God's Sovereignty, Free Will, and Salvation - Introduction

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This presentation is the first part in a series that examines how God's sovereignty can be reconciled with human free will. It looks at the history of the debate and the main areas of discussion.

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God's Sovereignty, Free Will, and Salvation - Introduction

  1. 1. Sovereignty Free Will & Salvation
  2. 2. Is everyone going to be saved?
  3. 3. The History of Unitarian UniversalismIn the sixteenth century, Laelius Socinusand his nephew Faustus revived the fourth century heresy of Arianism and taught that the Trinity was a false doctrine and that Christ was not God. In that sense, they were “Unitarian” in their teaching. But they went further and said that someof God‟s attributes were optional and not necessary. They claimed that God‟s justice is optional, but is mercy ismandatory. Therefore, if justice is optional and mercy mandatory, then according to Socinianism, all people will be saved by God. In this respect, they were “universalists”.
  4. 4. Answer: No, there will be few saved, many lost“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad thatleads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. ” (Matthew 7:13–14) “Many will say to Me on that day, „Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?‟ “And then I will declare to them, „I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.‟ ” (Matthew 7:22–23) www.confidentchristians.org
  5. 5. Answer: No, there will be few saved, many lost “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things whichwere written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone‟s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. ” (Revelation 20:11–15) www.confidentchristians.org
  6. 6. Who decided that the plan of salvationincluded the fact that few would be saved and many lost?
  7. 7. Answer: God Decided the plan“For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” ” (Luke 22:22) “this Man [Jesus], delivered over by thepredetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. ” (Acts 2:23)“But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. ” (Acts 3:18) “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom Youanointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to dowhatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. ” (Acts 4:27–28) www.confidentchristians.org
  8. 8. Who ultimately determines who is going to be saved?
  9. 9. Is it Ultimately God or Us? “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. ” (2 Thessalonians 2:13) “They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” ” (Acts 16:31) www.confidentchristians.org
  10. 10. If it‟s God, then He determined who He would save.If it‟s us, then God determined that it would be us, using our free will choice.Either way, God is in sovereign control over our salvation. www.confidentchristians.org
  11. 11. Let‟s look at a brief history of thesovereignty, free will, and salvation debate. www.confidentchristians.org
  12. 12. “Grant what thou commandest, andcommand what thou dost desire.” - Augustine www.confidentchristians.org
  13. 13. Pelagius vs. AugustinePelagius (c.354-after 418) wasa British monk who emerged asa spiritual leader of both clergyand laity in Rome around A.D. 380. He bristled greatly at Augustine‟s statement and took issue with his views on theinherited sinfulness of man from Adam and the moral inability that Augustine believed Scripture taught. www.confidentchristians.org
  14. 14. Pelagius vs. Augustine Pelagius‟ teachings can besummarized in three basic positions:1. There is no connection between Adam‟s sin and the state all people are born into. People are born innocent without sin2. People have the free will to choose good or evil3. There is a grace of God active in the world, but it is only an „illuminating grace‟ that influences people, but it can be resisted www.confidentchristians.org
  15. 15. Pelagius vs. Augustine Augustine opposed Pelagius and argued that Scripture clearly teaches every human is born in sin and their conscience is marred so that they, by nature rebel against God. In short, Augustine‟s position was that people do not save themselves, because theycannot, nor are they saved against theirwill, because they will not. God needs to make their will compliant: “Neither the grace of God alone, nor he alone, but the grace of God with him…” At the council of Carthage in A.D.412, Augustine won and had Pelagius‟ views officially condemned. www.confidentchristians.org
  16. 16. Thomas Aquinas Follows Augustine Thomas Aquinas followed Augustine where the free will of humanity is concerned and statedthat all people are absolute debtors to God and cannot merit salvation on their own or by their choice. “It is impossible that any creature should cause grace.” “Hence, however much a man prepares himself, he does notnecessarily receive grace from God.” www.confidentchristians.org
