Monday, December 27, 2010

Is Man Free or God Sovereign?

Is man free or is God sovereign? My answer is yes! For me, this continues to be one of the great mysteries of God. Of course God is sovereign and knows all. However, evil does exist in the world. In order for man to have free will, the possibility of evil must exist though we know God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33).

This is a question I have pondered for many, many years. Both Augustine and Pelagius believed in the free will of man though both understood it differently. For Augustine, man was free to sin or not to sin PRIOR to the fall. After the fall, man’s freedom was limited to differing choices that all include sin.[1] In fact, the only choices unavailable to man are not to sin and acceptance of grace.[2] From the fall, man inherits not only the tendency to sin but the inability to choose God.[3] Salvation was something man could not achieve on his own and was only due to the grace of God. Augustine saw mankind in possession of free agency but unable to change our choices and motives aside from the irresistible grace of God. This unmerited grace for those predestined to receive it also empowered the elect to righteousness.[4] Without God’s grace, salvation is not possible much less holiness.

Pelagius strongly disagreed with Augustine’s view of original sin and the free will of man. For Pelagius, the view declared by Augustine demanded more of man than he could render unto God.[5] Pelagius believed that man had the unique privilege of accomplishing the divine will by choice.[6] There is no such thing as original sin nor is there anything in human nature that forces man to sin.[7] It is completely within man’s ability to choose not to sin and therefore achieve holiness. When Pelagius refers to grace, he usually means man’s free will. Grace is simply an external aid provided by God.[8]


[1] González, Justo L. The Story of Christianity Vol 1: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation. (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1984), 214-15..

[2] Ibid.

[3] Elwell, Walter A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 123.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 152.

[6] Ibid.

[7] González, 215.

[8] Elwell, 897-98.

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