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Wednesday
May262010

Theological Term of the Week

 

free agency
The ability to make one’s own decisions as to what one will do, choosing as one pleases in light of one’s own sense of right and wrong and the inclination one feels;1 the ability to make willing choices that have real effects.2 Sometimes called free will.

  • From scripture:

    But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. (James 1:14 ESV)
    But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.  (Matthew 17:12 ESV)
  • From The Second Helvetic Confession, Chapter 9:
    Of Free Will, and Thus of Human Powers

    [N]o one denies that in external things both the regenerate and the unregenerate enjoy free will. For man has in common with other living creatures (to which he is not inferior) this nature to will some things and not to will others. Thus he is able to speak or to keep silent, to go out of his house or to remain at home, etc. However, even here God’s power is always to be observed, for it was the cause that Balaam could not go as far as he wanted (Num., ch. 24), and Zacharias upon returning from the temple could not speak as he wanted (Luke, ch.1).

  • From Concise Theology by J. I. Packer:

    Free agency is a mark of human beings as such. All humans are free agents in the sense that they make their own decisions as to what they will do, choosing as they please in the light of their sense of right and wrong and the inclinations they feel. Thus they are moral agents, answerable to God and each other for their voluntary choices. So was Adam, both before and after he sinned; so are we now, and so are the glorified saints who are confirmed in grace in such a sense that they no longer have it in them to sin. Inability to sin will be one of the delights and glories of heaven, but it will not terminate anyone’s humanness; glorified saints will still make choices in accordance with their nature, and those choices will not be any the less the product of human free agency just because they will always be good and right.

Learn more:

  1. Ernest Reisenger: Free Will and Free Agency
  2. GotQuestions.org: Do human beings truly have free will? (mp3)
  3. Walter J. Chantry: Man’s Will - Free Yet Bound

Related terms:

1Paraphrased from Concise Theology by J. I. Packer, page 85.
2From Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, page 1242.

Do you have a a theological term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it.

I’m also interested in any suggestions you have for tweaking my definitions or for additional (or better) articles or sermons/lectures for linking. I’ll give you credit and a link back to your blog if I use your suggestion.

Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms organized in alphabetical order or by topic.

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