Free Will and Man's "Sinful Nature"

  1. The founders of Protestantism denied, and Calvinists today deny, the reality of human free will (Luther’s favorite book was his Bondage of the Will). This is both contrary to the constant premise of the Bible, Christian Tradition, and common sense.

  2. Classical Protestantism had a deficient view of the Fall of Man, thinking that the result was “total depravity.” According to Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and Calvinists, man could only do evil of his own volition, and had no free will to do good. He now has a “sin nature.” Catholicism believes that, in a mysterious way, man cooperates with the grace which always precedes all good actions. In Catholicism, man’s nature still retains some good, although he has a propensity to sin (“concupiscence”).

  3. Classical Protestantism, and Calvinism today, make God the author of evil. He supposedly wills that men do evil and violate His precepts without having any free will to do so. This is blasphemous, and turns God into a demon.

  4. Accordingly (man having no free will), God, in classical Protestant and Calvinist thought, predestines men to hell, although they had no choice or say in the matter all along!

  5. Classical Protestantism and Calvinism, teach falsely that Jesus died only for the elect (i.e., those who will make it to heaven).

Above are a few beliefs that I found on a Catholic Apologetic website. I agree with these statements but am unsure how to defend any of these arguments biblically. I would appreciate any help I could get seeing that I live in the “Bible Belt” and am chllenged daily on some of these issues.


That is all nonsense and I don’t pay any attention to it, because to deny we have free will, is to accept we are Pre-Destined for our futures, whether it be going to Heaven or going to Hell…such nonsense.


It is also an excuse to sin…because you remove your own culpability and place the blame solely on God…saying he predestined you to do whatever it is you have done or are doing.


I don’t think your answers quite cut it, you’re looking at this from a Catholic view, I am arguing with a member of the PCA (Presbyterian Church of America) who is very much a sola scriptura apologist, so I must have biblical evidence to refute him. Aso I will say there IS some biblical evidence for predestination and the irresistable calling of God AND solely free will witht he call of God to everyone and some accepting. I wish i could quote exact verses but some general references/paraphrasing would be For I have predestined you before the founding of the world…; Romans 5 or 6 and Acts 17 for the necessity of accepting the call fo God, so on, I will clarify later with exact verses if I can find them agai9.


** What glory would there be to God if he had created a bunch of preprogrammed robots ?**


That is a very logical argument but there still seem to be bbilical arguments against that thought. Can anyone rectify this?


I tried to address some of these same questions in this thread…


Could you please post that link again, it seems that it leads only back to my origional thread.


[quote=Keevin] I am arguing with a member of the PCA (Presbyterian Church of America) who is very much a sola scriptura apologist, so I must have biblical evidence to refute him. Aso I will say there IS some biblical evidence for predestination and the irresistable calling of God AND solely free will witht he call of God to everyone and some accepting.

in reference to the “sola Scripturist”: One problem with “some” Christians is the all or nothing mentality. Yes, God did predestine “some” for example I doubt you’ll find many argue that Mary was not “predestined” for her role or John the Baptist for his role. The problem is not ALL are predestined. God has a plan and uses people for His plan. He does not force anyone to follow His guidance but He does equip each of us for our own life. Those He predestines He equips accordingly, example, Mary was conceived immaculate and born without the predisposition to sin, for her to complete her part of the plan however she had to agree with her part in God’s plan (see Luke chap 1). I find fault with saying all are predestined, if all were predestined there would be no need, nor possibility, for salvation in our Lord, Jesus the Christ. Nowhere in Scripture does it say all are predestined. It does imply that those who are “predestined” God will not lose any, but not that all are predestined. You see the same mentality with the “sola” followers, there are of course several “solas” and each can point to a Scriptural reference for their belief, the problem is, Scripture does not say “only” or “sola”. Do you need faith? Absolutely! Is faith all? Absolutely not! Do you need grace? Absolutely! Is grace all? Absolutely not! It’s the same for all of the “solas”. Is Scripture the Word of God? Absolutely! Is it the “only” Word of God? Absolutely not!
People want to know the “one” thing to reach heaven; remember the story of the rich man asking Jesus what he needed to do? Jesus makes it clear, it isn’t “one” thing, you need to do it all.


Thank you very much Tom, I am re-reading those scriptures pointed out to me as being in favor of predestination, and seeing your very well worded point.

