Ancient thoughts on the human will, and a contemporary portrait of genuine “Calvinism”


 


Matthew 1:21

NASB

21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

1 Corinthians 4:7

NASB

For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

Romans 9:15-17

15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.”


Thoughts

A blogger friend and brother in the Lord has been discussing the doctrines of grace, so here is my response. Not my own thoughts here – though I agree with those I’ve presented – just insights from two Christians who lived many centuries apart. Let’s praise God for the great cloud of witnesses who have testified to the love and grace of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ!


Augustine’s Doctrine of the Bondage of the Will

Monergism.com

Augustine of Hippo

Quotes from Augustine

“How have you come? By believing. Fear lest while you are claiming for yourself that you have found the just way, you perish from the just way. I have come, you say, of my own free choice; I have come of my own will. Why are you puffed up? Do you wish to know that this also has been given you? Hear Him calling, ‘No one comes to me unless my Father draws him’ [John 6:44 p.].” – Augustine, Sermons xxvi. 3, 12, 4, 7 (MPL 28.172, 177, 172f., 174)

“Why then, do miserable men either dare to boast of free will before they have been freed, or of their powers, if they have already been freed? And they do not heed the fact that in the term ‘free will’ freedom seems to be implied. ‘Now where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.’ [II Cor 3:17]. If therefore, they are slaves of sin, why do they boast of free will? For a man becomes the slave of him who has overcome him. Now if they have been freed, why do they boast as if it had come about through their own effort? Of are they so free as not to wish to be slaves of him who says: ‘Without me you can do nothing'” [John 15:5]

“. . . the human will does not obtain grace by freedom, but obtains freedom by grace; when the feeling of delight has been imparted through the same grace, the human will is formed to endure; it is strengthened with unconquerable fortitude; controlled by grace, it never will perish, but, if grace forsake it, it will straightway fall; by the Lord’s free mercy it is converted to good, and once converted it perseveres in good; the direction of the human will toward good, and after direction its continuation in good, depend solely upon God’s will, not upon any merit of man [anything deserving in man]. Thus there is left to man such free will, if we please so to call it, as he elsewhere describes: that except through grace the will can neither be converted to God nor abide in God; and whatever it can do it is able to do only through grace.”

Excerpts from the author of the article

“Augustine argued that there are four states, which are derived from the Scripture, that correspond to the four states of man in relation to sin: (a) able to sin, able not to sin (posse peccare, posse non peccare); (b) not able not to sin (non posse non peccare); (c) able not to sin (posse non peccare); and (d) unable to sin (non posse peccare). The first state corresponds to the state of man in innocency, before the Fall; the second the state of the natural man after the Fall; the third the state of the regenerate man; and the fourth the glorified man.”

One thought here: Augustine’s explanation is helpful but incomplete because it doesn’t address the struggle involved in not sinning:

Romans 7:21-25

21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

“There are times when Augustine uses the term ‘free will’ in a positive sense, as R. C. Sproul explains,

‘Augustine did not deny that fallen man still has a will and that the will is capable of making choices. He argued that fallen man still has a free will (liberium arbitrium) but has lost his moral liberty (libertas). The state of original sin leaves us in the wretched condition of being unable to refrain from sinning. We still are able to choose what we desire, but our desires remain chained by our evil impulses. He argued that the freedom that remains in the will always leads to sin. Thus in the flesh we are free only to sin, a hollow freedom indeed. It is freedom without liberty, a real moral bondage. True liberty can only come from without, from the work of God on the soul. Therefore we are not only partly dependent upon grace for our conversion but totally dependent upon grace.‘”


The Practical Implications of Calvinism

(pdf file)

Albert N. Martin

[Emphasis added]

“Matthew Henry, in his simple, homely, quaint way, says, ‘When God deigns to bless his people he sets them a-praying for the blessing which he desires to give them’. And so, if I believe the confession that God saves sinners, that he not only regenerates them, bringing them to repentance and faith, but that he keeps them and ultimately brings them into his presence — if that is his work then it will produce a consistent prayerfulness, not only a holy watchfulness and distrust of myself, but a constant application to him that he would perform in me that which he has promised. For what is prayer in the last analysis? It is a conscious spreading out of my helplessness before God. The true Calvinist is the man who confesses with his lips that grace must not only awaken him, regenerate him, but that grace must preserve him, and he Amens his confession by his prayer when on his knees he cries out, ‘Lead me not into temptation but deliver me from evil. I cannot even get my bread for today, Lord, unless you sustain my life and bless the labours of my hands: Give me this day my daily bread’. The doctrine of confession, God saves sinners, will produce in the heart of a true Christian the sane biblical pursuit of godliness, holy watchfulness, a consistent prayerfulness, and in the third place. . . A trustful dependence on God to fulfil all that he has purposed. . .

“For a person to claim to be a Calvinist, confessing the soteriological creed that God saves sinners, without this holy watchfulness, some measure of consistent prayerfulness, and a trusting dependence upon God in Christ to fulfill all that he, in grace, has promised, is a contradiction of terms. One of the great cries that is raised today, and some of it has justification, is that people, especially young men, who get hold of Calvinism, and seem to view it as an unanswerable, unassailable philosophical system, become proud, go back now to their secular schools and in ten minutes shoot holes in the views of their Professor of Philosophy. They become proud, cocky. That is a caricature, that is not real Calvinism.”

“What is the personal practical effect of the confession of Calvinism in the life of a man? If he sees God, it will break him, and if he understands that God saves sinners, it will make him a trustful, prayerful, watchful person pursuing practical godliness. Is that what these doctrines are doing for you right where you sit this morning? Some, perhaps, to whom these things are new have feared them and said, ‘Oh, that stuff will just lead to spiritual barrenness and dryness’. It is not so! For these are the truths of God’s Word; I am convinced they are. In their totality they are the truth which is according to godliness, the truth that sanctifies us in answer to the prayer of our great High Priest. May God grant that the truth will do that in you and in me!”


John 17:9-19

“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. 10 And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. 12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.


 

5 thoughts on “Ancient thoughts on the human will, and a contemporary portrait of genuine “Calvinism”

  1. “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 ‭KJV‬‬
    God bless you sister !
    ❤️💙

    Liked by 2 people

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