The Will A Study of Volitions in light of the Fall By Jack Kettler
Definition of Volition:
A noun – the faculty or power of using one’s will.
Definition of the free will of man:
The ability to make one’s own decisions as to what one will do, choosing as one pleases in light of one’s own sense of right and wrong and the inclination one feels; the ability to make willing choices that have real effects. Sometimes called free will. *
Freedom of self-determination and action independent of external causes. **
Are these two definitions regarding free will biblical? Do they take into account the fall of mankind into sin? What about internal causes such as the sinful, fallen nature of man? Can the sinful internal will of man change how he responds to external temptations or causes?
Consider the following questions when studying the will of man and his fall into sin:
- Is the will fallen or free?
- Is man dead in sin except for the will?
- Has sin changed the will? If so, in what way?
- If man’s will is free, was man’s fall into sin only partial?
- The will of man, chooses, does the fall into sin change the choices that are made?
- Can a fallen man’s will choose righteousness? If so, how can a man be said to be fallen or dead in sin?
In the view of some, man is not really spiritually dead. Man, according to some popular beliefs, just needs an opportunity and a little help. He can recognize his condition, and call for help. When help comes and assistance is provided, man can climb up a ladder out of the problem that faces him.
Unfortunately, much that passes for correct teaching on man’s will is complete prideful nonsense. What about the Mormons view of man’s will? I am using Mormon teaching on the topic as a discussion ploy to stimulate consideration.
Are the Mormon leaders correct in their view of free will?
Former Mormon leader, Joseph F. Smith provides some interesting information on this subject:
“Let us illustrate: A man walking along the road happens to fall into a pit so deep and dark that he cannot climb to the surface and regain his freedom. How can he save himself from his predicament? Not by any exertions on his part, for there is no means of escape in the pit. He calls for help and some kindly disposed soul, hearing his cries for relief, hastens to his assistance and by lowering a ladder, give to him the means by which he may climb again to the surface of the earth. This was precisely the condition that Adam placed himself and his posterity in.” (1)
The first man, Adam, according to Mormonism, is aware of his condition and is able to cry for help. When the ladder is lowered down to him, he can climb out of the pit. Is this the condition of fallen man that is outlined in Scripture? Of course not. This is simply a form of humanism or works for salvation. This view of man’s condition was also known as Pelagianism. Pelagius was a British monk. Man in this system essentially saves himself by following the example of Christ using his free will. In the early church, Pelagianism was condemned as heresy during the fourth century through the theological debates with St. Augustine of Hippo.
Consider another Mormon leader on free will:
Former Mormon apostle, LeGrand Richards explains his understanding of human free will:
“Thus all nations and people have free agency and, according to their choice, the Lord will do unto them…. If all men are not saved, it will be because they, in the exercise of their free will, do not accept his gift of grace.” (2)
Richards believes that man, though unsaved, has the power within himself to exercise his free will. If a man does not do this then he will not be saved. The thoughtful reader should see that if the will is free, there is an ability in man to help save himself.
These two quotations from Mormon leaders seem to be consistent with much modern-day evangelicalism. In contrast, the historic Protestant view teaches that man is spiritually dead and unable to call for help or even recognize his condition until regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
The Scriptures that are most cited when approaching the subject of mankind’s fall and its effects are:
“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:17)
“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5)
“Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight. How much more abominable and filthy is man which drinketh iniquity like water?” (Job 15:15-16)
“The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Psalms 14:2-3)
“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalms 51:5)
“Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” (Ecclesiastes 8:11)
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)
“But we are as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64:6)
“Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.” (Jeremiah 13:23)
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
“The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net. That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, the prince asketh, and the judge asketh for a reward; and the great man, he uttereth his mischievous desire: so they wrap it up. The best of them is as a brier: the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge: the day of thy watchmen and thy visitation cometh; now shall be their perplexity.” (Micah 7:2-4)
“There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10-12)
“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19)
“Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” (John 6:53)
“As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there in none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10-12)
“But we had the sentence of death in ourselves that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9)
“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Ephesians 2:1-3)
Do the above Scriptures leave room for a partial fall of man? Is there a part of a man still untouched by sin?