  17. 17. On All Saints Day in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg Germany in hopes of stirring an academic discussion with church leaders. Most historians will say that the core issue was Luther‟s position of salvation by faith alone. But also at issue was something more. www.confidentchristians.org
  18. 18. Soli To the Glory of God Alone The Five Solus Christ Alone „Solas‟ of the Sola Scripture AloneReformation Sola Faith Alone Sola Grace Alone www.confidentchristians.org
  19. 19. "It is wrong to suppose that the doctrine of justification by faith alone, that storm centerof the Reformation, was the crucial question in the minds of such theologians as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Bucer, and John Calvin. This doctrine was important to the Reformers because it helped to express and to safeguard their answer to another, more vital, question, namely, whether sinners are wholly helpless in their sin, and whether God is to be thought of as saving them by free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying them for Christs sake when they come to faith, but also raising them from thedeath of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring them to faith." -Michael Haykin Professor of Church History www.confidentchristians.org
  20. 20. Martin Luther on Free WillMartin Luther called hisbook “The Bondage of the Will” his most important work. In it heargues that humanity is in bondage to sin, freely choosing to sin by theirown will, yet still a slave tosin and unable to choose God on their own. www.confidentchristians.org
  21. 21. “I praise and commend you highly for this also, that unlike all the restyou alone have attacked the real issue, theessence of the matter in dispute.” Martin Luther to Erasmus Response to Diatribe of the Freedom of the Will www.confidentchristians.org
  22. 22. Martin Luther on Free Will “Free will without God‟sgrace is not free at all, butis the permanent prisoner and bondslave of evil, since it cannot turn itself to good.” - Martin Luther www.confidentchristians.org
  23. 23. John Calvin on Free Will Like Luther, the GenevanReformer embraced the notionof original sin in humanity andthe inability of a sinful person to freely choose God.“When the will is enchanted asthe slave of sin, it cannot makea movement towards goodness, far less steadily pursue it.” www.confidentchristians.org
  24. 24. John Calvin on Free Will Calvin (with Luther) affirmed humanity does have free will in that people can and do act voluntarily,without compulsion. Men and women make choices every day that are carried through freely via their will. But concerning the things of God,Calvin says humanity is “blinder than moles.” How they can a person freely choose God according to Calvin? www.confidentchristians.org
  25. 25. John Calvin on Free Will“God, therefore, begins the good workin us by exciting in our hearts a desire, a love, and a study of righteousness, or (to speak more correctly) by turning, training, and guiding our hearts unto righteousness. . . . I say the will is abolished, but not in so far as it is [a] will, for in conversion everything essential to our original nature remains. I also say, that it is created anew, not because the will then begins to exist, but because it is turned from evil to good.” - John Calvin www.confidentchristians.org
  26. 26. “Historically, it is a simple matter of fact that Martin Luther and John Calvin . . . and all the leading Protestant theologians of the first epoch of theReformation, stood on preciselythe same ground here. On otherpoints they had their differences;but in asserting the helplessness of man and the sovereignty of God in grace, the were entirely at one." - J. I. Packer www.confidentchristians.org
  27. 27. The Catholic Church Responds At the Council of Trent (1545- 1563) , the Catholic Church met to consider the Reformation, with thegoal being to defend their beliefs and distance themselves from the reformers. The Council affirmed the doctrine of original Adamic sin; humanity is born into the world separated from God. Thus, infants born need cleansing from Adam‟s sin and so need to be baptized to wash away Adam‟s disobedience. www.confidentchristians.org
  28. 28. The Catholic Church RespondsBaptism, said the Council, removes the guilt of Adam from every child andleaves them in a state of innocence witha free will that may or may not choose to sin. The position is clear: “If any one denies, that, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin isremitted; or even asserts that the whole of that which has the true and proper nature of sin is not taken away . . . Let him be anathema.”In essence, they are returned to a state enunciated by Pelagius. www.confidentchristians.org
  29. 29. The Catholic Church & MolinismTo counter the intellectual and Biblical arguments of the reformers regardingGod‟s sovereignty and humanity‟s free will, the Catholic Church responded with the Jesuit Luis de Molina. According to Molina, God has three kinds of knowledge:1. Natural – Knowledge of everything that could be2. Free - Knowledge of everything that will be3. Middle - Knowledge of everything that would be www.confidentchristians.org
