《西敏信条教牧简释 9.1》

Posted on Sep 3, 2020 by admin

第9章 论意志自由

9.1 上帝造人,把本性的自由赋予人的意志。这意志既不受强迫,其本质中也无任何绝对的必然性,而不得不行善作恶1。

1 太17:12;雅1:14;申30:19。

9.1 God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined to good, or evil.1

1 Mt 17:12; Jas  1:14; Dt 30:19.


One accusation that has very often been levelled against the Reformed church is that we do not believe in the “free will” of man, since everything has already been predetermined by God, including (as we saw in the last paragraph of the last chapter) the certainty of the salvation of those for whom Christ has purchased redemption. Here then, we have an entire chapter devoted to answering this objection, and which opens with a clear and unequivocal affirmation that “God has endued the will of man with that natural liberty,” which is further defined for us in two related negations:


First, this “natural liberty” is not forced, that is, it is not compelled from the outside. There are times when we are influenced or pressured by others to perform certain actions we would rather not do under other circumstances, but strictly speaking, we never act “unwillingly” because the will itself cannot be controlled by others like a puppet on a string. One who shoots an innocent person because a gun was pointed to his own head had made a free choice to kill rather than to not kill (and be killed). He may not have had other more preferable options open to him, but with the two he had, he was not forced to choose one or the other. The fact of the matter is that we hardly ever get to choose our circumstances in life and thus the options we have (from when or where we were born to when and how we will die), but among the options that God gives to us, we are free to choose, and thus also morally responsible for those choices.


But second, our wills are also not determined by “any absolute necessity of nature,” that is, the fact that we have made a certain choice is not the unavoidable result of how God created us. For example, it would not work for one to blame his genes for his drunkenness. Such is the often-heard excuse, “That is just the way I am.” Bodily make-up may make one more susceptible to certain temptations, but each decision to give in to a temptation and embark on a sinful course of action is not already determined by our nature but is a free choice that flows from our will.



The phrase “necessity of nature” is also used here in distinction from the necessity of God’s decree (cf. 3.1; 5.2), since it is true that whatever God has ordained that we will choose, we will necessarily (but not unwillingly) choose. This necessity of the decree does not do violence to our wills or take away from the freedom of our choices because it does not involve any kind of “stacking the cards” on the part of God. God does not (and does not have to) rig the system such that we will have no choice but to choose what he has ordained that we will do. The nature of things (apart from our wills) does not make inevitable our choice to perform any particular action over another physically possible alternative.


Perhaps the clearest example of this necessary-yet-contingent dynamic is the very crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ who, the Apostle Peter says, was “delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” And yet, at the same time (and in the same sentence), Peter says to the Jews that it was they who are guilty of having “taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain [him]” (Acts 2:23). If anything was fixed and predetermined from the very beginning by the immutable decree of God, it was Christ’s death as a sacrifice for our sins, and yet nothing compelled those who committed that most vile of sins to the act of it, but they acted freely by their own wills, being drawn away by their own evil desires (James 1:14).


But as we then come into the presence of our resurrected Christ to worship the Lord, to call upon his name, and to hear from his Word, bear in mind that especially in the next hour and a half there will be very important choices that you will have to make. Will you pay attention or allow yourself to be distracted? Will you listen humbly to what God has to say to you and examine your life before the mirror of his perfect law of liberty (James 1:25), or will you harden your heart in unbelief and provoke him to anger against you (Psalm 95:7–8; Heb. 3:7ff.)? You will now have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Choose life (Deut. 30:19)!

原文作者: 林集章 、蔡林斯 、欧阳效正
中文譯者: 何恩杰,刘行
Westminster Confession of Faith — With Brief Pastoral Comments  

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