Friday, March 5, 2010

Free Will

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away people had differing opinions on free will.  The philosopher Han Solo said, "Kid, I've flown from one side of this galaxy to the other, and I've seen a lot of strange stuff, but I've never seen *anything* to make me believe that there's one all-powerful Force controlling everything. 'Cause no mystical energy field controls *my* destiny. It's all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense." 

Solo is not alone (no pun intended) in his belief that he controls what happens to him.  Early church theologians largely catered to people holding similar beliefs.  Calvin strongly believed that theologians like Chrysostom, Jerome and Origen may not have wholly believed what they were writing about the will, but wrote what they did partially in order to be more accepted.  They also did not want to encourage people to be lazy in their faith.  "Despite this, many of them have come far too close to the philosophers.  Of these, the early ones seem to me to have, with a twofold intent, elevated human powers for the following reasons.  First, a frank confession of man's powerlessness would have brought upon them the jeers of the philosophers with whom they were in conflict.  Second, they wished to avoid giving fresh occasion for slothfulness to a flesh already indifferent toward good."  He singles out Augustine for not extolling the ability of the human will as the rest did. 

Calvin dedicated a section classifying different kinds of will and freedom as defined by the early church theologians.  He classified them, but did not spend much time defining the classifications.  For will, he had the classifications (1) sensual, (2) psychic and (3) spiritual.  The first two are freely endowed to man.  The third comes through the work of the Holy Spirit in man.  Similarly he had three classifications for freedom: (1) from necessity, (2) from sin and (3) from misery.  He states that the second two were taken away because of sin leaving us only with necessity.  Calvin does not explain in detail any of what he means by this, but he closes the section by telling the reader that there will be more detail elsewhere. 

Tomorrow's reading: 2.2.6-2.2.9

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