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From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Free Will
Nor, indeed, do we deny that the human will has freedom. The human will has liberty in choosing works and things which reason comprehends by itself. It can render, to a certain extent, civil righteousness or the righteousness of works. It can speak of God, offer to God a certain service by an outward work, and obey magistrates and parents. Externally, human will can choose to restrict the hands from murder, from adultery, from theft. Since human nature still possesses reason and judgment about those things that the senses can detect, it can choose between those things, as well as the freedom and ability to accomplish civil righteousness. Scripture calls this the righteousness of the flesh that the carnal nature, that is, reason, does by itself without the Holy Spirit.
Pulling It Together
Without having ever taken a confirmation class, everybody knows that they should honor their parents. Do we need to understand that it is the sixth commandment in order to know we ought to be faithful to our spouses? No, we do not have to be a Christian or be religious at all to know these fundamental laws; they are written on the human heart. They are built in to our nature. So we can choose to steal or not, to murder or not, to lie or tell the truth. Human nature can choose to accomplish these outward things, though it does not perfectly succeed in the effort. Our power of will only goes so far. So yes, in a limited sense, we can choose to do the right thing; but can we do it without God’s assistance? Sometimes. Still, there are some things that human nature cannot achieve without the help of God. There are also limitations as to what unregenerate people may actually accomplish by keeping the second table of the law. We will investigate these matters next.
Prayer: Along with your law, write the words of your grace on my heart, Lord God. Amen.
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