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Will, Calvinistic Doctrine of the

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It is obvious that consistent Calvinists and Pelagians cannot hold the same theory as to the nature, conditions, and extent of the freedom of man in willing. It is no less certain that Evangelical Calvinists can, in perfect logical consistency with their system of faith, hold any theory of human freedom which is open to evangelical Arminians in consistency with the logic of their system.

I. Freedom of the Will. It has always been part of the religious faith of Calvinists that .man -is a free responsible agent. The various methods of philosophically accounting for the fact of freedom, and the relation of the will to the other faculties of the soul, and of its freedom to the revealed doctrines of sin and grace, are elements of philosophy and not of theology. The Westminster Confession of Faith represents all other Calvinistic standards in asserting as follows: Ch. 3, § 1. God has "unchangeably ordained whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established."

Ch. 5, § 2. "Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably, yet, by the same providence, he ordereth them to fill out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently."

Ch. 9; § 1. "God hath endured the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced nor by any absolute necessity of nature determined to good or evil." This doctrine Calvinists have always maintained, and they have never held any other doctrines which, in, their belief, were inconsistent with this fundamental doctrine of human freedom.

In former times Calvinistic theologians, while maintaining the freedom of man as a responsible moral agent, have generally felt impelled to set over against the fact of freedom the equally certain facts of man's moral depravity, and consequent voluntary aversion and moral inability to fulfill those obligations which spring out of our relation to God. This has been sharply emphasized in opposition to Pelagian, error. But more recently, in consequence of the prevalence of pantheistic and materialistic modes of thought, which are alike fatalistic, Calvinists generally have been impelled to unite with their Wesleyan brethren in emphasizing the rational and moral self-determining power of the human soul which they had always held. This primary truth is the only and the efficient solvent alike of materialism and of pantheism in all their forms. It is the citadel of faith, the last tenable stronghold in defense of supernatural religion. We therefore not only hold to the freedom of the human soul in willing sincerely and in good faith, but we regard it as fundamental and essential, the truth of all others to be held aloft and vindicated at the present day.

That Calvinistic theologians as a class have always maintained the freedom of the human soul as the sole cause of its own volitions is so conspicuously true that such impartial, learned, and able critics as Sir William Hamilton (Discussions, Appendix I, A; and note on p. 402 of collected Works of Dugald Stewart), Dugald Stewart (Dissertation on the Progress of Philosophy), and Sir James Mackintosh (Note O to his Preliminary Dissertation) have affirmed that the doctrine of the will maintained by Jonathan Edwards is irreconcilably inconsistent with the doctrines of Augustine and Calvin, and the system they taught. In direct contradiction to this opinion. Edwards and Chalmers have held that the particular theory of liberty which they maintained which has been absurdly misrepresented by its title of philosophical necessity is essential to the logical defense of the Calvinistic system. Principal William Cunningham, in his article "Calvinism and the Doctrine of Philosophical Necessity," in his Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation, has incontrovertibly proved that both these opposite opinions, as to the relation of the Calvinistic system of theology to special theories of the freedom of the will, are false; and that neither the theory taught by Edwards, nor the theory of self-determination taught by Evangelical Arminians, or any other theory of the will which can be consistently held by Wesleyans, is excluded by the logic of Calvinism.

II. Opposition to Pelagianism. Pelagians hold that the essence of free- will involves an absolutely unconditioned power of choice between good and evil, and that this power is inalienable from human nature and essential to responsible agency; that the moral agency of a man at any one moment cannot determine nor limit his moral agency at any other moment, but that he must possess, whatever his conduct, throughout his entire existence; full ability to will and to do all that-God has any right to require of him; that moral character, whether good or bad, can be rationally predicated only of acts of the will, and not of any permanent states of the will or of the affections. Hence Pelagians deny

1. That Adam was created with a holy character antecedent to his own morally unbiased action.

2. They deny that Adam was the representative head of the human race, and that, in consequence of his apostasy, his own nature or that of his posterity became morally depraved.

3. They deny that man's will is ever morally impotent, or unable to meet all the obligations resting upon him.

4. That the will of sinful man is dependent upon supernatural assistance, or that it can be effectually influenced by such grace without prejudice to its freedom or responsibility,

5. Socinians, the only consistent Pelagians, hold that certainty is absolutely inconsistent with liberty, and that, consequently, God cannot foreknow the future free acts of men, or other contingent events.

