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Willing to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will [Paperback]

By R. C. Sproul (Author)
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Item description for Willing to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will by R. C. Sproul...

What is the role of the will in believing the good news of the gospel? Why is there so much controversy over free will throughout church history? R. C. Sproul finds that Christians have often been influenced by pagan views of the human will that deny the effects of Adam's fall. In Willing to Believe, Sproul traces the free-will controversy from its formal beginning in the fifth century, with the writings of Augustine and Pelagius, to the present. Readers will gain understanding into the nuances separating the views of Protestants and Catholics, Calvinists and Arminians, and Reformed and Dispensationalists. This book, like Sproul's Faith Alone, is a major work on an essential evangelical tenet.

Publishers Description
What is the role of the will in believing the good news of the gospel? Why is there so much controversy over free will throughout church history? R. C. Sproul finds that Christians have often been influenced by pagan views of the human will that deny the effects of Adam's fall.
In "Willing to Believe, " Sproul traces the free-will controversy from its formal beginning in the fifth century, with the writings of Augustine and Pelagius, to the present. Readers will gain understanding into the nuances separating the views of Protestants and Catholics, Calvinists and Arminians, and Reformed and Dispensationalists. This book, like Sproul's "Faith Alone, " is a major work on an essential evangelical tenet.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Baker Books
Pages   224
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.03" Width: 6.05" Height: 0.6"
Weight:   0.8 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 1, 2002
Publisher   Baker Publishing Group
Edition  Reprinted  
ISBN  0801064120  
ISBN13  9780801064128  

Availability  1 units.
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More About R. C. Sproul

R. C. Sproul Dr. R.C. Sproul is the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education ministry located near Orlando, Florida. His teaching can be heard on the program Renewing Your Mind, which is broadcast on hundreds of radio outlets in the United States and in 40 countries worldwide. He is the executive editor of Tabletalk magazine, general editor of The Reformation Study Bible, and the author of more than seventy books and scores of articles for national evangelical publications. Dr. Sproul also serves as president of Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies, and Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida. He currently serves as senior minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew's in Sanford, FL.

R. C. Sproul currently resides in Orlando, in the state of Florida. R. C. Sproul was born in 1939.

R. C. Sproul has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Classic Theology
  2. Crucial Questions
  3. R. C. Sproul Library
  4. St. Andrew's Expositional Commentary

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Free Will & Determinism
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Authors, A-Z > ( S ) > Sproul, R.C.
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Bible > General
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Soteriology

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Reviews - What do customers think about Willing to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will?

Willing To Believe R.C. Sproul?  Jul 12, 2006
As an historical sketch of the age old theological debate, this was an exciting read for me when I began studying this subject. I have since earned an M.A. in Theological Studies and decided to read it again to see what I've learned. One thing is that, the controversy is not as important as it used to be. Second, I appreciate that Sproul provides prime source texts (from the historical figures themselves). There are so many actual quotes, and not only a couple lines spattered here or there but entire paragraphs from Turretin, Calvin, Luther, Finney, etc., it can almost be titled a reader. Thirdly, I appreciate the logic of Sproul's position and his professionalism. Calvinism is a very formative and logical system. It is utterly cohesive. Nietzsche understood this to be the same as he said (literally) that Christianity is a system, a whole of things; and when you pull a main concept out of it, nothing necessary remains. You will appreciate some of that when you read through Willing to Believe.

