Acting by Necessity- Understanding Sovereignty Distinct from Compulsion with Basil Manly, Sr.

August 7, 2009

One of the loudest criticisms of Calvinist soteriology comes in the realm of understanding the working of the Effectual Call.  Many would declare a God who sovereignly chooses whom he will save and then effectually calls them to salvation as an abomination, as one who is infringing upon the free will of man to choose as he wishes for or against Christ.  They talk about ‘determinism’ and how this is inconsistent with the necessity of faith for salvation.

Now, first of all, I reject these criticisms.  However, in saying that I do not plan on giving an extended explanation of why I believe such at this time.  Sufficed to say, if you really must know, I follow the same argumentation used by Edwards in The Freedom of the Will and contemporary Calvinists such as Bruce Ware, where they argue that the fundamental place of God’s working is not in our actions but at the level of man’s desires, out of which flow all of man’s actions.

No, I do not plan on going into much further detail.  Instead what I want to do is share a succinct accounting I found on this issue in the wonderful little book, Soldiers of Christ: Selections from the Writings of Basil Manly, Sr. & Basil Manly, Jr. The argument comes from the pen of Basil Manly, Sr., key member in organizing the Southern Baptist Convention and father of Southern Seminary co-founder Basil Manly, Jr.  Here is what he has to say:

Necessity in human action is not the same as compulsion.  If God works in us to will and to do, there is a necessity that we should will and do; but we are not compelled either to will or do.  The act is obliged to be; but the man, in acting, is free. . . .  In regard to salvation, so far from compelling a man, against his will, the very thing which God does is to make him willing to act right. . . .  The Christian is willing, and chooses to do right; because a divine operation has made him so.  He feels free; he is conscious that he is as heartily free in now trying to serve God, as when he went after the vanities and follies of his unconverted state. (p.124)

This is probably not as clear as it can be on first reading; but take some time, read over it again, and then meditate on what he says.  The argument is subtle but makes an important distinction, and few of the men I have read on this subject say effectively as much in as little as Pastor Manly manages to do here.  Enjoy!