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Grace And Free Will


soren

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The question of how grace and human will interact for salvation is one of the most controversial questions in theology. St. Augustine's classic letter "On Grace and Free Will" is an unusually lucid study in the biblical evidence concerning both topics. Those who read it are not often satisfied by all he says, for his answers raise many more questions in turn. Most people, especially Latter-day Saints, will balk at paragraph 44, but St. Augustine has a very good eye for where and how the scriptures address these two concepts. Anyone wishing to form a firm theology of grace, whether in agreement with Augustine or otherwise, must definitely come to terms with all the evidence he puts forward.

Here it is:

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1510.htm

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I am glad that you brought up this crucial issue.

I have encountered a tendency among some evangelical Christians to the effect that once they accept Jesus as their Savior, they are saved; BUT that as a result of their being saved, they will necessarily bring forth good works, which are not their works, but God working through them.

On the other hand, these Christians will say that, if they do not bring forth the good works, then they were never saved in the first place.

This, I think, brings into sharp focus the issue of free will.

The question for these Christians is whether they believe that, upon accepting Jesus as their personal Savior, they at that same point in time give up their free will, or in other words, their ability to make decisions as to right or wrong actions for themselves.

It would seem that a necessary corrolary to the Christian view of salvation described above would HAVE to be the extinguishment of free will at the moment of salvation; and that all choices as to good or bad works thereafter MUST be made by God, as evidence either of their salvation or lack thereof.

Just my thoughts.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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It would seem that a necessary corrolary to the Christian view of salvation described above would HAVE to be the extinguishment of free will at the moment of salvation; and that all choices as to good or bad works thereafter MUST be made by God, as evidence either of their salvation or lack thereof.

The problem I see with this paradigm... it makes God responsible for all their sins. He wasn't big enough or strong enough to keep them from sinning.

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It would seem that a necessary corrolary to the Christian view of salvation described above would HAVE to be the extinguishment of free will at the moment of salvation; and that all choices as to good or bad works thereafter MUST be made by God, as evidence either of their salvation or lack thereof.

Just my thoughts.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

That was definitely Calvin's conclusion. Actually his was more extreme: he denied free will altogether.

However, I do not think that conclusion actually has to follow. I am myself an Augustinian overall, and I think that grace and free will are in complete harmony. The conflict is an illusion. God can and does personally move an individual person's will, causing him or her to make a choice, but I hold at the same time that this is perfective of and not contrary to freedom. Taken to extremes (and I take it to extremes) it is a tougher knot even than the Trinity, yet I think the scriptures compel this conclusion.

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I am glad that you brought up this crucial issue.

I have encountered a tendency among some evangelical Christians to the effect that once they accept Jesus as their Savior, they are saved; BUT that as a result of their being saved, they will necessarily bring forth good works, which are not their works, but God working through them.

On the other hand, these Christians will say that, if they do not bring forth the good works, then they were never saved in the first place.

This, I think, brings into sharp focus the issue of free will.

The question for these Christians is whether they believe that, upon accepting Jesus as their personal Savior, they at that same point in time give up their free will, or in other words, their ability to make decisions as to right or wrong actions for themselves.

It would seem that a necessary corrolary to the Christian view of salvation described above would HAVE to be the extinguishment of free will at the moment of salvation; and that all choices as to good or bad works thereafter MUST be made by God, as evidence either of their salvation or lack thereof.

Just my thoughts.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

It seems to me that none of the arguments make much sense, until we first consider what "salavation"

is within a covenant community and in terms of temporal protection/blessings.

Until we first understand how and why God saves the covenant people, within this life, all talk about

salvation in an after-life, for individuals, smacks of self-centeredness, in my opinion.

There is an old story about some early Christian missionaries working in China. They had just about

convinced one old fellow to be baptized, when he asked "But what about my Confucian wife and my

Buddhist business partner? What about my grandfather and grandmother, who never did like foreigners

and their barbaric religions?"

The smiling missionary replied -- "They will all go to hell, of course."

The old fellow pondered that reply for a few moments -- and then said, "If you will excuse me then,

I prefer being in hell with my people, to being in heaven with your people."

Uncle Dale

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I am glad that you brought up this crucial issue.

I have encountered a tendency among some evangelical Christians to the effect that once they accept Jesus as their Savior, they are saved; BUT that as a result of their being saved, they will necessarily bring forth good works, which are not their works, but God working through them.

On the other hand, these Christians will say that, if they do not bring forth the good works, then they were never saved in the first place.

This, I think, brings into sharp focus the issue of free will.

The question for these Christians is whether they believe that, upon accepting Jesus as their personal Savior, they at that same point in time give up their free will, or in other words, their ability to make decisions as to right or wrong actions for themselves.

It would seem that a necessary corrolary to the Christian view of salvation described above would HAVE to be the extinguishment of free will at the moment of salvation; and that all choices as to good or bad works thereafter MUST be made by God, as evidence either of their salvation or lack thereof.

Just my thoughts.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

This begs a question. I believe then I am saved. I bring forth good works pretty much on a daily basis. So that must mean I am saved. God must work through me then. I guess then this Mormon is a saved Mormon and Christian.

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This begs a question. I believe then I am saved. I bring forth good works pretty much on a daily basis. So that must mean I am saved. God must work through me then. I guess then this Mormon is a saved Mormon and Christian.

I think what you say is true, but it would be too simplistic of an answer for Calvin. He would say you are totally corrupt and do no good works due to the reprobation of sin. Even things that look virtuous are not. If you love your wife it is lust, if you give alms, it is prides, etc. One thing that a saved Christian must have faith in specifically is the fact that you are saved - in the sence of having absolute assurance that you will never fall away from Christ - otherwise you have no faith and perish under the law.

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The problem I see with this paradigm... it makes God responsible for all their sins. He wasn't big enough or strong enough to keep them from sinning.

Isaiah 10.5-7

Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury!

Against a godless nation I send him, and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.

But he does not so intend, and his heart does not so think; but it is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off nations not a few.

It doesn't seem that Isaiah's God had a problem with invoking (rather than just copping to) responsibility for the sins of the Assyrians (under Sargon II or was that Sennacherib, I don't remember). He was big enough and strong enough, apparently, to oversee their sins for his own purposes.

Best.

CKS

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Isaiah 10.5-7

It doesn't seem that Isaiah's God had a problem with invoking (rather than just copping to) responsibility for the sins of the Assyrians (under Sargon II or was that Sennacherib, I don't remember). He was big enough and strong enough, apparently, to oversee their sins for his own purposes.

Best.

CKS

He can oversee them {sins}or overlook them, but he will not stop us from making them.

This is why he gave us free agency, he can give us his spirit to help us, but in the end, its

all up to us to make the choices, {free agency}.

:P

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consig:

you're close, I would make the following amendments:

there is nothing in the Bible that talks about OUR accepting Jesus as our Savior making us saved. Salvation is God's act in our life.

as for free will, the argument does not preclude my deciding what color socks I wear etc. But before God's saving me the Bible is clear that I am dead in sin, a slave to sin...what level of freedom then do I have.

After the indwelling Spirit enters my life I become a bondservant of Jesus Christ...I am grafted onto the tree to use a couple scriptural allusions. Christ is the source of whatever good I do

So its not that l have no free will, it is more that the master of my will changes from sin to Christ.

Also the scripture always teaches that God is never the author of sin and that I alone will be held responsible for my sin

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"there is nothing in the Bible that talks about OUR accepting Jesus as our Savior making us saved."

:P ???

Romans 10

9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

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"there is nothing in the Bible that talks about OUR accepting Jesus as our Savior making us saved."

:P ???

Romans 10

9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

St. Augustine onf the topic of getting saved without works:

This question, then, seems to me to be by no means capable of solution, unless we understand that even those good works of ours, which are recompensed with eternal life, belong to the grace of God, because of what is said by the Lord Jesus: "Without me ye can do nothing." John 15:5 And the apostle himself, after saying, "By grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast;" He saw, of course, the possibility that men would think from this statement that good works are not necessary to those who believe, but that faith alone suffices for them; and again, the possibility of men's boasting of their good works, as if they were of themselves capable of performing them. To meet, therefore, these opinions on both sides, he immediately added,"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10) What is the purport of his saying, "Not of works, lest any man should boast," while commending the grace of God? And then why does he afterwards, when giving a reason for using such words, say, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works"? Why, therefore, does it run, "Not of works, lest any man should boast"? Now, hear and understand. "Not of works" is spoken of the works which you suppose have their origin in yourself alone; but you have to think of works for which God has moulded (that is, has formed and created) you. For of these he says,"We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works." Now he does not here speak of that creation which made us human beings, but of that in reference to which one said who was already in full manhood, "Create in me a clean heart, O God;" concerning which also the apostle says, "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God." (2 Corinthians 5:17-18) We are framed, therefore, that is, formed and created, "in the good works which" we have not ourselves prepared, but "God has before ordained that we should walk in them." It follows, then, dearly beloved, beyond all doubt, that as your good life is nothing else than God's grace, so also the eternal life which is the recompense of a good life is the grace of God; moreover it is given gratuitously, even as that is given gratuitously to which it is given. But that to which it is given is solely and simply grace; this therefore is also that which is given to it, because it is its reward;â??grace is for grace, as if remuneration for righteousness; in order that it may be true, because it is true, that God "shall reward every man according to his works."

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I wonder how much if any of the Augustine letter I referenced in my OP the people posting on this thread have read. I suspect it must be very little, for reading it would have provoked a much more enlightened conversation. Perhaps people who clicked the link noticed that Augustine starts off my proving the existence of free will and then supposed they understood how the rest of it was going to turn out.

Augustine's letter is not written to answer the questions of whether we have free will or if grace alone saves us, or whether God forces us rather than gives us a choice. Augustine's letter proposes that these are simply the wrong questions and argues that the scriptures teach both free will and absolute reliance on grace for salvation in every respect, including the turning of the will to God. Both of these teachings must be accepted, and neither compromised in favor of the other. The question that then arises is "How do we harmonize these teaching in full?" not "Which one is true?" or just as dangerously "To what extent is each true?" These are the questions that dominate much discussion of grace, and because they are the wrong questions, conversations go in circles, because they miss the real, mind-blowing scriptural teaching:

God moves our free will.

Here are some snippets from St. Augustine so you can know something about what you are missing:

BOTH GRACE AND FREE WILL EXIST

But since there are some persons who so defend God's grace as to deny man's free will, or who suppose that free will is denied when grace is defended, I have determined to write somewhat on this point to your Love, my brother Valentinus, and the rest of you, who are serving God together under the impulse of a mutual love.

PROOF OF FREE WILL

Now He has revealed to us, through His Holy Scriptures, that there is in a man a free choice of will. But how He has revealed this I do not recount in human language, but in divine. There is, to begin with, the fact that God's precepts themselves would be of no use to a man unless he had free choice of will, so that by performing them he might obtain the promised rewards. For they are given that no one might be able to plead the excuse of ignorance, as the Lord says concerning the Jews in the gospel: "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin." John 15:22 Of what sin does He speak but of that great one which He foreknew, while speaking thus, that they would make their ownâ??that is, the death they were going to inflict upon Him? For they did not have "no sin" before Christ came to them in the flesh. The apostle also says: "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold back the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has showed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him are from the creation of the world clearly seenâ??being understood by the things that are madeâ??even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are inexcusable." Romans 1:18-20 In what sense does he pronounce them to be "inexcusable," except with reference to such excuse as human pride is apt to allege in such words as, "If I had only known, I would have done it; did I not fail to do it because I was ignorant of it?" or, "I would do it if I knew how; but I do not know, therefore I do not do it"? All such excuse is removed from them when the precept is given them, or the knowledge is made manifest to them how to avoid sin.

OURS MERITS DO NOT EARN GRACE AT ALL

When God says, "Turn ye unto me, and I will turn unto you," Zechariah 1:3 one of these clausesâ??that which invites our return to Godâ??evidently belongs to our will; while the other, which promises His return to us, belongs to His grace. Here, possibly, the Pelagians think they have a justification for their opinion which they so prominently advance, that God's grace is given according to our merits. ... Such passages do they collect out of the Scriptures,â??like the one which I just now quoted, "Turn ye unto me, and I will turn unto you,"â??as if it were owing to the merit of our turning to God that His grace were given us, wherein He Himself even turns unto us. Now the persons who hold this opinion fail to observe that, unless our turning to God were itself God's gift, it would not be said to Him in prayer, "Turn us again, O God of hosts;" and, "You, O God, wilt turn and quicken us;" and again, "Turn us, O God of our salvation,"â??with other passages of similar import, too numerous to mention here. For, with respect to our coming unto Christ, what else does it mean than our being turned to Him by believing? And yet He says: "No man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father." John 6:65
From these and similar passages of Scripture, we gather the proof that God's grace is not given according to our merits. The truth is, we see that it is given not only where there are no good, but even where there are many evil merits preceding: and we see it so given daily.

FREE WILL INCAPABLE OF TURNING A MAN TO GOD

Lest, however, it should be thought that men themselves in this matter do nothing by free will, it is said in the Psalm, "Harden not your hearts;" and in Ezekiel himself, "Cast away from you all your transgressions, which you have impiously committed against me; and make you a new heart and a new spirit; and keep all my commandments. For why will you die, O house of Israel, says the Lord? for I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies, says the Lord God: and turn ye, and live." Ezekiel 18:31-32 We should remember that it is He who says, "Turn ye and live," to whom it is said in prayer, "Turn us again, O God." We should remember that He says, "Cast away from you all your transgressions," when it is even He who justifies the ungodly. We should remember that He says, "Make you a new heart and a new spirit," who also promises, "I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit will I put within you." Ezekiel 36:26 How is it, then, that He who says, "Make you," also says, "I will give you"? Why does He command, if He is to give? Why does He give if man is to make, except it be that He gives what He commands when He helps him to obey whom He commands? There is, however, always within us a free will,â??but it is not always good; for it is either free from righteousness when it serves sin,â??and then it is evil,â??or else it is free from sin when it serves righteousness,â??and then it is good. But the grace of God is always good; and by it it comes to pass that a man is of a good will, though he was before of an evil one. By it also it comes to pass that the very good will, which has now begun to be, is enlarged, and made so great that it is able to fulfil the divine commandments which it shall wish, when it shall once firmly and perfectly wish. This is the purport of what the Scripture says: "If you will, you shall keep the commandments;" Sirach 15:15 so that the man who wills but is not able knows that he does not yet fully will, and prays that he may have so great a will that it may suffice for keeping the commandments. And thus, indeed, he receives assistance to perform what he is commanded. Then is the will of use when we have ability; just as ability is also then of use when we have the will. For what does it profit us if we will what we are unable to do, or else do not will what we are able to do?

FREE WILL CANNOT TURN TO GOD EVEN IN PART EXCEPT BY GRACE

Now if faith is simply of free will, and is not given by God, why do we pray for those who will not believe, that they may believe? This it would be absolutely useless to do, unless we believe, with perfect propriety, that Almighty God is able to turn to belief wills that are perverse and opposed to faith. Man's free will is addressed when it is said, "Today, if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts." But if God were not able to remove from the human heart even its obstinacy and hardness, He would not say, through the prophet, "I will take from them their heart of stone, and will give them a heart of flesh." Ezekiel 11:19 That all this was foretold in reference to the New Testament is shown clearly enough by the apostle when he says, "You are our epistle, . . . written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart." 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 We must not, of course, suppose that such a phrase as this is used as if those might live in a fleshly way who ought to live spiritually; but inasmuch as a stone has no feeling, with which man's hard heart is compared, what was there left Him to compare man's intelligent heart with but the flesh, which possesses feeling? For this is what is said by the prophet Ezekiel: "I will give them another heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh; that they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, says the Lord." Ezekiel 11:19-20 Now can we possibly, without extreme absurdity, maintain that there previously existed in any man the good merit of a good will, to entitle him to the removal of his stony heart, when all the while this very heart of stone signifies nothing else than a will of the hardest kind and such as is absolutely inflexible against God? For where a good will precedes, there is, of course, no longer a heart of stone.

WE ARE STILL FREE WHEN TURNED BY GRACE

You must refer the matter, then, to the hidden determinations of God, when you see, in one and the same condition, such as all infants unquestionably have,â??who derive their hereditary evil from Adam,â??that one is assisted so as to be baptized, and another is not assisted, so that he dies in his very bondage; and again, that one baptized person is left and forsaken in his present life, who God foreknew would be ungodly, while another baptized person is taken away from this life, "lest that wickedness should alter his understanding;" Wisdom 4:11 and be sure that you do not in such cases ascribe unrighteousness or unwisdom to God, in whom is the very fountain of righteousness and wisdom, but, as I have exhorted you from the commencement of this treatise, "whereto you have already attained, walk therein," and "even this shall God reveal unto you," Philippians 3:15 â??if not in this life, yet certainly in the next, "for there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed." Matthew 10:26 When, therefore, you hear the Lord say, "I the Lord have deceived that prophet," Ezekiel 14:9 and likewise what the apostle says: "He has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardens," Romans 9:18 believe that, in the case of him whom He permits to be deceived and hardened, his evil deeds have deserved the judgment; while in the case of him to whom He shows mercy, you should loyally and unhesitatingly recognise the grace of the God who "renders not evil for evil; but contrariwise blessing." 1 Peter 3:9 Nor should you take away from Pharaoh free will, because in several passages God says, "I have hardened Pharaoh;" or," I have hardened or I will harden Pharaoh's heart;" for it does not by any means follow that Pharaoh did not, on this account, harden his own heart. For this, too, is said of him, after the removal of the fly-plague from the Egyptians, in these words of the Scripture: "And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also; neither would he let the people go." Exodus 8:32 Thus it was that both God hardened him by His just judgment, and Pharaoh by his own free will. Be then well assured that your labour will never be in vain, if, setting before you a good purpose, you persevere in it to the last. For God, who fails to render, according to their deeds, only to those whom He liberates, will then "recompense every man according to his works." Matthew 16:27 God will, therefore, certainly recompense both evil for evil, because He is just; and good for evil, because He is good; and good for good, because He is good and just; only, evil for good He will never recompense, because He is not unjust. He will, therefore, recompense evil for evilâ??punishment for unrighteousness; and He will recompense good for evilâ??grace for unrighteousness; and He will recompense good for goodâ??grace for grace.