This book is still good after so many years and one thing that I see that I enjoy now more than before is that you don't have to dig through to Turretin or Luther or Pelagius to get a good sense of what they believed concerning this subject.
Unbelievable  Jun 19, 2006

This book was hard to stomach. I'm use to reading Protestant apologetic nonsense from those who don't claim to be theologians, but Willing to Believe is marketed as "a major work" by a guy who purports to be a "professional theologian," and yet the book is so filled with fiction that you really need to be ignorant of Christian theology to take it seriously. Someone gave Dr. Sproul a Ph.D; one would think he would at least attempt to be professional. Trying to align St. Augustine with Luther and Calvin, Dr. Sproul not only seriously distorts the teachings of the saint, but also the teachings of the Reformers. Anyone who has actually read St. Augustine, Luther, and Calvin knows that the Reformers were as far from St. Augustine as were Pelagius and Nestorius. Sadly, Dr. Sproul, Luther, and Calvin all seem to have missed St. Augustine's words in the Enchiridion; "Whosoever, therefore, says that to be a man is evil (the Reformed doctrine of man's total depravity), or that to be wicked is good (the Reformed doctrine that after justification man remains evil, as well as the Reformed doctrine of predestination to Hell prior to foreseen demerits), comes under that prophetic condemnation: Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil. For such a man finds fault with the works of God, that is, with man, and he praises the defect of man which is iniquity. Every being therefore, even though it be imperfect, is good so far as it is a being; so far as it is defective, it is evil" (Enchiridion 4.13). As regards St. Augustine's stance on the ability of man to cooperate with justifying grace, Dr. Sproul insists he denied it absolutely. Apparently he never read St. Augustine's sermon 11; "He who created you without your cooperation does not justify you without your cooperation. He who created you without you knowing, will not justify you without you knowing" (Sermon 11.13). As Dr. Sproul rightly points out, God creates the free act of the good within us. But our will is not passive as he insists. Such a view necessarily implies double predestination and the doctrine that God creates men for the sole purpose of evil, with Hell as their end - thus making God the author of evil. Dr. Sproul tries valiantly to wriggle out of this, but he cannot escape logic without lying. That is why he is forced into distorting the teachings of not only the Reformers, but of St. Augustine and the Catholic Church which has always insisted that God creates the free act of good within man, but in such a way that man's free will is not violated. Even man's ability and willingness to cooperate with God's grace is caused by God. Furthermore, even though God moves man to freely choose the good, he moves man to choose the good infallibly because due to his omniscience God is able to present to man the very grace God knows the man will not resist, even though the ability to do so remains within him. Dr. Sproul refuses to acknowledge that what the Council of Orange condemned in semi-Pelagianism was not man's ability to cooperate with God's grace, but man's ability to make a first movement toward God without God's special grace. When Dr. Sproul teaches that man is unable to cooperate with God in his justification, he makes God the author of evil and is teaching heresy, pure and simple. Anyone reading this book to get a better idea of the Christian doctrine of free-will and justification should beware that Dr. Sproul is not presenting anywhere near a true picture of the history.
Finally, Dr. Sproul presents the arguments of various Protestant theologians through the last four centuries attempting to show whether they conform to the doctrine of the Reformers. The depth of confusion and disagreement among Protestantism renews in me a thankful praise for the guidance of the Holy Spirit offered to the Catholic Church "until the end of the age."
Disappointing!  May 29, 2006
This book was a great disappointment to me. It falls so short of scholarly heights that it might as well have been written by a graduate student. Instead of setting forward a strong interpretation of ideas and of documents, Sproul merely lists theological views, mixing them with long quotations from very antiquated sources (i.e., page after page from Schaff Herzog Encyclopedia!!!). His work is not up to date, insofar as he does not refer to any contemporary work on the subject; it lacks a critical approach (to him anything that does not reflect Reformed theology is either bad or inadequate); and finally, it fails to reach a conclusion and to break any new ground whatsoever. In other words this book was a waste of my time. Having written a book on the subject myself, I seriously question his grasp of the Semi-pelagian controversy (in my view it was not about monergism or synergism in the work of regeneration, but about the chronological and hierarchical priority of grace over free will and about predestination). The following are the views discussed in his book:
