I have been involved in a couple of good discussions with my friends at World From Our Window recently concerning the way that God sovereignly interacts with the free will of man. (Let me state up front for those new to this blog that I am a non-Calvinist/non-Arminian.) I was going to comment on this post but my answer seemed to be getting too long so I decided to write a post on the matter.
As I consider the interaction of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will, I see three possible positions.
1. God sovereignly dictates every nuance of every thought, word or action of every man, rendering man as nothing more than a dangling marionette in the hands of a divine puppetmaster.
2. Man is a completely autonomous being who is free to do as he chooses without divine influence or consequence.
Most of us would agree that these are two extreme positions that have no basis in scripture. The first is so fatalistic as to remove any semblance of hope or worship. The second is little more than atheism. We must use care so as not to allow our aversion to one of the extremes drive us too close to the other.
Surely the truth must lie in a balance between the two. There is never a moment, circumstance or action in the course of man’s history in which God has not, is not or will not be sovereignly involved. The question is, “What degree of control does God exercise?”
I believe that God and God alone can answer that question.
Some have suggested that the idea of man having a free will is somehow a denial of the sovereignty of God. If it is God who created man with a free will, omnisciently knowing how man will exercise it, omnipresently influencing man to use it for God’s glory and omnipotently holding man responsible for how he exercises the free will, how is His sovereignty denied?
Some have stated that because God is sovereign, He must be in absolute control of every circumstance. To think otherwise, some say, is to leave the door open for open theism. As long as we don’t forget the omniscience and foreknowledge of God, we will never be in danger of straying into that pit of heresy.
Let us consider the weather. Some would look at storms and say that God controls the direction of every hurricane, tornado and dust devil that comes across our planet. The Bible teaches us that “God has his way in the whirlwind.” I have heard some describe a tornado as “the finger of God.” Truly there are times when you look at the path of such storms and it seems that perhaps God is personally directing the path of the twister. At other times, these storms move in a seemingly indiscriminate manner. Has God left that storm to its own devices? I think not. Such storms seem to be directed by the normal ebb and flow of atmospheric conditions. These conditions are created and sustained by God. Therefore, we can say that God is in control whether or not He chooses to directly alter the path of the storm.
My point is this. It is neither denying the sovereignty of God nor open theism to say that He creates a being or a system designed to function in a certain way and then allows that being or system to function in the way in which He designed it. If it is God who has given man the free will, then it is not usurping the sovereignty of God when man exercises it. If it is God who sovereignly holds man accountable for the use of his will, then God’s sovereignty is not eroded. In fact, I would go so far as to say, if God’s sovereignty can be usurped or eroded then He is not sovereign. If He is not sovereign, He is not God.
I am thankful that God has created man with the capacity for free will. I am also thankful that there is not one moment, circumstance or aspect of my life in which He is not sovereignly involved.
I truly want to make sure we are not talking past each other. So here is what I understand you to be saying.
God in His sovereign control choose to give man a free will, but not an autonomous free will. Which means that God is still involved in “influencing” men in different ways and also able to hold them “responsible” because although He influences they are free to submit or reject that influence. Therefore God is not culpable for their decisions.
How is God in control if He can only influence? I think you would answer that God’s control is in giving us free will, which I take it to mean that now we are in control. I am not sure that sovereignty can be seen through delegation.
How can God be assured of any outcome if the final decision is still in human hands? It seems as if you are saying that God makes sure that the outcomes work out as He wants them to. But that goes back to what I said in my article, and I couldn’t find an answer in your article–does God just ordain the ends, but not the means? If so, what does that do to specific prophecy? If not, how would you explain it differently?
I am not sure I see an answer to my concern with free will if the outcomes are “closed” and not “open.” If the outcomes are settled how is man free to choose differently? If your salvation is settled, how could you choose not to be saved? If you couldn’t choose otherwise, than where is your free choice?
I would go into your discussion about God’s control of nature, but since my article had to do with man I will leave my response to that.
This is an excellent statement of the issue. It is an issue that will neve be resolved by those who seek to put human reasoning into God’s word. The scriptures clearly state that man has a choice. To deny this or suggest otherwise is to deliberate try to rewrite the Word of God which is settled in heaven. Rev. 22:17 “Whosoever will let him take of the water of life freely”. This is an endless argument that will continue till the Lord returns. Thank you for your clear statement of Fact!
Don, thanks for your reasoned and gracious comment. Some of the answers to the questions you raised are in some of the comments I have left with Ken and Mike over the last few days.
God is capable of doing much more than just influencing man. We know that from the Bible. Particularly in the OT we know that God would often sovereignly direct the affairs of an individual. He certainly is capable of doing that now, and perhaps at times He does.
His influence over the free will of man is more than a clever advertising or marketing scheme. He gives to every creature the knowledge of the godhead. He gives His word to instruct in the ways of truth. His Holy Spirit convicts men of sin, righteousness and judgement. He offers the blessings of divine fellowship to those who will walk with Him. He promises consequences for those who reject His word or resist His will.
To me, these things constitute a pretty strong involvement on the part of God in the affairs of men. BTW, I agree with you that God is not culpable for the decisions of man.
