Free Will v. Divine Sovereignty–An Issue Settled in the 5th Century

Alright, so I may have overstated things a bit in my title. There are of course subsequent debates on this issue, e.g., Erasmus v. Martin Luther,[1] Arminianism v. Calvinism, and of course the frequent debates in Christian college dorm rooms. And don’t forget what may be Jonathan Edwards’ most famous book, Freedom of the WillBut, all of these can trace back in some sense and in some form to the “original” debate between Pelagius and Augustine[2] in which the good side, the right side, won. (Yeah, I’m biased.) Augustine–the “winner” of the debate as opposed to Pelagius who was declared a heretic–settled the debate… kinda, sorta, …well, at least in my opinion. Augustine explained how human choice, human responsibility, called “free will” by many, is compatible or “fits” with God’s sovereignty (hence the typical “Free will versus God’s sovereignty” is not an appropriate way to describe the tension).

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“Grace Amazing” by Jimmy Needham (ft. Trip Lee)

Jimmy Needham, in his song, “Grace Amazing” (from his album, Nightlights) truly does present grace as it ought to be presented, amazing. And how does he do this? The same way any good Soteriology (doctrine of salvation) does–by starting with a good Hamartiology (doctrine of sin), namely, our total inability or total depravity. As Needham says, “That’s how it is with us all. We weren’t just damaged we fell dead at the fall.” And in doing so he recognizes that salvation is dependent on God’s sovereign grace. “Unless You breathe life into me I won’t ever feel my dead heart beating. But you open these blind eyes to see.” And the fact that God has made believers alive, who once were dead and could not give life to themselves, is what makes grace amazing. The Blind don’t give themselves sight; God does. In short, grace is amazing because the recipients of grace had no part in it. “That’s what makes Your grace amazing.”

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The Depravity of Being Good

Talking about the film “Courageous,” Andy Naselli stated, “some may embrace moralism and feel good about themselves as they try to earn God’s favor by being good dads. This is not the fault of the film but more a comment about how in our depravity we can be very, very bad by being very, very “good.” We can make an idol out of just about anything—even family.”[1] This is a perspective of depravity we don’t often think of, but it is very true.
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