We will survey two well-known Protestants who expound the normative view on the topic of man’s will or volition. Is it free or in bondage to sin? Note: Protestants are not saying the will does not choose. If a man is fallen, does his fallen nature change his choices? When a man is redeemed and given a new nature and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, does this new reality effect man’s choices differently?
The first Protestant theologian will be Martin Luther. See link below to get a PDF copy of Luther’s book Bondage of the Will. Luther nailed a copy of his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church. Without Luther, the Protestant Reformation may never have happened. Some of Luther’s questions in the 95 Theses dwelt with the question if the will was free or enslaved. Luther’s position that is expounded below are some excerpts from Bondage of the Will.
Martin Luther’s view of man’s will is seen in his response to the Roman Catholic Desiderius Erasmus’ promotion of free will in his Diatribe against Luther at the request of Pope Leo X.
De Servo Arbitrio
On the Bondage of the Will (BOW)
(iv) Of the necessitating foreknowledge of God (614-618)
It is fundamentally necessary and healthy for Christians to acknowledge that God foreknows nothing uncertainly, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His own immutable, eternal and infallible will. This bombshell knocks “free-will” flat, and utterly shatters it; so that those who want to assert it must either deny my bombshell, or pretend not to notice it, or find some other way of dodging it. Surely it was you, my good Erasmus, who a moment ago asserted that God is by nature just, and kindness itself? If this is true, does it not follow that He is immutably just and kind? That, as His nature remains unchanged to all eternity, so do His justice and kindness? And what is said of His justice and kindness must be said also of His knowledge, His wisdom, His goodness, His will, and the other Divine attributes. But if it is religious, godly and wholesome, to affirm these things of God, as you do, what has come over you, that now you should contradict yourself by affirming that it is irreligious, idle and vain to say that God foreknows by necessity? You insist that we should learn the immutability of God’s will, while forbidding us to know the immutably of His foreknowledge! Do you suppose that He does not will what He foreknows, or that He does not foreknow what He wills? If he wills what He foreknows, His will is eternal and changeless, because His nature is so. From which it follows, by resistless logic, that all we do, however it may appear to us to be done freely and optionally, is in reality done necessarily and immutably in respect of God’s will. For the will of God is effective and cannot be impeded, since power belongs to God’s nature; and His wisdom is such that He cannot be deceived. Since, then His will is not impeded, what is done cannot but be done where, when, how, as far as, and by whom, He foresees and wills…
I could wish, indeed, that a better term was available for our discussion than the accepted one, necessity, which cannot accurately be used of either man’s will or God’s. Its meaning is too harsh, and foreign to the subject; for it suggests some sort of compulsion, and something that is against one’s will, which is no part of the view under debate. This will, whether it be God’s or man’s does what it does, good or bad, under no compulsion, but just as it wants or pleases, as if totally free. Yet the will of God, which rules over our mutable will, is changeless and sure – as Boetius sings, “Immovable Thyself, Thou movement giv’st to all;” and our will, principally because of its corruption, can do no good of itself. The reader’s understanding, therefore, must supply what the word itself fails to convey, from his knowledge of the intended signification – the immutable will of God on the one hand, and the impotence of our corrupt will on the other. Some have called it necessity of immutability, but the phrase is both grammatically and theologically defective. (pp. 80-81, BOW)
(v) Of the importance of knowing that God necessitates all things (618-620)
I would also point out, not only how true these things are (I shall discuss that more fully from Scripture on a later page), but also how godly, reverent and necessary it is to know them. For where they are not known, there can be no faith, nor any worship of God. To lack this knowledge is really to be ignorant of God – and salvation is notoriously incompatible with such ignorance. For if you hesitate to believe, or are too proud to acknowledge, that God foreknows and wills all things, not contingently, but necessarily and immutably, how can you believe, trust and rely on His promises? When He makes promises, you ought to be out of doubt that He knows, and can and will perform, what He promises; otherwise, you will be accounting Him neither true nor faithful, which is unbelief, and the height of irreverence, and a denial of the most high God! And how can you be thus sure and certain, unless you know that certainly, infallibly, immutably and necessarily, He knows, wills and will perform what He promises? Not only should we be sure that God wills, and will execute His will, necessarily and immutably; we should glory in the fact, as Paul does in Romans 3:4 – “Let God be true, but every man a liar”, and again, “Not that the word of God has failed,” and in another place, “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are His.” In Titus 1:2 he says: “Which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began”… If, then, we are taught and believe that we ought to be ignorant of the necessary foreknowledge of God and the necessity of events, Christian faith is utterly destroyed, and the promises of God and the whole gospel fall to the ground completely; for the Christian’s chief and only comfort in every adversity lies in knowing that God does not lie, but brings all things to pass immutably, and that His will cannot be resisted, altered or impeded. (pp. 83-84, BOW)