Yours in Christ,


There is one verse I am still confused about it is Rom 8:28-30, the other verses endorsing predestination talk about the character of those who are predestined, this one seems to say only some people are predestined.


There is one verse I am still confused about it is Rom 8:28-30, the other verses endorsing predestination talk about the character of those who are predestined, this one seems to say only some people are predestined.


Rom 8:28-30

 We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his decree.               

 Those whom he foreknew he predestined to share the image of his Son, that the Son might be the first-born of many brothers.

 Those he predestined he likewise called; those he called he also justified; and those he justified he in turn glorified.  



[quote=Keevin]There is one verse I am still confused about it is Rom 8:28-30, the other verses endorsing predestination talk about the character of those who are predestined, this one seems to say only some people are predestined.

Correct, only some are predestined, for the rest of us we have our salvation only in following our Lord. Jesus the Christ. God does not predestine people to hell. They go there on their own.
Rom 8:
15, For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, "Abba, Father!"
16, The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
17, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

Those of us who were not “predestined” are adopted.
Why would we “suffer” if we’re predestined?

24, For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees?

Why hope? If you’re predestined there is no “hope” you’re either one of the elect or you’re doomed.

25, But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.

[quote=NAV footnotes] [28-30] These verses outline the Christian vocation as it was designed by God: to be conformed to the image of his Son, who is to be the firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:29). God’s redemptive action on behalf of the believers has been in process before the beginning of the world. Those whom God chooses are those he foreknew (Romans 8:29) or elected. Those who are called (Romans 8:30) are predestined or predetermined. These expressions do not mean that God is arbitrary. Rather, Paul uses them to emphasize the thought and care that God has taken for the Christian’s salvation.


[quote=Keevin]Could you please post that link again, it seems that it leads only back to my origional thread.

:o OOPS!

Try this one:

The question of predestination versus free will starts around post #12.


A point needs to be clarified on the meaning of the term predestination. I have found that the term, as used by most today, clearly implies an inevitability that denies free will. For example, I have heard such claims about Mary in regard to the incarnation. The claim goes that since she was predestined, she had no choice but to say yes to the incarnation; therefore, she had no free will in the matter. This is against the Catholic understanding of the matter. This was the case in the other thread I referenced above and this understanding is evident in this thread and, I believe, in general. It was this sense of predestination I declared that Catholics cannot believe in the other thread referenced above.

However, if you can conceive of predestination not conflicting with free will, but working with it, then, in that sense and in that sense only, the Catholic can (and indeed must) agree with the idea of predestination. However, predestination in the sense that one is not free to act according to one’s own will is anathema for Catholics. In regard to Romans 8:28-30, I found the following:

Rheims New Testament of 1582, Annotation on Romans 8:30 (modified with modern spelling) "Whom he hath predestined"
God’s eternal foresight, love, purpose, predestination, and election of his dear children, and in time their calling, justifying, glorifying by Christ, as all other acts and intentions of his divine will and providence toward their salvation, ought to be reverenced of all men with dreadful humility, and not be sought out or disputed on with presumptuous boldness and audacity, for it is the gulf that many proud persons, both in this age and always, have by God’s just judgment perished in, founding thereon most horrible blasphemies against God’s mercy, nature, and goodness, and diverse damnable errors against man’s free will, and against all good life and religion. This high conclusion is here set down for us, that we may learn to know of whom we ought to depend in all our life, by whom we expect our salvation, by whose providence all our graces, gifts, and works do stand: by what an everlasting gracious determination, our redemption, which is in Christ Jesus, was designed: & to give God unceasing thanks for our vocation and preferment to the state we be in, before the Jews, who deserved no better than they, before the light of his mercy shining upon us accepted us, and rejected them. But this said eminent truth of God’s eternal predestination stands (as we are bound to believe under pain of damnation, whether we understand how or no) & so Saint Augustine in all his divine works wrote of the same (De gratia & lib. arb. De corrept. & gratia. Ad articulos falso impossitos.) defends, declares, proves, and convinces that it does stand (I say) with man’s free will and the true liberty of his actions, and forces no man to be either ill or good, to sin or to virtue, to salvation or damnation, nor takes away the means or nature of merits, and cooperation with God to our own and other men’s salvation.

