Against Free Will
1) God’s Word
Psalm 33:10: "He maketh the devices of the people of none
Psalm 81:12: "So I gave them up unto their own hearts’
lust: and they walked in their own counsels."
Proverbs 21:1: "The king’s heart is in the hand of the
Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will."
Proverbs 28:26: "He that trusteth in his own heart is a
Ecclesiastes 7:20: "For there is not a just man upon the
earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not."
Jeremiah 4:22: "For my people is foolish, they have not
known me … they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge."
John 1:13: "Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will
of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
John 3:27: "A man can receive nothing, except it be given
him from heaven."
John 6:44: "No man can come to me except the Father, which
hath sent me, draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day."
John 6:65: "Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come
unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father."
John 15:5: "I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that
abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without
me ye can do nothing."
John 15:16: "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,
and ordained you."
Romans 3:10-12: "As it is written, There is none righteous,
no, not one: There is no that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after
God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable;
there is none that doeth good, no, not one."
Romans 5:6: "For when we were yet without strength, in due
time Christ died for the ungodly."
Romans 7:18-19: "For I know that in me (that is, in my
flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to
perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but
the evil which I would not, that I do."
Romans 8:7: "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God:
for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."
Romans 9:16: "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of
him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy."
Romans 10:20: "I was found of them that sought me not."
Ephesians 2:1: "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in
trespasses and sins."
Ephesians 2:5: "Even when we were dead in sins, hath he
quickened us together with Christ; (by grace ye are saved.)"
Philippians 2:13: "For it is God which worketh in you, both
to will and to do of his good pleasure."
Colossians 2:13: "And you, being dead in your sins and the
uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having
forgiven you all trespasses."
Titus 3:3-5: "For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish,
disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice
and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and
love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness
which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of
regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost."
2) Before the Reformation
Augustine: "I once laboured hard for the free will
of man, until the grace of God at length overcame me."
Prudentius of Troyes: "Concerning Free Will.
First. Evidently, that one should confess that free will,
lost in Adam by the merit of disobedience, is restored to us
and freed through our Lord Jesus Christ. Meanwhile [we live]
in hope [of salvation]; later [we shall possess it] in
reality, just as the Apostle says, 'For in hope we have been
saved' (Rom 8:24). Nevertheless, we should assign the grace
of the omnipotent God to every good work, whether in
proposing, beginning, working out, or finishing with
perseverance. And we should know that without it we are in
no way able to do anything good, whether to propose, or to
will, or to work."
Bradwardine: "What multitudes, O Lord, do this day
join hands with Pelagius in contending for free will and in fighting … free
Waldensians: "Whosoever upholds free-will absolutely
denies predestination and the grace of God."
"Free will is an empty term."
"Free-will cannot will good and of necessity serves sin."
"This is plainly to ascribe divinity to ‘free will.’"
"I frankly confess that, for myself,
even if it could be, I should not want ‘free-will’ to be given me, nor
anything to be left in my own hands to enable me to endeavour after salvation;
not merely because in face of so many dangers, and adversities and assaults of
devils, I could not stand my ground …; but because even were there no dangers
… I should still be forced to labour with no guarantee of success … But now
that God has taken my salvation out of the control of my own will, and put it
under the control of His, and promised to save me, not according to my working
or running, but according to His own grace and mercy, I have the comfortable
certainty that He is faithful and will not lie to me, and that He is also
great and powerful, so that no devils or opposition can break Him or pluck me
Furthermore, I have the comfortable certainty that I please God, not by reason
of the merit of my works, but by reason of His merciful favour promised to me;
so that, if I work too little, or badly, He does not impute it to me, but with
fatherly compassion pardons me and makes me better. This is the glorying of
all the saints in their God" (The Bondage of the Will).
"The Papists … hold that man, through his own free will,
returns to God; and on this point is our greatest contest with them at this
"Concerning that this clown babbleth of free will, it is
sufficiently rejected throughout the whole scripture."
"Faith is a special gift of God, which proceedeth not from
our free will."
