Doesn’t Romans 7 Refute Free Will?
Someone contacted me to thank me for my theological material, especially my documentary showing how all of the Early Church Fathers taught the freedom of the will between good and evil.
He said that the Calvinist’s he knows challenged him with Romans 7 as an argument against free will:
“For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 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. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.” Romans 7:14-21
I responded by saying:
Technically, free Will is the ability to will, not the ability to do.
If a man is in prison and wants to murder another man who is on the outside, but he can’t because he is in prison, he still has a free Will. He wants to murder him. But he doesn’t have a free body. He can’t do it.
Romans 7, however, is talking about the struggle of a convicted sinner with his sinful habits. It is like a cigarette smoker who says they know it’s bad, they “want” to quit, but they just can’t seem to stop because they give in every time they get a strong craving.
He is convicted but addicted.
Saying they cannot seem to stop is hyperbole to express how hard the struggle really is. They can stop and would stop if they simply chose not to do it when they are tempted.
Romans 7 shows that the law is insufficient to get men to overcome the strength of their sinful habits (the sin that dwelleth in their members). That is why Romans 8 says what the law could not do, the gospel has done.
The influence of the law upon our will has shown to be insufficient for us to overcome sin. All the law did was make us miserable wretched convicted sinners. But the influence of the gospel is greater upon our will, so that we actually do choose to love and obey God.
~ Jesse Morrell
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