(ix)That a will which has no power without grace is not free (635-638)
You describe the power of “free-will” as small, and wholly ineffective apart from the grace of God. Agreed? Now then, I ask you: If God’s grace is wanting, if it is taken away from that small power, what can it do? It is ineffective, you say, and can do nothing good. So it will not do what God or His grace wills. Why? Because we have now taken God’s grace away from it, and what the grace of God does not do is not good. Hence it follows that “free-will” without God’s grace is not free at all, but is the permanent prisoner and bondslave of evil, since it cannot turn itself to good. This being so, I give you full permission to enlarge the power of “free-will” as much as you like; make it angelic, make it divine, if you can! – but when you add this doleful postscript, that it is ineffective apart from God’s grace, straightway you rob it of all its power. What is ineffective power but (in plain language) no power? So to say that “free-will” exists and has power, albeit ineffective power, is, in the Sophists’ phrase, a contradiction in terms. It is like saying “’free-will’ is something which is not free” – as if you said that fire is cold and earth hot. Fire certainly has power to heat; but if hell-fire (even) was cold and chilling instead of burning and scorching, I would not call it “fire”, let alone “hot” (unless you meant to refer to an imaginary fire, or a painted one). Note, however, that if we meant by “the power of free-will” the power which makes human beings fit subjects to be caught up by the Spirit and touched by God’s grace, as creatures made for eternal life or eternal death, we should have a proper definition. And I certainly acknowledge the existence of this power, this fitness, or “dispositional quality” and “passive aptitude” (as the Sophists call it), which, as everyone knows, is not given to plants or animals. As the proverb says, God did not make heaven for geese! It is a settled truth, then, even on the basis of your own testimony, that we do everything of necessity, and nothing by “free-will”; for the power of “free-will” is nil, and it does no good, nor can do, without grace. It follows, therefore, that “free-will” is obviously a term applicable only to Divine Majesty; for only He can do, and does (as the Psalmist sings) “whatever he wills in heaven and earth” [Psalms 135:6]. If “free-will” is ascribed to men, it is ascribed with no more propriety than divinity itself would be – and no blasphemy could exceed that! So it befits theologians to refrain from using the term when they want to speak of human ability, and to leave it to be applied to God only. They would do well also to take the term out of men’s mouths and speech, and to claim it for their God, as if it were His own holy and awful Name. If they must at all hazards assign some power to men, let them teach that it be denoted by some other term than “free-will”; especially since we know from our own observation that the mass of men are sadly deceived and misled by this phrase. The meaning which it conveys to their minds is far removed from anything that theologians believe and discuss. The term “free-will” is too grandiose and comprehensive and fulsome. People think it means what the natural force of the phrase would require, namely, a power of freely turning in any direction, yielding to none and subject to none. If they knew that this was not so, and that the term signifies only a tiny spark of power, and that utterly ineffective in itself, since it is the devil’s prisoner and slave, it would be a wonder if they did not stone us as mockers and deceivers, who say one thing and mean another – indeed, who have not yet decided what we do mean! Since, therefore, we have lost the meaning and the real reference of this glorious term, or, rather, have never grasped them (as was claimed by the Pelagians, who themselves mistook the phrase) why do we cling so tenaciously to an empty word, and endanger and delude faithful people in consequence? There is no more wisdom in so doing then there is in the modern foible of kings and potentates, who retain, or lay claim to, empty titles of kingdoms and countries, and flaunt them, while all the time they are really paupers, and anything but the possessors of those kingdoms and countries. We can tolerate their antics, for they fool nobody, but just feed themselves up – unprofitably enough – on their own vainglory. But this false idea of “free-will” is a real threat to salvation, and a delusion fraught with the most perilous consequences. If we do not want to drop this term [“free-will”] altogether – which would really be the safest and most Christian thing to do – we may still in good faith teach people to use it to credit man with “free-will” in respect, not of what is above him, but of what is below him. That is to say, man should realize that in regard to his money and possessions he has a right to use them, to do or to leave undone, according to his own “free-will” – though that very “free-will” is overruled by the free-will of God alone, according to His own pleasure. However, with regard to God, and in all that bears on salvation or damnation, he has no “free-will”, but is a captive, prisoner and bondslave, either to the will of God, or to the will of Satan. (pp. 104-107, BOW)
