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  • Writer's pictureKirk Bagby

The Doctrine of Human Will


  1. Introduction

  2. Understanding God’s Nature

    1. God’s Goodness

    2. God’s Sovereignty

    3. God’s Will

  3. Understanding Human Will

    1. Human Will before the Fall

    2. Human Will after the Fall

    3. Human Will after Salvation

  4. Objections to Human Freedom

    1. God’s Sovereignty Forbids Human Freedom

    2. God’s Omniscience Forbids Human Freedom

    3. Total Depravity Forbids Human Freedom

    4. Augustine’s Theology Forbids Human Freedom

  5. Applications of Human Freedom

    1. Solving the Problem of Evil

    2. Proclaiming the Gospel to All People

    3. Living Godly Lives

    4. Resisting Temptations

  6. Conclusion

1 Introduction

Robert Kane says, “The problem of free will and necessity (or determinism) is ‘perhaps the most voluminously debated of all philosophical problems,’ according to a recent history of philosophy. This situation has not changed at the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of a new millennium.”[1] Many theological views of human will exist. Each view leans towards determinism or towards genuine free will. Deterministic views claim that either God or human nature somehow determines human behavior. Genuine free will positions assert that even after the fall of Adam, mankind can still exercise a measure of freedom regarding salvation. Numerous explanations exist for how this works including Arminianism, Provisionism,[2] Open Theism, and Pelagianism.

For this paper, free will is defined as the ability to choose to do otherwise, with qualifications as described later. Although some scholars espouse a position of compatibility between determinism and free will,[3] this paper assumes that all compatibilist definitions of free will involve a measure of determinism that is not compatible with genuine free will.

The purpose of this paper is to expound upon the Bible and interpretations of the Bible by Christian leaders throughout history to see which direction one should lean towards (e.g., towards determinism or towards genuine free will). To properly understand the nature and extent of human will, one must first understand God’s nature. Only after properly understanding God’s attributes can one properly understand human will. Evidence points towards human freedom rather than determinism; thus, objections against this view will be discussed and countered. Lastly, practical applications of this doctrine will be shared.

2 Understanding God’s Nature

God created human beings.[4] Consequently, one must understand God as best as possible before attempting to understand the nature or attributes of the beings He created. Three key attributes of God related to discussions of human will are God’s goodness, God’s sovereignty, and God’s will.

2.1 God’s Goodness

The Bible indicates that God is omnibenevolent. Many passages declare that God is good (cf. 1 Chr 16:34; Ezek 3:11; Ps 25:8; 34:8; 100:45; 107:1; 119:68; 136:1-3; 143:10; Jer 33:11; Nah 1:7; John 10:11).[5] Other passages mention the goodness of God (cf. Exod 34:6; Ps 23:6; 27:13; 107:8-9; Hos 3:5; Rom 2:4). Other passages speak of God’s goodness as being great (cf. Ps 31:19; 145:7). Also, God loves righteousness and justice (Ps 33:5). Because God is good, God does good things. God created good things (cf. Gen 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31; 1 Tim 4:4). God is “good to all” (Ps 145:9). God gives good things (Matt 7:11), and every good gift is from God (Jas 1:17). Furthermore, God has good plans for people (Jer 29:11). Because God is good, God is not bad, and He cannot do bad things. There is no unrighteousness (Ps 92:15) or darkness (1 John 1:5) in God. God cannot behold or look upon wickedness (Hab 1:13). He does not take pleasure in wickedness (Ps 5:4). Rather, He hates evil thoughts and false oaths (Zech 8:17), and His plans for people are not evil (Jer 29:11). The Bible teaches that God is always good and always does good deeds. He is never bad and never does bad deeds.

2.2 God’s Sovereignty

Second, God is sovereign. Thomas Oden writes, “Christian Scriptures and tradition view God as independent of all else that exists, that is, as: uncreated, underived, necessary, one, simple, infinite, immeasurable, eternal, self-sufficient, necessary being, the life of all that lives.”[6] God alone is eternal. Nothing came before God, and nothing came about except by God’s creation. Nothing is equal to God. Consequently, God alone is truly sovereign.

2.3 God’s Will

Third, God has a free will. God’s will is “independent, unified, and eternal.”[7] His will remains unchanged by any external circumstance.[8] His will is not dependent upon anyone or anything. Otherwise, God would be less than omnipotent and sovereign. A.W. Tozer declared, “God is said to be absolutely free because no one and no thing can hinder Him or compel Him or stop Him. He is able to do as He pleases always, everywhere, forever.”[9] Because God is good, God’s will is always good (cf. Jer 29:11). Oden writes, “The will of God is eternally directed toward the good, according to Scripture.”[10] Because of His free will, God could have chosen not to create the universe[11], but He did choose to create the universe, and this choice was a good choice because God is always good. These three attributes of God – His omnibenevolence, His sovereignty, and His free will – are important in understanding human will both before the fall and after the fall.

3 Understanding Human Will

3.1 Human Will before the Fall

Genesis 1:31 declares that everything God created was very good. This included Adam and Eve, but the Bible also says that Adam and Eve disobeyed God (cf. Gen 2:16-17; 3:6, 11). They performed an action which contradicted a commandment of God; thus, they sinned against God. But how did Adam and Eve sin when they were created good? God could not have caused or influenced Adam and Eve to disobey Him. Thomas McCall writes, “There is nothing in the Genesis account to make us think that God is in any way the ‘author’ or cause of sin.”[12] God cannot contradict Himself (cf. Num 23:19; Titus 1:2; 2 Tim 2:13). His nature is to do good only and not evil. Thus, God could not have caused Adam and Even to choose to sin.

One might suppose that Satan caused Adam and Eve to sin. After all, Genesis 3 indicates that he at least influenced Eve to sin (cf. Gen 3:1-6). But if the devil caused Adam and Eve to sin, then God is either not omnibenevolent or else He is not sovereign. God created all things, which includes Satan (i.e., Lucifer). We know that everything God created was good. Therefore, Satan was good when God created him.[13] Also, because God is good and cannot contradict Himself, God could not have caused or influenced Satan to fall.[14] Thus, Satan must have possessed a will that was free to fall.[15] If Satan (or any other evil power) somehow forced Adam and Eve to sin, then God would not be sovereign over all other powers, for God would have been too weak to prevent evil from forcing Adam and Eve to sin. The doctrines of God’s goodness and sovereignty prevent the explanation that the devil or any other evil power causes sin.[16]

But how could God, being omnibenevolent and sovereign, have created humanity with the ability to disobey Him? God must have created Adam and Eve with a will that could freely choose to disobey Him. McCall writes, “The view of the origin of human sin that is both most in line with the canonical account and most consistent with the Christian tradition is this: Adam and Eve, who were posse peccare as well as posse non preccare, sinned by the abuse of their God-given and God-imaging freedom.”[17] Numerous early church fathers explained the origin of sin to free will.[18] John Calvin also believed that Adam fell because of his own free choice saying, “Adam, therefore, might have stood if he chose, since it was only by his own will that he fell; but it was because his will was pliable in either direction, and he had not received constancy to persevere, that he so easily fell. Still he had a free choice of good and evil;…”[19] Even R.C. Sproul, who believes in deterministic predestination and unconditional election,[20] says that Adam and Eve were created good with a good free will.[21] Sproul writes, “We are fallen creatures. But Adam and Eve were not created fallen. They had no sin nature. They were good creatures with a free will.”[22]

God’s gift of free will to Adam and Eve was good. Oden says that human freedom is “a crucial part of God’s good creation and intention.”[23] God could have chosen to create Adam and Eve without free will and determined all human behavior to be good only. Instead, He chose to create humans with free will. It was better for God to create humanity with free will than without free will. According to Geisler, anyone who attempts to deny the goodness of human freedom must use his free will do so. Consequently, “free choice is an undeniable good, since it affirms its own good even when attempting to deny it.”[24] Without free will, Adam and Eve could not have loved God relationally. Adam and Eve’s love and obedience to God would have been artificial if determined. God willed for Adam and Eve to use their wills to choose to love and obey Him, and by His goodness and grace, this was always a possibility for Adam and Eve.[25]

Human will comes from God’s will.[26] Oden says that “human freedom is ordered in relation to divine freedom. We are persons because God is a person. It is from divine freedom that human freedom is derived and made understandable.”[27] Although human will is derived from God’s will, human will is different from God’s will. Arminius taught that only God possesses “freedom from the control or jurisdiction of one who commands, and from an obligation to render obedience” and “freedom from the inspection, care, and government of a superior.”[28] Furthermore, God alone is eternal and sovereign; thus, He alone can make decisions completely free from prior or external influences. God necessarily had to create humans finite and under His authority. Because of His sovereignty God could not have created beings greater than or equal to Himself in authority or will. Thus, human will is not free from obligatory obedience to God. McCall writes, “Their [Adam and Eve’s] freedom is not complete or total; in an important sense they are not autonomous. Their freedom is circumscribed and has limits, for God tells them what to do and what to refrain from doing.”[29] Human will must be understood within the context of humanity’s relationship with the Creator. In other words, Adam’s will cannot be defined apart from his relationship under God’s authority.

But if Adam and Eve were created good and their wills were good and nothing could force them to choose to sin, then how did Adam and Eve sin? Arminius explains that mankind turned away from the “chief good” to “an inferior good,” and thus “transgressed the command given to him for life.”[30] The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not evil because God, by nature, cannot create evil. Everything God created was very good (Gen 1:31). Therefore, this tree was good, and its fruit was good (cf. Gen 3:6).[31] The physical action of eating the forbidden fruit was not evil. McCall writes, “The sin itself consists not in eating fruit that elsewhere God had pronounced ‘good’; the sin consists in the disregard and rejection of God’s will and ways.”[32] Adam and Eve freely chose to doubt the will of God, and they chose to exercise their own wills against God’s will. They wanted to be like God rather than live in harmony with Him.

According to Oden, God could not have prevented Adam and Eve from sinning without “depriving human existence of its most noble attribute, namely free will.”[33] Geisler writes, “It is good to be free, but freedom with regard to good and evil makes evil possible. Free will is good in itself, but entailed in that good is the ability to choose the opposite of good. If God made free creatures, and if it is good to be free, then the origin of evil is in the misuse of freedom.”[34] The only reasonable explanation that accounts for the goodness and sovereignty of God and the fall of mankind is that Adam and Eve were created with the ability to choose to do otherwise. They could choose to keep God’s commandment not to eat the forbidden fruit, or they could choose not to keep God’s commandment. If free will existed in humanity before the fall, then it stands to reason that free will may still exist somehow and to some extent after the fall.

3.2 Human Will after the Fall

Regarding mankind’s fallen state, Arminius said, “In this state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, maimed, infirmed, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost.”[35] Here, Arminius is not saying that “the free will of man … is destroyed, and lost.” Rather he says that “the free will of man towards the true good … is destroyed, and lost.” The fall did not eradicate human freedom but rather enslaved human freedom such that people cannot choose to do good on their own (cf. Isa 64:6; Jer 17:9; John 6:44; Rom 6:16-22, 8:5-8; 1 Cor 2:14). Depravity leads people to inevitably choose to sin (cf. 2 Chron 6:36; Ps 14:1-3; Eccl 7:20; Isa 53:6; 64:6; Rom 3:9-20, 23; 7:13-23; Gal 5:17; Eph 2:1-3; 1 John 1:10). John Wesley said that after the fall, people are “inclined to evil, and that continually.”[36] Thus, humans do not have the ability to choose not to sin on their own.

Nevertheless, the Bible suggests that sinners somehow possess the freedom to choose to do otherwise. The Bible includes imperatives for sinners to repent and to turn from evil towards good (cf. Ezek 18:30-32; Joel 2:13; Matt 4:17; 7:13; Mark 1:15; 2:17; 6:12; Acts 3:19; 8:22; 17:30; Rev 2:5, 16; 3:3, 19). After quoting Acts 3:19 (“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,”[37]), Oden comments, “Such an appeal assumes that the hearer may or may not decide to repent.”[38] These imperatives would be insincere unless all people could choose to repent and believe in God. Also, the Bible includes some conditional statements which indicate that a decision against evil towards good is needed and is possible (cf. 2 Chr 7:14; 30:9; Luke 13:3; 1 John 1:9). If some sinners were fated to remain sinners, such conditional statements would be disingenuous. If one believes that the Bible is the inerrant and inspired Word of God and that God is always good, then it is reasonable to believe that these imperatives and conditional statements indicate that sinners are somehow able to choose whether or not to repent.

Ezekiel 18:32 says, “‘For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,’ says the Lord God. ‘Therefore turn and live!’” 2 Peter 3:9 declares that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” And 1 Timothy 2:3-4 affirms that God “desires all men to be saved.” If God wills for all to repent and if God is truly good, then He must have provided a way for all to repent. But the Bible indicates that some people will not repent and be saved (cf. Matt 7:13; Rev 9:20-21; 16:9-11). Jesus Himself said, “wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it” (Matt 7:13). How can a good and sovereign God will for all to repent when not everyone is going to repent? Humans must have a will that is free to choose to remain unrepentant or to do otherwise and repent. Oden writes, “Enabled by grace, freedom is called to examine itself, its deceptions and evasions. God will not do the repenting for us.”[39]

All sinners must be free to repent so that they may be responsible for their actions. Justin Martyr wrote, “For if it be fated that this man, e.g., be good, and this other evil, neither is the former meritorious nor the latter to be blamed. And again, unless the human race have the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions, of whatever kind they be.”[40] Without freedom of the will, sinners cannot be properly responsible for their evil actions.[41] If our actions are determined, then “God would be responsible for all human actions.”[42] Geisler declares that “sound reason demands that there is no responsibility where there is no ability to respond.[43]

If sinners are not responsible for choosing to repent, then God must be responsible for choosing to save some and refraining from saving others. Consequently, God would be responsible, either directly or indirectly, for preventing some sinners from repenting. This implies that God is responsible for their continuation in sin. But God, being omnibenevolent, cannot be responsible for any sinners’ sins, either directly or indirectly.[44] The only way to avoid making God directly or indirectly responsible for sinners’ continued sinning is to believe that God graciously grants all sinners the free and uncoerced choice to repent or not to repent. Due to the doctrine of God’s goodness, human freedom must somehow exist after the fall.

3.3 Human Will after Salvation

Finally, if genuine free will existed before the fall and is somehow present in sinners after the fall, then free will may still exist in believers after salvation. If Adam and Eve could fall from God’s favor by misusing their freedom, then it is reasonable to believe that regenerated believers may fall away by misusing their freedom. Indeed, numerous Bible passages indicate that one can turn away from God even after knowing Him (cf. Deut 29:18; 2 Chr 15:1-2; Ezek 18:24; Matt 10:22, 32-33; 18:21-35; 24:9-13; 42-51; Luke 8:11-14; 12:42-46; John 15:1-6; 1 Cor 10:12; Heb 10:38). Commenting on 2 Chronicles 15:2, Adam Clarke declares, “In this verse the unconditional perseverance of the saints has no place: a doctrine which was first the ruin of the human race, Ye shall not die; and ever since the fall, has been the plague and disgrace of the Church of Christ.”[45] Robert Shank expounds upon four passages of Jesus’s sayings (Luke 8:11-15; Luke 12:42-46; Matt 18:21-35; and John 15:1-6) and advocates that each passage teaches that believers can forfeit eternal life.[46] Also, Arminius believed that apostasy was possible.[47] Again, if Adam and Eve, who were created very good and lived in a very good world, had the ability to choose to fall away from God’s favor, how much more should one accept the notion that a genuine Christian may freely choose to commit apostasy and lose his salvation?

Given a proper understanding of the goodness, sovereignty, and will of God, one can conclude that God created humans with a will that could choose against His will. Human will is not equivalent to God’s will but rather subordinate to His authority and limited by finitude. The fall of Adam resulted in the enslavement of the will such that humans cannot choose to stop sinning and act righteously apart from God’s grace. But because of God’s goodness and power, God can graciously grant all sinners the freedom and responsibility to choose to repent of their sins. Nevertheless, one’s free will remains after salvation, lending believers the ever-present need to always choose to seek God and His grace lest they turn away in apostasy.

4 Objections to Human Freedom

Numerous objections to this doctrine of human freedom have been proposed. For example, Martin Luther wrote, “So the foreknowledge and omnipotence of God are diametrically opposed to our ‘free-will’. Either God makes mistakes in His foreknowledge, and errors in his action (which is impossible), or else we act, and are caused to act, according to His foreknowledge and action.... This omnipotence and foreknowledge of God, I repeat, utterly destroy the doctrine of ‘free-will’.”[48] Some believe that genuine human freedom cannot exist because of God’s sovereignty, God’s foreknowledge, and human depravity. Furthermore, some theologians appeal to the later theology of Augustine to support a deterministic view of human will.

4.1 God’s Sovereignty Forbids Human Freedom

First, some believe that God’s sovereignty and/or omnipotence forbids human freedom. Robert A. Peterson and Michael D. Williams declare, “The kingship of God is all-inclusive, so reigning over our world that nothing escapes his sovereign sway. From the most mundane events of nature to the movements of empires to the depths of the human heart, all things are his servants. Every occurrence takes place by God’s choice and in accordance with his will (1 Cor 12:18; 15:38; Eph 1:11; Col 1:19).”[49] R.C. Sproul, Jr. asserts, “Our choices are indeed ultimately in God’s sovereign control.”[50]

Tozer declared, “The sovereignty of God is a fact well established in the Scriptures and declared aloud by the logic of truth.”[51] The Bible clearly indicates that God is sovereign and omnipotent (cf. Gen 18:14; 1 Sam 2:6-7; Job 42:1-2; Ps 59:11-16; 65:6; Isa 14:27; 40:21-26; Jer 32:27; Dan 4:35; Matt 19:26; 26:64; Luke 1:37; Rev 1:8; 19:6). Commenting on Revelation 1:8 (“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,’ says the Lord, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’”), Craig Keener says, “Greek-speaking Jews often called God ‘the omnipotent, or ‘all-powerful,’ as here.”[52] Furthermore, Tozer said, “Sovereignty and omnipotence must go together. One cannot exist without the other. To reign, God must have power, and to reign sovereignly, He must have all power.”[53]

If God really is sovereign and omnipotent, how can any being possess a will that can freely act against God’s will? God’s sovereignty only invalidates human freedom if God is restricted to merely accomplishing His will and never refraining from accomplishing His will. If that were true, then God would not have complete and genuine freedom. God’s free will allows Him the ability to refrain from accomplishing His will. Oden says that God’s omnipotence “does not imply that God wills in every instance everything that God can possibly will, for that would suggest that God is capable only of willing but not also capable of withholding influence.”[54] If God can refrain from accomplishing acts of His will, then He can allow humans the ability to exercise genuine free will, including choosing to reject His authority, albeit temporarily.[55]

A proper understanding of God’s sovereignty is needed to understand compatibility with human freedom. God did not will for Adam and Eve to disobey His authority, but God allowed their wills to contradict His will. God gifted Adam and Eve with the choice to eat or not to eat the fruit from all the trees in the garden of Eden together with the moral instruction to not eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Consequently, John C. Lennox says that God’s sovereignty “is clearly to be understood not in terms of absolute control over human behaviour but as a much more glorious thing: the devolving of real power to creatures made in God’s image, so that they are not mere programmed automata but moral beings with genuine freedom – creatures with the capacity to say yes or no to God, to love him or to reject him.”[56] Tozer says, “Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.”[57] Geisler believes that “(1) even an all-powerful God cannot do what is impossible, and (2) it is impossible to force free creatures to act contrary to their freedom.”[58] Irenaeus also defended the sovereignty of God while still holding to a genuine view of human free will.[59] Thus, one need not deny genuine human freedom because God is sovereign and omnipotent. Being finite and fallible, we may never fully understand the compatibility of God’s sovereignty and human freedom, yet we can choose to believe by faith that such compatibility exists.

4.2 God’s Omniscience Forbids Human Freedom

Second, some people reason that God’s foreknowledge forbids human free will.[60] Indeed, J. R. Lucas declares, “The chief theological argument for determinism is the argument from omniscience…”[61] Some claim that God’s infallible knowledge of the future results in fatalism.[62] Fatalism asserts that “there is only one will in the universe, the will of God, and that no other wills exist.”[63] Celsus believed that God’s foreknowledge was causative, and he argued that because Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him, then Judas was not free to decide otherwise.[64] How can humans have genuine freedom if God knows exactly what every human being is going to do in the future?

Some circumvent this conflict between foreknowledge and freedom by declaring that God does not know the future infallibly. “In The Openness of God (1994), Clark Pinnock, Richard Rice, John Sanders, William Hasker, and David Basinger reject divine timelessness, immutability, impassibility, and infallible foreknowledge,…”[65] This “open theism”[66] asserts that, “God knows everything that logically can be known… but God does not know the truth value of all propositions…”[67] Open theism affirms that God is still omniscience in that He knows everything that can be known, but the future is a reality that is not yet actualized; thus, knowledge about the future cannot be known.[68] Open theists agree with the fatalists who declare that “infallible foreknowledge is inconsistent with human free will,”[69] but because they hold tightly to genuine human freedom, they deny God’s infallible foreknowledge. God does not know all future events because of human free will.[70] However, much biblical evidence reveals that God does indeed know the future infallibly (cf. 1 Sam 23:11-12; Jer 38:17-23; Is 7:14; 44:28; 46:9-10; Matt 11:21-24; 26:34).[71] Furthermore, predictive prophecies in the Bible could not be trusted unless God is capable of knowing the future accurately.[72] Thus, open theism must be rejected for other views harmonizing God’s foreknowledge and human freedom.[73]

Oden writes, “If God knows what I later will do, does that take away my freedom? Although it may at first seem so, the consensus of classical Christian teaching is to answer no. Human freedom remains freedom, significantly self-determining, even if divinely foreknown.”[74] Origen affirmed and defended human freedom,[75] and he also affirmed God’s foreknowledge. Origen wrote, “Celsus imagines that an event, predicted through foreknowledge, comes to pass because it was predicted; but we do not grant this, maintaining that he who foretold it was not the cause of its happening, because he foretold it would happen; but the future event itself, which would have taken place though not predicted, afforded the occasion to him, who was endowed with foreknowledge, of foretelling its occurrence.”[76] A declaration of a future event does not cause that future event to occur. One’s will causes one’s behavior (e.g., Judas’s betrayal of Jesus) regardless of whether that behavior is predicted to us or not.

But how does God know the future infallibly if humans are genuinely free? Two explanations are the “Boethian solution” and the “Molinist Solution.”[77] The “Boethian Solution” declares, “A timeless being lacks temporal location and has no temporal properties. Hence, a timeless being has no beliefs at moments of time.”[78] Oden says, “According to Boethius, divine eternity is ‘simultaneous and perfect possession of interminable life’ (Consolation of Phil., 5.6; Augustine, True Religion, 40). For God, the whole of time is viewed as now…[79] This view asserts that, “God is an atemporal being and as such it makes no sense to attribute temporal qualities to him.”[80] Millard Erickson calls this view of God’s omniscience “Simple Foreknowledge” – God sees the past, present, and future equally, similar to how we see the present.[81] Thomas Aquinas defended this position,[82] and Wesley also took this position saying, “The almighty, all-wise God sees and knows, from everlasting to everlasting, all that is, that was, and that is to come, through one eternal now. With him nothing is neither past or future, but all things equally present. He has, therefore, if we speak according to the truth of things, no foreknowledge, no afterknowledge.”[83]

A second solution is molinism which proposes that God has “middle knowledge.”[84] “Middle knowledge is said to be ‘middle’ because it stands between God’s knowledge of necessary truths and his knowledge of his own will.”[85] According to this view, “…divine middle knowledge comprises those truths that are contingent and independent of the decisions of God’s will.”[86] In other words, middle knowledge is “God’s knowledge of all that would be.”[87] Arminius advocated for God’s middle knowledge[88] as well as contemporary apologist William Lane Craig.[89]

Surely, fatalism (foreknowledge negates free will) and open theism (free will negates foreknowledge) are simpler to understand than any compatibilist explanation. However, the simplicity of an explanation cannot determine its veracity. Being finite and fallible, we will never fully understand the compatibility of God’s omniscience and foreknowledge with genuine human freedom, yet we can choose to believe by faith that such compatibility exists.

4.3 Total Depravity Forbids Human Freedom

Some theologians believe that the consequences of the fall forbid human freedom. Humans are so completely and totally deprived of the imago dei that we cannot make any free moral decisions. Ephesians 2:1, 5 and Colossians 2:13 teach that sinners are “dead” in their sins. Clayton Kraby declares, “Scripture teaches that we are spiritually dead. Because of this we cannot and will not turn towards God on our own. Instead, it is God who elects believers to salvation (Romans 8:28-30).”[90] John Piper says that “Human Depravity Is Total in at Least Five Senses,” one of which is “Man’s inability to submit to God and do good is total.”[91] Because depravity prevents people from making a free moral decision, God must choose to give faith to some people, independent of their wills.[92]

If the fall of Adam brought such depravity to humanity, then how can humans exercise genuine free will? Pelagianism solves the disparity between depravity and human freedom by belittling the effects of the fall. Adam’s sin did not corrupt human nature; thus, humans are not bent towards sinning after the fall.[93] Pelagianism emphasizes “free will at the expense of grace.”[94] Pelagianism teaches that the will is “so capable of turning itself around that the grace of repentance becomes virtually unnecessary.”[95] Thus, Pelagianism diminishes or denies the doctrine of original sin and human depravity in favor of free will. However, much biblical evidence supports the doctrine of human depravity, and Pelagianism was condemned by the Council of Carthage and the Second Council of Orange.[96]

The early church acknowledged the depravity of humanity while still affirming free will. Ken Wilson writes, “Not even one early church father writing from 95-430 CE—despite abundant acknowledgement of inherited human depravity—considered Adam’s fall to have erased human free choice to independently respond to God’s gracious invitation.”[97] Although the Bible describes sinners as being “dead” (Eph 2:1, 5; Col 2:13), this metaphor does not necessarily mean that sinners are incapable of freely responding to God’s invitation for salvation. In His parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), Jesus described the prodigal son as being “dead” (Luke 15:24). However, this parable clearly indicates that this son chose to return to his father. His father did not force or coerce his son into returning to him. Also, in Revelation 3:1-3, Jesus describes the church in Sardis as being dead (v1), but He also gives them the imperatives “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain” (v2) and “hold fast and repent” (v3). These imperatives indicate that their deadness did not prevent them from choosing to respond to Christ’s commandments. Leighton Flowers declares, “Not once does the scripture tell us that ‘deadness’ is in reference to a moral incapacity to respond to God’s life giving truth.”[98] Also, Geisler writes, “‘Spiritual death’ in the Bible does not mean annihilation but separation.”[99] Thus, the metaphors of deadness does not necessarily mean that one is completely incapable of choosing to repent of one’s sins and return to his heavenly Father.

But how can free will towards a morally good decision exist despite human depravity? God’s grace enables the human will to choose to repent and to believe in the work of Christ for salvation. According to John D. Wagner, “Arminius believes in a prevenient, non-irresistible grace prior to regeneration.”[100] Arminius wrote, “Concerning grace and free will, this is what I teach according to the Scriptures and orthodox consent: Free will is unable to begin or to perfect any true and spiritual good, without grace. That I may not be said, like Pelagius, to practice delusion with regard to the word ‘grace,’ I mean by it that which is the grace of Christ and which belongs to regeneration. I affirm, therefore, that this grace is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the due ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good.”[101] Arminius affirmed the depravity of mankind while believing that God’s grace can enable human freedom “towards the true good.” Arminius said that “the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, maimed, infirmed, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they are assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace.”[102] Even though mankind’s will towards morally good decisions is enslaved, God’s grace can assist in awakening the will towards making good decisions such as repenting of one’s sins and believing in God’s plan for salvation.

Oden affirms that God’s grace is required to enable both faith and repentance.[103] Geisler said that “no free human act can move toward God or do any spiritual good without the aid of His grace.”[104] Also, John Wesley “taught a doctrine of original sin similar in many respects to the Protestant Reformers,” and thus, Wesley “denied that human beings possess natural free will.”[105] However, Wesley taught that God’s prevenient grace can restore a measure of free will to all people.[106] Wesley defined this grace as “the first wish to please God, the first dawn of light concerning his will, and the first slight transient conviction of having sinned against him.”[107] Wesley quotes Philippians 2:13 (“for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”) to support his view of prevenient grace. This grace prevents people from boasting in “some goodness in us, or some good thing done by us, which first moved God to work. But this expression [Phil 2:13] cuts off such vain conceits, and clearly shows his motive to work lay wholly in himself, in his own mere grace, in his unmerited mercy.”[108]

If sin prevents human will from exercising a role in salvation, then either sin is greater than God’s grace or else God chooses to give some people saving grace and chooses to withhold this same grace from all other people. The first view denies the sovereignty of God. God cannot be sovereign if sin is greater than God’s grace. The second view denies the goodness of God. God cannot be considered completely good if He must pick some people to save and leave the rest to be lost.[109] It would be more morally good for God to choose to give all sinners sufficient grace to allow them the ability to choose to accept or reject His invitation for salvation.

Based upon the goodness and sovereignty of God, it is reasonable to believe that God is so gracious and merciful that He grants all people grace that enables them to freely choose to accept or reject His salvation. Wesley said that sinners cannot blame God for their continuation in sin because God has given all people “preventing grace” – even though “all the souls of men are dead in sin by nature, this excuses none, seeing there is no man that is in a state of mere nature; there is no man, unless he has quenched the Spirit, that is wholly void of the grace of God. No man living is entirely destitute of... preventing grace.”[110] Thus, the depravity of humanity need not negate genuine freedom. Being finite and fallible, we will never fully understand the relationship between God’s grace and human freedom after the fall, yet we can choose to believe by faith that God’s grace enables human will to exercise a role in salvation.

4.4 Augustine’s Theology Forbids Human Freedom

Finally, objections have been raised against genuine human freedom by appealing to the teachings of Augustine. Hugh T. Kerr declares Augustine to be the “greatest early church theologian by whatever standard of measurement.”[111] Justo L. González calls Augustine “one of the most influential figures in the entire history of Christianity.”[112] Henry Chadwick says that Augustine’s autobiography is “the most famous and influential of all ancient autobiographies.”[113] Furthermore, Chadwick writes, “Through his [Augustine’s] writings, the surviving bulk of which exceeds that of any other ancient author, he came to exercise pervasive influence not only on contemporaries but also in subsequent years on the west.”[114] If Augustine is so influential, should we not heed all of his theology?

John Calvin’s theology (i.e., “Calvinism”) was heavily influenced by Augustine. He once wrote, “In a word, Augustine is so wholly with me, that if I wished to write a confession of my faith, I could do so with all fulness and satisfaction to myself out of his writings.”[115] Piper says that “Calvin quoted Augustine more than any other theologian” in his writings.[116] Wilson says, “Calvin quotes Augustine over 400 times in his Institutes of the Christian Religion.”[117] Peterson asserts, “Calvin did not invent the doctrine of predestination. He was not the first person to talk about reprobation or the absolute sovereignty of God. As we have previously seen, the spiritual inability of the sinner and monergistic redemption characterized Augustine’s teaching on salvation.”[118] Wilson asserts, “Because of Augustine, many Protestants in the Reformation eagerly embraced theological determinism as a Christian concept.”[119]

Deterministic views in theology can be traced back to Augustine.[120] Therefore, some assert that because Augustine believed and taught a deterministic view of salvation, then we should accept his theology. Consequently, human will cannot be considered genuinely free. But can we trust that Augustine’s deterministic theology is biblical? By understanding Augustine’s life and history, one can see that trust in Augustine’s deterministic theology is unmerited.

Wilson writes, “Scholars have identified Stoicism, Neoplatonism, and Gnostic Manichaeism as important influences on Augustine of Hippo.[121] He spent years personally involved in these three extremely deterministic philosophies.”[122] Before Augustine became a Christian, he was a Manichaean “hearer” for nine years.[123] After leaving Manichaeism, he later became a Neoplatonist,[124] and even after his conversion to Christianity, his first Christian works “still bore a Neoplatonic stamp.”[125] Furthermore, Wilson says, “Augustine of Hippo was trained in Stoicism and embraced it even after becoming a Christian.”[126]

After his conversion, Augustine refuted the deterministic doctrines of Manichaeism,[127] and he taught and defended “traditional Christian theology . . . human free choice and election based upon God’s foreknowledge for over twenty-five years until 412 CE.”[128] González writes, “The question of the freedom of the will was of particular importance in the polemics against the Manichaeans. They held that everything was predetermined, and that human beings had no freedom.”[129] Wilson declares that “no extant Christian author prior to Augustine taught anything other than genuine free choice in combating the rigid determinism of these pagan philosophies” such as Stoicism, Manichaeism, and Neoplatonism.[130]

Although Augustine once taught a traditional view of free will, his theology changed.[131] Ken Wilson, who read all of Augustine’s extant writings in chronological order,[132] says that “from his [Augustine’s] conversion in 386 CE until 411 CE, Augustine taught traditional Christian doctrines against Gnostic-Manichaean divine unilateral determinism. None of his later doctrines now associated with Calvinism can be found for twenty-five years. There are two minor exceptions. Both are due to his later revisions of his own works.”[133]

Prior to 412, the only two works of Augustine which reference his later theology are De libero arbitrio, written in 395, and Ad Simplicianum, written in 396/397. In both writings, only a portion includes Augustine’s later theology (De libero arbitrio 3.47-54 and Ad Simplicianum 2.5-22), and that portion contradicts what Augustine wrote elsewhere in those same writings.[134] Regarding De libero arbitrio, Wilson says, “His theology both immediately before and after contradicts the revised section 3.47-54.”[135] Regarding Ad Simplicianum, Wilson writes, “Authored in 396/7 CE, the second half of Ad Simplicianum contains numerous extremely detailed and new dogmatic theologies that cannot be found for another fifteen years in any of his subsequent twenty-seven works from 396-411 CE.”[136] Specifically, Augustine’s conclusions in Ad Simplicianum 2.5 “totally reverse not only every prior extant Christian author, but also Augustine’s very same letter (Simp.1), all of Augustine’s prior works, and his works for the next fifteen years.”[137]

Other scholars have noticed these two shifts in Augustine’s theology and have often concluded that Augustine shifted his theology at that time.[138] However, Wilson argues that these two anomalies are revisions that Augustine himself made in 412 or later.[139] Augustine is known to have revised other examples of his writings as much as twenty years in the future even although no manuscript variants have been discovered.[140] Wilson declares, “The logical conclusion is that Augustine’s invention of his new theology did not occur in 396 CE as scholars have taught but in 412 CE as he fought the Pelagians.”[141] This shift did not occur suddenly and abruptly like the anomalies in De libero arbitrio and Ad Simplicianum. Rather, “within the one year of 412 CE Augustine struggles to birth his new theology. This birthing process appears chronologically in his works, sermons, and letters all simultaneously.”[142]

Geisler arrived at a similar conclusion to Wilson saying, “As a result of his controversy with the Pelagians (who emphasized free will at the expense of grace), Augustine overreacted with an emphasis on grace at the expense of free will.”[143]

To refute the Pelagians, Augustine used some of the same interpretations of the Bible that Manichaean’s used to support their theology.[144] For example, Augustine never cites John 14:6 (“No one comes to the Father except through Me.”) and 6:65 (“no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”) until after 412, and “he uses the Manichaean interpretation to prove his new total inability/incapacity for human faith.”[145] Also, Augustine adopted the same deterministic interpretations of Paul that Stoics, Gnostics, and Manichaeans used to support their deterministic views.[146] Wilson declares “The key scriptures cited in modern defenses of Reformed theology are the very ones used by the heretical Manichaeans in the fourth and fifth centuries and imported into Christianity by Augustine. Numerous scholars cite these scriptures and cite Augustine as proof for the validity of their Augustinian-Calvinist interpretations. They remain unaware of the pagan Stoic, Neoplatonic, and Manichaean origins of these highly deterministic interpretations of scripture.”[147]

While the early Augustine affirmed a traditional view of free will, the later Augustine diverged from traditional Christian teaching only after encountering the Pelagians. While Pelagianism should be rejected, one need not swing so far away from human freedom as Augustine did. In the words of Wilson, “One should appreciate Augustine for his contributions to Christianity while recognizing he stepped out of bounds when fighting the Pelagians.”[148] Thus, the later Augustine should not be used as an authority in teaching the doctrine of the human will.

5 Applications of Human Freedom

Many corporate and personal applications can be derived from this doctrine of human free will. Such applications for the church and for individual Christians include solving “the problem of evil,” genuinely offering the gospel message to everyone, maintaining one’s salvation, and resisting temptations.

5.1 Solving the Problem of Evil

Many have doubted God’s very existence by saying, “How can a good God exist when there is so much evil in the world today?” The doctrine of human freedom teaches that sin is not caused by God, either directly or indirectly.[149] Rather, sin is the result of the misuse of free will.[150] Arminius believed that, “Sin is the result of the abuse of the precious gift of freedom that God graciously bestowed upon humanity.”[151] Likewise, Oden writes, “Sin is due to the abuse, not the use, of free will.”[152] Furthermore, God allows evil to continue because to disallow all evil would be to disallow free will.[153] God does not prevent all people from always sinning because He wishes to preserve their freedom.[154] God does not will for evil to continue to exist. Indeed, He commands sinners to repent, and He provides a way for sinners to stop sinning. Yet, He allows humans to continue to exercise freedom, which necessarily includes His allowance of humans to do evil deeds at present.

Deterministic views of human will cannot adequately solve “the problem of evil” because they inevitably imply that God is not completely good. For example, supralapsarianism implies that God willed for sin to exist.[155] Thus, evil exists because God caused or created evil.[156] Also, evil continues to exist because God wants evil to continue to exist for His own pleasure and glory.[157] While other deterministic views deny divine authorship of sin, they declare that God unilaterally chooses some people to be saved and leaves the rest of humanity to be inevitably lost.[158] Thus, God does not provide a way for all sinners to repent and be saved. This means that some people have no fate but to live in sin. Consequently, God cannot be considered completely good, for He does not offer salvation to all people. Only a proper understanding of genuine human freedom can assert that God is truly good despite the evil that exists in the world today.

5.2 Proclaiming the Gospel to All People

Second, this doctrine of human freedom allows one to genuinely proclaim the gospel to all people. Because all people are responsible for choosing whom they will serve (Josh 24:15), the gospel ought to be proclaimed to everyone indiscriminately and unashamedly. This practice stems from the belief that free will elicits moral responsibility. Oden writes, “Taking personal responsibility for sin is the heart of evangelical repentance.”[159]

Deterministic views of human will cannot genuinely proclaim the gospel to all people.[160] Geisler says that deterministic views of salvation “can have a devastating effect on one’s own salvation, to say nothing of one’s enthusiasm to reach others for Christ.”[161] If only some people are chosen by God to be saved, then one must admit that some sinners who hear the gospel cannot truly repent and be saved, and there is nothing that anyone, including God, can do about that. Geisler asserts, “Human responsibility and the ability to make free choices were part of God’s plan for us from the beginning. Adam was told not to make the bad choice of eating the forbidden fruit (Gen 2:17); he chose to disobey God (Rom. 5:19). Even now, in our fallen state, we have the free choice to accept or reject God’s gracious provision of salvation.”[162] If one truly believes that all can, by the grace of God, choose to repent and believe in His salvific work, then one can genuinely declare that all people are capable of being saved (John 3:16-17) and that all people are responsible for choosing to accept or reject God.

5.3 Living Godly Lives

Third, this doctrine of human freedom encourages Christians to live godly lives and to do good works. If a Christian believes that he still possesses a free will that can choose to reject God, he will be encouraged to choose to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness (Matt 6:33), to “grow in the grace and knowledge” of Jesus (2 Pet 3:18), and to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). Christians must choose to continue to rely upon God’s grace to maintain their salvation and to live godly lives.

However, if one believes that his salvation is determined and unconditional, he may be tempted to live in continual sin, thinking that sinful actions cannot deprive him of God’s unconditional salvation. Indeed, William Placher writes, “Some of his [Jacob Arminius’s] parishioners would tell him that, while they wanted to stop sinning, they guessed they were not predestined to do so!”[163] Arminius lamented that the deterministic theology of his day dampened “all zeal and studious regard for good works.”[164]

5.4 Resisting Temptations

Lastly, this doctrine of human freedom can encourage Christians to resist temptations. No temptation is too strong to resist with the help of God’s grace. One can always choose “the way of escape” that God faithfully provides when temptations arise (1 Cor 10:13). God’s goodness and love created free will, which can fall from His grace, but God’s grace is greater than sin (Rom 5:20; 6:14; Eph 1:7), and His faithfulness endures forever (Ps 119:90). God will always be faithful to His people to grant sufficient grace to choose what is morally good regardless of any temptation.

6 Conclusion

In conclusion, the doctrine of human will cannot be properly understood without first understanding God’s goodness, God’s sovereignty, and God’s own will. By properly understanding God’s nature, one can see that the Bible affirms human freedom before the fall, after the fall, and after salvation. Some people object to this conclusion due to God’s sovereignty, God’s omniscience, and human depravity. However, reasonable explanations demonstrate that belief in genuine free will is compatible with the doctrines of divine sovereignty, divine foreknowledge, and human depravity. Also, some believers appeal to the later teachings of Augustine to support deterministic views of human will. However, understanding Augustine’s life and history reveals that trust in Augustine’s later theology is unmerited. Being finite and fallible, we will never fully understand the nature of human freedom.[165] Nevertheless, we can choose to believe that the human will is free to respond to God’s gift of salvation. Consequently, evil exists because of a misuse of human freedom. God is omnibenevolent despite the presence of evil in the world today. Furthermore, all people are invited by God’s grace to choose to repent of their sins and believe in the completed work of Christ for salvation.[166]


[1] Robert Kane, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Free Will (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2002), 3. [2] “Our Beliefs,” SOTERIOLOGY 101, 12 February 2015, [3] Cf. Robert E. Picirilli, Grace, Faith, Free Will (Nashville, TN: Randall House, 2002), 60; Kane, The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, 202–3. [4] Cf. Thomas C. Oden, Classic Christianity (New York, NY: HarperOne, 1992), 125–28. [5] All Scripture references in this paper are from the New King James Version, 1982. [6] Oden, Classic Christianity, 39. [7] Oden, Classic Christianity, 59. [8] Oden, Classic Christianity, 61. [9] A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1985), 182. [10] Oden, Classic Christianity, 59. [11] Michael Peterson et al., Reason and Religious Belief: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, Fifth Edition. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 143. [12] Thomas H. McCall, Against God and Nature: The Doctrine of Sin (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2019), 128. For more information on how God could not have caused Adam and Eve to sin, see McCall, 126-132. [13] Cf. McCall, Against God and Nature, 139–40; Norman Geisler, Chosen But Free, Third Edition. (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2010), 34. [14] Geisler, Chosen But Free, 33. [15] McCall, Against God and Nature, 140–41. [16] For more information, see McCall, Against God and Nature, 130, 133-34. [17] McCall, Against God and Nature, 135–36. [18] Cf. McCall, Against God and Nature, 135. [19] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1845), Vol. 1:228. [20] Cf. R.C. Sproul, Chosen by God (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1987), 51–76, 154-7. [21] Sproul, Chosen by God, 30–31. [22] Sproul, Chosen by God, 31. [23] Oden, Classic Christianity, 128. [24] Geisler, Chosen But Free, 34. [25] Cf. James Arminius, Arminius Speaks, ed. John D. Wagner (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2011), 23, 44; Keith D. Stanglin and Thomas H. McCall, Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2012), 101–2, 139. [26] Oden, Classic Christianity, 60. [27] Oden, Classic Christianity, 60. [28] Arminius, Arminius Speaks, 1. [29] McCall, Against God and Nature, 136. [30] Arminius, Arminius Speaks, 3. [31] Cf. McCall, Against God and Nature, 117, 122. [32] McCall, Against God and Nature, 117. [33] Oden, Classic Christianity, 157. [34] Geisler, Chosen But Free, 34. [35] Arminius, Arminius Speaks, 3. [36] Thomas C. Oden, John Wesley’s Teachings (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), Volume 1:172. [37] All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version, 1982. [38] Oden, Classic Christianity, 578. [39] Oden, Classic Christianity, 578. [40] Justin Martyr, The First Apology of Justin 43 (ANF 1:117). [41] Cf. Geisler, Chosen But Free, 40. [42] Geisler, Chosen But Free, 32. [43] Geisler, Chosen But Free, 41. [44] Geisler, Chosen But Free, 87–88. [45] Adam Clarke, The Holy Bible with a Commentary and Critical Notes (Bellingham, WA: Faithlife Corporation, 2014), Vol. 2:661. [46] Robert Shank, Life in the Son: A Study of the Doctrine of Perseverance, Second Edition. (Springfield, MO: Westcott Publishers, 1961), 31–47. [47] Stanglin and McCall, Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace, 172–75. [48] Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, trans. James I. Packer and O.R. Johnston (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1957), 217. [49] Robert A. Peterson and Michael D. Williams, Why I Am Not an Arminian (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 142. [50] R.C. Sproul, Jr., Almighty Over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 105. [51] Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, 183. [52] Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, Second Edition. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014), 729. [53] Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, 106. [54] Oden, Classic Christianity, 51. [55] At the final judgement, God’s will will be finally accomplished regardless of human will. For more on human will in an eschatological context, see Oden, Classic Christianity, 774, 814-15, 818-19, 828-31, 835-37. [56] John C. Lennox, Determined to Believe? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017), 45. [57] Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, 185. [58] Geisler, Chosen But Free, 219. [59] Ken Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism (United States of America: Regula Fidei Press, 2019), 23–26. [60] Kane, The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, 46–47. [61] J.R. Lucas, The Freedom of the Will (London: Oxford University Press, 1970), 71. [62] Kane, The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, 75–76. [63] Oden, Classic Christianity, 50. [64] Oden, Classic Christianity, 50. [65] Kane, The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, 59–60. [66] Also called the “open God” view, the “openness of God,” or “free will theism.” Cf. Kane, The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, 59-61. [67] Kane, The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, 60. [68] Millard Erickson, What Does God Know and When Does He Know It? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 13. [69] Kane, The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, 60. [70] Erickson, What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?, 13. [71] Cf. Steven C. Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?: A Comprehensive Biblical Study (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006). [72] Geisler, Chosen But Free, 169–70. [73] For more against open theism, see Erickson, What Does God Know and When Does He Know It? and Geisler, Chosen But Free, 110-28, 169-75. [74] Oden, Classic Christianity, 50. [75] Origin, De princ. 3.1.19. [76] Origin, Origin against Celsus 2.20 (ANF 4:440). [77] Kane, The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, 47–57. [78] Kane, The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, 51. [79] Oden, Classic Christianity, 43. [80] Kane, The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, 79. [81] Erickson, What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?, 12. [82] Kane, The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, 51. [83] Robert W. Burtner and Robert E. Chiles, eds., A Compend of Wesley’s Theology (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1954), 50. Emphasis in original. [84] Kane, The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, 55–57. [85] Kane, The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, 55–56. [86] Stanglin and McCall, Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace, 67. [87] Stanglin and McCall, Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace, 67. [88] Stanglin and McCall, Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace, 68–69. [89] Gregory A. Boyd et al., Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2001), 119–43. [90] Clayton Kraby, “The Five Points of Calvinism – Defining the Doctrines of Grace,” ReasonableTheology.Org, 27 July 2017, [91] John Piper, “TULIP: Introduction,” Desiring God, 7 March 2008, Piper quotes the following verses as evidence: Rom 8:5-9; John 3:5-7; Rom 6:17-18; Eph 2:1-5; 4:17-18; John 6:44; 1 Cor 2:14; and Jer 17:9. [92] Cf. Kraby, “The Five Points of Calvinism – Defining the Doctrines of Grace,”; Piper, “TULIP: Introduction,” [93] McCall, Against God and Nature, 280–82. [94] Geisler, Chosen But Free, 207. [95] Oden, Classic Christianity, 573. [96] Alister E. McGrath, ed., The Christian Theology Reader, Fifth Edition. (West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016), 352–54. [97] Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 34. [98] Leighton Flowers, “Deadness De-Calvinized,” Soteriology101, September 23, 2019, YouTube video, 5:19, [99] Geisler, Chosen But Free, 45. [100] Arminius, Arminius Speaks, 3. [101] Arminius, Arminius Speaks, 376. [102] Arminius, Arminius Speaks, 3. Emphasis added. [103] Oden, Classic Christianity, 591, 597. [104] Geisler, Chosen But Free, 48. [105] Kenneth J. Collins, The Theology of John Wesley: Holy Love and the Shape of Grace (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2007), 78. [106] Collins, The Theology of John Wesley, 78–79. [107] Burtner and Chiles, A Compend of Wesley’s Theology, 139–40. [108] Burtner and Chiles, A Compend of Wesley’s Theology, 147. [109] Cf. Geisler, Chosen But Free, 162–65. [110] Burtner and Chiles, A Compend of Wesley’s Theology, 148. Emphasis in original. [111] Hugh T. Kerr, ed., Readings in Christian Thought, 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1990), 51. [112] Justo L. González, The Story of Christianity (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2010), Volume 1:241. [113] Henry Chadwick, Augustine: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 1. [114] Chadwick, Augustine: A Very Short Introduction, 1–3. [115] John Calvin, Calvin’s Calvinism: The Eternal Predestination of God and the Secret Providence of God, trans. Henry Cole (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2019), 38. [116] John Piper, “The Swan Is Not Silent,” Desiring God, 3 February 1998, [117] Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 110. [118] Peterson and Williams, Why I Am Not an Arminian, 12. [119] Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 4. [120] Geisler, Chosen But Free, 207. [121] Wilson cites the following six sources to support this statement: “John Rist, Stoic Philosophy (Cambridge: university Press, 1969; Mariann Djuth, “Stoicism and Augustine’s Doctrine of Human Freedom after 396” in Joseph C. Schnaubelt and Frederick Van Fleteren, eds. Augustine: Second Founder of the Faith. Collectanea Augustiniana (New York: Peter Lang, 1990); Gerard O’Daly, Platonism Pagan and Christian: Studies in Plotinus and Augustine (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2001); Johannes Van Oort (2006). “Augustine and Manichaeism: New Discoveries, New Perspectives,” Verbum et Ecclesia JRG 27.2 (2006): 710-728; N. Joseph Torchia, “St. Augustine’s treatment of superbia and its Plotinian Affinities,” Aug.Stud.18 (1987): 66-79; M. Testard, Saint Augustin et Cicerón, Bd.1: Cicerón dans la formation et dans l’oeuvre de saint Augustin; Bd. 2 : Répertoire des textes (Paris, 1958).” See Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 121. [122] Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 5. [123] González, The Story of Christianity, Volume 1:244. Henry Chadwick says that “Augustine remained associated with the Manichees” for “a full ten years.” Chadwick, Augustine: A Very Short Introduction, 14. [124] González, The Story of Christianity, Volume 1:244. [125] González, The Story of Christianity, Volume 1:246. [126] Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 16. [127] González, The Story of Christianity, Volume 1:247; Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 40–41. [128] Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 37. [129] González, The Story of Christianity, Volume 1:247. [130] Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 18. [131] Geisler, Chosen But Free, 195-96, 207–17. [132] “Doctoral Dissertation to Be Published: Ken Wilson, MD, DPhil,” Partnerwithgrace.Org, 2017, [133] Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 43. [134] Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 43–52. [135] Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 46. See pages 44-46 for nine reasons why Wilson believes that this is a later revision by Augustine. [136] Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 48. [137] Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 52. [138] Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 39. [139] Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 44–52. [140] Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 48. [141] Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 52. [142] Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 52. [143] Geisler, Chosen But Free, 207. Note: Geisler does pinpoint the date of Augustine’s theological conversion to 412. Rather, he suggests that Augustine’s change started in 354 and is particularly manifested in 417. [144] Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 69. [145] Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 76. [146] Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 112. [147] Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 1–2. [148] Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 117. [149] Cf. Stanglin and McCall, Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace, 143. [150] Geisler, Chosen But Free, 34–35; McCall, Against God and Nature, 135–36; Oden, John Wesley’s Teachings, Volume 1:136, 192-93. [151] Stanglin and McCall, Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace, 104. [152] Oden, Classic Christianity, 157. [153] Oden, Classic Christianity, 157. [154] Arminius, Arminius Speaks, 13–14; Oden, Classic Christianity, 591. [155] Arminius, Arminius Speaks, 40–41, 46. [156] This is the view of R.C. Sproul, Jr. who suggests that God created sin. Cf. Sproul, Jr., Almighty Over All, 45–59. [157] Cf. Sproul, Jr., Almighty Over All, 107. [158] Cf. Sproul, Chosen by God. [159] Oden, Classic Christianity, 575. [160] Cf. Geisler, Chosen But Free, 165–67. [161] Geisler, Chosen But Free, 164. [162] Geisler, Chosen But Free, 14. [163] William C. Placher, A History of Christian Theology (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1983), 226. [164] Placher, A History of Christian Theology, 226. [165] Cf. Lennox, Determined to Believe?, 15; W.S. Anglin, Free Will and the Christian Faith (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1990), 3.

[166] This paper is an expended version of a paper I wrote for my class TH501 "Basic Christian Doctrine" which I took at Asbury Theological Seminary in the fall of 2021. I submitted this paper for my application into the ThM Dual Degree program at ATS in the spring of 2022.

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