Free Bodies, Bound Wills

Free Bodies, Bound Wills

True and saving faith in Christ is not a thing out of the power of man, but infinitely easy. 'Tis entirely in a man's power to submit to Jesus Christ as a Savior, if he will; but the thing is, it never will be that he should will it, except God works it in him.

—Jonathan Edwards, from Miscellanies #71

Edwards draws a distinction here between two kinds of ability:

  1. Physical ability – having the external means with which to do something, and
  2. Moral ability – having the internal will or desire to do it.

He argues that though every person is free physically to believe in Jesus Christ, still no one by nature has the moral ability to do so. That is, no one naturally wants to believe in Jesus and therefore does not—unless, of course, God intervenes.

For some biblical evidence of this distinction, see Mark 10:17-27 and John 3:19-21.

Tyler Kenney (@tylerkenney) is a former content strategist at Desiring God. He and his wife, Kristen, live in the Twin Cities.