(x) Of God preached and not preached, and of His revealed and secret will (684-686)
As to why some are touched by the law and others not, so that some receive and others scorn the offer of grace that is another question, which Ezekiel does not here discuss. He speaks of the published offer of God’s mercy, not of the dreadful hidden will of God, Who, according to His own counsel, ordains such persons as He wills to receive and partake of the mercy preached and offered. This will is not to be inquired into, but to be reverently adored, as by far the most awesome secret of the Divine Majesty. He has kept it to Himself and forbidden us to know it; and it is much more worthy of reverence than an infinite number of Corycian caverns! Now, God in His own nature and majesty is to be justify alone; in this regard, we have nothing to do with Him, nor does He wish us to deal with Him. We have to do with Him as clothed and displayed in His Word, by which He presents Himself to us. That is His glory and beauty, in which the Psalmist proclaims Him to be clothed [Ps. 21:5]. I say that the righteous God does not deplore the death of His people which He Himself works in them, but He deplores the death which He finds in His people and desires to remove from them. God preached works to the end that sin and death may be taken away, and we may be saved. “He sent His word and healed them” [Ps. 107:20]. But God hidden in Majesty neither deplores nor takes away death, but works life, and death, and all in all; nor has He set bounds to Himself by His Word, but has kept Himself free over all things. The Diatribe is deceived by its own ignorance in that it makes no distinction between God preached and God hidden, that is, between the Word of God and God Himself. God does many things which He does not show in His word, and He wills many things which he does not in His Word show us that He wills. Thus, He does not will the death of a sinner – that is, in His Word; but He wills it by His inscrutable will. At present, however, we must keep in view His Word and leave alone His inscrutable will; for it is by His Word, and not by His inscrutable will, that we must be guided. In any case, who can direct himself according to a will that is inscrutable and incomprehensible? It is enough simply to know that there is in God an inscrutable will; what, why, and within what limits It wills, it is wholly unlawful to inquire, or wish to know, or be concerned about, or touch upon; we may only fear and adore! So it is right to say: “If God does not desire our death, it must be laid to the charge of our own will if we perish”; this, I repeat, is right if you spoke of God preached. For He desires that all men should be saved, in that He comes to all by the word of salvation, and the fault is in the will which does not receive Him; as He says in Matt. 23:37 “How often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldst not!” But why the Majesty does not remove or change this fault of will in every man (for it is not in the power of man to do it), or why He lays this fault to the charge of the will, when man cannot avoid it, it is not lawful to ask; and though you should ask much, you would never find out; as Paul says in Romans 11: “Who art thou that repliest against God?” [Romans 9:20]. (pp. 169-171, BOW)
(vi) Of the hardening of Pharaoh (711-714)
This is why Moses generally repeats after each plague: “And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, so that he would not let the people go; as the Lord had spoken” [Exodus 7:13, 22; 8:15; 9:12]. What was the point of: “As the Lord had spoken”, but that the Lord might appear true, as having foretold that Pharaoh should be hardened? Had there been in Pharaoh any power to turn, or freedom of will that might have gone either way, God could not with such certainty have foretold his hardening. But as it is, He who neither deceives nor is deceived guarantees it; which means that it is completely certain, and necessary, that Pharaoh’s hardening will come to pass. And it would not be so, were not that hardening wholly beyond the strength of man, and in the power of God alone, in the manner that I spoke of above: that is, God was certain that He would not suspend the ordinary operation of omnipotence in Pharaoh, or on Pharaoh’s account – indeed, He could not omit it; and He was equally certain that the will of Pharaoh, being naturally evil and perverse, could not consent to the word and work of God which opposed it; hence, while by the omnipotence of God the energy of willing was preserved to Pharaoh within, and the word and work that opposed him was set before him without, nothing could happen in Pharaoh but the offending and hardening of his heart. If God had suspended the action of His omnipotence in Pharaoh when He set before him the word of Moses which opposed him, and if the will of Pharaoh might be supposed to have acted alone by its own power, then there could perhaps have been a place for debating which way it had power to turn. But as it is, since he is impelled and made to act by his own willing, no violence is done to his will; for it is not under unwilling constraint, but by an operation of God consonant with its nature it is impelled to will naturally, according to what it is (that is, evil). Therefore, it could not but turn upon one word, and thus become hardened. Thus we see that this passage makes most forcibly against “free-will” on this account that God, who promises, cannot lie; and, if He cannot lie, then Pharaoh cannot but be hardened. (pp. 211-212, BOW)