You said, How can God be assured of any outcome if the final decision is still in human hands?
God can be assured because He is omniscient. He has foreseen the choices of men before the foundations of the world. The sovereignty of God is not diminished because He allows them to make their choices. In fact, this only serves to demonstrate His sovereignty, that He foreknows what choices they will make and still allows them to make those choices.
I believe my answer to your concerns would be this. The outcomes are always determined by God. There are only two possible outcomes in life. God has ordained the consequences of both outcomes. By nature, we are already in the course of the negative. God has ordained the means of the first. It is man’s responsibility to repent and believe in order to receive the positive.
Whether or not man chooses to accept Christ, at no time is he ever not under the sovereignty of God.
Daddy (sorry I don’t know your first name),
I agree that man has a choice. I agree that whosoever will can freely take of the water of life. The question is why does anyone “will” to drink? What causes a man to “will” to drink?
Don, something else we have in common is both of us have a “Ken” in our family. That was my dad, Ken Cloud. 😉
Thank you also for the gracious discussion.
Would you say that God elects to salvation (Eph. 1; Romans 8) based on His omniscient foreknowledge? If so, are you saying that God chooses a man to salvation because He knew that man would choose salvation in the future? If so, are you saying that man’s choice is the ultimate determiner–God chose me because I first chose Him?
That smiley face was supposed to say Romans 8. Thanks for letting me know your father’s name. 🙂
Don, I Peter 1:2 states that we are elect according to the foreknowledge of God. I would also take Eph. 1:12 to indicate that our election is based upon our choice.
This does not make man the determining factor in election, however. God chose to give us the choice, and He chose to choose them who chose Him. He is still in control of the salvation process.
Thanks for the interaction!
Have a great evening!
Don, it’s always a pleasure. Thanks again for you gracious spirit in this discussion.
You guys make me sick! You can’t be this nice while having the free will/sovereignty discussion. Where’s the blood and gore? Where’s the vitriol and venom?
Light the fire. Bring on the faggots. Let’s burn an Open Theist at the stake!
(btw . . . don’t read anything into my putting free will in front of sovereignty. It’s an alphabetical order thing.)
You said: “I Peter 1:2 states that we are elect according to the foreknowledge of God. I would also take Eph. 1:12 to indicate that our election is based upon our choice.
This does not make man the determining factor in election, however. God chose to give us the choice, and He chose to choose them who chose Him. He is still in control of the salvation process.”
So while I’m not for all the blood and gore your brother is calling for, I will ask a few questions of you!!
1) Does Scripture indicate that foreknowledge is merely and only “knowing beforehand?” Or is God’s foreknowledge an intimate knowledge, implying or acknowledging intimate involvement with and love for His creation?
2) If it is true that God elected men to salvation based totally and only upon His mere foreknowledge of their choice … how would you interpret 1 John 1:13 and Ephesians 1:11? Is the counsel of God’s will dependent upon or based upon man’s will in any way?
3) How would you explain Romans 9:15-16, 18?
“For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy … So then He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever He wills.”
4) How can salvation be all of God and completely by His grace if man contributes anything to his salvation ( man contributes something to his salvation if God chose to save Him based upon his foreseen choice)? Is grace unearned and unmerited favor (Ephesians 2:8-10)?
5) If God foreordained salvation for men according to their choice, then did He likewise foreordain believer’s good works after salvation according to foreknowledge of their actions (Ephesians 2:10)?
6) If God saves men based upon their choice of Him, who gets the glory for salvation … the sinner who is intelligent enough to choose correctly or God?
7) And this will be all … Do you believe man’s will is enlsaved by sin? Are there things that the natural man is incapable of doing? How would you interpret Romans 3:10-11 … is man capable of freely choosing Christ (doing good) apart from God opening his mind (2 Corinthians 4:4-6) and heart (Acts 16:14) to believe? In other words, who is the ultimate determiner in salvation, God or man? You said that God is in control “of the salvation process” … but is He in control “of the salvation act itself?”
Sorry for the lengthy questions, I’m just trying to understand where you are coming from … without all the blood and gore!!
I liked your ‘blood and gore’ list of questions.
I would point out, however, that if God based His foreknowledge on our Choice, then there is still occasion to boast. (ie: “I was smart enough to choose salvation, you weren’t”) God will leave no room for human self-congratulations.
“I never knew you” cannot mean that God lacked knowledge about us, therefore, it must relate to personal relationship.
I seem to remember Augustine laying out the tension between the two sides in a way that satisfied my objections:
While we are in sin, the only option really available to us is hostility to God. He, and His Law are repugnant to us, and we freely reject Him. Our minds are darkened, and we are incapable of receiving scripture.
God has to perform a sovereign work in our hearts to make us capable of understanding / receiving His Truth. “Spiritual” eyes now open, we gladly receive His grace. Rejecting Him is now a repulsive thought. Free will is still free. Nobody is forced.
The EMT applies the defibrillator, the heart starts, and lo! the patient takes a breath. He isn’t talked into it or forced to breath, it is the natural behaviour of one whose heart has begun to beat.
Credit where it’s due, you did mention the boasting.
Ken, you will have to excuse Cameron, he has always been a closet inquisitioner.