"Let that ethical philosophy therefore of free-will be far
from a Christian mind."
"No free will of man can resist Him that willeth to save."
5) Reformation Confessions
Thirty-Nine Articles, X: "The condition of Man after
the fall of Adam is such, that he can not turn and prepare himself, by his own
natural strength and good works, to faith, and calling upon God. Wherefore we
have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the
grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and
working with us, when we have that good will."
Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 8: "Are we then so
corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all
wickedness? Indeed we are; except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God."
Belgic Confession, XIV: "… we reject all that is
taught repugnant to this, concerning the free will of man, since man is but a
slave to sin; and has nothing of himself, unless it is given from heaven. For
who may presume to boast, that he of himself can do any good, since Christ
saith, No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him?
Who will glory in his own will, who understands, that to be carnally minded is
enmity against God? Who can speak of his knowledge, since the natural man
receiveth not the things of the spirit of God? In short, who dare suggest any
thought, since he knows that we are not sufficient of ourselves to think
anything as of ourselves, but that our sufficiency is of God? And therefore
what the apostle saith ought justly to be held sure and firm, that God worketh
in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure. For there is no will nor
understanding, conformable to the divine will and understanding, but what
Christ hath wrought in man; which he teaches us, when he saith, Without me ye
can do nothing."
Canons of Dordt, III/IV:3: "Therefore all men are
conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, incapable of saving good,
prone to evil, dead in sin, and in bondage thereto, and without the
regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, they are neither able nor willing to
return to God, to reform the depravity of their nature, nor to dispose
themselves to reformation."
Westminster Confession, IX – Of Free Will:
Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom and power
to will and to do that which is good and well-pleasing to God; but yet
mutably, so that he might fall from it.
Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost
all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a
natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is
not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself
When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the
state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin, and by
his grace alone enables him freely to will and to do that which is
spiritually good; yet so as that, by reason of his remaining corruption,
he doth not perfectly nor only will that which is good, but doth also will
that which is evil.
The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to
do good alone in the state of glory only.
6) 16th Century
William Tyndale: "they go and set up free-will with
the heathen philosophers and say that a man’s free will is the cause why God
chooseth and not another, contrary to all scriptures."
Robert Ferrar (Welsh Bishop of St. David's
martyred in Carmarthen on 30 March, 1555) with ten other reforming ministers:
"... we disallow papistical doctrines of free will, of works of
supererogation, of merits, of the necessity of auricular confession, and
satisfaction to God-wards."
John Knox: "… the general consent of all that sect
is that God (by his foreknowledge, counsel, and wisdom) has no assured
election, neither yet any certain reprobation, but that every man may elect or
reprobate himself by his own free will, which he has (say they) to do good or
evil … [All these things are] forged by their own brains, and polished by the
finest of their wits, when yet in very deed they are but the rotten heresies
of … Pelagius, long ago confuted by Augustine …"
John Knox: "Ye [Anabaptists] be proud contemners
of the free grace of God offered to man in Christ Jesus. For with the
Pelagians and Papists ye are become teachers of free will, and defenders of
your own righteousness" (An
Answer to a Great Number of Blasphemous Cavillations Written by an Anabaptist
and Adversary to God's Eternal Predestination [London: Thomas Charde,
1591], p. 121).
Jerome Zanchius: "No free will of the creature can
resist the will of God" (quoting Augustine).
7) 17th Century
Henry Ainsworth: "we grant evil freewill (or
freewill to evil) is remaining in all natural men: we believe that freewill to
good, is from grace and regeneration."
Daniel Featley: "many men have too much Free-will,
and take to themselves too free liberty now a days to advance and maintain
John Preston: "not by the power of free will but by
the infused grace of His spirit."
Peter Moulin: "It is proved out of the holy
scriptures that an unregenerate man is altogether destitute of the power and
liberty of his will, in those things that pertain to faith and salvation."
John Owen: "the whole Pelagian poison of free-will …
a clear exaltation of the old idol free-will into the throne of God … That the
decaying estate of Christianity have invented."