Calvinists are, of course, prevented by their religious faith from agreeing with the above positions of the Pelagians as to the conditions of free agency. They hold that man was created with a positive holy character, yet able to obey or disobey. That man's moral nature has been since the fall totally corrupt, indisposed and disabled to obey God's holy law. That the influence of divine grace, prevenient and co-operative, exercised in regeneration, and sanctification, instead of limiting the liberty of the human will, re-establishes and reinvigorates it.

III. Ability and Liberty. Hence Augustinians have sharply emphasized the distinction between liberty, the inalienable property of the human soul as a free rational moral agent, and ability, i.e. the power to will and do up to the full measure of our responsibility; or the power to will in a manner contrary to the prevailing moral state of the soul itself; or the power, by a mere volition, to change that prevalent moral state. The same distinction is signalized, by German philosophical theologians, by the terms Formtale Freiheit, or ability, and Reale Freiheit, or liberty. The neglect of this distinction has led to much confusion. Augustine, Luther, and many of the older Augustinian theologians, in terms denied liberty, when they really meant only to deny to men moral ability to obey the divine law independently of supernatural grace. This has led many honest opponents of Calvinism, imperfectly acquainted with Augustinian theological literature, and the usage of technical language which prevails in it, to misunderstand altogether the meaning of many of our classical authorities. Calvinists, as they have understood themselves have always maintained the freedom of the human will, and at the same tine, and in perfect consistency have denied the moral ability of man since the fall to obey God's law without supernatural grace. They have also always, and with equal consistency, maintained that all events, including the volitions of free agents well as those dependent upon necessary causes, have been from eternity certainly future, and that this certain futurition has been determined by the sovereign foreordination of God.

But in all these points, except the last, Wesleyans and Calvinists agree. Different explanations and adjustments of these great commonplaces of Evangelical Christianity may distinguish them, but, as above generally stated, they are at one. God did create man with a mature holy, antecedent to all action, yet mutable (Watson, Institutes, pt. 2, ch. 6 and 18; and Wesley, as there quoted by Watson). Man, after his fall continues to be a free and responsible moral agent, and yet is morally depraved before individual action and is unable, before regeneration, and without the assistance of supernatural grace, to obey the divine law; and the operation of this grace does no violence to his freedom of will (Methodist Articles, art. 8; Watson, Institutes, pt. 2, ch. 18; and Wesley on. Original Sin). Saints in glory will be free, yet confirmed in holiness and not liable to fall into sin (Watson, Institutes, pt. 2. ch. 29). The free acts of men and angels have always been certainly future to the infinite foreknowledge of God (ibid. pt. 2, ch. 4).

IV. Foreknowledge and Predestination. Obviously, therefore, the only point at which the essential elements of the Calvinistic system even appear to bear upon the nature or conditions of human free agency in a manner different from that in which the essential principles of evangelical Arminianism bear upon the same is the point of the divine decrees. Calvinists hold that God has from eternity immutably foreknown and foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. Wesleyans hold that God has from eternity immutably foreknown whatsoever comes to pass. Both equally in love certainty, and neither involves anything else.

Watson says "the great fallacy in the argument, that the certain prescience of a moral action destroys its contingency, lies in supposing -that contingency and certainty are the opposite of each other." Anti-Calvinists commonly understand that divine foreordination necessarily includes the determination upon the part of God efficiently to bring to pass the things foreordained. But all events are effects either of necessary or of free causes. Foreordination of the effects of necessary causes, of course, does involve a putting-forth of divine efficiency to bring them to pass either immediately or mediately. But the foreordination of the effects of free causes, such as the volitions of free agents, of course, does not involve upon the part of God any purpose of putting forth efficiency to bring the foreordained volition to pass, except that involved in bringing the free agent into existence whom he foresaw would freely execute the volition in question; and in giving him power, either natural or gracious, to execute it. God eternally saw in idea all possible free agents, under all possible conditions, and all the volitions, which they would freely exercise under all those conditions, if they were so created and conditioned. This knowledge (scientia simplicis intelligentice) precedes and conditions all foreordination.