  30. 30. The Catholic Church & Molinism It is Middle Knowledge – scientia media – that distinguishes Molinism. This concept says God does not know future free acts of individualslike He does other things; He knows them contingently. He has intuited what each, according to their innateliberty, would do if placed in a certain situation. God, in essence, waits tosee what a free creature does before He selects those who will be saved. But since God is eternal, the sequence is only logical and not chronological. www.confidentchristians.org
  31. 31. The Rise of Arminius Jacob Arminius (1560-1609), one of the reformers, moved away from Calvin‟s and Luther‟s teachings wheresovereignty and free will are concerned.Arminius said the relationship between God and humanity is one of cooperative assistance. The HolySpirit is not overcoming a hostile will to make it compliant so much as it is assisting and increasing a person‟s natural faculties to respond to God. The Holy Spirit only succeeds so far as a person concurs. People canprevent the grace of God by resisting it. www.confidentchristians.org
  32. 32. Arminianism vs. Reformed Teachings The Synod of Dort was held in 1618-1619 to debate the teachings of Arminiusand the reformers. There were key issues at the center of the debate:• A person‟s ability to choose God• God‟s election based on foreknowledge or His divine choice• Whether Christ died for all• Whether a person can resist grace• If a person could lose their salvation The end result was that Arminianism was rejected and reformed teachings was upheld. www.confidentchristians.org
  33. 33. T – Total DepravityU – Unconditional ElectionL – Limited AtonementI – Irresistible GraceP – Perseverance of the Saints www.confidentchristians.org
  34. 34. Overview of the Positions on Sin/Free Will Pelagianism Arminianism Calvinism (Semi-Pelagianism) (Reformed Theology)State at birth Innocent Totally depraved Totally depraved (conscience (conscience effaced) corrupted)Ability Can obey God Cooperate with God Cannot cooperate with GodGuilt None Potential Judicial/actual“In Adam” Not at all Potentially Legally/naturallyInherited from Bad example Propensity to sin; Necessity to sin;Adam necessity to die necessity to dieWhat is imputed One‟s own sin One‟s own sin One‟s own sin and Adam‟s sinSpiritual image of Retained Effaced EffacedGodEffect of grace None Sufficient for all Efficient on those God chooses
  35. 35. John Wesley – a Calvin/Arminian MixJohn Wesley (1703-1791) adopted a position that was a middle ground between Reformed and Arminian teaching. He affirmed humanity was totally depraved and could notcooperate with God. However, he said that because of Christ‟s work on the cross, God‟s grace comes upon all people – a grace termed preventing or„prevenient‟ grace – and that people at that point are capable of freely cooperating with God where their salvation is concerned. “Without it (prevenient grace), the Calvinist logic is irrefutable.” – Robert E. Chiles www.confidentchristians.org
  36. 36. Positions on Sovereignty and Free Will Calvinism Arminianism WesleyanismTotal Depravity Unable to respond Able to respond Unable to respond to to God without to God with help God without Prevenient grace from God graceUnconditional Elected to God‟s call goes God‟s call goes out to allElection Salvation by God out to all; humanity and must be freely alone freely believes and accepted by a person via is saved a restored willLimited Christ died only for Christ died for Christ died for everyoneAtonement the Elect everyoneIrresistible God‟s call Can resist God‟s Can resist God‟s callGrace effectual; it cannot call fail; a person will freely come to God when calledPerseverance of Cannot lose Can lose salvation Can lose salvationthe Saints salvation
  37. 37. Open Theism – A Heresy to AvoidOpen Theism is a theological position dealing with human free will and God‟s sovereignty. Itis the teaching that God has granted to humanity free will and that in order for the free will to be truly free, the future free will choices of individuals cannot be known ahead of time by God. In Open Theism, the future is either knowable or not knowable. Some open theists say God knows the future, but voluntarily limits His knowledge of free will choices so that they can remain truly free. Other open theists maintain that the future, being non existent, is not knowable, even by God. Gregory Boyd, an advocate of Open Theism says, "Much of it [the future], open theists will concede, is settled ahead of time, either by Gods predestining will or by existing earthly causes, but it is not exhaustively settled ahead of time. To whatever degree the future is yet open to be decided by free agents, it is unsettled." www.confidentchristians.org
  38. 38. Concluding Thoughts and Questions…
  39. 39. Why evangelize…? Am I truly free…? Can I lose my salvation…? It‟s not fair…! Does God choose some people for hell…?Can God fail…? Sovereignty is just fatalism…!
  40. 40. Sovereignty Free Will & Salvation

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