Cameron, forget the blood, gore and fire, Ken is trying to drown me. 😉
Okay, I will try to answer these questions in the order you gave them.
1) I believe that “foreknowledge” is to “know before”. That is the literal definition of the word and I think it fits scripturally and logically within the omniscience of God.
2) As for John 1:13 and Eph. 1:11, I believe that these verses are referring to the plan, process and possibility of salvation rather than individual salvation events. By that I mean that it is by the will of God that man has the possibility to be saved, and it is God’s will that determined the means of salvation.
3) Romans 9:15-16, 18 shows that God can save who He wants and can harden who He wants. This verse clearly demonstrates His sovereignty in the salvation process. However, God’s attributes do not work contrary to one another. His sovereignty and His omniscience go hand-in-hand here. Could these verses not mean that He shows mercy on those whom He foreknew would receive Him and hardens those who He knows won’t?
These verses make reference to Pharaoh. He hardened his own heart before God on several occasions, and then God hardened his heart. In an eternal hell, Rameses must still affirm the justness and righteousness of God.
4) Salvation is entirely of God because it is God who redeems, regenerates, justifies, preserves and sanctifies (not necessarily in that order) the repentant sinner. Salvation is entirely by grace which is freely offered by God to all men.
Here is the thing, if grace were a response to man’s repentance, then one could say that man initiates salvation and has a role in it, convincing God to save him. However, I believe that God first offers grace to man (Titus 2:11) and that man’s repentance is a response to God’s grace. Therefore, it is God who initiates salvation.
Man cannot be saved apart from the grace of God. And yes, to answer your question, I do believe that grace is entirely the unmerited favor of God. I am working on a post on that topic now. (BTW, I really appreciated the way you coupled saving faith and repentance in your ordination statement.)
5) Let me point out that I believe there is a difference in foreknowledge and foreordination. The words are grammatically and theologically different.
To answer your question, I do not believe that Eph. 2:10 is based upon the will of man. Those who are in the elect are predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29), to be to the praise of the glory of his grace (Eph. 1:12) and to walk in good works (Eph. 2:10).
6) You said, If God saves men based upon their choice of Him, who gets the glory for salvation … the sinner who is intelligent enough to choose correctly or God?
I didn’t realize salvation was a matter of intelligence. (just kidding)
The answer to this question is largely a matter of how we approach it and our perception of these matters we are discussing. Let me present my approach and perception by looking at the big picture.
God creates man who sins and falls into depravity, thus putting man on a course that takes him ever farther from the fellowship with God that he so desperately needs. Every man is born in this condition with nothing but damnation as his prospect. Man can do nothing to restore that broken fellowship or to avoid his destiny.
God pays an incredible price through the death of His Son, literally reaching into the course of depravity that man is walking and freely offers saving grace to all who receive it (John 1:12). All man must do is realize that the course he is on is against God (repentance) and by faith receive the grace that God is offering him.
I do not see how this glorifies man. Try to picture this from a heavenly perspective. Every time a sinner receives this gift, this is a triumph of the grace of God. Is it any wonder that a repentant sinner sets off a heavenly celebration? I certainly do not believe they are celebrating the intelligence of the penitent. Surely they are glorifying the grace of God and the Lamb of God.
7) I do believe that the will of man is enslaved to sin. I believe that God has placed within every man the ability to repent and believe (Rom. 1). God is the determiner of the outcome of man’s choice. It is God, through His Word and by His Spirit, who draws man to salvation. Thus, God is still in control of all aspects of salvation. The only thing that man controls is his decision to meet his responsibility before God.
These have been some challenging questions and you have no need to apologize for them. I hope my answers give you a clearer understanding of my position. If they don’t, feel free to ask some more. (I’ll fire up the coffee pot, you bring the pie.)
Hi, Wes, welcome to Heavenly Heartburn. I think you posted your comments while I was composing my answers to Ken’s questions. I believe my answers would probably serve to respond to your points as well.
Thanks again for stopping by, make yourself at home.
I was going to stay out, but a few more questions.
If every man is called and drawn by God’s grace, why do some reject and some receive? I think that is what Ken is getting at by his question concerning intelligence.
From eternity past WHY did some choose God and others reject?
It is amazing how God’s sovereinty and man’s freewill always accomplish God’s will.
Don, feel free to stay as long as you like. The water is fine. 😎
I believe that man’s faith is a response to the word of God (Rom. 10:17). Sinful man is unaware of his sin apart from the Bible. As the word identifies his sinfulness, the Holy Spirit uses this to bring conviction. Some, in their pride, refuse to acknowledge their guilt before God and so are unrepentant. Some vainly believe that they can be good enough earn salvation. I have known some who were so overwhelmed with guilt that they had to be convinced that God WOULD save them. Some, change their mind about their own self-rightousness and repent.
I suppose, having said that, that I should stipulate that I believe the intellect of man is involved. But I don’t know that I would go so far as to say that only those of a certain level of intelligence will accept Christ.
Bro. T.A., thanks for the encouragement, my friend. God’s omniscience is amazing isn’t it?
I still haven’t heard your explanation of how someone can respond to God’s word (ie: Gospel) without a prior quickening of the heart by God.
