Calvin: Free Will Combined With Divine Grace Is Corruption

“We must, therefore, remember what we quoted from Augustine, that some men labor in vain to find in the human will some good quality properly belonging to it. Any intermixture which men attempt to make by conjoining the effort of their own will with divine grace is corruption, just as when unwholesome and muddy water is used to dilute wine.”   [Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin, Translated by Henry Beveridge, Book Two, Chapter 5, Section 15]

The illustration Calvin used in the above quote is very powerful.  It clearly explains what would happen if God’s election had to be combined with our free will choice to accomplish our salvation.  Anytime you combine something that is pure with something that is not pure, the end product is no longer pure.  It is impossible for the pure to remain pure.  God’s election is pure, our will is impure (totally depraved).  So, we can now see that God’s election cannot be combined in any way with our will (even in the most minuscule amount) to accomplish our salvation.  This means that if we have to cooperate (accept the free gift, seek Him, give our lives to Him, ask Him into our heart, etc.) with God in accomplishing our salvation then we cannot be saved.

Libertarian free will is a hot button issue today.  It is the first objection usually posed against reformed theology.  Do we have free will?  If so, in what measure?  If not, are we robots?  Proponents of libertarian free will are very dedicated to it.  In fact, it is nearly impossible to change their mind….only the truth of God’s word can do it.

What do you think if Calvin’s illustration?


John Calvin On The Dangers Of The Use Of The Term “Free Will”

From:  Exploring Theology

How few are there who, when they hear free will attributed to man, do not immediately imagine that he is the master of his mind and will in such a sense, that he can of himself incline himself either to good or evil?  It may be said that such dangers are removed by carefully expounding the meaning to the people.  But such is the proneness of the human mind to go astray, that it will more quickly draw error from one little word, than truth from a lengthened discourse. [Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin, translated by Henry Beveridge, Book Two, Chapter 2, Section 7]

Is this not true?  If you have ever discussed free will with someone who is a believer in free will you will know that most of their objections occur because they take the very position that Calvin describes in the quote.

Free will has become a “hot button” issue.  If you dare suggest that God is sovereign then the immediate response is “What about free will?”.  This objection has infiltrated every part of our culture today.  Even movies portray this false understanding.  Have you seen Bruce Almighty?  Remember the scene where God is explaining the rules of being God to Bruce.  He basically tells Bruce that he can do anything he wants except tamper with free will.

I admit that I don’t fully understand all aspects of this issue.  I plan to read some on it soon.  My theology study group is going to be reading Freedom of the Will by Jonathan Edwards soon so I hope this will be a good place to start.

If you have any suggestions of good books to read on the subject, please share them in a comment.

John Calvin On Those Who Claim Men Have Free Will

But those who, while they profess to be the disciples of Christ, still seek for free-will in man, notwithstanding of his being lost and drowned in spiritual destruction, labour under manifold delusion, making a heterogeneous mixture of inspired doctrine and philosophical opinions, and so erring as to both.  [Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin, translated by Henry Beveridge; Book 1, Chapter 15, Section 8]

I struggled with the issue of free will for a time.  I was only able to get past it once I began to grasp the concept of total depravity.  Once I began to understand how our depravity affects all that we are, the free will issue came into perspective for me.

Do you struggle with the issue of free will?  How did you get past it (if you have)?

Chapter 9: Free Will

Source: 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith

Chapter 9

9.1 God has provided the human will by nature with liberty and power to act upon choice; it is neither forced, nor determined by any intrinsic necessity to do good or evil.1

(1) Mat 17:12; Jas 1:14; Deu 30:19

9.2 In his state of innocence, Adam had freedom and power to will and to do what was good and well-pleasing to God;1 but he was unstable so that he might fall from this condition.2

(1) Ecc 7:29
(2) Gen 3:6

9.3 The human race through the fall into a state of sin, has completely lost all ability of will to perform any spiritual good accompanying salvation. In our natural state we are altogether opposed to spiritual good and dead in sin; we are not able, by our own strength, to convert ourselves, or even to prepare ourselves for conversion.1

(1) Rom 6:16,20; Joh 8:31-34; Eph 2:1; 2Co 3:14; 4:3-4; Joh 3:3; Rom 7:18; 8:7; 1Co 2:14; Mat 7:17-18; 12:33-37; Luk 6:43-45; Joh 6:44; Jer 13:23; Joh 3:3,5; 5:40, 6:37,39,40,44,45,65; Act 7:51; Rom 3:10-12; Jas 1:18; Rom 9:16-18; Joh 1:12-13; Act 11:18; Phi 1:29; Eph 2:8-9

9.4 When God converts sinners and transfers them into the state of grace, he frees them from their natural bondage to sin, and by his grace alone he enables them freely to will and to do what is spiritually good.1 Nevertheless, because of their remaining corruption, they do not perfectly nor exclusively will what is good, but also will what is evil.2

(1) Col 1:13; Joh 8:36; Phi 2:13
(3) Rom 7:14-25; Gal 5:17

9.5 Only in the state of glory will our wills be made perfectly and permanently free to do good alone.1

(1) Eph 4:13; Heb 12:23