Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Essay on Arminius' View of Free Will

Jacob Arminius, in my opinion, articulated the most Biblical and coherent view of the capabilities and limitations of man's free will. A great essay on this subject can be found here.

15 comments:

Marcus McElhaney said...

Brennon, do you think that Arminius agreed with Erasmus regarding free will?

bossmanham said...

I'm not really that familiar with Erasmus' teachings. I would say they probably would have agreed to some extent, but may have disagreed also. Arminius excluded any human merit from entering the salvation process. The act of faith in his eyes was a complete submission to the grace of God and acceptance of His gift.

I'm not 100% sure how to characterize Erasmus on that. He was, at first, sympathetic to Luther's points, but challenged Luther on his view of the will. Erasmus wanted to find a middle ground that avoided the excesses of Pelagius and Luther, saying, "Grace is the principal cause of our salvation, our will is the secondary cause, in that it does not resist the grace of God." In that, he and Arminius would agree, I believe.

Marcus McElhaney said...

Hey, thanks! I read Erasmus' book On the Freedom of the Will and Luther's rebuttal. As it turns out Erasmus thought that our will had much more to do with salvation than Arminius did according to this information you linked to. I mean Erasmus was Roman Catholic and Arminius was not. I Think that played a part. The one question I have about how Arminius' view is if men are enslaved to sin and can't do anything on our own to reach God, what part does our will really play in the process? Is it that we choose to say "yes" and to say "no"?

bossmanham said...

Yes, essentially. He thought that God must act on the will of man to enable it to accept Him, but that does not guarantee that we accept Him.

Marcus McElhaney said...

I see where my misunderstanding is: Why wouldn't someone whom God touched say "no"?

bossmanham said...

I don't know. There could be several issues that influence a person. Perhaps there are some people who wouldn't accept God in any situation they were placed in, no matter how much grace they are given. Since every person is unique, I suppose the reasons they reject God are just as unique. Ultimately, they choose to reject Him. Thereby their sin is their own, not foisted on them by an outside decree.

marhaban said...

Perhaps there are some people who wouldn't accept God in any situation they were placed in, no matter how much grace they are given. Since every person is unique, I suppose the reasons they reject God are just as unique.

Since God made each of us uniquely with different abilities and gifts. Some people are more believing, loving, angry, etc. From your view, why did he give some people the propensity to meet his requirements for salvation and did not give it to others?

bossmanham said...

From your view, why did he give some people the propensity to meet his requirements for salvation and did not give it to others?

I didn't say God made them that way. That would be determinism. They choose to be that way.

marhaban said...

I didn't say God made them that way. That would be determinism. They choose to be that way.

I thought determinism was that noone has free will because every action they will make has already been decided ahead of time. Is your definition different?

Do you believe everyone has equal cognitive ability to believe in God?

My personal experience, partially based om my personal experience with people with mental illness is that people don't seem to be able to control what they believe in.

drwayman said...

Marhaben - One doesn't have to be intelligent to accept Christ as Savior. Jesus said it took the faith of a mustard seed or the trust of a Child.

Even Nebuchadnezzar in his "mental illness" was able to recognize God.

As one who has worked with individuals with mental illness for over 25 years, I am deeply offended at your inference. As would many of my patients.

People with mental illness can control what they believe if they seek help. Mental illness does not preclude one becoming a Christian.

marhaban said...

If I was offensive, I apologize, that is not my intent.

As someone who has cared about relatives with mental illness my entire life, I was not trying to imply that they are "bad" or "damaged" in anyway.

However, I was trying to illustrate that belief in anything is not a choice for anyone, but something wired in our brains. My Oma, for example, believed that my parents were stealing her clothing, the neighbors were spying on her, people hated her and were trying to hurt her. She could not choose to believe otherwise until the doctors reset her brain through shock therapy.

Peace,

drwayman said...

Marhaban - Your belief that people cannot control what they believe seems founded in determinism.

I met a passionate Christian who said that if God told him to cut off his daughter's head, he would do so. His determinist beliefs did not cause him to question where this thought came from even though it is contrary to God Word.

I urge you to consider the ramifications of just such a belief, the idea that every thought is determined and one has no choice in what s/he believes. If beliefs are a matter of brain wiring, then God has no justification to judge anyone.

bossmanham said...

I thought determinism was that noone has free will because every action they will make has already been decided ahead of time. Is your definition different?

If the way they were made causes them to choose God or not, would that not be a denial of free will?

Do you believe everyone has equal cognitive ability to believe in God?

I have no idea. I'm not sure anyone would.

My personal experience, partially based om my personal experience with people with mental illness is that people don't seem to be able to control what they believe in.

So even though there may be some things that these people with mental illness may struggle with, maybe seeing things that aren't there or hearing voices, it follows that they can't choose anything at all? I think that's a non sequitur.

bossmanham said...

Do you believe everyone has equal cognitive ability to believe in God?

I have to elucidate here. No one actually has any ability to come to Christ without Him acting on us. He must call, draw, convict, and enable us to come to Him. Since He does that for all, I would say everyone has sufficient ability to come to Him.

A.M. Mallett said...

I believe Erasmus must be read in light of his opposition to Luther's determinism. Here is a comment from Freedom of the Will that seems to sum his thoughts somewhat.

In my opinion the free will could have been so defined as to avoid overconfidence in our merits and the other disadvantages which Luther shuns, as well as to avoid such as we recited above, and still not lose the advantages which Luther admires. This, it seems to me, is accomplished by those who attribute everything to the pulling by grace which is the first to excite our spirit, and attribute only something to human will in its effort to continue and not withdraw from divine grace. But since all things have three parts, a beginning, a continuation, and an end, grace is attributed to the two extremities, and only in continuation does the free will effect something. Two causes meet in the same work, the grace of God and the human will, grace being the principal cause and will a secondary, since it is impotent without the principal cause, while the latter has sufficient strength by itself. Thus, while the fire burns through its natural strength, the principal cause is still God, who acts through the fire. God alone would indeed suffice, and without Him fire could not burn. Due to this combination, man must ascribe his total salvation to divine grace, since it is very little that the free will can effect, and even that comes from divine grace which has at first created free will and then redeemed and healed it. Thus are placated, if they can be placated, those who will not tolerate that man has some good which he does not owe to God. - On Free Will Ch. 8, Sec. 57

There is a great deal of similarity there and with Arminius' thoughts on a similar matter.

This is my opinion concerning the free-will of man: In his primitive condition as he came out of the hands of his creator, man was endowed with such a portion of knowledge, holiness and power, as enabled him to understand, esteem, consider, will, and to perform the true good, according to the commandment delivered to him. Yet none of these acts could he do, except through the assistance of Divine Grace. But in his lapsed and sinful state, man is not capable, of and by himself, either to think, to will, or to do that which is really good; but it is necessary for him to be regenerated and renewed in his intellect, affections or will, and in all his powers, by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, that he may be qualified rightly to understand, esteem, consider, will, and perform whatever is truly good. When he is made a partaker of this regeneration or renovation, I consider that, since he is delivered from sin, he is capable of thinking, willing and doing that which is good, but yet not without the continued aids of Divine Grace.
- The Free Will of Man; Sentiments