Theology Corner

Addressing commonly asked questions about Christianity from the perspective of a non-theologian

Theology Corner


Reformed theologians claim all reality is interlocked in a causal chain leading back to God as the first-cause of all things; but humans are "free," even though they are pre-determined, because their choices are executed willingly. They define man as a second-cause agent incapable of choosing a path different from that which God would have him choose. Because man doesn't know he is being manipulated, he believes himself to be a first-cause agent making free will decisions. This is the historic Calvinist concept of "free will." It leads to the idea that absolute determinism by God is compatible with the exercise of free will by man; this concept is sometimes called compatibilism or soft determinism.

Opponents of Calvinism agree that much of reality is part of a causal chain but claim God does not determine the free will decisions of men or angels. The idea that men and angels are first-cause agents of choice, is a central concept of Traditional Southern Baptist, Wesleyan/Arminian theology and is sometimes called libertarian freedom. The Arminian believes "free will" makes you a first-cause agent of decisions. The compatibilist believes "free will" makes you a second-cause agent; you have simply been tricked into thinking of yourself as a first-cause agent. These two definitions of free will are mutually exclusive.

By the Westminster Confession, God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.  A man may think he is acting freely but he is actually executing a sinister puppet dance, with God pulling the strings from behind His transcendence. However, the man is fully responsible for his second-cause sins since they were executed willingly.

What were Oswald Chamber’s thoughts on the will of man?


“In preaching the Gospel, always push an issue of will.  Belief must be the will to believe.  There must be a surrender of the will…I must will to believe, and this can never be done without a violent effort on my part to disassociate myself from my old ways of looking at things, and by putting myself right over onto Him…I am introduced into the relationship by the miracle of God and my own will to believe…The Gospel of Jesus Christ always forces an issue of will.  Do I accept God’s verdict on sin in the Cross of Christ?  Have I the slightest interest in the death of Jesus?  Do I want to be identified with His death, to be killed right out to all interest in sin, in worldliness, in self – to be so identified with Jesus that I am spoilt for everything else but Him?”