Freedom to choose salvation: Stop living according to the flesh; tap into your inner power and come to Christ

The title encapsulates the Arminian “free will” position of coming to faith. Here is a typical Roman Catholic view from a respondent:

“Great thinkers, like St Augustine, have the general idea of a general responsibility therefore they understand that there is no contradiction of terms in being born with the original sin and still being free to choose.”

We go to Augustine’s Confessions:

Chapter 29. All Hope is in the Mercy of God.

“And my whole hope is only in Your exceeding great mercy. Give what You command, and command what You will. Thou imposest continency upon us, nevertheless, when I perceived, says one, that I could not otherwise obtain her, except God gave her me; . . . that was a point of wisdom also to know whose gift she was. Wisdom 8:21 For by continency are we bound up and brought into one, whence we were scattered abroad into many. For he loves You too little who loves anything with You, which he loves not for You, O love, who ever burnest, and art never quenched! O charity, my God, kindle me! You command continency; give what You command, and command what You will.

Augustine was struggling with the idea that a person couldn’t fulfill any of the law, be it the ceremonial Mosaic law or – it logically follows – the higher laws of the ten commandments. Uppermost in his mind was the thought: If You don’t raise me from the dead, I’m undone. Romans 8:1-8 is about the same problem of the inability of the “flesh” to please God:

1. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

Now, I ask you, has a mind-heart, which is governed by the flesh and thus dead to the things of God, the power to decide on the most determinative event of human life: to trust Christ? The above verses from Romans say absolutely not. The only possible way to be saved from ourselves is to be saved by Christ – where salvation is entirely of the Lord. In other words, saved not by the (inner) determination of our own hearts – the natural man is free to believe what he wants, but what he wants, says the above passage, leads to spiritual death – but by the determination of a power outside us and in Christ. And when does this outside determination occur. Why, it has already occurred; before time began. It was pre-determined before the world began.

John 17

6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

2 Timothy 1

[8] Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, [9] who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, [10] and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

John 6

[37] All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. [38] For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. [39] And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. [40] For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

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6 thoughts on “Freedom to choose salvation: Stop living according to the flesh; tap into your inner power and come to Christ

  1. “And my whole hope is only in Your exceeding great mercy. Give what You command, and command what You will” I read it as a complete submittion to the Glory and the Will of God as with all that is representetive of the RCC. What is the problem with being inclined by evil due to the original sin and still be free? And so with the rest of Saint Augustine writing? I saw the problem with his writing long time ago and I solved them long before I became actually Catholic 🙂

    • Augustine: Command what you will.
      God: Believe!
      Augustine: Grant what you command.

      Solved long ago.

      Reminds me of someone (decades ago) who wrote a letter to Charles Atlas, the body-builder.

      “Dear Charles, I enjoyed your course, now please send me the muscles.

      • This is so funny 🙂
        Why do you forget “And my whole hope is only in Your exceeding great mercy.” Is it perhaps presumption…presumption was also a good part of what the original sin? Someone told me
        I try to be as much presumption as I am allow but nottt more 🙂

        • Maria, here is ““And my whole hope is only in Your exceeding great mercy” in context of the “Confessions.”

          Chapter 29. All Hope is in the Mercy of God.

          And my whole hope is only in Your exceeding great mercy. Give what You command, and command what You will. Thou imposest continency upon us, nevertheless, when I perceived, says one, that I could not otherwise obtain her, except God gave her me.”

          Do you believe that Augustine said my whole hope is only in Your exceeding great mercy. Give what You command, and command what You will in his “natural” state, that is before he trusted in Christ?

    • Thank you SlimJim.

      As you know, for an Arminian, the high point of God’s sovereignty, God would insist, is that he made the “natural man” sovereign in his own salvation; for that is exactly what he is if it is he who ultimately decides whether God will save him or not – in effect, the natural man saves himself.

      A popular idea in Roman Catholicism is that an unbeliever/believer’s independence is dependent on God. (Thomas Aquinas, I think). So, in the process of coming to faith, God is still in total control, because He decrees that man should have ultimate control over his salvation. For God a loss is always a gain, again and again.

      God: Lazarus, Do you want to be raised from the dead and seated with me in heavenly places?

      Lazarus: I do. The only problem is I’m dead, so, one request: please raise me from the dead, give me a new heart; then ask me that question again.

      For Augustine, God’s majesty is the sumum bonum. For the Roman Catholic, his freedom to choose God (through the Roman Catholic Church) is God’s majestic gift.

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