The Fall and Human Will
Again, the main books I used in creating this page (other than the Bible) are:
'Foundations of Pentecostal Theology' by Duffield and Van Cleave
'An Exposition of The Westminster Confession of Faith' by Robert Shaw.
Before The Fall
When God finished creating the world He observed that it was good (Gen 1:31a). There was no sin in the world when God completed creation. God made man in His own image, so Adam therefore partook in God's Holy and Righteous character (Eph 4:24 - "put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth." Col 3:9-10 - "Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him." [Both NASB]). Adam and Eve, before The Fall, were in an untested and uncomfirmed state devoid of all evil.
God made Man a moral being with a conscience and a sense of accountibility (as shown by verses such as 1John 3:20-21 and Romans 8:1). Adam and Eve's consciences are shown by the fact that after they sinned they hid from God. Because God made Man a moral being, He gave him His Law which if Man violated, God would hold him guilty (Ex 20:7). The commands God gave Adam and Eve to care for creation and not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Adam was not created a child, in body or in knowledge. God created him with a state of knowledge necessary for him to carry out the command to have dominion over, and care for, creation (Gen 1:26, 28; 2:19-20). Man (Mankind was 'in Adam's loins') was also created with immortal (death came through sin) and reasonable souls. Man had the Law of God written on his heart (Rom 2:14-15) and was capable of fulfilling it, and his will was free and able to change (See Ecc 7:29 and Gen 3:6). But Man abused this freedom which God had given him. He failed the test given to him in the Garden of Eden - he failed to keep God's Law. Adam and Eve were created by God as free moral agents. God created Man for His glory, and He did such that He could be glorified in the best way - by them freely choosing to worship Him (See Is 43:7). God did not hinder them, or withdraw this ability He gave them, because this freedom and ability was given so that Man could do his duty. God could have prevented The Fall from occuring - it was not a mistake by God - but He chose to withhold His Grace so that their will was free and not forced (shown for example by: "But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust." - James 1:14 NASB). Them having a free choice was necessary for their development to mature holiness. As a result of creation being good, Man was created with a holy nature. But for him to have a holy character he had to be tested. The result of choosing good was a holy character, choosing evil resulted in an evil character. So Man's disposition before The Fall was only to good. But this was liable to change through the power of temptation. Man, though disposed to good, was free to choose evil.
For more on Adam and Eve before The Fall, visit my page where I ask how God's Sovereignty fits in with their first sin.
After The Fall
As a consequence of Adam freely choosing to sin Man is now completely void of his original righteousness and unable to do "any spiritual good accompanying salvation" (West. Conf.) - being completely averse to that good. (Rom 8:7 - "because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so" plus Rom 3:10-12a - "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE" [both NASB] also Rom 5:6 and John 15:5).
Because of The Fall, Man is always biased towards evil (see Gen 6:5) and no-one possesses any holy affection towards God (See Rom 1:25 and 2Tim 3:2-4 - "For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God," [NASB]). All this is because we are dead in sin (mentioned in Eph 2:1,5 and Col 2:13).
Having said that we are not devoid of all good, or as opposed to God as Man could be (Jesus saw some pleasing qualities in people - Mark 10:21; Matt 23:23) But the love towards God which is lost due to The Fall is a fundamental requirement of the Law - "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.'" (Deut 6:4-5 NASB; See Matt 22:35-38). Man is hostile towards God (Rom 8:7) and for this reason is continuously biased towards evil. Every faculty of our mind and body is corrupted, "They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts."(Eph 4:18 NIV). Romans 7:18 shows that God can't fully approve any of our thoughts or actions, and we don't have the strength to turn from our constant progress in depravity. "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not." (NASB) There are a number of passages in the Bible which show that Man is unable to (in addition to being unable to do any spiritual good accompanying salvation) convert himself, or to prepare himself for conversion (eg Jn 6:44, 65; Eph 2:2-5; 1Cor 2:14; Titus 3:3-5).
Robert Shaw's 'An Exposition
of The Westminster Confession of Faith' says:
"In opposition to these various forms of error, our Confession asserts that man, in his natural corrupt state, "has lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation," and that "a natural man is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto." This may be confirmed,—
"1. By the representations given in Scripture of the natural condition of mankind sinners. They are said to be "dead in trespasses and sins;" to be not only blind, but "darkness" itself; to be "the servants of sin;" to be "enemies of God," who are not, and cannot be, subject to his law.—Eph. ii. 1, v. 8; Rom. vi. 17; Col. i. 21; Rom. viii. 7.
"2. The Scripture contains explicit declarations of man's inability to exercise faith in Christ, or to do anything spiritually good. - John vi. 44, xv. 5.
"3. God claims the conversion of sinners as his own work, which he promises to accomplish.—Ezek. xi. 19, 20, xxxvi. 26, 27; Jer. xxxi. 33.
"4. The conversion of sinners is uniformly ascribed to the efficacy of divine grace.—Acts xvi. 14; 1 Thess. i. 6.
"5. The conversion of the soul is described in Scripture by such figurative terms as imply that it is a divine work. It is called a creation, - Eph. ii. 10; a resurrection, - John v. 21; a new birth,—John i. 13.
"6. If the sinner could convert himself, then he would have something of which he might boast—something which he had not received. - Cor. i. 29, 30, iv. 7.
"7. The increase of Christians in faith and holiness is spoken of as the work of God; which must more strongly imply that the first beginnings of it is to be ascribed to him. - Phil. i. 6, ii. 13; Heb. xiii. 20, 21.
We only add, that man's incapacity of willing or doing that which is spiritually good, being a moral inability, is not inconsistent with his responsibility."(P159)
Two views on Human Will:
Arminians hold that there are three things which belong to our will's
1. A self-determining power. The will has a certain power over itself and its acts. It is through this power that it determines its own volitions.
2. A state where it is not in possession of any inclination towards evil or good. It is always in a state of indifference/equilibrium without all acededent bias.
3. The volitions/acts of the will are contingent. They are free from all constraint and connection with some previous reason or basis of their existance.
Calvinists hold that the Arminian position is contrary to the first
principles of philosophy. For the will to determine its own determinations,
and it having a choice or preference while remaining in a state of indifference/equilibrium
is absurd and self-contridictory. They hold that nothing can come to pass without
They say that a moral agent's liberty is in the power of acting according to his choice. These actions are free in that they are performed without any external compulsion or restraint and in consequence of the determinations of the agent's own mind.
I have shown from Scripture here and in Election
by Foreknowledge that:
Before The Fall man's disposition was only to good, but was still liable to change and choose evil through the power of temptation.
After The Fall in man's natural state, man freely chooses evil without any external compulsion or constraint on his will. He also is unable to "spiritually do good accompanying salvation" (West. Conf.), he is a slave to sin.
But after The Fall in the state of Grace - Having received the gift of the Holy Spirit - he is free partly to do good and partly to do evil. This mixture of two opposite moral dispositions (described in Rom 7:14-25), brings about that sometimes one prevails and sometimes the other prevails.
After Judgement in the state of Glory the blessed freely choose what is good and are confined in a state of perfect holiness. They are only able to will what is good.
It is only when we are in the state of Glory that we will truly be free. Man was free before The Fall, but now is under bondage to sin. When we are redeemed and in heaven is when we will return to that state. For Jesus said: "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin." (John 8:34 NASB)
Copyright Steven Shaw 2001