Manual Willing to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will

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Some Calvinists sacrifice free will altogether in order to preserve a high view of divine sovereignty.

This view is known as compatibilism , and it seeks to clarify the matter from a biblical perspective. Given the long history and heated debates, you would think that libraries would be overflowing with books that exhaust this fiery topic. Alas, it seems a matter too hot to handle for most.

Sam Harris on "Free Will"

What follows is my definitive list. These books or portions thereof are in order of the date they were written. It is too difficult to grade their worth. This classic work on Calvinistic compatibilism has retained strong appeal over recent years mostly with scholars.

It is densely written and requires tremendous concentration to read and comprehend, but diligence is a faithful rewarder. John Frame is my favorite theologian. The Doctrine of God is a massive but highly readable tome on theology proper. Frame devotes about sixty-five engaging pages to defending the classic Edwardsian view of divine sovereignty and human freedom with a particular application to the problem of evil.

Sproul Baker Books, No list would be complete without the venerable Reformed theologian R.

Willing to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will

The first two chapters of The Benefits of Providence dive into the deep end of the pool marked compatibilism. But Spiegel provides you with two flotation devices clarity and simplicity, to help you to keep your head above water. Carson Baker Academic, In about forty-five pages, Carson distills some of the weightier thinking from his work Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility. He carefully defines and defends Calvinistic compatibilism and provides many scriptural examples that show that every choice we make has a dual explanation—one divine and the other human.

No One Like Him contains roughly one hundred pages defending Calvinistic compatibilism. The controversy over free will and salvation was not new when Erasmus and Luther began their debate; it originated with Pelagius who was confronted by Augustine in the 5 th century and continues today. Indeed, as you should know, this is the cardinal issue between us , the point on which everything in this controversy turns.

Luther grounds his argument in the doctrine of election in which God is absolutely sovereign in determining who will be saved. It is important to understand where Erasmus is coming from; his authority is that of the teaching of the Church i. Tradition and of scripture, both of which are subject to the Magisterium. This milder Augustinianism greatly influenced medieval theology, and was affirmed by the Council of Trent. Erasmus acknowledges that Luther pays no heed to Tradition whatsoever, but that scripture alone is his authority. Therefore, he seeks to base his attack from scripture.

Sproul R C – Willing To Believe – The Controversy Over Free Will

For the rest it leaves the power of choice to the will that was created in them free and able rapidly to turn to one or the other…. This passage essentially sums up his position on the place of the will in salvation. In his argument he quotes several Old and New Testament verses, many of them commands, which appear to teach that humans have the power to choose God at will. In his next section, Erasmus discusses the verses which seem to take away free choice entirely.


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But once again, Erasmus resorts to human thinking and reasoning rather than accept what scripture plainly teaches. In Romans chapter 9, Paul is clear that it is God who is the author of salvation. The language of this passage is overwhelmingly monergistic. And has God choosing to whom he will show mercy and whom he will harden.

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For Luther, God was absolutely sovereign Dan ; Rev Along with the apostle Paul, Augustine and Calvin, he believed that human beings are spiritually dead Eph and therefore can make no move towards God whatsoever Jn Can man be truly free if God is sovereign? The antithesis to divine sovereignty is not human freedom, but human autonomy.

Free Will (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Luther admits that humans have a sort of freedom which enables them to choose on a temporal level; thus they can do the works of the law. Thus, for a person to choose to be saved is impossible unless God first gives the ability i. Just as a person cannot choose to be born, so they are also passive and unable to prepare themselves for the kingdom of God because they are spiritually dead Luther , ; and Jas Thus, he leaves no room for the unconverted will to initiate anything in regard to salvation; everything depends on the sovereign God who wills and chooses as he pleases.

Erasmus and Luther were wrangling over an issue on which each placed a different value. At the point of conversion, is a person operated on sovereignly by God and given life, or do they contribute to their own salvation? Whilst Erasmus recognised this issue, his argument is sometimes simply proving what Luther would agree with anyway, i. He saw the issue and its importance clearly; and he argued accordingly.

It is a matter which is essential to a right understanding of the gospel; and it would be nice to say that Luther won the day. Unfortunately, Melancthon later watered the doctrine down and the issue has been debated in the Church ever since. Luther is wrong to place such emphasis on free will — salvation is gained through right response to the gospel, not right view of free will.

ISBN 13: 9780801064128

The command to unbelievers is to repent and believe the gospel Mark The preaching of the gospel is the means God has ordained to save unbelievers Rom Christ is the object of faith, the One whom we preach as being the only way to the Father Jn , Unbelievers are to come to Christ because God commands it; because they are lost without him. If they are saved under such circumstances and later, upon hearing of Monergism and synergism, reject the former, are they then lost? Of course not; if a person trusts in Christ for salvation, they have passed from death to life Jn and there is no condemnation Jn ,