Calvin believed in free will? Shocker!

Currently reading R.C. Sproul’s “What is Reformed Theology?” in which he gives an overview of well, Reformed Theology.

The book is fantastic as far as it being a clear explanation of Reformed Theology. Honestly, I have held (hold) to this theology without even realizing it because it seems to be the best interpretation of Scripture. I understand that there is no shortage of brothers who disagree, including some whom with I’m close with (you know who you are).

Also in learning what it actually is, a great many deal of misconceptions have been cleared in my mind regarding it, though I am not finished with the book.

For example, since I first heard the term “Calvinism”(World History class back in High School) the word or concept most closely associated with it was “predestination”.

Sproul asserts this,

When someone mentions the term Calvinism, the customary response is, ‘OK, you mean the doctrine of predestination?’ This identification of Calvinism with predestination is as strange as it is real and widespread

Something else which was taught to me in public school regarding Calvin was his denial of free will. I now realize this is inaccurate as Sproul cites Calvin directly,

This liberty is compatible with our being depraved, the servants of sin, able to do nothing but sin. In this way, then, man is said to have free will, not because he has a free choice of good and evil, but because he acts voluntarily, and not by compulsion. This is perfectly true: but why should so small a matter have been dignified with so proud a title? An admirable freedom! That man is not forced to be the servant of sin, while he is, however, ethelodoulos (a voluntary slave); his will being bound by the fetters of sin. – Institutes of Christian Religion, 1:228-29 (2.2.6-7)

Calvin saying it’s ‘perfectly true’ that man acts voluntarily and not by compulsion, so why is the -ism named after him often portrayed as the opposite?

8 Responses to Calvin believed in free will? Shocker!

  1. Curt says:

    People define the word, “free will”, in different ways. Some say that free will means to be capable of choosing good or evil equally. Some say that free will means to have the ability to choose otherwise. Some say it means to act according to one’s desires. When you were taught that Calvin denied that people have free will, what did your teacher mean by, “free will”?

  2. Laz says:

    My teacher meant what most people mean, your first definition: the capability of choosing good or evil.

  3. William Gonzales says:

    What’s the big deal if Calvin believed in free will to sin? The question is: Do people have the free will to choose Christ? To those who say all people are given free will to choose or reject Christ, the statement, “Calvin believed in free will” would be misleading.

  4. Nathan says:

    Calvin did not believe that man was free to choose good, only free to choose evil. So man is free to choose among various evils, but never to choose good. This type of freedom is therefore no better than no freedom at all.

  5. davidbibee says:

    Reblogged this on TheBereanWay and commented:
    Many people don’t think that Calvinism teaches that we have free will. That certainly isn’t the case. The question Calvin was most concerned with is how people exercise their freedom. The concern isn’t whether we are free, but whether we will ever use our freedom to choose God—something that Scripture and Calvin would completely reject. Here is a good post about that issue.

  6. David,
    I have often thought that faith fills the gap between what God has revealed about free will and predestination and what Hhe has not rrevealled tp us.
    God requires humility. We are prone to pride.
    I we could grasp all knowledge we might not seek God.
    Great pot.

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