As you can see, the only type of predestination acceptable to Catholics is that which allows for the cooperation of free will and in which free will remains intact. Because most of the people with whom I have discussed the topic of predestination approach the idea as incompatible with free will, I have declared that Catholics cannot believe in such a thing. To the extent that predestination is viewed as incompatible with free will, it cannot be accepted by Catholics. However, the previous and Catholic view of God’s predestination, one which leaves us free to act according to our will, is in fact a part of the faith.


To Keevin, the original poster of this thread:
I wish you would give the source when you quote something like this. It certainly does not reflect a Catholic understanding, makes many generalizations about “Protestants” and “Calvinists” today which are not accurate, and ignores historical developments in the Protestant Reformation, the views of the various reformers, and the development of sects they founded, and splits in those sects over interpretations of the doctrines you discuss.

Please don’t waste our time knocking down statements that are not factual, accurate, complete, let us use our valuable time and resources conversing with today’s Lutherans, Presbyterians, Evangelicals, etc. to the benefit of all. Your tactic is unfair, to mis-state the teachings of a certain group and then proceed to attack your mis-statement. This is the same offense others commit against Catholic teachings, and is not worthy of these forums.


Wow, I had no idea I was doing any such thing. I meant no personal attack or mis-statement of belief in my post. The person with which i am conversing is a membe rof the pCA so i assumed his beliefs were those of his church, I may be wrong. Sorry for the mix-up.


and I don’t mean to sound as accusatory as I did. but you began your post with a statement about Protestant belief, then listed numbered articles from an unspecified website. It is not clear from your original post whether you wanted to start a debate about the accuracy of that material, or whether you are assuming those statements are correct, and wish to debate with various protestant sects about predestination and free will. If your intent was the second, you must begin with accurate, precise statements about that topic. The Presbyterian or Lutheran position today of various sects that have developed from those established by the 16th century reformers are very different from those of Calvin and Luther, who themselves did not agree on key points. The usage of terminology is very loose on this entire thread and makes the discussion hard to follow and not very helpful for apologetics.



I don’t see how you are helping the cause of apologetics by making such generalizations and baseless accusations against the participants of this thread. There are many Protestants who are actively striving to adhere to the original understandings of the founders of Protestantism. Therefore, Catholics must be able to answer these questions. Keevin indicated that he is trying to deal with someone from the PCA and needs to address specific questions from that person’s understanding. The fact that he did not give the web site that he got the information from does not necessarily mean that he is “building a straw man.” He was asking for help. Did you offer any?

You also claim that tems have been used very loosely. However, Tom pointed out that you can’t have one approach in dealing with sola scriptura because of the fact that each individual becomes their own religious authority. Catholics need the ability to address them dynamically. He also pointed out that many Protestants focus on one thing that blinds them to complementary things. Maybe you don’t think that you have encountered such people, but I have encountered many.

Tom’s point about how they will take one thing from Scripture and hold it as an absolute is perfectly true. This is a common practice among Protestants who are often taught from childhood to memorize certain verses that “support” their particular beliefs. Listen to the testimonies of converts who discuss this topic (like former PCA member, Scott Hahn) and you will find that they are basically trained to “skim over” contradicting verses. Sola Scriptura itself is one of the best examples of this behavior among many Protestants. There are many verses that proclaim the truth and authority of Scripture. Because of that, many Protestants conclude that Scripture is the only (sola) authority and the view becomes very absolute. However, not one of the verses they can cite showing the authority of Scripture ever says that its authority is exclusive!

In regard to the only term that I feel can truly be considered as having been used “loosely” in this entire thread, predestination, I was simply pointing out the difference between the term as it is commonly used today and the classic Catholic understanding of the term. This is necessary because the Bible does talk about predestination. Blanket rejections of predestination from Catholics are always based on the idea that predestination is always a negation of free will. I have heard Protestants make such arguments against venerating Mary; that she had no real choice in the matter. However, we cannot simply denounce the idea of predestination because Protestants will use it as “proof” that Catholics hold beliefs that contradict Scripture. Therefore, Keevin needs to be able to address how this is not the case. Tom provided him with the fact that Scripture never says that everyone is predestined. I provided him with the Catholic view of predestination - a view which is often not even conceivable by many today.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit