Saturday, June 19, 2010

Freedom or Bondage of the Will Part II

Does the Unregenerate Man Possess Free Will?

Part II
Choices, Consequences, and Control



 
The 1689 London Confession of Faith makes the following points in Chapter nine, entitled, Free Will:

1. God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice, that it is neither forced, nor by any necessity of nature determined to do good or evil. (Matthew 17:12; James 1:14; Deuteronomy 30:19)

2. Man, in his state of innocence, had freedom and power to will and to do that which was good and well-pleasing to God, but yet was unstable, so that he might fall from it. (Ecclesiastes 7:29; Genesis 3:6)

3. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto. (Romans 5:6; Romans 8:7; Ephesians 2:1, 5; Titus 3:3-5; John 6:44)

4. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin, and by his grace alone enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so as that by reason of his remaining corruptions, he doth not perfectly, nor only will, that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil. (Colossians 1:13; John 8:36; Philippians 2:13; Romans 7:15, 18, 19, 21, 23)

5. This will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to good alone in the state of glory only. (Ephesians 4:13)

The Bible teaches that Adam and Eve had both freedom and power to choose to do good and to do what pleased God. Adam and Eve were also able to choose to do evil and that which was not pleasing to God. Of course we know from Scripture what they chose and what happened.

All of Adam’s progeny were born in a state of bondage to sin by virtue of possessing a nature that is in absolute bondage to sin. As a result mankind does not have the ability to choose to the good by God’s standards thereby pleasing God according to His standards.

Mankind does not have the ability, freedom, nor even the desire to choose to do the good according to God’s standards unless God specifically intervenes and gives a new nature to a man. God must act to free a man from the bondage of his own sinful nature and give him a new nature that both desires to do the good according to the standards of God and the ability to that aforementioned good. This is what redemption does. Peter tells us that at salvation we become a partaker of the divine nature.

However, everything we do now even by the prompting and motivation of this divine nature is still tainted by the residual of the sin nature that still remains in us. Although the sin nature was crucified in Christ on the cross it remains rotting away, corrupting all that we do for God.

It is only when we get to heaven that we are totally free from the very presence and influence of sin that we are able by virtue of our transformation into immortal bodies that we are able to fully please God without the taint of any sin.

So, we do not posses a totally free will prior to salvation or eve after salvation. The free will that was possessed by Adam and Eve will not be restored to us until we are in heaven.

If Pelagian and his teachings were deemed to be heretical, why does this idea of free will remain today? It remains because men picked up the teaching of Pelagius and attempted to refine it in order for it to be accepted. It became knows as: Semi-Pelagianism

After Pelagianism was declared to be heretical with the help of men like such as Augustine, it went underground. It later resurfaced in a milder, more palatable form. Although the original semi-Pelagian differed in many areas, the general teachings of Semi-Pelagian are as follows:

• Contrary to Pelagius, the sin and corruption of Adam did pass on to his posterity causing disease, suffering, mortality and a propensity toward evil.

• Therefore, man needs divine assistance if he is to do anything spiritually good.

• But contrary to the pure grace system of Augustine they taught: 

       o  “That the beginning of salvation is with man. Man begins to seek God, and then God aids him.”

       o “That this incipient turning of the soul towards God is something good, and in one sense meritorious.”

       o “That the soul, in virtue of its liberty of will or ability for good, cooperates with the grace of God in  regeneration….”

Although there are differences between Semi-Pelagianism and classical Arminianism, the similarities between Semi-Pelagianism and what is taught in many modern evangelical churches is striking. Most modern evangelicals do not believe that man is really spiritually dead and totally depraved as a result of the fall but merely that man is spiritually sick. In other words man still has spiritually ability and thus can make a move toward Jesus and even choose Him if the right techniques are employed.