We are hostile to His word, and unable to make sense of it with our carnal mind.
The chief problem with sinners is not that they’re unable to respond because they’re sinful, they are DEAD. (I know, again with the EMT reference)
Also, what is there that requires Sovereignty and Free will to be at odds (see my previous post).
Wes, I know you quoted Augustine, but can you show me some scripture that states that God must quicken a sinner’s heart before they can receive the word?
Wow, Gordon. Stirring things up a bit, huh? Too bad I’ve been so behind on my blog reading that I haven’t gotten to join the fun.
Let me just say that the whole “if man plays any part in it, man gets the glory” is a serious red herring.
If I tell someone that I am going to pay off all their debts and give them a million dollars on top of it, and all they need to do is come to the bank and sign a paper, do they get any of the “glory” for coming to the bank and signing the paper?
Of course not. Do they then go around and tell their friends that they managed to pay off all their debts and make a million dollars because of something they did?
Likewise, it is ludicrous to assert that, if it is true that man has the responsibility and the ability to actually respond to God’s call to repentance and offer of salvation, that man “gets the glory”.
That’s a great point, Steve. I agree with you completely. Tell Christy and Dylan I said hello. It’s always good to have you stop by.
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
Before you agree that it is ludicrous, consider if:
Not ONE man, but TWO have self-same debt and opportunity.
One man accepts it, other man dismisses the opportunity. This ‘ occasion for boasting’ is sadly seen all too often in the Body, namely, Phariseeism. “Lord, I thank you that I am not like THAT man…”
You may see it differently, but I see that as a natural (if eventual) progression from the Arminian philosophy.
I owe even my “yes” to him, as the Author and Finisher of my faith.
As for the Romans 9:14-26, passage, what objection was Paul anticipating with v.19-21 if not the Arminian objection of ‘a just God would do no such thing’.
He was setting up and knocking down objections (as he did earlier in ch.6:1,2 or 6:15).
If it was not in anticipation of / response to the “it’s not fair!”, what WAS his point, in your understanding?
Wes, Rom. 8:7 is the description of the unrepentant mind. This is why it is necessary for one to change their mind toward God. This verse does not state that it is necessary for God to quicken one’s heart.
As for Rom. 9, his point is that God is God and He can do anything He wants to do. All men are by default “vessels of dishonor”. As I said in an earlier comment, He chooses to choose those who choose Him, thus making them “vessels of honor”. God is still sovereign in the salvation process.
On another note, Brother, let me say this as kindly as possible. I stated in the first part of my original post that I am not an Arminian. While my position may have some points in common with Arminiasm, there are many points of Arminianism with which I disagree. The same could be said of my theology and Calvinism. You seem intent on framing this discussion in a Calvinism vs Arminianism context. I will be happy to discuss my personal theology with you, but I will not if you are going to characterize my position as being something that it is not. I do not mean this in a harsh way, I just want to make sure that we can discuss our belief on the basis of its own merit and not have superfluous baggage attached to it.
I did not intend to mischaracterize your position. I don’t pretend to be a theologian, and I will sometimes misapply a term. Also, lacking a formal title for “not-Calvinism”, I defaulted to the usual (it is supposed) antonym. The question was there for anyone to address, not specifically directed to you.
I apologize if I caused offense, it comes of my inexpert speaking, not of malice.
The tone of my conversation is intended to be, well, conversational.
Back on topic:
The passage in Acts 16:14 appears to suggest that God facilitated Lydia’s belief.
As to inability to understand, even the Gospel, without divine aid:
1) 1 Cor 2:14.
2) 1 Cor 1:18
(Taken together, these would appear to indicate that even the Gospel requires the Spirit to assist in comprehension / acceptance. This is how I intend “quickening” one’s heart.)
Bro. Wes, I appreciate your gracious response. Please be assured that no offense is taken. I only have a brief moment at this time, so I cannot give a full response to your last comment right now, but I will get back to you ASAP.
God bless and have a great Sunday.
Hi, Wes, hope you had a great weekend.
I wanted to try to respond to your last comment as I had promised.
In Acts 16:14, Lydia is described as being one who was a worshipper of God before her heart was opened. In other words, she was already a seeker of God’s truth. I believe this verse reveals the fact that as we respond to the light that God has already given us, He gives us more light, continually drawing us to Himself.
I believe that I Cor. 1:18 refers to those who do not receive the gospel by faith. These are the ones who perish. Without believing, they will never understand the power of the cross.
Likewise with I Cor. 2:14, (which I believe is speaking of the mysteries of His wisdom), only a believer has the ability to understand the truth of God’s wisdom. Incidentally, if you are going to make I Cor. 2:14 about salvation, it is going to cause a conflict with some of your earlier statements. In its context, the truth that is revealed by the Spirit is for our glory (v 7. As you have already stated (and I agree with you) salvation is for the glory of God. So this verse obviously has to be referring to something other than salvation.
I find it helpful to compare these verses with the first few verses of Heb. 11.
I thank you for your considered response to this post. (I had used these verses, poorly I admit, because the verse I was trying to remember kept eluding me.)