He then sovereignly chose out of the possible the entire system of things he desired to make actually future, and by this choice he made the futurition of all things certain. This foreordination precedes and conditions his foreknowledge of, things certainly future. In order to execute it, God, in creation and providence, brings into existence and controls in action all necessary agents, including some sides of human nature; but as to free volitions, he simply brings the agents into existence and conditions them according to his plan, and graciously or naturally supplies them with the power necessary to will and act as predetermined, and then leaves them freely and contingently to will as he had certainly foreseen they would do. Or, as an eminent Calvinistic authority prefers to put it, "The Calvinistic position is stated with sufficient distinctness when it is said that the existing system of things or world-plan was present in the divine mind from all eternity, and was therefore both foreknown and foreordained. Thus the Calvinistic doctrine of the foreordination of free acts, like the Wesleyan doctrine of foreknowledge (which really does not differ from it as much as many suppose), simply involves the previous immutable certainty of the act, and in no way affects the freedom of the agent or the contingency of his act (Westminster Confession of: Faith, 3, 1). It is free in its very essential nature. It is foreseen that the agent would exercise it if created and so conditioned. God makes it certainly future by his purpose to so create and so place that man. His creation and providential condition are brought about by the efficiency of God. His volition, although foreseen to be certainly future, is his own free spontaneous self-determination. Even if this explanation should be proved untrue or absurd, surely a thousand other reconciliation's of these revealed truths may be, possible to divine, although they should all be impossible to human, reason.

Hence, neither Calvinist nor evangelical Arminian can consistently hold a theory of the will involving the principles of Pelagianism which both repudiate. And hence, also, Wesleyans and Calvinists agreeing (1) that God's foreknowledge proves that all events are certainly future, and (2) that there can be no foreordination of a human volition in any sense or degree inconsistent with its perfect freedom, have, each of them, in consistency with the logic of their respective systems, precisely the same range of choice as to theories of the will as the other. Principal William Cunningham incontrovertibly proves this in essay Reformers and Theology of the Reformation. That foreknowledge leads to foreordination is argued by professor L. D. M'Cabe, D.D., LL.D., in his Chautauqua Address for 1880, and in his work on The Foreknowledge of God; and hence he proposes to revolutionize Wesleyan theology by the introduction of the denial of God's foreknowledge of future contingent events.

V. The Edwardean Doctrine. Edwards wrote against the Pelagianizing Arminians represented by Whitby, and in a theological interest, as he supposed. He proposed to settle forever, by strictly logical process, all the questions at issue. He argued that the act of the will is by a rigid law of causation determined by the strongest motive. " He does not carefully distinguish between the different usages of the word cause;' he seems to limit freedom too exclusively to executive volition; at times he implies that the whole causal power, producing volition, resides in the motives; his conception of causation is derived from the sphere of mechanics rather than from that of living spontaneous forces; and he is so in earnest in arguing against then self-determining power of the will as to neglect that element of self-determination which is undeniably found in every personal act" (Smith [Dr. Henry B.], in the Amer. Presb and Theol. Review, Jan. 1865).

Yet he never intended to deny that essential freedom of choice which is witnessed for in consciousness, and that he conducted his argument with consummate power is witnessed to by his most earnest opponents. He set up a philosophy of the will which is not consonant with the doctrine that had been held by the main body of Augustinian theologians. The doctrine of Augustine, however, and the more general doctrine, even, of Calvinistic theologians, the doctrine of Calvin himself, and of the Westminster Assembly's creeds, is that a certain liberty of will (ad utrumvis), or the power of contrary choice, had belonged to the first man, but had disappeared in the act of transgression, which brought his will into bondage to evil. It was the common doctrine, too, that in mankind now, while the will is enslaved as regards religious obedience, it remains free outside of this province in all civil and secular concerns. In this wide domain the power of contrary choice still remains"(Fisher [Rev. Prof. George P.], in the North American Review, March, 1879). Calvin-says, in writing against, Pighius, "If force be opposed to freedom, I acknowledge and will always affirm that there is a free will, a will determining itself, and proclaim every man who thinks otherwise a heretic. Let the will be called free in this sense, that is, because it is not constrained or impelled irresistibly from without, but determines itself by itself" (Henry, Life of Calvin, transl. by Stebbing, 1, 497). Dr. Thomas Reid, the founder of the Scottish philosophy, was a Calvinistic minister, and in his Active Powers taught the freedom of the will. Sir William Hamilton, who was a member of a Calvinistic Church, and a believer in foreknowledge and foreordination, taught the same (see his Notes on Reid, and his Discussions). Dr. M'Cosh (Divine Government, bk. 3, ch. 1, § 1 and 2) plainly enters his dissent from Edwards, although he regards the problem- as to the consistency of the admitted self-determining power of the human soul and the universal reign of the law of causation to be at present insoluble. Henry P. Tappan has ably criticized Edwards in the interest of the "doctrine of a self-determined will," while he remains a consistent Calvinist.

