Wednesday, September 4, 2013

FW: A Tour de force on "Free Will"




Feed: Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison
Posted on: Wednesday, September 04, 2013 6:52 AM
Author: Rev. Matt Harrison
Subject: A Tour de force on "Free Will"



From Martin Chemnitz' 1569 Church Order for Braunschweig=Woelfenbuettel. 

On the free will

            This is also one of the most important points of doctrine in which the pope's teaching is at odds with the pure doctrine of the holy, divine Word. At present there are all sorts of disputes regarding it by which simple pastors may be lead either to Pelagian and papistic synergia voluntatis non renatae in actionibus spiritualibus (cooperation of the unreborn will in spiritual actions), or to enthusiastici raptus (enthusiast frenzies), neither of which is of any worth. Therefore, in order that the papistic leaven also in this article may be entirely swept out of these churches, and so that other incorrect things may not again creep in, through which the pastors may become divided and the hearers confused, we shall here give a brief account and simple instruction as to how the pastors may comprehend the doctrine of this article with fitting discernment and present it to the people with Christian humility from the Augsburg Confession and Apology, according to God's word.


            In the first place, although the human nature has been terribly poisoned and corrupted by sin, it nevertheless has not turned into stone or wood, nor become the substance of an irrational beast. It has maintained body and soul after the fall, as well as, as article XVIII of the Augsburg Confession states, quoting Augustine, human understanding, reason, will, and natural powers and abilities.[1] These have been maintained not in spiritual, divine matters, but in dealings of this world and this life, in which the natural man has a certain measure of free will to think, to choose, to propose, to carry on, establish, or cease dealings in worldly matters, which are subject to reason and necessitated by this temporal life. Yet all of this is in great weakness, because nature is ill-suited and often hindered by the devil.


Second, as far as those things which sin and evil require, there the natural will is all too free from righteousness, and all too useful for sin, Romans 6. Thus it can, by its own choice, on its own, not only figure out, choose, plan and accomplish what is evil; but much more it can, by nature, without God's Spirit, think, will, and do nothing else than what is evil and contrary to God (Genesis 6, 8; Romans 8). It has the will, desire and love for such things (Proverbs 3 [sic!][2]; Isaiah 3), and is often driven to them in a supernatural way by the devil (Ephesians 2).


Third, however, is the most important question in this article, namely, what the natural powers of man, which have been corrupted by sin and to which the Holy Spirit has not yet begun to give rebirth and renewal, may do in spiritual and divine matters concerning conversion to God, beginning and bringing about true, real, heartfelt fear of God, faith, love etc. (For externally and for the sake of appearance, pharisaic free will also strives in these matters, but it is not genuine.) This question is correctly answered from God's word by saying that the natural, free will is in such matter dead to good and capable of nothing. Rather, all such things are a work of God the Holy Spirit alone. But it must also be immediately and diligently declared and admonished that this is not to be understood in enthusiastic fashion, as though the Holy Spirit would work conversion in men so that absolutely no change or movement in human understanding, will, and heart should happen and follow. For where there is no change or renewal of thought, sense, and disposition, where there is no desire for the grace of God, no consent or assent to the preached word, no good predisposition to follow the word, no diligence, no pains to keep the old Adam in check, to strive against the evil will etc., there is also, without doubt, no true repentance. And the people should often be reminded that such things need to be present in true conversion, and they should also be admonished to such things.


But the real status controversiae (point of controversy) has to do with this question: Whence does man obtain and have such a change of the mind and will, desire, sanctioning, predisposition, diligence etc., also preparedness and ability to consider, will, take up and carry out such things? Is this merely a result of his own powers, or does man make the beginning out of his own preparedeness, after which the Holy Spirit comes to assist? Or if the Holy Spirit has begun his working in the man, does the man then, out of his own natural powers belonging to the old Adam, somehow help and assist in his conversion? Thus the question is not regarding the new gifts, new powers, and new preparedness which the Holy Spirit creates and establishes through his working in those who have been converted, but rather regarding what the Holy Spirit finds in man as far as natural, inborn skill, preparedness, powers, and capability with regard to spiritual and divine matters.