(xviii) Of the comfort of knowing that salvation does not depend on ‘free-will’ (783)
I frankly confess that, for myself, even if it could be, I should not want “free-will” to be given to me, nor anything to be justify in my own hands to enable me to endeavor after salvation; not merely because in face of so many dangers, and adversities, and assaults of devils, I could not stand my ground and hold fast my “free-will” (for one devil is stronger than all men, and on these terms no man could be saved); but because, even were there no dangers, adversities, or devils, I should still be forced to labor with no guarantee of success, and to beat my fists at the air. If I lived and worked to all eternity, my conscience would never reach comfortable certainty as to how much it must do to satisfy God. Whatever work I had done, there would still be a nagging doubt as to whether it pleases God, or whether He required something more. The experience of all who seek righteousness by works proves that; and I learned it well enough myself over a period of many years, to my own great hurt. But now that God has taken my salvation out the control of my own will, and put it under the control of His, and promised to save me, not according to my working or running, but according to His own grace and mercy, I have the comfortable certainty that He is faithful and will not lie to me, and that He is also great and powerful, so that no devils or opposition can break Him or pluck me from Him. “No one,” He says, “shall pluck them out of my hand, because my father which gave them me is greater than all” [John 10:28-29]. Thus it is that, if not all, yet some, indeed many, are saved; whereas, by the power of “free-will” none at all could be saved, but every one of us would perish. Furthermore, I have the comfortable certainty that I please God, not by reason of the merit of my works, but by reason of His merciful favor promised to me; so that, if I work too little, or badly, He does not impute it to me, but with fatherly compassion pardons me and makes me better. This is the glorying of all the saints in their God. (pp. 313-314, BOW)
(xix) O faith in the justice of God in His dealings with men (784-786)
You may be worried that it is hard to defend the mercy and equity of God in damning the undeserving, that is, ungodly persons, who, being born in ungodliness, can by no means avoid being ungodly, and staying so, and being damned, but are compelled by natural necessity to sin and perish; as Paul says: “We were all the children of wrath, even as others” [Eph. 2:3], created such by God Himself from a seed that had been corrupted by the sin of one man, Adam. But here God must be reverenced and held in awe, as being most merciful to those whom He justifies and saves in their own utter unworthiness; and we must show some measure of deference to His Divine wisdom by believing Him just when to us He seems unjust. If His justice were such as could be adjudged just by human reckoning, it clearly would not be Divine; it would in no way differ from human justice. But inasmuch as He is the one true God, wholly incomprehensible and inaccessible to man’s understanding, it is reasonable, indeed inevitable, that His justice also should be incomprehensible; as Paul cries, saying: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” [Romans 11:33]. They would not, however, be “unsearchable” if we could at every point grasp the grounds on which they are just. What is man compared with God? How much can our power achieve compared with His power? What is our strength compared with His strength? What is our knowledge compared with His wisdom? What is our substance compared with His substance? In a word, what is all that we are compared with all that He is? If, now, even nature teaches to acknowledge that human power, strength, wisdom, knowledge and substance, and all that is ours, is nothing compared with the Divine power, strength, wisdom, knowledge and substance, what perversity is it on our part to worry at the justice and the judgment of the only God, and to arrogate so much to our own judgment as to presume to comprehend, judge and evaluate God’s judgment! (pp. 314-315, BOW) (3)
The second Protestant theologian:
Selections from Freedom of the Will, by Jonathan Edwards:
Jonathan Edwards is considered the greatest of the American Puritan theologians and philosophers. Some remember him for his sermon: “Sinners in the hands of an angry God.” Edwards had a remarkable talent for learning and was intensely interested in questions not only theology but of science, philosophy, and psychology. Edwards was the third president of Princeton University. He was a theologian and yet a profound philosopher. Perhaps, one of America’s greatest philosophers.