There is no doubt that Edwards's celebrated treatise is an amazing monument of genius. In certain special directions its argument has never been answered, and, as far as can now be seen, never will be. Dr. Whedon's new view of the will is a practical testimony to the convincing power of Edwards's logic. His (Edwards) Infinite Series remains a triumphant refutation of the old doctrine of the liberty of indifference. The position of the treatise before the public in the present age, however, is maintained not by its Calvinistic defenders, but by its persistent critics, who attack it because they believe it to be the citadel of Calvinistic theology. This is, and has always been, an entire mistake. Calvinists, as such, are independent of, and indifferent to, the psychological theory it advocates, and the fate of the argument on which that theory rests.

VI. Psychology of the Subject. The question as to the human will and the laws of its action should be investigated purely as a psychological, and not as a theological, question. In this respect both. Edwards and Whedon have equally erred. The opinion of most modern theologians, founded purely on psychological considerations, and independent of all theological bias, is, upon the whole, as follows. Great confusion has been imported into this difficult problem by the usage, common to both parties, of considering the will as a separate organ or agent, exterior to the reason, affection, desires, conscience, and other faculties of the soul. Consciousness affirms that the human soul is an absolute unit, not like the body a system of organs. The whole soul is the one organ of all its functions; the whole soul (Ego) thinks, desires, judges, feels; and the whole soul wills. The soul, that is, the person, is an original self-prompted cause, and is the sole and sufficient cause of all its volitions. In every free volition the soul is self-determined only, and had power to the contrary choice. The will, however, is not separate from the reason, but includes it; includes all the soul includes; is self-decided by its own contents and its own character; and hence is rational and moral, free and responsible.

If the problem be pushed further, arid we are asked to affirm the relation which the previous states of the soul sustain to its volitions, most theologians believe that no satisfactory answer has ever been given. The answer of Edwards that the volitions are determined, through a rigid law of moral causation, by the preceding state of the soul, or by the strongest motive, appears to involve the reign within the will of the same law. of cause and effect which prevails in the physical universe; and this it is difficult to prevent from degenerating into fatalism. The answer of Whedon that the will, independent of the reason, and the affections and the .conscience can "project volitions" for the origin and direction of which no cause or reason whatever exists, except the bare power the man has to will anything, appears to us to involve pure chance (by excluding conscience and reason and personal character and content from the will itself). And chance is only another name for fate. It is better to be satisfied with the statement of the points in which all agree (a) the free self-determining power of the soul itself in every free choice, (b) that in the free acts for which we are morally responsible we act for reasons, in view of moral considerations, and our personal character is revealed in the act than to insist further upon a rational account of the genesis of each volition and its relation to the antecedent states of the soul. For hitherto no such account has been permanently regarded as satisfactory by either party.

VII. Literature. Leibnitz, Essais de Thé odicee; etc.; Reid, Active Powers, essay 4; Turretine, Institutio Theologicae, locus decimus; Hodge, Systematic Theology, pt. 2, ch. 9; Edwards, Inquiry on the Freedom of the Will; Cunningham, Theology of the Reformers, essay 9; Hamilton, Notes on Stewart; id. Discussions; Fisher, Discussions on History and Theology, p. 227-252; Smith, Review of Whedon on the Will, in the American Presbyterian and Theological Review, Jan. 1865; Day, On the Will; Tappan, Review of Edwards's Inquiry, and The. Doctrine of the Will Applied to Moral Agency and Responsibility; Taylor, Moral Government of God; M'Cosh, Divine Government, bk. 3, ch. 1. (A. A. H.)


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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Will, Calvinistic Doctrine of the'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/w/will-calvinistic-doctrine-of-the.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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