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Archive for the ‘Sovereignty’ Category

The Excogitating Engineer has been involved in some ongoing conversations lately about God’s sovereignty in salvation being held in tension over and against or in cooperation with human choice. Oftentimes, people will cry foul when you come down too strong on the side of God’s sovereignty. “What about free will?” they ask. To that I respond in kind, “what about free will?”

‘Free will’ actually does not appear anywhere in Scripture. Of course, this does not mean that such a thing does not exist. The Bible is not an encyclopedia. It doesn’t talk about hemorrhoids either but we know that those are real things. However, free will is an idea that would be so integral to the concepts at play in salvation and that one could argue that, if free will was a thing, it would definitely be mentioned in those parts of Scripture. On the other hand, could free will be a concept that is assumed rather than explained in the Bible? Perhaps, but it still seems such a major assumption would not go unmentioned. Regardless, why do well-meaning and Bible-believing Christians bring up free will when it is not even a biblical argument? I digress.

The Excogitating Engineer has been reading Freedom of the Will, by Jonathan Edwards. Edwards makes a strong case against the Arminian view of free will. The Arminian view is simply not consistently tenable. If you have not read the book, you simply must read it. However, I don’t really think that matters to most people in our day and age because so many people just make up their own meaning of free will and, in the vernacular, it can have any number of meanings depending on who is saying it. I do not think that people are thinking about free will in the sense that Edwards argues against when they bring up that argument. I don’t get the sense that people are thinking about concepts such as libertarian free will, contingency, or necessity.

The Excogitating Engineer holds the opinion that in today’s society, the vast majority of people object to emphasizing God’s sovereignty for a single reason; and that reason is the commitment that people hold to personal autonomy. People really want to say, “how dare you infringe on my personal autonomy?” or “how dare you imply that my autonomy would be limited by God’s sovereignty?” Of course, people don’t want to come across that way so, instead, they say, “what about free will?”

The fact of the matter is that free will does not exist. However, individual choices do exist and so does human responsibility for those choices. Both concepts appear in Scripture: God’s sovereignty and human choice. Both concepts are pervasive throughout the Bible. God’s sovereignty is primary over and above that human choice and that idea is seen all throughout the Scriptures. I would like to point out a verse that came up in my Bible reading earlier this week. The verse is 1 Samuel 2:35 which comes immediately after God declares to Eli that He will judge both of Eli’s sons for their wicked behavior. Here is what that verse says.

But I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who will do according to what is in My heart and in My soul; and I will build him an enduring house, and he will walk before My anointed always. 1 Samuel 2:35 (NASB)

This verse consists of two statements by God about what He will do. God will (1) raise up a faithful priest and He will (2) build him an enduring house. These are two statements made by God about what He will do. He is completely sovereign and has complete authority to carry out what He says He will do. These two things will happen and indeed did happen. Interestingly, both of those statements about what God will sovereignly accomplish are immediately followed by statements about human choice—in the same sentence. He says that this faithful priest whom He will raise up “will do according to what is in My heart and my soul” and that “he will walk before My anointed always.” Both of the these statements describe what will happen. Does that mean that a person does not have to make the choice to bring these things to fulfillment and that the person making the choice will not be responsible and accountable for the choices that he makes? The answer is clear. Humans make choices. We are responsible for our choices. God is simultaneously carrying out His plan through His sovereignty (which is primary) and through humans choices (which is secondary). Both are real and both happen. The reality of one does not negate the reality of the other. In this verse there are two statements of God’s sovereignty, both immediately followed by statements of human choice. This jumped out at the Excogitating Engineer when he read the verse and the text was screaming, “Both are true! God’s sovereignty is really a thing and so is human choice, And, it is all in this one verse which is really just one sentence.”

Well, what do you think about the age old debate? Where do you come down on the two concepts which sometimes seem to be at odds at one another? Do you have Scripture back up your claim? Regardless of what anyone says about the issue, I take great comfort in the sovereignty of God, knowing that it cannot be thwarted by choices made by fallen sinful human beings like me.

Soli Deo Gloria.

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