Part I. Section I.
Concerning the Nature of the Will.
It may possibly be thought, that there is no great need of going about to define or describe the Will; this word being generally as well understood as any other words we can use to explain it: and so perhaps it would be, had not philosophers, metaphysicians, and polemic divines, brought the matter into obscurity by the things they have said of it. But since it is so, I think it may be of some use, and will tend to greater clearness in the following discourse, to say a few things concerning it.
And therefore I observe, that the Will (without any metaphysical refining) is, that by which the mind chooses anything. The faculty of the will, is that power, or principle of mind, by which it is capable of choosing: an act of the will is the same as an act of choosing or choice… (p.4)
Part I. Section II.
Concerning the Determination of the Will.
By determining the Will, if the phrase be used with any meaning, must be intended, causing that the act of the Will or choice should be thus, and not otherwise: and the Will is said to be determined, when, in consequence of some action, or influence, its choice is directed to, and fixed upon a particular object. As when we speak of the determination of motion, we mean causing the motion of the body to be in such a direction, rather than another.
The Determination of the Will, supposes an effect, which must have a cause. If the Will be determined, there is a Determiner. This must be supposed to be intended even by them that say, The Will determines itself. If it be so, the Will is both Determiner and determined; it is a cause that acts and produces effects upon itself, and is the object of its own influence and action…
It is sufficient to my present purpose to say, it is that motive, which, as it stands in view of the mind, is the strongest, that determines the will. But may be necessary that I should a little explain my meaning.
By motive I mean the whole of that which moves, excites, or invites the mind to volition, whether that be one thing singly, or many things conjunctly. Many particular things may concur, and unite their strength, to induce the mind; and when it is so, all together are as one complex motive. And when I speak of the strongest motive, I have respect to the strength of the whole that operates to induce a particular act of volition, whether that be the strength of one thing alone, or of many together. (p.5-6)
Part I. Section IV.
Of the Distinctions of Natural and Moral Necessity, and Inability.
To give some instances of this moral Inability. — A woman of great honor and chastity may have a moral Inability to prostitute herself to her slave. A child of great love and duty to his parents, may be thus unable to kill his father. A very lascivious man, in case of certain opportunities and temptations, and in the absence of such and such restraints, may be unable to forbear gratifying his lust. A drunkard, under such and such circumstances, may be unable to forbear taking strong drink. A very malicious man may be unable to exert benevolent acts to an enemy, or to desire his prosperity; yea, some may be so under the power of a vile disposition, that they may be unable to love those who are most worthy of their esteem and affection. A strong habit of virtue, and a great degree of holiness, may cause a moral Inability to love wickedness in general, and may render a man unable to take complacence in wicked persons or things; or to choose a wicked in preference to a virtuous life. And on the other hand, a great degree of habitual wickedness may lay a man under an Inability to love and choose holiness; and render him utterly unable to love an infinitely holy Being, or to choose and cleave to him as his chief good. (p.11)
Part I. Section V.
Concerning the Notion of Liberty, and of Moral Agency.
The plain and obvious meaning of the words Freedom and Liberty, in common speech, is the power, opportunity, or advantage that any one has, to do as he pleases. Or in other words, his being free from hindrance or impediment in the way of doing, or conducting in any respect as he wills….
What has been said may be sufficient to show what is meant by Liberty, according to the common notions of mankind, and in the usual and primary acceptation of the word: but the word, as used by Arminians, Pelagians, and others, who oppose the Calvinists, has an entirely different signification. — These several things belong to their notion of Liberty. 1. That it consists in a self-determining power in the Will, or a certain sovereignty the Will has over itself, and its own acts, whereby it determines its own volitions; so as not to be dependent, in its determinations, on any cause without itself, nor determined by anything prior to its own acts. 2. Indifference belongs to Liberty in their notion of it, or that the mind, previous to the act of volition, be in equilibria. 3. contingence is another thing that belongs and is essential to it; not in the common acceptation of the word, as that has been already explained, but as opposed to all necessity, or any fixed and certain I connexion with some previous ground or reason of its existence. They suppose the essence of Liberty so much to consist in these things, that unless the will of man be free in this sense, he has no real freedom, how much soever, he may be at Liberty to act according to his will. (p.11-12)
Part II. Section IV.