I won’t keep ‘chasing this rabbit’ beyond this reply because the blog has moved onto other topics, and I respect that. If this topic resurfaces, perhaps we could later explore other facets.
I would say, however, that glory conferred BY God to men differs significantly from glory seized by man without regard for God or His grace.
Also, your rendering of Romans, while intersting, still does not address certain key objections I have.
As a little about myself, if it helps:
I have been a Christian since childhood, but have only in the last few years recognized my understanding of scripture to have more in common with those who would identify themselves with the term ‘Reform’.
I was raised among people with a strong inclination towards Arminianism (whether they recognized it or not), and have found the ‘Calvinist’ explanations, so far, to be more readily reconciled with scripture.
I still don’t have all the answers, and would ultimately rather agree with the Bible than with an established orthodoxy, if there is a discrepancy.
Wes, I appreciate your desire for truth and especially your recognition of the Bible as being superior to established orthodoxy.
Please feel free to comment here at any time. There is always room at HH for those who love the truth, even if we may not see eye-to-eye on just what that truth is.
Preacher I too am sorry I missed out on this discussion and while I’m thankful for the civil tone offered by all involved I agree with Cameron and miss the blood and gore (hehe). Great discussion!
How about this….
We believe that Jesus is 100% divine and 100% human all at the same time. It’s illogical to believe this. But because it’s in the Bible, we accept it.
We believe that one God has revealed Himself to us in three Persons. It’s illogical to believe this. But because it’s in the Bible, we accept it.
So why can’t we believe that salvation is 100% dependent upon God’s election and 100% dependent upon man’s free will to choose. It may be illogical to do so, but the Bible bears both of these doctrines out.
I think that arguments and definitions on the qualities of god and this and that about the gospel is good in that it makes us think about God and his plans for our lives. God has always been mysterious through the ages but were finite beings he is infinite so don’t expect to know all about him with our limited minds. He made himself known in his word but that does not mean men can crasp all of him. I don’t believe God intended the understanding of his word to be so complicated. I am troubled by how arguments can lead to a debate on who is smarter or who knows Gods Word better, predestination, election,
sovereignty,inclusivism, and on and on. How about some good old common sense. I think God deals with us in many ways in how we deal with our oun decisions. Nothing comes about in our own lives without making a decision on simple and not so simple matters. Then why complicate God and his simple words. Believe and you shall be saved. Believe is you making a decision, by faith ye are saved. you have to believe in something to have faith in it or not. D id God give adam and eve a choice or not? Who made a decision to disobey? I am not a theologian but it seems to me that God in his infinite wisdom made it as simple as he could for us to understand what we needed to do to gain salvation. Sometimes these kinds of arguments misses the simplicity of Gods messege to man. Did not God die for all men, does he force his will on us. He came not save the rightous but the sinner who is all of us. Is that so hard to understand? let the theologians argue about their knowledge of God Thats what they like to do, just like how the Pharasees did with Jesus. There are those who live to make a point in my opinion they make the simple and wonderful messege of Gods Grace so unnecessarily complicated with all their so called knowledge of God. God wants us to just love him as he has loved us while we were yet sinners. Is that so hard to understand? I don’t believe that God game to save only some. Why would anyone want to love such a God. But that is not the God I know, the God I know loves me and the whole of his creation and he couldn’t have said it any plainer. Forgive them for they know not what they do, love your enemy’s, thats the God I love and that is the man JESUS.
I don’t believe “Free Will” is from God ! It was the Devil who talked Eve into making her “own decisions .” And when Eve began to make her “own decisions”, she threw off God as her “Sovereign.” So “free will” is rebellion against the Sovereignty Of God ! Would God place in Eve a will and a nature that was in rebellion against him ? Because since the fall, all men are now “free will” by nature ! “Free will” is the sin nature ! To live as you please and make your own decisions is sinful ! Free will is completely to disregard God and live for self ! How can you teach God created man with a “Free Will” ??
Harold, thanks for stopping by. As I read your comment, there are a number of things that stick out to me.
If Eve did not previously have the capacity of free will, Satan could not have tempted her to use it. To think that Satan somehow led her to have this would, in my opinion, seem to indicate that Satan has the ability to override the sovereignty of God. I don’t believe that either of us would say that is true, so we must assume that Eve had prior use of a free will. In that she had this free will without being a sinner, we must conclude that it was given to her by God.
Another point I would like to make is this, if God’s sovereignty can be thrown off, then He is not sovereign. We must look at the big picture when considering this balance of sovereignty/free will. God has given me a free will. How I exercise that will is my choice. I can choose to seek God or to disobey Him. Whatever I do, I am still accountable to God. My disobedience does not end His sovereignty, it only calls for His sovereign judgment.
I believe we can teach that God gave man a free will because it is exegetically, theologically and logically consistent with Scripture.
Which concept of God is greater: The concept of a God who decrees every detail and decision in all spheres of life and existence because He is sovereign; or the concept of a God who allows his creation the free will and ability to choose, yet He still knows all things, and is sovereign in the whole process? In my opinion, human freedom is no threat to, does not infringe upon, nor is it a denial of the sovereignty of God.
