“You must necessarily correspond to the seed from which you sprang—if indeed it is true that the originator of our race and our sin, Adam, WILLED THE SIN which he committed.” (Tertullian, c.212, W, 4.51; from “A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs,” by David W. Bercot, editor. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008, page 288).
It’s been a common belief in society that animals, people, insects, etc., are identical to their kind. Horses have a very similar anatomy (although they are different kinds); people have identical anatomy, even if they are of different ethnicity, height, hair color, eye color, broad-shouldered or thin-framed.
Tertullian uses that same reasoning here: that, since all of humanity descends from Adam, the first human, we all have been given free will like Adam. I’ll set up a syllogism here:
I. Adam was the first human.
II. Adam had free will.
III. Humanity descends from Adam.
IV. Therefore, humanity also has free will.
However, this is not believed by the Calvinists. I’ve been reading the book “Perspectives on the Doctrine of God,” and I’ve noticed that our free will (according to the Calvinists) is either “compatible” to God’s causation (God being the determiner of my will) or else I only have what Bruce Ware calls “the freedom of inclination,” where I can only CHOOSE that which my nature desires to do (in other words, I can only CHOOSE TO SIN—don’t understand that one)…
We see here, though, in Tertullian’s analysis, that free will was not DESTROYED by the fall. Some time back, I talked with a friend, and her dad believes that our will still exists, but it isn’t free. To which I responded, “well, if we have a will and it isn’t free, then what is it?” It can’t be a will if it isn’t free. To will something means to “decide” on something, to choose something. If our will isn’t free, then my friend’s dad shares the view of Bruce Ware: our freedom is only a “freedom of inclination,” which means that our “free” will is “imprisoned” to sin. And if humanity is born with an imprisoned will, then we can’t be responsible for any of the choices we’ve made. As I’ve stated in earlier posts, to be “responsible” for something means that, in any situation, the person was the primary cause or mover. If the person is responsible for a choice made, then the will was free to decide in either direction. If the decision of the will was already made BEFORE the person made the decision, then that person was FORCED to make a choice; and there is no force in freedom.
According to Tertullian, we are “free by birth.” And that is indeed the case: every man, woman, boy, and girl is born with a free will, a will that can choose right from wrong, the true from the false, the godly from the ungodly. And with the Lord’s presence in our lives, we have all we need to stand against “the wiles of the devil.”