Whether Volition can arise without a Cause, through the activity of the nature of the soul.
Let us suppose, as these divines do, that there are no acts of the soul, strictly speaking, but free Volitions; then it will follow, that the soul is an active being in nothing further than it is a voluntary or elecive being; and whenever it produces effects actively, it produces effects voluntarily and electively. But to produce effects thus, is the same thing as to produce effects in consequence of, and according to its own choice. And if so, then surely the soul does not by its activity produce all its own acts of will or choice themselves; for this, by the supposition, is to produce all its free acts of choice volutarily an electively or in consequence of its own free acts of choice, which brings the matter directly to the forementioned contradiction, of a free act of choice before the first free act of choice.— According to these gentlemen’s own notion of action, if there arises in the mind a Volition without a free act of the Will to produce it, the mind is not the voluntary Cause of that Volition; because it does not arise from, nor is regulated by, choice or design. And therefore it cannot be, that the mind should be the active, voluntary, determining Cause of the first and leading Volition that relates to the afffair. — The mind being a designing Cause, only enables it to produce effects in consequence of its design; it will not enable it to be the designing Cause of all its own designs. The mind being an elective Cause, will enable it to produce effects only in consequence of its elections, and according to them; but cannot enable it to be the elective Cause of all its own elections; because that supposes an election before the first election. So the mind being an active Cause enables it to produce effects in consequence of its own acts, but cannot enable it to be the determining Cause of all its own acts; for that is, in the same manner, a contradiction; as it supposes a determining act conversant about the first act, and prior to it, having a causal influence on its existence, and manner of existence…
Part II. Section V.
Showing, that if the things asserted in these Evasions should supposed to be true, they are altogether impertinent, and cannot help the cause of Arminian Liberty; and how, this being the state of the case, Arminian writers are obliged to talk inconsistently.
So that let Armninians turn which way they please with their notion of liberty, consisting in the Will determining its own acts, their notion destroys itself. If they hold every free act of Will to be determined by the soul’s own free choice, or foregoing free act of Will; forgoing, either in the order of time, or nature; it implies that gross contradiction, that the first free act belonging to the affair, is determined by a free act which is before it. Or if they say, that the free acts of the Will are determined by some other art of the soul, and not an act of will or choice; this also destroys their notion of liberty consisting in the acts of the Will being determined by the will itself; or if they hold that the acts of the Will are determined by nothing at all that is prior to them, but that they are contingent in that sense, that they are determined and fixed by no cause at all; this also destroys their notion of liberty, consisting in the Will determining its own acts. (p.18) (4)
Theological implications and Scriptural conclusions:
The book of Romans tells us the following:
Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? (Romans 6:16)
Verse fourteen of this chapter says of those in Christ that we are no longer under the dominion of sin. We were the servant or slaves of sin. We yielded ourselves to sin because this was the inclination of our fallen nature. We are now the servants of righteousness and no longer the slaves of sin. Our innate, sinful natures have been supernaturally changed.
The apostle Peter confirms this when he says:
“…that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature…” (2 Peter 1:4)
The believer now has a new nature. We still make choices or decisions. Since we have a new nature, our desires have been changed. We are now slaves of righteousness.
Both the non-believer and the believer make choices, but they are determined by either a corrupt nature or a changed, divinely regenerated nature. The will of man can only be said to be free if it is understood that this freedom is always in accord with the desires of man’s nature. The believer is now a new creation in Christ. We follow Christ because we love Him and want to please Him. The Holy Spirit lives in the believer and guides us and convicts us to do what is right according to the Scriptures.
When a person chooses Christ, one must ask, why did the person do this? Was it his decision on his own, apart from God’s action? Or, does man act or choose for Christ as a result of God changing his heart by the power of Holy Spirit? The Scripture declares that unbelievers are spiritually dead (not just sick) and have hearts of stone. Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit, changes our heart of stone into a heart of flesh. As was said, unbelievers are spiritually dead before Christ quickens us or makes us alive. We are raised from the dead when Christ regenerates us. Regeneration enables saving faith and happens before we can exercise saving faith. Regeneration proceeding faith is Scriptural logical deduction or said another way, a good and necessary consequence.