It is a mystery how the divine sovereignty of God and the free will of man can coexist and no damage be done to God’s sovereignty. The infinite ways of God will always be a mystery to the finite mind of man (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Lou, I would agree with you completely. I believe that the concept of man’s free will only serves to illuminate the sovereignty of God rather than threaten it.
I hope you and yours had a blessed Thanksgiving.
Wow! I wish I had read this when it was posted last year. That was about the time that our church was having this discussion. (Mainly between the Pastor and the Deacons) I have never understood why this is so divisive or why so many people believe that it must be all one way or the other. Could it not be both . . . and? One thing that I noticed was that neither side was as extreme in their belief as the other side wanted to paint them. There was much more common ground in what they actually believed than either side was willing to admit.
Thanks for the honest and unbiased approach to this subject. I just came across this discussion tonight and would like to pose a comment for your evaluation and, if needed, correction.
When discussing the subject of the will of man I find it difficult to understand it without pointing out the changes that take place in the stages of man’s relationship to sin and God.
In short, (1) at creation, (2) after the fall (3) during the gospel call (4) after salvation.
At creation; you have stated very well that man was created with free will as a sovereign act of God. Man possessed fully independent volition(without outside influence) to obey or disobey God. To this I agree.
After the fall; a change has certainly taken place, he has become depraved in his sinful nature. His will is naturally tended to, even limited to disobedience, apart from an influencing act of God. Rom 8 He does not even seek after God.
During the gospel call, God acts upon man through the Inspired Gospel. The Holy Spirit, through the Gospel convicts of sin, righteousness, judgement(john 16:8, rom 1:17-18) and convinces man of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus, thus enabling him to choose to believe and repent. Before this influencing act of God man could not choose to respond to the Gospel by faith, because he could not choose obedience to it. But, God has enabled him, in his inability, to see what he could not otherwise see . The gospel call is not God causing man to believe and repent, but enabling him to do so. Before this act of God upon man only the option of disobedience is available. In this, God is sovereign, that no man can boast against GOD (this is the point, not boast in comparison to others)concerning his salvation, Here is faith a gift from God. If any man has believed it is because of the wonderful, graceful act of God. If any man has heard and rejected the gospel call, it is by his own choice, which God enable not caused.
After being born again man is permanently enabled to choose obedience or disobedience through the indwelling Spirit which guides him into all truth. The saved man must choose to allow the Spirit to have full control of him to perform holiness in him.
I understand the will of man to be free to choose of the options available to him. The problem lies in the sin nature, fallen reason, and death in him that completely limits his options to disobey. But the soverereign act of God through the Inspired Gospel opens to him a new option. Therefore, God enables and man chooses for or against.
Please evaluate this position for my edification, thanks, Mike.
Mike, I would have to agree in general with all you have said. I think you have done a good job of explaining the work of a sovereign God in enabling a man to either believe or reject the Gospel.
This is the answer:
It is all of God. Salvation is of God.
To say that man had any influence or merit in his receiving of Salvation (based on a decision) is to glorify man rather than God.
Look at what the bible teaches on the nature of all men. Man is born God hating and sinful (romans 1:30). How can a man who is God hating ever decide willfully on their own accord to love God? It can’t happen.
It all comes down to this: Salvation is all God and man has no part in it. To suggest otherwise is to suggest that salvation is earned of works.
It all comes down to what one blogger said earlier, God is in fact sovereign. You cannot “throw off his sovereignty” whichever choice you make, you’re still “accountable” to him.
Interpretation: Humans have the freedom to choose whether they want eternal life or eternal damnation. Black or White. Period. Thats the extent of your freedom of choice; you have two things to choose between. If you choose eternal life you live your life according to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, if you make the other choice, you live your life according to the allowances of the world you live in: because regardless of what choice you make, you’re still not in control.
One choice allows things to be run by the Lord, the other choice allows things to be run by Lucifer.
Humans don’t run anything, they can try, for as long as they are “allowed” by either force, if humans ran everything and knew everything, then we would have the power to end all the confusion, injustice and many other seemingly insurmountable obstacles that have littered the landscape of life from the dawn of time and this discussion would be pointless.
(Whats important), is that at some point in YOUR Very Near future, your time will be up, just like the billions who went before you, and then its time to pay the piper.
Either way you’re dancing! Your choice to make is which piper will you dance to?
I’ve already chosen, in case you’re wondering….
7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
After Adam ate the forbidden fruit,,,God said:
19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken : for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return
conclusion: 15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy , and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion . 16 So then it is not of him that willeth , nor of him that runneth , but of God that sheweth mercy . 17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up , that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. 18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth . 19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault ? For who hath resisted his will? 20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God ? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? 21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known , endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: 23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, 24 Even us, whom he hath called , not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? 25 As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved , which was not beloved
AS FOR YOU FREE WILL PEOPLE……
YOU SEE GOD FROM A 20 MILE DISTANCE
I SEE THE SOVEREIGN LORD,…… A MILE AWAY……
WE BOTH WILL EVENTUALLY ARRIVE…
THANKS TO JESUS SHED BLOOD , SHED FOR THEE!
