Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Grace of God and the Bondage of the Will

"For God is the one who works in you both to will and to work for the sake of his good pleasure." Philippians 2:13

Arminians often tout the importance of the freedom of the will while often forgetting the importance of understanding the bondage of the will. I've met seminarians who did not understand that we are not born with the freedom to will rightly and to will in such a way that is pleasing to God. Philippians 2:13 is instructive in this situation.

First, the will, and any freedom it might have, is understood as a gift in this passage. Paul has just exhorted the Philippians to live out the salvation that Christ has secured through his obedient life, death, and resurrection. Paul's command to work out, or live out the implications of, our common salvation is grounded in the fact that God is already at work in us enabling our wills. This, of course, means that our wills lack ability in their natural state. If God has to do the work so that we can will, then we do not have freedom of will when we come into the world. It's all gift. This means that when we reject this gift, we are rejecting freedom of the will. To resist grace is to run to slavery.

Second, God does this work for the sake of his own good pleasure. It pleases God to free our wills so that we can will what he wills. It pleases him that we would share his pleasures. It is a good and comforting thing to know that God is at work in us to give us freedom because he enjoys it.

Arminians need to strive for clarity with regard to the biblical teaching on freedom of the will. We need to acknowledge that, apart from grace, our wills are in bondage to sin. Only through the God's good pleasure to work in us to will as he wills are we able to experience the freedom of our will's natural bondage.

6 comments:

DonaldH said...

I definitely agree with your post. I'm interested in finding out more resources that we help us articulate the position.

That would really help me my friend.

Matt O'Reilly said...

Here's a link to my recent post at Society of Evangelical Arminians with a few historical quotes on the bondage of the will from Arminius and Wesley. With regard to articulating the position, I say start with scripture and then move on to these well known historical sources.

http://evangelicalarminians.org/misrepresenting-arminian-theology.john-macarthur-strawman

Thanks for your comment.

Matt

DonaldH said...

Hey Matt,

I read that interesting post. I found the post also to be on point. I appreciate the recommendations. I am bascially new to the arminian perspective (only 9 months) which is why I frame my statements that way.I deeply appreciate what each of the brethren advise and their blogs.

Thanks for the correpsondence.

Matt O'Reilly said...

Well, welcome to the Arminian perspective. If I may, I'll make a couple of recommendations. If you haven't read Roger Olson's book 'Arminian Theology,' it is highly recommended. Also, Mildred Bangs-Wynkoop has a fine little book called 'Foundations of Wesleyan-Arminian Theolgoy' which is also highly recommeded. Good to have you on board.

Grace and peace,
Matt

Andrew said...

Matt, if you ever have the time, or inclination would you consider reviewing
The freedom of the will as a basis of human responsibility and a divine ...
By Daniel Denison Whedon
?

Your take would be most welcome.

Matt O'Reilly said...

I have a fairly full reading schedule, but I might be able to work it in sometime. Thanks for the link.