Here the Confessionand Apology in Article I [sic!][3] give a clear, correct, well-grounded answer from the scriptures. The scriptures testify that natural man through the fall has completely and utterly lost all useful disposition, power, and ability in and toward such spiritual matters, as well as the ability to conceive of anything good by himself (2 Corinthians 3). Yes, even when the Word is preached, the natural man through his own disposition and powers cannot receive, understand, or accept it. It is rather foolishness to him (1 Corinthians 1, 2). There is by nature no desire, want, will, intent, or execution of what may be pleasing to God, where the Holy Spirit does not give both the will and the execution (Philippians 2). For the flesh is not subject to the law of God, nor can it keep it (Romans 8). Therefore the scriptures call the natural man darkness (Ephesians 5; John 1; Acts 26), and say that he is dead in sin and lost to what is good (Ephesians 2; Colossians 2). Augustine describes in a fine, brief way, that the scriptures deny natural free will in spiritual matters, cogitare, velle, posse et facere, that is, "to conceive, to will, to be able and to do," what is right and good.


Second, the scriptures not only deny natural man any capability and powers in spiritual matters, they ascribe to him, in fact, a completely contradictory ill-suited disposition which is directly opposed to God as an enemy (Romans 8). They say that all thinking and striving are only evil (Genesis 6, 8) and that the evil adheres and wars against the law of God (Romans 7). Therefore it is called a hard, stone, hardened heart (Romans 2; Ezekiel 36; Jeremiah 17). Indeed even in the reborn the flesh wars against the spirit (Romans 7; Galatians 5).


Third, the scriptures credit conversion and everything which belongs to it to the Holy Spirit alone, who circumcises the hard, stone heart and removes it, and gives a soft heart of flesh which fears God (Deuteronomy 20[4]; Ezekiel 36), who gives enlightened eyes and understanding (Ephesians 1; Deuteronomy 29), a will inclined, a disposition, and the power and capability to do what pleases God (2 Corinthians 3; Philippians 2), true repentance (Acts 5; 11; 2 Timothy 2), true faith (Ephesians 1, 2), true love of God and the neighbor (Ephesians 5). In summary, no one can know the Son and come to him unless the Father enlighten and draw him (Matthew 11; John 6); we have no part in our own conversion which we have not received from him in the rebirth and renewal (1 Corinthians 4; James 1). And nevertheless the flesh also remains in the saints in this life. Though it is crucified, it ever wars against the spirit, and the spirit must ever struggle against it (Galatians 5). But if the Holy Spirit begins his working with us, we receive and have thereby, although in great weakness, the ability, good will, disposition, industry, power, and capability for what is good. But this is not from ourselves, it is rather a gift of God the Holy Spirit, as a statement of Augustine well expresses: Nos ergo volumus et operamur, sed Deus in nobis operatur et velle et facere. Hoc expedit nobis et credere et dicere, ut sit humilis et submissa confessio et detur totum Deo. Tunc enim tutuis vivimus, si totum Deo damus, non autem nos illi ex parte et nobis ex parte committimus. (We therefore will and work, but God works in us to will and to do. This is profitable for us both to believe and to say that our confession be humble and submissive, and that all be given to God. Now we live more safely if we give everything to God and do not entrust ourselves in part to him, and in part to ourselves.) De dono perseverantiae, capte 6 et 15.