-We are capable of obedience (Pelagius). No mention of Augustine's works; no reference to an up to date bibliography on Pelagius either.
-We are incapable of obedience (Augustine). No serious review of Augustine's main works on the topic of grace and free will.
-We are capable of cooperating (semi-Pelagianism). Cassian was not the abbot of Massilia (p.70); semi-Pelagians' main contention was NOT synergism (p.73). Trent and the recent Catechism of the Catholic Church follow semi-pelagianism because they talk about our cooperari. What book "on grace and freedom" did Prosper write in 432? What is Sproul talking about?
-We are in bondage to sin (Luther)
-We are voluntary slaves (Calvin)
-We are free to believe (Arminius)
-We are inclined to sin (Edwards)
-We are not depraved by nature (Charles Finney)
-We are able to believe (Lewis Chafer)
Caveat emptor!  Jan 4, 2006
Sproul appears to be using this book as a stalking horse to discredit "dispensationalists", but he makes this attempt not by arguing from Scripture, but by summarizing various authors to make some of them appear to be heretical. Anyone who can call Chafer an Arminian is breathtaking in their wrongheadnedness. In one case Sproul favorably summarizes some of Augustine's views as "The grace of God operates on the heart in such a way as to make the formerly unwilling sinner willing. The redeemed person chooses Christ because he wants to choose Christ". However, Sproul disapproves of Chafer who says something very similar, "An efficacious call to salvation, then, is a call which none ever finally resists (cf. Rom 8:30)....The divine invitation still is true that 'whosoever will may come.' However, it also is true that none will ever come apart from this divine call, and that the call is extended only to His elect." If you boil away all of the misleading summarization, Sproul's argument seems to boil down to, "which came first, faith or regeneration?". Sproul states that both happen at the same instant in time, but he is passionate that "logically" regeneration has to come before faith. That seems to be his main problem here. He attacks Dispensationalism, through Chafer, as if it were a statement on Soteriology, although this is not the prime concern of Dispensationalism. Dispensational thinkers do have a soteriological point of view, as should all theologians, but it is wrong to attack Dispensationalism for what it does not stand for, rather than attack it for what it does stand for. I suspect the real heart of Sproul's issue is that Dispensationalists see a distinction between Israel and the Church, believe in a pre-Tribulation rapture, and a real millennial kingdom, while most (all?) Reform theologians take a Covenant view. Dispensationalists will argue that if one takes a rigorous "literal" interpretation of Scripture then they will end up with a dispensational view of certain matters. Covenant theologians, (and most of the "reformed" theologians), do not take a "literal" view of Scripture when it comes to prophecy, and do combine Israel and the Church in their thinking. They read certain passages allegorically, and certain passages literally. Sproul's approach in this book belies his tendency to allegorize and spiritualize important passages because he largely makes his argument without reference to supporting Scripture. Chafer would not be caught dead doing such a thing. Further, Sproul in holding up Augustine, Luther, Calvin, et al, as the standards by which theologians should be judged is also deviating from a Biblical perspective. Wasn't it Luther who said "Sola Scriptura"? Didn't Calvin argue for the Bible as the final authority on all theological matters? To hold these men up as the standards for theological correctness violates what they themselves taught. Further, if you examine their writings it is not hard to find theological problems of their own. For example, both Luther and Calvin taught infant baptism. Does Sproul agree with this? It is noteworthy that in defending his view on infant baptism Calvin does not argue from Scripture per se, but argues by analogy, which Sproul does in his book. Let's get back to basics and determine our theology from Scripture, and not what somebody else said. The test is not whether we agree with this or that person, but whether what we say is in agreement with the Bible.
THis is a great look at the Free Will controversy from the Historical perspective  Oct 22, 2005
This is a great book looking at the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism. It takes you back when this controversy started in the 5th Century. It goes through all the major players in this controversy like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Finney, and Lewis Sperry Chafer ( Founder of Dallas Theogical Seminary). This book is great and Luther and Edwards do a greatjob in defending what is known today as Calvinism. If you want to know how this started and how this effects the church today. Read this book.

great job R.C. Sproul

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