BECAUSE I AM A PUPPET IN GOD’S HANDS
( I READ SO MANY REJECT THIS VIEW)
AND BECAUSE HE HAS GIVEN ME TO CHRIST JESUS,
THE WORDS JESUS HAD FOR THE THIEF ON THE CROSS APPLY TO ME!
‘TODAY, YOU WILL BE WITH ME IN PARADISE’
O! I FORGOT!…..I WILL ALWAYS EAT AT THE KINGS TABLE!
IF NOT IN GOD’S HANDS…THERE IS ONLY ONE LEFT,
COULD THAT BE satan , THE KING OF LIES?
Thank you for this well worded and very well defended point of view Mr. Gordon Cloud. I hope that this comment finds you still sharing your passion for Gods truth so effectively. Thanks again for taking the time to share your position with grace and intellect. God bless.
Harold Brown (above) states: “I don’t believe “Free Will” is from God ! It was the Devil who talked Eve into making her “own decisions .” And when Eve began to make her “own decisions”, she threw off God as her “Sovereign.” So “free will” is rebellion against the Sovereignty Of God!” –> My reply: “Throw[ing] off God as her ‘Sovereign’ ” no more impacts the sovereignty of God than a prisoner who breaks jail impacts the sovereignty of the state. Both reject that sovereignty, but sovereignty continues in both cases nonetheless. God holds the rebellious accountable in His time just as the state, who is not omnipotent, will hold the escapee accountable if he be caught. Eve’s free will did not originate at the time of her sin. I choose to serve and obey the Lord as an act of my free will. Adam and Eve did so also, for some unknown period of time. The free will makes it possible to choose obedience or choose rebellion, just as free will allows me to choose to continue to honor my commitment to my wife to the exclusion of all others.
Before I was saved, the preaching of the gospel that I heard was in a style of communication that implied to me that I had the inherent ability to accept or reject God’s call to believe in Christ as my savior in order to be saved. Therefore, I concluded that the preacher believed the same about mans ability. Also, when I actually looked up the scriptures that were used in the sermons, the text implied to me that I, of my own will, needed to make a decision to accept Christ as my savior in order to be saved. I had no idea that the preacher might not actually believe man had the inherent ability to accept or reject God’s call. For several months God was convicting me of my sin, that hell was my destiny, and that I needed my sins forgiven by faith in Christ. I was saved believing that I had the inherent ability to accept or reject God’s call to accept Christ as my savior.
As a new believer, I began to study the word of God from that perspective. As I came across the few verses (approximately much less than 0.5%) that syllogistically could be used to build an implied theology of “no inherent ability of man to accept or reject God’s call (which is through the Scripture and drawing of the Holy Spirit) to trust His word, to follow His commands and to believe in Christ as our savior”, I only temporarily mentally noted that those few verses by themselves could be used to build the implied theology of “no inherent ability of man to accept or reject God’s call” if a person ignored the implication of the majority of the Scripture and the implication of the style of communication used by God in the Scripture. I proceeded to interpret those few verses from an “inherent ability of man to accept or reject God’s call”, which is the precedence set by the majority of scriptures in the Bible and the communication style of the word of God; and I did not have any problems understanding and interpreting them from a that perspective or precedence. During those early years of my Christian life I had not even heard of Calvinism. The style of communication used by God in the Bible is the same style people use every day of their lives — which is a style that obviously is built on an understood foundation that assumes the hearer has the free will ability to accept or reject what is being communicated to them. Also, according to my reasoning capacity the mere existence of communications from God to man through His inspired word (the Bible), in which He tries to convince mankind to accept His call, instructions and commands, implies to me that mankind has the inherent free will ability to accept or reject His call, instructions and commands. To me, even the mere existence of TULIP proof texts, such as Romans 9, implies that mankind has the inherent free will ability to accept or reject His call, instructions and commands even though some Christians interpret those TULIP proof texts in such a way as to try to prove that mankind does not have the free will ability to accept or reject God’s call, instructions and commands.
Years later I begin to come across Calvinists and heard their teaching and read of their theology of “no inherent ability of man to accept or reject God’s call”. Their teaching and teaching method of using less than 0.5% of the Bible had a scholarly aura about it because they did a very good job of doing an academic syllogistic development using those few verses. It seemed strange to me that Calvinists would let the implication of approximately less than 0.5% of the Scripture set the precedence when the implication of approximately 99.5% of the Scripture contradicted their conclusion. My experience indicates to me that a lot of people that get saved, intuitively/logically see this implied understood “inherent ability of man to accept/believe or reject God’s call” in the majority of the Bible without even being fully cognizant of it; and therefore, like I was at first, are unable to rationally explain it at first. Also, like myself, they intuitively/logically let that set the precedence and will automatically interpret Calvinism’s 0.5%, or less, supporting Scripture verses from “the inherent ability of man to accept/believe or reject God’s call” precedence perspective. I have found Calvinism’s 0.5%, or less, Scripture verses are easily understood from the “inherent ability of man to accept/believe or reject God’s call” perspective.
