Blogging the Institutes | 2.1.6 | More Views on Free Will Considered

All Christian theologians will admit that free will does not enable people to do good works unless they are assisted by God’s grace, specifically, the grace which the elect receive through regeneration. Do not even consider the views of those who say that grace is offered equally and lavishly to all (Lomb. lib. 2 Dist. 26). Yet, it hasn’t even been demonstrated whether people have been completely deprived of the ability to do good or whether they still have some ability to do good, just damaged by sin. Some would argue that a person’s ability is so feeble that they need the assistance of God’s grace, but, after receiving that assistance, can still do some good.

Lombard teaches that a twofold grace is necessary for any good work. The first kind of grace he calls “operating grace,” which gives people the desire to do some good. The other kind of grace he calls, “co-operating grace” which comes from God to aid the will of people to do good. I object to these two kinds of grace found in Lombard’s writings, because it implies that people, by their own nature, desires good in some degree, even though they cannot accomplish it. Another writer named Bernard argues for essentially the same viewpoint. While Bernard maintains that a will which does good is the work of God, he also believes that people in their own nature long for a “good will.”

This view differs widely from Augustine’s view, even though Lombards pretends to have taken his view of two kinds of grace from him. Moreover, there is an ambiguity in the second kind of grace, which has led to erroneous interpretations. Many think that when we cooperate with God’s grace, we can nullify the first grace, by either rejecting God’s grace or obediently yielding to it. The author of the work De Vocatione Gentium expresses it this way: People can either co-operate or resist God’s grace. If people co-operate with God’s grace, they will receive a reward. The problem comes in, however, is that this view essentially says that people can do in themselves what only the work of the Spirit in their hearts can do.

I wanted to talk about these views to show how different my views are. I not only differ from those known as the Schoolmen, but I differ even more from the modern sophists. I wanted to articulate these views here, however, to show in what respect free will is attributed to human beings. Lombard ultimately declares that free will isn’t really about whether we are include to good or evil, but only about the extent in which people are free from compulsion. He claims that this free is compatible with our being depraved, servants of sin, and able to nothing but sin.

“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

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