).

    I read another piece by Owen today about the same topic. The thing I found intriguing is that he admitted that some things are contingent (not quite compatibilistic, after all?). Also, he believed in some kind of ‘synergism’ or ‘cooperation’, not in coming to faith or keeping it, but in sanctification. The Spirit cooperates with & sustains the believer’s will.

  4. John Owen and Synergism? Turgonian, can you point me to the reference on that? Perhaps no writer in the history of the Christian Church has written more against synergism that Owen. His works “A Display of Arminianism” and “The Death of Death” are, to this day, the masterpieces on the subject. Owen’s arguments have never been refuted.

    I’m not criticizing the personality traits of an Arminian (In fact, there aren’t very many true Arminians today). It’s the theology that I am criticizing. They won’t come out and say that are smarter or better than the unbeliever. It’s just that, once you get down to the nitty-gritty of salvation, there is no other option. How would they account for the fact that two people, with the exact same “free will”, can hear the exact same gospel message, and have two different results. In their theology, the believer is saved, ultimately, because he made a better decision that the lost man. Even if they hold themselves to be “more faithful and more humble”, they are still qualities that they must inherently possess over the unbeliever.

    On another note, check this out/ Oooof…

    http://store.khouse.org/store/catalog/DL039.html?mv_pc=KH66-189

  5. Turgy,

    I don’t think that there are any reformers who deny the nature of sanctification as anything but co-operative obedience. However, we should not confuse sanctification with regeneration and justification. In the Arminian view, regeneration follows faith and justification, it does not precede it.

    That view implies that while there is synergism, it is dependent on a first leap of faith from the person, and does not result from a changing of the heart by the Holy Spirit.

    As you mentioned Owen and his views of sanctification, here is a direct quote from him:

    “Paul’s prayer for Christians is that the God of peace would sanctify them completely (1 Thess. 5:23). His assurance is that ‘he is faithful, who will do it’ (v. 24).
    From this prayer we learn firstly, that the one who sanctifies us is God. As God gave us our beings, so he gives us our holiness. It is not by nature but by grace that we are made holy. Secondly, we learn that the one who sanctifies us is emphatically declared to be God himself. If God does not do it, no-one else will. And thirdly, we learn that the one who sanctifies us is the ‘God of peace’ (Rom. 15:33; 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9; Hel). 13:20).
    God has promised to sanctify us, to work this holiness in us; he does not leave us to do it by our own ability and power (Jer. 31:33; 32:39, 40; Ezek. 36:26, 27).
    And what should be our response to the promise that God will make us holy? Firstly, we must remember our utter inability to obey the command to be holy. Then we must see that our sufficiency is in God. Secondly, we must adore that grace which has promised to do in us what we are unable to do ourselves. Thirdly, we must pray in faith, believing God’s promise to make us holy, and look to him to supply us with all grace necessary to walk in holiness. Fourthly, we should pray specially for that grace to keep us holy in times of temptation and when called to carry out special and difficult duties.
    Finally, we must never forget that it is the Holy Spirit who sanctifies all believers, and who produces all holiness in them. (Psa. 51:10?12; Ezek 11:19; 36:25?27; Rom. 8:914; 1 Cor. 6:11; 1 Pet. 1:2; Isa. 4:4; 44:3, 4; Titus3:4, 5).”

    It is clear that Owen says that we do obey, but only because we are enabled to do so by the work of the Holy Spirit, a far cry from the synergism proposed by Arminians.

  6. PL — Sure I can. It was in an article against Arminians, too, titled Of the Providence of God in governing the world diversely, thrust from this pre-eminence by the Arminian idol of Free-Will. Quotes:

    Contingency
    Secondly, show the manner how God worketh all, in all things, and according to the diversity of secondary causes which he hath created; whereof some are necessary, some free, others contingent, which produce their effects nec pantón, nec epi to polu, sed kata sumthethèkon, merely by accident. […]
    That God by his providence governeth and disposeth of all things by him created is sufficiently proved; the manner how he worketh all in all, how he ordereth the works of his own hands, in what this governing and disposing of his creatures doth chiefly consist, comes now to be considered. […] Thirdly, His powerful overruling of all events, both necessary, free, and contingent, and disposing of them to certain ends for the manifestation of his glory.

    This sounds very uncompatibilistic to me. And now about what you really asked:

    Synergism
    Let us now jointly apply these several acts to free agents, working according to choice, or relation, such as are the wills of men, and that will open the way to take a view of Arminian heterodoxies, concerning this article of Christian belief. And here two things must be premised:—First, That they be not deprived of their own radical or original internal liberty; secondly, That they be not exempt from the moving influence and gubernation of God’s providence;—the first whereof would leave no just room for rewards and punishments; the other, as I said before, is injurious to the majesty and power of God.

    ‘Radical or original internal liberty’. Ouch. 😀 But I do agree that Owen isn’t saying that man is able to come to God by his own free will.

  7. Turgonian,

    That isn’t synergism. I am in complete agreement with Owen that man is “not deprived of their own radical or original internal liberty”. As I stated in the Myth of Libertarian Free Will, man does have a will, which is free to do what it wants to do. Owen would agree completely. But man is not free to act outside of “the moving influence and gubernation of God’s providence”. Even man’s free acts are under the awesome sovereignty of God, who turns even a king’s heart withersoever He wills (Proverbs 21:1). Owen’s statement is good old fashioned, monergism, Calvinism, Augustinianism, etc.

    As far as contingency goes, I am in agreement there as well. For example, if I jump off of a roof, God does not have to create some new law to force me to fall to the ground. He has already created the law of gravity which governs our universe. But God does not “predestine” things contingently. He does not have to learn the future in order to predestine. That, by definition, is not predestination.

    Hope this explains Owen’s view better. Owen and I are in complete agreement.

  8. Turgonian,

    If you want to know about Owen’s view of “contingency”, you need look no further than the complete title of his “Display of Arminianism”. (I Love Puritan Titles).

    A DISPLAY OF ARMINIANISM:

    BEING

    A DISCOVERY OF THE OLD PELAGIAN IDOL FREE-WILL, WITH THE
    NEW GODDESS CONTINGENCY,

    ADVANCING THEMSELVES INTO THE THRONE OF THE GOD OF HEAVEN, TO THE
    PREJUDICE OF HIS GRACE, PROVIDENCE, AND SUPREME DOMINION OVER THE CHILDREN OF MEN;

    Wherein
    THE MAIN ERRORS BY WHICH THEY ARE FALLEN OFF FROM THE RECEIVED DOCTRINE OF ALL THE REFORMED CHURCHES, WITH THEIR OPPOSITION IN DIVERS PARTICULARS TO THE DOCTRINE ESTABLISHED IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND, ARE DISCOVERED AND LAID OPEN OUT OF THEIR OWN WRITINGS AND CONFESSIONS, AND CONFUTED BY THE WORD OF GOD.

    The entire book is a must-read (but be forewarned. Synergists won’t like it very much).

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