Question about free will


Hi All,

I have heard Jimmy Akin mention a few times the different states of an individual’s soul with respect to free will and sin:

  • Not able to sin (Jesus only)
  • Able to not sin (Mary)
  • Able to sin (Adam & Eve, before the Fall)
  • Not able to not sin (the rest of us poor sinners)

Does this look familiar to anyone? Where can I look this up? And what exactly is the difference between ‘able to sin’ and ‘able to not sin?’




We believe that, although every individual sin is an act of free will, it is not possible for a human being to go any length of time without committing some sins. That is not really a contradiction. The opportunites for sin are so many and our will so weak that it is statistically certain that we will succumb.

The exception was Our Lady. The Church teaches that she never sinned, because there was something special about her. She was conceived without original sin. How this was achieved we don’t know. I’ve speculated that it might be something like an articulation point in a graph. Examine it casually and there is nothin special about it. In fact that node and that node only will cause the graph to fall into two halves if removed. It is the thing on which the whole depends.

The other Immaculate Conceptions were of course Adam and Eve. Here their special status in the graph is obvious. However unlike Mary they didn’t manage to resist temptation.


I am a little confused about “not able to sin”. Is Jimmy Akin saying that Jesus was not able to sin? If that was the case, how would that make Him fully human and thus represent all of humanity with His sacrifice on Calvary?


Jesus’ dual nature is not self-contradictory. His humanity’s frailties did not hinder the perfection of his deity; he is God who took on human nature without losing his divine nature.

God, by definition, “cannot” sin. This is not, however, a statement of an imperfection or inability on God’s part. We are not belittling God to say that he cannot sin, because he is the standard by which all actions are measured, and therefore any action he takes is by definition not a sin. Furthermore, his infinite and perfect love also guarantee that he cannot sin, because the slightest sin would render that love imperfect.



Yes, Mr. Akin is simply reflecting the Church’s teaching regarding the total sinlessness of Christ (impeccantia) and His inability to sin (impeccabilitas).

Christ as a healer must have what He is going to share, i.e., must be fully, i.e., perfectly human and Divine or He could not heal us. He gives us the health, as it were, He has. If He did not have this health we, being sick, could not receive healing. So it is not Christ Who is not fully human, it is we, in our fallen state, who are not yet fully human. Only when we by His merits are conformed to Him by divine grace will our humanity be all that it should be. Christ is the Model and Goal for humanity, not vice-versa.

Christ has the fully human nature, i.e., one not wounded by sin. His humanity is therefore graced and in harmony with the Divine. For us to be tending toward sin is for us not to be fully human; therefore we are not the vantage point of healing of our wounded nature but He is. If follows that for Him to heal our infirmity He must bring health to our infirmity. We can’t give what we don’t have, so He must have this health of being fully human, i.e., in harmony with God in order to give it to us by grace. He therefore could not sin, which makes him perfectly human, not less human.

This from Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma may help:

The Fifth General Council of Constantinople (553) condemned the teaching of Theodor of Mopsuestia, which asserted that Christ only becme impeccable after the Resurrection. It follows from this that He was already impeccable.

The intrinsic reason for Christ’s impecdability lies, as the Fathers stress, in the Hypostatic Union. Since the Word is the principium quod of His human activity, it follows that his human actions are actions of a Divine Person. Obfiously it is incompatible with God’s absolute sanctity that a Divine Person should be the responsible subject of a sinful deed. Further, the Hypostatic union effected an intrinsic penetration and control of Christ’s human will by the Divine Will.

From the Hypostatic Union there arises a physical impossibility of sinning and from the Beatific Vision a moral impossibility, that is, it involves such a close connection with God in knowledge and love that a turning away from God is actually excluded. (pg. 169)

For further insights into this, Our Saviour and His Love for Us, by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., would be very helpful.


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