Ability Before and After the Fall

As I understand Calvinist/Reformed doctrine;

1) As are result of Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden (Gen. 3) aka “The Fall”, every aspect of creation is corrupted by sin, particularly the human will.

2) The will is enslaved by sin and as a result it is unable to do anything good, especially have faith in Jesus through the Gospel.

3) Consequently, faith is only possible after the Holy Spirit regenerates the sinner.

4) Once regenerated (i.e. born again) the will is no longer enslaved,

5) which is why the regenerate are able to have faith / believe in Jesus.

RC Sproul puts it this way, “before a person can choose Christ his heart must be changed. He must be born again…one does not first believe, then become reborn”.

Among the Reformed, there is this idea that not only are the “reborn” enabled to have (saving) faith in Jesus, but they also inevitably will have (saving) faith in Jesus. Again, as I understand it, the faith of the regenerate is inevitable because God is Sovereign and His call is consequently efficacious.

Consider this:

Since the enslavement of the will to sin is one result of The Fall, it is reasonable to think that Adam was created with an un-enslaved will (aka a “free” will), one capable of believing God. However Adam, with his unbound will, chose to disbelieve God, instead believing his wife (also in possession of a yet-to-be-bound will) who had believed Satan’s lie about God. As a result, we see not just one (Adam’s) but two (Adam’s and Eve’s) wills unfettered by sin choosing to disbelieve and disobey. Furthermore, God’s command was not efficacious as evidenced by the fact that both Adam and Eve did not obey. Consequently, it appears that faith is not inevitable even though the will is not enslaved to sin. If this was the case for our first parents, why should we assume that this is not the case for their descendants?

If the Reformed position is correct, and the regenerated will inevitably chooses faith in Jesus, then it would appear that the post-lapsarian, freed will is less free than Adam’s pre-lapsarian, uncorrupted will. After all, Adam was able to exercise his will so as to reject faith in God whereas Adam’s regenerated descendants are apparently unable to reject faith in Jesus. Said another way, there seems to be less freedom (of choice) for those in Christ than there was for Adam prior to The Fall.

Comments are open. Bring your own tar and feathers.



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5 responses to “Ability Before and After the Fall

  1. Hi Amtog,

    Did you see my latest post on The Doors of the Sea? I highly recommend it – the best book on the problem of evil I’ve ever read.

    I must admit that I did get a bit of a perverse delight in his deconstruction of radical Calvinism. Here’s a choice bit, speaking in terms of Calvin’s commentary on the Fall, and Ivan in The Brother’s Karamazov:

    At its most unfortunate, this exaggerated adoration of God’s sheer omnipotence can yield conclusions as foolish as Calvin’s assertion, in Book III of the Institutes, that God predestined the fall of man so as to show forth his greatness in both the salvation and the damnation of those he has eternally preordained to their several fates. Were this so, God would be the author of and so entirely beyond both good and evil, or at once both and neither, or indeed merely evil (which power without justice always is). The curious absurdity of all such doctrines is that, out of a pious anxiety to defend God’s transcendence against any scintilla of genuine creaturely freedom, they threaten effectively to collapse that transcendence into absolute identity – with the world, with us, with the devil. For, unless the world is truly set apart from God and possesses a dependent but real liberty of its own analogous to the freedom of God, everything is merely a fragment of divine volition, and God is simply the totality of all that is and all that happens; there is no creation, but only an oddly pantheistic expression of God’s unadulterated power. One wonders, indeed, if a kind of reverse prometheanism does not lurk somewhere within such a theology, a refusal on the part of the theologian to be a creature, a desire rather to be dissolved into the infinite fiery flood of God’s solitary and arbitrary act of will. In any event, such a God, being nothing but will willing itself, would be no more than an infinite tautology – the sovereignty of glory displaying itself in the glory of sovereignty – and so an infinite banality.

    This is why I say that, within Ivan’s arraignment of God’s design in creation, one can hear the suppressed but still prophetic voice of a deeper, truer, more radical and revolutionary Christianity. For if indeed there were a God whose nature — whose justice or sovereignty — were revealed in the death of a child or the dereliction of a soul or a predestined hell, then it would be no great transgression to think of him as a kind of malevolent or contemptible demiurge, and to hate him, and to deny him worship, and to seek a better God than he. But Christ has overthrown all those principalities that rule without justice and in defiance of charity, and has cast out the god of this world, and so we are free (even now, in this mortal body) from slavery to arbitrary power, from fear of hell’s domination, and from any superstitious subservience to fate. And this is the holy liberty — the gospel — that lies hidden but active in the depths of Ivan’s rebellion.

  2. You’re always welcomed around here WFO.

    I’ve often thought that there was an overly vehement defense of God’s sovereignty in some of the Calvinist material I’ve come across either in print, sermons or conversations. I certainly couldn’t have phrased it as well this quotation you’ve shared.

    I’ll be looking at your post on this book and possibly picking it up this summer. Did you see my post about the 2000th hit?

  3. I did – and I should have said “you’re welcome”. 😉

    You’re in my feed reader, but perhaps I should swing by more often to check the comments.

  4. Frenchman says : I absolutely agree with this !

  5. amtog

    “…but perhaps I should swing by more often to check the comments.”

    Naah. I don’t get that many comments WFO.

    Speaking of which, thanks for coming by Frenchman.

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