(Review) Willing To Believe: Understanding The Role of the Human Will In Salvation by R.C. Sproul


Publisher and Publication Date: Baker Books. First published 1997. Re-published January 2018.
Genre: Christian non-fiction.
Pages: 240.
Source: Complimentary paperback copy from Baker Books. I was not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Excellent.


To read an excerpt: Willing To Believe.

Link to read more information about Willing To Believe.

r c sproul

R. C. Sproul (1939-2017) was founder of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian discipleship organization located near Orlando, Florida. He was also founding pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Florida, first president of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. His radio program, Renewing Your Mind, is still broadcast daily on hundreds of radio stations around the world and can also be heard online. Dr. Sproul contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, spoke at conferences, churches, colleges, and seminaries around the world, and wrote more than one hundred books, including The Holiness of God, Chosen by God, and Everyone’s a Theologian. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

Summary: (Provided by the publisher)
Can a person choose to have faith?
What does an individual contribute to his or her own salvation? Does God wait on the doorsteps of our hearts, quietly hoping to be let in when we decide to open the door? Or does he call us and pursue us in a way we can’t resist? The debate between the irresistible call of God and a human being’s free will has raged for centuries. So what is the answer? And why does it matter?

In Willing to Believe, R. C. Sproul uncovers issues that provoked the Reformation and revived the controversy between Pelagius and Augustine. He carefully explores the relationship between original sin and human free will, clarifies misconceptions about the work of God in a believer’s liberation from sin, illuminates the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation, and offers compelling reasons to believe the work of salvation is in God’s hands.

My Thoughts:
I was drawn to this book because in Bible Study Fellowship, we are studying the book of Romans. At this point in the study we are in chapter 11: 33-36.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. Translation from the ESV.

I felt Willing To Believe, would be a solid book to contribute to what I’ve been learning in BSF. However, it held pleasing surprises too.
Willing To Believe is a solid study of Christian history, specifically those who questioned “original sin” and “the work of God in a believer’s life.”
I’d not heard of Pelagius. I have read about Aurelius Augustine, also known as St. Augustine of Hippo (link is for further reading at Britannica.) A book I read a few years ago, Christianity In Roman Africa by J. Patout Burns Jr. and Robin M. Jensen, introduced me to Augustine and the early Christian Church in Northern Africa. If you’ve not read this book I recommend it. It is lengthy but it is a must read!
In Bible Study Fellowship, we’ve been reading about people who add to what God has done on the cross. This “adding to” is works. I believe that anything plus what God has already done on the cross through Jesus Christ is false and leads straight to Hell. We cannot add to our salvation. Salvation is from God alone.
One of the first things I learned in Willing To Believe are the words monergistic and synergistic.
“Monergistic means that regeneration is accomplished by a single actor, God. It means literally a ‘one-working.'” Page 22.
“Synergism, on the other hand, refers to a work that involves the action of two or more parties. It is a co-working.” Page 22.
In chapter one, we are introduced to the heated debate (A.D. 411-412) between Pelagius (Pelagianism belief) and Augustine. Pelagius (a British Monk) believed in synergism.
Pelagius did not like a prayer Augustine had written:

Grant what thou commandest, and command what thou dost desire. Page 32.

Pelagius did not like the first part of this prayer. In response, he wrote 18 premises. In Willing To Believe, between pages 33 and 41 these are listed and explained. In brief, Pelagius, “believed that God never commands what is impossible for man to perform.” Page 32.
When Sproul began the book with the information about Pelagius and Augustine, I wondered what I’d gotten myself in to by reading and reviewing this book. I felt unprepared for a heavy study of early church fathers and this subject. In retrospect, I was wrong to think this. Sproul is building a case for the book. Just as the apostle Paul was building his case in the book of Romans. The case in Willing To Believe is what part do humans have in salvation? The answer is from Jonathan Edwards, page 167.

Man is morally incapable of choosing the things of God unless or until God changes the disposition of his soul. Man’s moral inability is due to a critical lack and deficiency, namely the motive or desire for the things of God. Left to himself, he will never choose Christ unless God first changes the inclination of his soul by the immediate and supernatural work of regeneration. Only God can liberate the sinner from his bondage to his own evil inclinations.

The following chapters are theologians who took the road of either belief, monergistic or synergistic: Martin Luther, John Calvin, James Arminius, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Grandison Finney and Lewis Sperry Chafer. Their views are explored in respect to the theme of Willing To Believe.

Willing To Believe is organized well, it has solid explanations of the various views with respect to the subject; and the book itself has clarity and strength.


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