In general, most Christian theologians who believe in free will do not believe that people can save themselves. They believe that truly righteous living must come from God’s grace and spiritual regeneration. For example, the author of the work, On the Calling of the Gentiles, describes the will as threefold: sensitive, animal, and spiritual. The first two belong to the power of human beings, but the last is the work of the Holy Spirit. The truth of these assertions will be considered in its own time. My intention in this section is only to mention to the opinions of others, not refute them.
When most Christin writers discuss the topic of free will, they aren’t really concerned about people doing external actions. Instead, the crux of the issue is free will’s relationship to the obedience required by God’s law. This is a great question, but I don’t think issues surrounding our external actions should be neglected either, and I hope to be able to give a reason for thinking this way.
Some Christians believe that there are three kinds of freedom. The first is freedom from necessity. The second is freedom from sin. And the third is freedom from misery. The first kind of freedom is so inherent in people that they cannot be deprived of it. But the final two have been lost through sin. I willingly admit this distinction, except to the degree that it confuses necessity with compulsion. I will discuss the differences between these two concepts in another place.
“Blogging the Institutes” is my on-going attempt to paraphrase John Calvin’s work, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. You can find out more about the series in the Introduction. For all the posts in this series, check out the Master List.