            This is the right, pure, true, prophetic and apostolic doctrine regarding this article. Whatever battles against such a clear and grounded view from the scriptures must be repudiated and rejected; such as the doctrine of the old and new Pelagians and all papists, that man may either do everything which belongs to conversion out of his own powers, or that he may make the beginning after which the Holy Spirit assists, or that if the Holy Spirit through his working lends a hand toward conversion, the natural man, on his own, from his own natural powers, still has some measure of disposition and ability to appropriate the word, to apply grace to himself, to allow the Holy Spirit to work etc. As always, the old Adam praises himself and is pleased to boast in his powers. But Augustine says it well in De natura et gratia, capite 53: Quid tantum de naturae possibilitate praesumitur, vulnerata, sauciata, vexata, perdita est, vere confessione et sanatione, non falsa defensione opus habet (Why does he expect so much from the ability of nature? It is wounded, injured, disturbed, ruined; it is in need of a true, salutary confession, not of a false defense.) And all this shall be directed not toward unnecessary quarreling, but to this end, that Christians acknowledge such gifts of the Holy Spirit, thank him for them, find the way to and hold themselves to the only physician who can help in these matters, and that they may know from whom they are to seek such gifts.


            Fourth, in this doctrine, it must be recounted how and by what means the Holy Spirit desires to work and give that which belongs to conversion. [This happens] not without means, as the enthusiasts say (They do not wish to be troubled with either the Word or the sacraments, but rather continue to live for themselves and wait until God gives them conversion without means and draws them with power which they can feel is the working of God). Rather God has established and given for this the regular means, the oral word and the sacraments. We are to hear and contemplate this word and make use of the sacraments. For thus and by means of these the Holy Spirit wants to be powerful, and give His gifts and effects. Therefore the people who need and desire such gifts of the Holy Spirit shall be directed to the word and sacraments as the regular means and instruments of the Holy Spirit.


            Finally belongs to this doctrine also the reminder, that the Holy Spirit with his gifts and with his effect does not immediately and suddenly execute and complete everything that is part of conversion. Rather, as conversion is begun by the Holy Spirit through the regular means, it will be furthered, strengthened, multiplied, maintained, and carried to its end, by the same Holy Spirit through the same regular means, though in great weakness. Therefore, Christians are to be admonished that when the Holy Spirit through the word commences such work in us, we ought not hinder or destroy such work. That would be to oppose the Holy Spirit (Acts 7). We are rather to exercise diligently and earnestly the newly begun gifts of the Spirit in us, ever cling to the word, and moreover, pray fervently. For thus and by these means the Holy Spirit wants to further, strengthen, multiply, maintain, and carry to its end what he has begun, as the parable of the five talents (Matthew 25) teaches. And this is what Christ means when he says: "To him who has, more will be given. To him who does not have, even that which he has will be taken from him." So also Augustine in De dogmat., cap. 32: Deus agit in nobis ut velimus et agamus, nec ociosa in nobis esse patitur, quae exercenda, non negligenda dedit, ut et nos cooperatores simus gratiae Dei ("God brings it about in us that we will and we act. And lest he allow idle things to be in us which should be exercised, he gives us things which should not be neglected, so that also we may be coworkers with the grace of God." On The Dogmas, chapter 32). Thus it is false and incorrect what many espouse, that because these are God's gifts, they do not desire to accept or work at any task, fight against evil desires, etc. For it is unfortunately all too true that we poor men can oppose the working of the Holy Spirit, and once again forfeit and lose his gifts. Many terrifying examples in scripture bear witness to this. That, however, we do not oppose, but follow, is also a gift of the Holy Spirit, who must be ever present, not only if it is to begin, but also if it is to be furthered, multiplied, maintained, and exercised, as Augustine suitably writes from God's word in De corruptione et gratia,XII.


            In this way, the doctrine can be presented for admonishment to the simple in a most pleasing manner, be purified of all papist leaven, and be guarded purely against all corruption.

View article...

View article...

[1]CA XVIII:4ff. (KW 51-53)

[2] Probably Proverbs 2:14.

[3]CA II (KW 36-9); Ap II (KW 111-20)

[4] Probably Deuteronomy 30:6.