Blog 44: 2.2.8 - 2.2.11

Iain D Campbell

Calvin's debt to Augustine is nowhere seen as in the discussion on free will. Of all the theologians who have gone before him, he finds Augustine's statements on the will to be biblical and pastorally significant.

Augustine's doctrine of man in sin turns upon the pervasive nature of the captivity and bondage of the will. Not that man's bondage can excuse his sin. Quite the contrary -man's self-ruin by sin is the greatest evidence of his culpability. Consequently, what grace has not freed remains forever enslaved, and man remains forever guilty. The will, under the power of sin, freely and necessarily chooses what is contrary to the will of God. Only under the power of grace can the will, freely and necessarily, yield to God.

It is equally foolish for sin-enslaved man to speak of the freedom of his will, as it is for the grace-liberated man to speak of his own strength of choice. Some theologians have not stated the truth starkly enough, according to Calvin.

Man's knowledge of himself includes the knowledge of his enslavement and bondage to sin. Indeed, it is part of the purpose of Scripture so to denude us and to rob us of any ground of self-boasting and of self-confidence. It is said of God that he gives strength to the weak; and the operation of his grace brings that weakness home to us. Any notion of our own power or strength robs God of his honour, while God is most honoured when grace robs us of our boasting.

There is only one fitting response, says Calvin, when we have gazed into the mirror of Scripture and seen our true reflection: humility, humility, humility!