Remember, we were the servants or slaves of sin. We yielded ourselves to sin because this was the inclination of our fallen nature. We are now the servants of righteousness and no longer the slaves of sin. Our sin natures have been changed. As the apostle, Peter tells us that “ye might be partakers of the divine nature…” (2 Peter 1:4). The believer now has a new nature. We still make choices or decisions. But since we have a new nature, our desires have been changed through the inward work of the Holy Spirit. We are now slaves of righteousness (though not yet perfectly) by His grace.
And finally, both the non-believer and the believer make choices, but those choices are determined by either a corrupt nature or a changed, regenerated nature. The will can only be said to be free if it is understood that this freedom is always in accord with the desires of man’s nature. It can be said that the will is bound in its original sin nature, yet free through the redeeming power of Jesus. The believer is now a new creation in Christ. We follow Christ because we love Him and want to please Him. The Holy Spirit lives in the believer and guides us and convicts us to do what is right according to the Scriptures.
In closing; Protestant Confessional sources on man’s will:
Thirty-Nine Articles, X: “The condition of Man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith, and calling upon God. Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will.”
Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 8: “Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness? Indeed we are; except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.”
Belgic Confession, XIV: “… we reject all that is taught repugnant to this, concerning the free will of man, since man is but a slave to sin; and has nothing of himself, unless it is given from heaven. For who may presume to boast, that he of himself can do any good, since Christ saith, No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him? Who will glory in his own will, who understands, that to be carnally minded is enmity against God? Who can speak of his knowledge, since the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God? In short, who dare suggest any thought, since he knows that we are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but that our sufficiency is of God? And therefore what the apostle saith ought justly to be held sure and firm, that God worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure. For there is no will nor understanding, conformable to the divine will and understanding, but what Christ hath wrought in man; which he teaches us, when he saith, without me ye can do nothing.”
Canons of Dordt, III/IV: 3: “Therefore all men are conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, incapable of saving good, prone to evil, dead in sin, and in bondage thereto, and without the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, they are neither able nor willing to return to God, to reform the depravity of their nature, nor to dispose themselves to reformation.”
Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 9 – Of Free Will.
Section 1.) God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor by any absolute necessity of nature determined, to good or evil. (1)
(1) Mt 17:12; Jas 1:14; Dt 30:19.
Section 2.) Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom and power to will and to do that which was good and well-pleasing to God; (1) but yet, mutably, so that he might fall from it.(2)
(1) Ecclesiastes 7:29; Ge 1:26. (2) Ge 2:16, 17; Ge 3:6.
Section 3.) Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation;(1) so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good,(2) and dead in sin,(3) is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.(4)
(1) Ro 5:6; Ro 8:7; Jn 15:5. (2) Ro 3:10, 12. (3) Eph 2:1, 5; Col 2:13. (4) Jn 6:44, 65; Eph 2:2, 3, 4, 5; 1Co 2:14; Tit 3:3, 4, 5.
Section 4.) When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He freeth him from his natural bondage under sin, (1) and by His grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good;(2) yet so as that, by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly nor only will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil. (3)
(1) Col 1:13; Jn 8:34, 36. (2) Php 2:13; Ro 6:18, 22. (3) Gal 5:17; Ro 7:15, 18,19,21,23.
Section 5.) The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to do good alone in the state of glory only. (1)
(1) Eph 4:13; Heb 12:23; 1Jn 3:2; Jude 24.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
- Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 1, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1990), pp. 126-127.
- LeGrand Richards, A Marvelous Work And A Wonder, (Salt Lake City, Deseret Book Co. 1978), p. 345, 347.
- Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, (Old Tappan, New Jersey, Fleming H. Revell Company) pp. 80-81; 83-84; 104-107; 169-171; 211-212; 313-314; 314-315.
- Jonathan Edwards, The Works Of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishing), pp. 4-6; 11-12; 18.
“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com
For more study:
* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca Writes: http://www.rebecca-writes.com/theological-terms-in-ao/
** CARM theological dictionary https://carm.org/dictionary-hermeneutics
Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will: