Reformed Theology and Free Will
Packer is too good a biblical scholar to think there ever was such a thing as “free will” taught in the scripture. Thus the whole conversation between him and myself can proceed on the cordial agreement that free will is an unbiblical notion that is not part of the antinomy because it is not part of revelation.1
Standard philosophical understandings of free will includes its ability to choose and do otherwise under similar circumstances. What distinguishes “free will” from “free agency” in moral agents with content in their nature and subjective faculties is that the former deliberates and draws upon that content; while in the latter, the content pushes upon and compels our decision making process and will to the point of determining. In the former, the will ill is the active and determining agent. In the latter, the will becomes a passive.
Free will is an unbiblical notion? Such a notion cannot be found within Scriptures? If Lucifer or Adam and Eve did not have free will, for instance, does John Piper and his ilk have a coherent definition of free will? Like scientism and the objective reality of soul and spirit; free will is precluded from Calvinist systems of rationalist theology. Free will doesn’t exist; neither in God, nor in man.
If Adam and Eve did not have free will to choose and do otherwise, if “man is free [only] to choose and act in accordance with his nature”2 , then by virtue of Adam and Eve’s sin, it must indicate that Adam and Eve were always inherently evil, contrary to pontifications by the Reformed tradition that they were endowed with righteousness (“He created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after His own image” 3), or Biblical judgments of the Creation (“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”) 4.
So which is it? Is “free will” an unbiblical notion? Or, was humanity inherently evil and therefore Creation was not good from the beginning?
©Copyright John Hutchinson (From “Monergist, But not Calvinist”)
- John Piper, “A Response to J.I. Packer on the So-Called Antinomy Between the Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility”, desiringGod, March 1, 1976, Accessed http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/a-response-to-ji-packer-on-the-so-called-antinomy-between-the-sovereignty-of-god-and-human-responsibility on March 25, 2014.
- Ernest C. Reisinger, God’s Will, Man’s Will and Free Will, 1998, Chapter 3 – “Free Will and Free Agency”
- The Westminster Confession, 1647, Chapter 4, Article 2.
- Genesis 1:31