Willing to Believe – A Review

R. C. Sproul. Willing to Believe: Understanding the Role of the Human Will in Salvation. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, (1997) 2018. 240 pp. $12.18.


What is the role of man’s will in his salvation? How fallen is fallen man? Has the fall ruined our ability to respond to God, or has the fall merely damaged that ability greatly? These questions have been asked throughout theological history, and the debate still carries on.


In Willing to Believe, R. C. Sproul does the scholar’s work of gathering for his readers the arguments of a set of theologians throughout the history of the church regarding the issue of the human will. Each chapter of this work summarizes the view of a different important figure in the development of theology. Some names are more familiar and some less so. But all the men mentioned in this work have brought something new to the table, for good or for ill.


Where this work is valuable is in the summary of the development of Christian doctrine. If a reader wants to see how people from as early as the 4th century or as late as the 20th century have thought about the issue of man’s will and the impact of the fall, this work is very helpful. Students needing to write about the issue of free will could not have a much more helpful volume. And any Christian who hears a name such as Edwards, Calvin, Augustine, or Pelagius, could quickly turn to the appropriate chapter in this book to find out how each figure contributed to the development or confusion regarding the issue of God’s sovereignty and our salvation.


This work could, however, leave readers disappointed. If a student wants to see how Sproul would interact with each scholar, she might find the treatments thin. While Sproul points out errors from time-to-time, he does not thoroughly critique each man’s view in such a way that the critique is simple, clear, and powerful. Other works by Sproul offer his own take on the issue of man’s will. And, yes, this book will let you in on Sproul’s view, but there is not, as one might have wanted, a nice summary chapter from Sproul to help his readers wade through the controversy to a simple and clear conclusion.


** I received a free copy of this work from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.