Human Will in its Fourfold State
The Westminster Confession offers a comprehensive analysis of the human will, providing one of the most insightful explanations to date. It takes great pains to depict the human will in its four-fold state: 1) before the fall, 2) after the fall, 3) after regeneration, and 4) in glory. Prior to describing the will in each state, the Confession highlights a crucial aspect of man's will that remains consistent across all four states. It posits that "God has endowed the will of man with that natural liberty that is neither forced nor determined by any absolute necessity of nature to good or evil". This implies that man, in all four states, possesses natural liberty, or the freedom to make voluntary choices that are not coerced. However, after the fall, even though man retains his natural liberty, he loses the moral ability to choose good and instead chooses evil due to a corruption of nature, rendering him in bondage to sin.
The Bible defines freedom with respect to man's relationship to sin, stating "he who sins is a slave to sin, but if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed". This statement highlights that freedom is unattainable for those in bondage to sin, making the grace of God necessary to set one free. Jesus further expounds on this notion, stating "the Spirit quickens, the flesh counts for nothing... that is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me grants it" (John 6:63, 65). The Confession then discusses the state of man's will after conversion, in which he is liberated from his natural bondage to sin, and lastly, the state of man's will in glory.
Many readers are unaware that the Confession refers to the four-fold state of man, leading to a misinterpretation of its contents. Reading the Confession from this perspective can offer profound insights into the subject of man's will in light of the biblical narrative, making it a valuable source of insight on this subject.
Of Free Will.
I. God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that is neither forced, nor by any absolute necessity of nature determined, to good or evil.a
a Matt. 17:12; James 1:14; Deut. 30:19.
II. Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom and power to will and to do that which is good and well-pleasing to God;b but yet mutably, so that he might fall from it.c
b Eccl. 7:29; Gen. 1:26.
c Gen. 2:16,17; Gen. 3:6.
III. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation;d so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good,e and dead in sin,f is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.g
d Rom. 5:6; Rom 8:7; John 15:5.
e Rom. 3:10,12.
f Eph. 2:1,5; Col. 2:13.
g John 6:44,65; Eph. 2:2-5; 1 Cor. 2:14; Tit. 3:3-5.
IV. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin,h and by his grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good;i 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.k
h Col. 1:13; John 8:34,36.
i Phil. 2:13; Rom. 6:18,22.
k Gal. 5:17; Rom. 7:15,18,19,21,23.
V. The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to do good alone in the state of glory only.l
l Eph. 4:13; Heb. 12:23; 1 John 3:2; Jude ver. 24.
Myth of Free Will by Walter Chantry
Does Man Have a Free Will? by John Calvin
Can Free Will Explain the Conversion of Sinners? by Scott Christensen
The Pelagian Captivity of the Church by R. C. Sproul
Inability: Free Will Vs. Free Agency by J. I. Packer