John Owen: Free will is "corrupted nature's deformed darling, the
Pallas or beloved self-conception of darkened minds" (Works, vol.
10, p. 150).
William Jenkyn: "The bending of men's hearts to
believe and persevere are the supernatural fruits of God’s eternal decree, and
not the natural fruits of man’s depraved and frail free will."
John Trapp: "The friends of free will are the
enemies of free grace."
Thomas Watson: "This crown of free will is fallen
from our head" and "If it be God’s purpose that saves then it is not free
Francis Turretin: "The word "freewill" (as also
"self-determining power" [autexousiou] used by the Greek Fathers) does not
occur in Scripture … I Cor 7:37 does not mean freedom of the will."
8) 18th Century
Matthew Henry: "The counsels and decrees of God do
not truckle to the frail and fickle will of man."
Augustus Toplady: "A man’s free will cannot cure him
even of the toothache, or a sore finger; and yet he madly thinks it is in its
power to cure his soul."
George Whitefield: "Man is nothing; he hath a free
will to go to hell, but none to go to heaven, till God worketh in him" and
"you dishonour God by denying election. You plainly make salvation depend, not
on God’s ‘free grace’ but on Man’s ‘free will.’"
William Huntington: "This brought me out of the
free-will fog, and truth shone in my heart like a comet … from that moment I
waged war against free will."
9) 19th Century
J. N. Darby, early leader of the Plymouth Brethren:
"This re-appearance of the doctrine of freewill serves to support that of the
pretension of the natural man to be not irremediably fallen, for this is what
such doctrine tends to. All who have never been deeply convicted of sin, all
persons in whom this conviction is based on gross external sins, believe more
or less in freewill" (Man’s So-called Freewill, p. 1).
10) Charles Spurgeon
"I will go as far as Martin Luther, where he says, ‘If any
man ascribes anything of salvation, even the very least thing, to the free
will of man, he knows nothing of grace, and he has not learned Jesus Christ
"Free-will doctrine—what does it? It magnifies man into
God. It declares God’s purposes a nullity, since they cannot be carried out
unless men are willing. It makes God’s will a waiting servant to the will of
man, and the whole covenant of grace dependent on human action. Denying
election on the ground of injustice, it holds God to be a debtor to sinners."
"His will cannot be neutral or ‘free’ to act contrary to
"Free will has carried many souls to hell, but yet never a
soul to heaven."
"I do not come into this pulpit hoping that perhaps
somebody will of his own free will return to Christ. My hope lies in another
quarter. I hope that my Master will lay hold of some of them and say, "You are
mine, and you shall be mine. I claim you for myself." My hope arises from the
freeness of grace, and not from the freedom of the will."
11) 20th Century
Arthur W. Pink: "if the will is their servant then
it is not sovereign, and if the will is not sovereign, we certainly cannot
predicate ‘freedom’ of it."
Louis Berkhof: "Freedom of the will is a
John Gerstner: "We have already shown that there is
no such thing as free will. That’s a will-o’-the–wisp. You never make choices
without reasons, not as a responsible or a rational person" (A Primer on
Free Will, p. 11).
W. E. Best: "God’s character is maligned by every
person who believes in free will."
Gordon H. Clark: "The Bible consistently denies free
R. C. Sproul: "The neutral view of free will is
impossible. It involves choice without desire."
James White: "Then why do you embrace Christ, and
your moral Buddhist neighbour across the street does not? Are you smarter than
he is? More spiritually sensitive? Better, in any way? What makes you to
differ? Is the Holy Spirit working just as hard on him as He did on you? If
so, why do you believe, and he does not? No matter how hard you try, you can’t
avoid coming to the conclusion that, in a 'free will' system of salvation,
those who believe do so because there is something different about them. If
the Spirit is bringing equal conviction to bear upon each individual, the only
deciding factor, given equality in everything else, is something in the person
himself. I believe the only possible difference between the redeemed in heaven
and the guilty, condemned, punished sinner in hell is a five-letter word ...
It’s called 'grace.'"
Steven Houck: "This free-willism is a serious error
which is contrary to the Holy Scriptures."