ACCEPTANCE OF A DIFFICULT TEACHING

Peruse attentively this treatise, and if you understand it, give God the praise; but where you fail to understand it, pray for understanding, for God will give you understanding. Remember what the Scriptures say: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally, and upbraids not; and it shall be given to him." James 1:5 Wisdom itself comes down from above, as the Apostle James himself tells us. There is, however, another wisdom, which you must repel from you, and pray against its remaining in you; this the same apostle expressed his detestation of when he said, "But if you have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, . . . this is not the wisdom which descends from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For wherever there is envying and strife, there is also confusion, and every evil work. But the wisdom which is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good works, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." James 3:14-17 What blessing, then, will that man not have who has prayed for this wisdom and obtained it of the Lord? And from this you may understand what grace is; because if this wisdom were of ourselves, it would not be from above; nor would it be an object to be asked for of the God who created us. Brethren, pray ye for us also, that we may live "soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ," Titus 2:12 to whom belong the honour, and the glory, and the kingdom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever. Amen.
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There is, to begin with, the fact that God's precepts themselves would be of no use to a man unless he had free choice of will

This is not proof that free will exists, and the whole thing is flawed and poorly thought out from the beginning since it begins with an assumption that is so clearly flase.

I agree, the God of Abraham is pointless without free will, since there is no point in punishing us because of His mistakes.

Like I said, free will is a pipe dream. The greeks new it long before Christians, just look at their literature.

No action you make or thought that you think is free from cause and effect. It's that simple. Just because you lack the ability to comprehend all of the variables that lead up to how you behave at any given moment, doesn't mean they don't exist.

Augustine's letter proposes that these are simply the wrong questions and argues that the scriptures teach both free will and absolute reliance on grace for salvation in every respect, including the turning of the will to God.

How is it the wrong question? It is absolutely the right question. And how does turning to someone else's will give you "free" will?

The acceptance of a difficult teaching really comes down to that which is not intuitive, and that is we are all a product of physical determinism. We all feel like we make decisions, but what we are conscious of is really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mental processes. The illusion is that we are separate entities from everything around us.

For your average person, this perceptual boundary is impossible to cross. When Buddha was asked if free will existed or not, he answered," Even if you knew, it would not matter."

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Preach it, brother.

Free Will: The Illusion of Autonomous Man

Free Agency:

Free agency, in LDS context, is the human capacity to make choices for themselves and the ability to choose between right and wrong. The idea that we all have free will is the very basis of Christian theology. This idea, this belief has long been debated throughout recorded history. People easily buy into the idea of free will, because it certainly *feels* like we have the capacity to have a will free of influence. The belief in freedom of will underwrites a religious concept of sin, a legal concept of retribution and justice, and the oh so gray area in between. Because of this particular reason, free will becomes more than a problem of passing philosophical interest. Retribution becomes obsolete, and dealing with

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That was definitely Calvin's conclusion. Actually his was more extreme: he denied free will altogether.

However, I do not think that conclusion actually has to follow. I am myself an Augustinian overall, and I think that grace and free will are in complete harmony. The conflict is an illusion. God can and does personally move an individual person's will, causing him or her to make a choice, but I hold at the same time that this is perfective of and not contrary to freedom. Taken to extremes (and I take it to extremes) it is a tougher knot even than the Trinity, yet I think the scriptures compel this conclusion.

Free will, oddly enough is only truly ours through Christ, or His grace.

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ck, thanks for the reference and am aware of it. I sent Mr.Dan Corner nformation in connection to things LDS on his site several months ago [Have not heard from his due to his busy schedule]. But his site is impressive in responding to Calvinism and other issues in connection to it. In His Debt/Grace Tanyan.

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But before God's saving me the Bible is clear that I am dead in sin, a slave to sin...what level of freedom then do I have.

You have the freedom to choose Jesus.

And that is all the free will you need.

After you choose Jesus, you have the freedom to follow Jesus.

And that is all the free will you need.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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