5) Free will perspective blurs saving grace
This doctrine results in diplopia (dual vision) regarding saving grace in which there exists
semi-free/semi-enslaved sinners in a state between slavery to sin and freedom for righteousness.
Claim: before the regeneration and freeing of a dead slave to sin takes place, there is a
regeneration-like enabling of the dead to respond to the gospel, a granting of freedom to the
natural man while he remains in his fallen state.31 This is soteriological diplopia at best (and
contradiction at worst). At the place where Scripture presents a single setting free which involves
newness of life by a new creation, free will doctrine sees double: a giving of ability prior to
regeneration and a giving of ability by means of regeneration.
Problem: all the passages that deal with opening blind eyes, unstopping deaf ears, giving
life to the dead, setting the slave to sin free, making a new creation refer to regeneration, the
actual bringing of a sinner into fellowship with God (1 Cor 1.7).32
Pastor Ostella's Footnotes
31 This enlivening-freeing-enabling is not regeneration; it does not save. Instead, it gives man the ability in his fallen and natural state to either obey the gospel or disobey it. In other words, this pre-regeneration-regeneration-like action of God bestows free will. Thus, although fallen man has this ability to hear God’s call, to see the truth, and to respond to it, having this ability (this life, this freedom) is not regeneration but a working of grace that makes a significant change in the dead sinner freeing him sufficiently and making him alive enough to take the next step and allow God to make him alive by the new birth. This is Wesley’s way of holding to a strong view of man’s depravity (Sermon on Free Grace, par. 3 ) and compromising it at the same time because for him dead and enslaved sinners who are unable to respond to the gospel nonetheless “suffer” [allow] God to make them alive (Sermon on Free Grace, par. 29). For a helpful explanation and critical evaluation of the Wesleyan view of prevenient see “Does Scripture Teach Prevenient Grace in the Wesleyan Sense?” by Thomas R. Schreiner, The Grace of God and the Bondage of the Will (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995), II, 365-382.
32 There are no passages that explicitly apply any kind of enabling, enlivening, eye-opening, or setting free in some way that is prior to and less than regeneration. Free will perspective views these things with blurred vision and sees double. On this view, there is some kind setting free of sinners within their bondage so they can choose to go free or remain in bondage: they are set free within bondage and given the ability to choose freedom, if they choose freedom, they are then set free from bondage. Evidence from Scripture for the presence of free will in pre-regenerate sinners boils down to two key texts: Jn. 1.9 (The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world) and 12.32 (And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself). However, John 1.9 can be reasonably taken to refer to the non-saving light of natural revelation that renders all men responsible on a par with Rom. 1.1-18. In John 12.32, the drawing of all to Christ says nothing of a pre-regeneration semi-saving grace of enablement, but reasonably refers to the drawing of people from all nations to actual salvation by the power of the cross. Thus, in paraphrase, Jesus says, “by the cross, I will draw people of all nations savingly to myself.” It is clear, then on the questionable use of John 12.32, that the cross only secured pre-regeneration and not regeneration (the dead in sin are given sufficient life to respond to the gospel); the cross did not secure redemptive release from sin or an eternal release contrary to Hebrews 9.12, which teaches that the cross secured eternal redemption. Ultimately, the teaching rests on the Kantian philosophical notion that “duty implies ability.” For Thielicke, this notion is the natural man’s illusion that is overcome when the Holy Spirit gives a new self-understanding by death to the old Cartesian self, Evangelical Faith, 138-173
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