To Will, Or Not To Will, That Is The Question: The Anthropological Significance of James 1:14-15

When trying to understand whether something is sinful or not, one must consider how we speak of voluntary sin in relation to the will. We may distinguish between the will considered narrowly (strictly) and broadly (generally). This is an important distinction, just as we distinguish between the image of God narrowly and broadly (we lost the image of God, narrowly speaking; but broadly speaking it was not lost and so we can still say we are made in the image of God).

The will considered narrowly takes into account actions that are both deliberate and voluntary. However, the will considered broadly takes into account actions which, though perhaps not deliberate or voluntary, nevertheless are consistent with our desires within.

This paper will seek to critique the Scholastic tradition, represented by Francis Turretin, which has argued against the notion that involuntary motions opposed to God’s law are not sins. Further, this paper will propose that the Reformed tradition, represented by Herman Bavinck, explains well how involuntary motions simply cannot occur apart from the human will broadly (generally). Finally, this paper will argue from James 1:14-15 that our temptations typically arise from within us, as we are lured away by desires that give birth to sins. We can, therefore, never excuse our thoughts or desires just because they are not voluntary acts. Rather, the will, in a certain sense, is always at work since as humans we are never not willing. To be is to be willing.

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