Semi-Pelagianism as was Pelagianism was condemned as heresy. It was rejected by the church. However, Satan was not finished. In his attempts to corrupt the church, biblical doctrine and the redemptive process, he moved to develop what we know as:  Arminianism

Arminianism is named after a Dutch theologian called Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609). Armius was a professor in Leiden. He began to challenge the Protestant teachings of the day, particularly in his Dutch Reformed denomination. After his death is teachings were further developed by his followers into what became known as “the five theses of the Remonstrant Articles. These are now simply known as the five points of Arminianism. Here is what Arminianism teaches about the sin of Adam and Eve and what man’s state became after the fall:

Free Will or Human Ability. Although human nature was seriously affected by the Fall, man has not been left in a state of total spiritual helplessness. God graciously enables every sinner to repent and believe, but He does so in such a manner as not to interfere with man’s freedom. Each sinner possesses a free will, and his eternal destiny depends on how he uses it. Man’s freedom consists of his ability to choose good over evil in spiritual matters; his will is not enslaved to his sinful nature. The sinner has the power either to cooperate with God’s Spirit and be regenerated or to resist God’s grace and perish. The lost sinner needs the Spirit’s assistance, but he does not have to be regenerated by the Spirit before he can believe, for faith is man’s act and precedes the new birth. Faith is the sinner’s gift to God; it is man’s contribution to salvation.

Arminianism is similar to Semi-Pelagianism in that it teaches that man still, even though he was hurt by the fall of Adam, man still has the ability to choose good and to come to God on his own prompting God to respond to him. Although Arminianism was condemned by the Synod of Dordt (1618-1619) and was soundly and thoroughly refuted by Scripture, it spread throughout the whole world; permeated every branch of Protestantism; and came to thoroughly dominate modern evangelicalism and fundamentalism.

How? John Wesley came on the scene in the late 1700’s. He and his followers made some changes in Arminian teachings. They taught that as a result of the fall man’s depravity was total; that the natural man does not have any intrinsic power to cooperate with the grace of God. Wesley maintained that since Christ died for all men without exception and they are justified in Him, this guilt and total depravity is immediately removed at birth. As a result, Wesley held that all men come into the world with an ability (bestowed by Jesus) to cooperate with God in salvation. The Wesleyans called this new system Evangelical Arminianism.


“Issues &; Etc.” says, No single man is more responsible for the distortion of Christian truth in our age than Charles Grandison Finney. His "new measures" created a framework for modern decision theology and Evangelical Revivalism. In this excellent article, Dr. Mike Horton explains how Charles Finney distorted the important doctrine of salvation.

Why is Charles Finney so popular? Horton states; “He is the tallest marker in the shift from Reformation orthodoxy, evident in the Great Awakening (under Edwards and Whitefield) to Arminian (indeed, even Pelagian) revivalism. evident from the Second Great Awakening to the present. To demonstrate the debt of modern evangelicalism to Finney, we must first notice his theological departures. From these departures, Finney became the father of the antecedents to some of today’s greatest challenges within evangelical churches, namely, the church growth movement, Pentecostalism and political revivalism. Reacting against the pervasive Calvinism of the Great Awakening, the successors of that great movement of God’s Spirit turned from God to humans, from the preaching of objective content (namely, Christ and him crucified) to the emphasis on getting a person to "make a decision."

As a result, what is now taught is a weak, humanistic and man-made formula that is nothing more than “easy-believism” or decisional-regeneration. In many evangelical churches people are told to come to the front of the church (“the altar call”), choose Christ, or pray a prayer and the result will be that God will respond to man’s act or choice and then man will be born again. In other words, man cooperates with God and allows God to save him. This teaching is very different from the biblical view that men are dead in trespasses and sin and the Holy Spirit raises the dead heart to life, regenerates it and causes it to savingly embrace Christ. 

Satan took his time, but in his attempt to destroy the sovereignty of God in salvation, he developed a unique system that we see in most of our churches today. He began with Pelagius, refined that doctrine into Semi-Pelagianism, combining and refining that doctrine with Arminianism. He was happy to see men like John Wesley and Charles Finney come along to take up his doctrine of “free-will” and the synergistic teaching of salvation.

As lengthy as this has been, and yes I am over my word count, at least you now have the answer to the question, where did the idea of “free-will” come from. We will finish this entire discussion off in the next few days with a look at the doctrine of predestination.

3 comments:

Pilgrim Mommy said...

Very interesting about Wesley's teachings. I did not know that he taught that guilt and total depravity were removed at birth.

It pays to know your church history because history repeats itself.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Very interesting about Wesley as at school we were taught much about them as there was some connection to them and the city where I lived,

Great post. enjoyed the read.

Yvonne.

stranger.strange.land said...

I like what I heard R.C. Sproul say once at a Ligonier conference:
"We are free, and God is free. But He is freer than we are. And when what we will conflicts with what God wills - guess who wins."

(Spell-check suggests: R.C. Sprout, R.C. Spool, or R.C. Spoil)