I’m glad to see that my weekend quote of Dante stirred up some commentary. Here’s one, from Ben, followed by a response from me. (My apologies for Ben’s masculine language.)
I’m not sure how to understand Dante’s use of “free will” here but I’m
sure I don’t like Pinnock’s use of the term. I think there is some
confusion here and I think it would be helpful to define what we mean
by “will.” Clearly no man has the “free will” to fly, run faster than a
speeding bullet, etc because these things are not in his ability to do.
Mankind’s [sic] nature constrains him, even though he may want to do these
things. Furthermore, man [sic] only ever chooses that which he wants to do.
(The person injuring himself chooses bodily pain over emotional pain;
the person who eats collard greens probably values his health more than
an a food preference for a Snickers.) It is not anyone “constraining”
him to do these things, but HE IS BOUND by his own nature and desires.
So too, humans make real choices that entail real consequences, but
these are all constrained by nature, and thus are “free” in only a
Now Paul says, humans are “by nature, children of wrath”
which means that it is our nature to oppose God, leaving us incapable
of doing good. But thanks be to God, that He does not leave us there!
By His grace, God intervenes in the world and lets “children of wrath”
do some good things. Furthermore, some He changes so radically that
they become people who have a nature that loves righteousness and doing
good. It’s like these people are born a 2nd time (John 3).