Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Peterson on Free Will

I recently received a copy of Robert Peterson's new book, Election and Free Will: God's Gracious choice and Our Responsibility . It is the first book P&R's new series, Explorations in Biblical Theology, edited by Peterson, who is professor of systematic theology at Covenant Theological Seminary.

The book looks excellent--a combination of exegetically grounded and pastorally sensitive theology.

I thought it might be helpful to provide an outline of Peterson's chapter on "free will." John Piper always used to say that the first task of a good theologian is to make distinctions, and Peterson makes a number of helpful ones in this chapter:

Free Will and the Bible's Story

1. Human beings as created had true freedom and freedom of choice.
2. Human being as fallen lost true freedom and retained freedom of choice.
3. Human beings as redeemed have regained a measure of true freedom and retained freedom of choice.
4. Human beings as glorified will be perfected in true freedom and will retain freedom of choice.

True freedom = "the ability to love and serve God unhindered by sin" (p. 131)
Freedom of choice or spontaneity = "the ability of human beings to do as they wish" (p. 126)

Free Will and Reasons Why People Are Saved and Condemned
1. Reasons why people are saved
a. People are saved because they trust Christ as Lord and Savior.
b. People are saved because the Holy Spirit opens their hearts to the Gospel.
c. People are saved because Christ died and rose to save them.
d. People are saved because the Father chose them for salvation before creation.

2. Reasons why people are condemned
a. People are condemned because of their actual sin.
b. People are condemned because of Adam's original sin.
c. People are condemned because God passed over them (reprobation).

Free Will and Its Relation to God's Sovereignty
1. The Bible affirms both divine sovereignty and genuine human responsibility.
a. The Bible affirms divine sovereignty.
b. The Bible affirms genuine human responsibility.
c. The Bible affirms divine sovereignty and human responsibility together.

2. Parameters for sovereignty and responsibility.
a. Fatalism must be rejected as an error.
b. Absolute power to the contrary must be rejected as an error.

3. To emphasize either sovereignty or responsibility at the expense of the other is to fall into the error of rationalism.
a. Hyper-Calvinism is an error.
b. Arminianism is an error.

Of course, to see these defended, explained, and synthesized, you'll have to read the whole thing!