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Willing to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will Paperback – April 1, 2002

4.6 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

What is the role of the will in believing the good news of the gospel? Why has there been so much controversy over free will throughout church history?

Willing to Believe is a major work on the Protestant doctrines of man's total depravity and God's effectual grace. R. C. Sproul traces the free-will controversy from its formal beginning in the fifth century, when Augustine took up the pen against Pelagius, to the present.

By the time you finish this historical tour, you will understand the nuances separating the views of Protestants and Catholics, Calvinists and Arminians, the Reformed and Dispensationalists. You will also see how this debate colors our view of our humanity and shapes our understanding of God's character.

About the Author

Dr. R.C. Sproul has served the church as a seminary professor, preacher, and author for more than forty years. He is the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries and can be heard teaching daily on the radio program Renewing Your Mind, which broadcasts on more than 300 radio outlets in the United States and throughout 50 countries. Dr. Sproul has written more than 60 books and serves as Senior Minister of Preaching and Teaching at Saint Andrew's Chapel in Sanford, Florida.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Books (April 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801064120
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801064128
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #611,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Because of the fall, we inherit original sin from Adam. The question is, how fallen are we? Sproul, arguing from Augustine, the Reformers, Jonathan Edwards, and the Scriptures says that we are so fallen that we will not choose God. There must be a work of grace from God before a person will turn to God. Rather than start from scratch, Sproul relies on almost 2000 years of theological history. Pelagius, Augustine, Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Arminius, Jonathan Edwards, and dispensationalist Lewis Sperry Chafer's views concerning "free will" are considered. The concern of Sproul(which is a concern of Reformed theology in general) is that God get all the glory for salvation. Evangelicals agree that salvation comes by Christ alone and faith alone. Sproul maintains that grace alone is the missing piece of good theology. The ordo salutis(order of salvation) is crucial to understanding a debate in recent years between dispensationalists and reformed evangelicals. When one understands that dispensationalists put faith(a move of man and God;synergistic) as the initial step in salvation whereas the reformers put regeneration first(a move of God;monoergistic), then light is shone on why the two groups have had this debate. Even though many dispensationalists consider themselves Calvinists, Sproul shows inconsistencies in their views that do not square with Calvin or Luther, but rather with Armimian theology. A concluding chapter summarizing the biblical case for the Reformed view would have been helpful. Sproul delivers sufficient information to build his case. However, a biblical summary could have delivered the knockout punch more completely. Nevertheless, both Arminians and Calvinists will benefit from Sproul's grasp of these issues. He is charitable to those he disagrees with, generating more light than heat.
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Format: Paperback
Sproul's book "Willing to Believe" is different from his other books that expound on, and defend, Calvinism such as Chosen by God and Grace Unknown. In this book he focuses primarily on the nature of the human will as it has been defined by prominent thinkers throughout Church history, especially as it is related to the topics of sin and salvation (regeneration primarily). As Sproul shows, the Calvinistic understanding of the human will has its roots in Augustine and the distinction between freedom (defined as "the ability to choose w/o external constraint") and liberty (defined as "the ability to choose righteousness"). Liberty is lost because of the Adamic Fall; however, freedom as defined above is not. The two terms, liberty and freedom, are not considered synonymous as they are for many today which is one of the reasons for misunderstanding from critics. Also, Augustine isn't consistent in his use of terminology, as Sproul mildly points out, and therefore at times "seems to deny all freedom to the will of fallen man" (pg. 63). This inconsistency is seen, for example, in Sproul's quote on pages 63 - 64 from the Enchiridion where Augustine states that man, by the evil use of his "free-will" destroyed both it and himself. Later in the same quote Augustine uses the term "true liberty" in reference to freedom from sin thereby implying that "liberty" is synonymous with "free will" with the only difference being the adjectival term "true". One must understand that Sproul "helps" Augustine be consistent. What Augustine calls "true liberty" Sproul simply calls "liberty" in contrast to "freedom" in general in accordance with the above definitions. Now, notice the definition given for "freedom.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
This book has revolutionized my theological understanding, and has been instrumental in dislodging my former Pelagianistic orientation. I picked it up as a project to be refuted, and in the process, I was devastated by cogent argumentation from Sproul and, as he demonstrates, some of the greatest minds in church history. At one particular point in the book, he lists the salient points of Pelagianism and I found myself nodding yes to every point as I read. Up to that point I considered myself a sort of Arminian "on steroids". I was as bigoted against reformed theology as one could be; yet, by the time I finished this book, I was mortally wounded! This magnum opus on free will is powerfully relevant to the watershed of contiguous doctrines which touch its theme and are under attack in our time. To those who foster Pelagian or semi-Pelagian (Arminian) viewpoints, this book is of crucial importance. Even if you don't subscribe to the positions which are here contained, you will need to consider it and formulate your arguments over against this trenchant analysis. Here is one of Reformed theology's most brilliant, passionate defenders and his arsenal is impressive...you'll see!
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Format: Hardcover
It is my sincere pleasure to submit my favorable review of Sproul's "Willing to Believe". As with any Sproul text, the author's position is never in doubt; its clear and compelling exposition is introduced in the first few pages, and is sustained throughout its length. Yet, Sproul's summaries of the major personalities and positions that have arisen throughout Church history and given shape to the free-will / sovereignty debate are fair, accurate, and balanced. Despite the author's endorsement of a particular theological agenda, one gains the impression that he has not intended to write as a polemicist, but as one motivated by an irenic concern for all Christians to be captivated by the splendid vision of God's sovereignty. As a basic survey of the free-will controversy, "Willing to Believe" could be quite useful as an instructional tool in the undergraduate setting. Though some of the age-old, nagging questions are left unanswered, anyone who attentively reads this text will at least understand what the questions are, as well as the various answers that have been proposed down through time. Sproul has repeated shown himself to be a master of the art of communicating concepts crucial to historical theology in a clear, concise, and accessible manner; the text under consideration certainly is no exception. In addition, the book is laid out in an attractive, readable format. The abundance of charts, chronologies, and bibliographies heighten this books instructional usefulness and effectiveness. Again, Sproul is to be commended; "Willing to Believe" is to be read.
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