Comments on De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of Will

tomgroeneman's picture

how I understand free will

From experience I can say that I have a free will to choose to obey God or not before and after salvation. Because of the original sin of my ancestors Adam and Eve, my ability to obey God is darkened but nevertheless fully active. I have done good things even before I knew Christ and done bad things even after I knew Christ. When I decided to follow Christ and accepted Him into my life, My ability to obey God was enhanced by His work of grace and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. One of the things that makes me human is the predominance of my free will and the choices I make every day. If God had not given me a free will, then my love for Him would be less than genuine. God has not created a race of robots and this is where I think the reformers have strayed from the truth. Yes the grace of God enables me to obey His will and saves me but as an autonomous free-will moral agent, I have to voluntarily cooperate with Him. Augustine's view of free will may resemble Luther's but neither of them is still alive to answer the question with any accuracy. Augustine did write a whole treatise 'On Grace and Free Will' a section of which I am quoting below as it best represents his view and mine.

Chapter 10 [V.]— Free Will and God's Grace are Simultaneously Commended.

When God says, Turn ye unto me, and I will turn unto you, Zechariah 1:3 one of these clauses— that which invites our return to God— evidently belongs to our will; while the other, which promises His return to us, belongs to His grace. Here, possibly, the Pelagians think they have a justification for their opinion which they so prominently advance, that God's grace is given according to our merits. In the East, indeed, that is to say, in the province of Palestine, in which is the city of Jerusalem, Pelagius, when examined in person by the bishop, did not venture to affirm this. For it happened that among the objections which were brought up against him, this in particular was objected, that he maintained that the grace of God was given according to our merits,— an opinion which was so diverse from catholic doctrine, and so hostile to the grace of Christ, that unless he had anathematized it, as laid to his charge, he himself must have been anathematized on its account. He pronounced, indeed, the required anathema upon the dogma, but how insincerely his later books plainly show; for in them he maintains absolutely no other opinion than that the grace of God is given according to our merits. Such passages do they collect out of the Scriptures—like the one which I just now quoted, Turn ye unto me, and I will turn unto you,— as if it were owing to the merit of our turning to God that His grace were given us, wherein He Himself even turns unto us. Now the persons who hold this opinion fail to observe that, unless our turning to God were itself God's gift, it would not be said to Him in prayer, Turn us again, O God of hosts; and, You, O God, wilt turn and quicken us; and again, Turn us, O God of our salvation, — with other passages of similar import, too numerous to mention here. For, with respect to our coming unto Christ, what else does it mean than our being turned to Him by believing? And yet He says: No man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. John 6:65

Tom Groeneman