When a strict Calvinist would give their interpretation to me of those few scriptures in their syllogistic logic loop chain, the thought that repeatedly came to my mind was “What about the rest of the Scripture, the majority of Scripture!” Each time I asked them about a verse or section of the Scripture that implied the “inherent ability of man to accept or reject God’s call (which is through the Scripture and drawing of the Holy Spirit)”, they would jump back to repeating their academic and scholarly syllogistic logic loop chain, based on less than 0.5% of the Scripture. After I had asked them about many more verses in the Bible that implied this “inherent ability of man to accept or reject God’s call”, they would start accusing me of having a proof-texting mentality. At first, I was baffled, because I had never heard of the idea of proof-texting before. Later, I realized that they were doing the same proof-texting. I could windup quoting almost 99.5% of the Scripture if they did not stop me.
I soon realized that there was something wrong with my method of discussing my conclusions with them. Finally, I realized that they were experts at getting folk like me to get started on a verse hurdling contest, and then they would start accusing folk like me of being guilty of proof-texting. From that point on, I very early in discussions with Calvinists point out to them the majority implication of the Bible, instead of getting caught up in a verse hurdling contest.
Now days, when I ask Calvinists to interpret the 99.5%, or greater, of the Scripture, that reeks with the implication “that man has the inherent ability to accept/believe or reject what is being communicated to them from God (which is through the Scripture and drawing of the Holy Spirit)” from their “no inherent ability of man to accept/believe or reject” perspective, the usual answer I get is along this line: “Yes, God communicates with man in a style that implies that man has the inherent ability to accept/believe or reject what is being communicated to them from Him, but God knows that man does not have that inherent ability.” To me, that response seems to imply that God has been deceiving mankind on this theological issue for millennia, implying that God is a deceiver. When I tell them that implies that God is a deceiver, they usually respond by saying that “— My (God’s) ways (are) higher than your ways — from Isa. 55:9”. This type of response is what I get from the majority of strict TULIP type Calvinists (5 point Cal.) and strict TUIP Calvinists (4 point Cal.).
Also, when I ask strict Calvinists why 99%, or the majority, of the time they preach in a communication style that also implies “that man has the inherent ability to believe or reject what is being communicated to them”, they usually reply by “saying that is the way God does it in the Bible”. To me, that answer seems to be saying “If God is deceiving man on this issue in the Bible, then so can I.”
There is a significant number of TULIP, TUIP and TUP type Calvinists (at least they claim to be 5-point, 4-point and 3-point Calvinists), that I mentally like to think of as baffled-Calvinists. These baffled-Calvinists are mentally confounded between the highly intellectual, scholarly, and academic syllogistic chain reasoning argument presented by strict TULIP and TUIP Calvinists and their own common sense logical reasoning ability that sees that the “majority (great than 99.5%) of the Bible and the communication style of God in the Bible” reeks with an obvious implication of the inherent ability of man to accept/believe or reject what is being communicated to them from God; they see the obvious contradiction. In an effort to resolve this contradiction, these Baffled-Calvinists will say that (TUI, TU and free will) are true and that we can not understand it because “— My (God’s) ways (are) higher than your ways — from Isa. 55:9”. To me, their answer seems to imply that God is justifying their internally contradictory theology. Worse yet, their answer seems to imply that God is just in being a God that contradicts Himself. I do not believe it is logically proper to use Isa. 55:9 to justify internally contradictory theology. Isa. 55:9 can be used to explain some hard to understand theology (such as the Trinity), but not internally contradictory theology. In the case of man’s free will and God electing people for salvation before He created the world, it is wise to apply the mystery of “— My (God’s) ways (are) higher than your ways — from Isa. 55:9” to the question of “How can God foreknow those whom He can convince to make a free will decision to accept God’s call, that is, to repent and accept Christ as their savior?” than to justify God being a God that is just in contradicting Himself.
I refer to myself as an “inherent free-willer” which means I believe in the inherent ability of mankind to accept/believe or reject God’s call (which is through the Scripture and drawing of the Holy Spirit); I believe humans are born corrupted with a sin nature because of Adam’s and Eve’s sin — that is, fallen and corrupted mankind is now bipolar having two natures (good and evil) in accordance with Adam’s and Eve’s sin of eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; I believe that no one can come to Christ unless the Father who sent Christ draws him (John 6:44) [the convicting, drawing work of the Holy Spirit and the word of God]; I believe in the eternal security of the believer; I do not believe in the Calvinistic concepts of total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace; I believe that God has elected before the beginning of the world those in the new testament era whom he foreknew He could convince to believe/trust in Christ as their sacrifice for the forgiveness of their sins; and I believe that God has elected before the beginning of the world those before the new testament era whom he foreknew He could convince to believe/trust in Him and His plan.
The churches that I have regularly attended, so far, in my Christian life are churches that were/are inhabited by a mixture of “inherent free-willers”, “TULIP type baffled-Calvinists”, “TUIP type baffled-Calvinists”, “TUP type baffled-Calvinists”, “modified Arminians that believe in eternal security” and some “Molinists”. I have found that these types of Christians worship, minister and fellowship together without fighting over their differences in the area of free will of man. I believe the peaceful fellowship occurs because all these types have one thing in common in the area of free will of man: in the practical everyday world, they all witness, teach and preach in a communication style that assumes/implies the free will of man.
The whole point of Rom 9:11 is that God elected/chose Jacob not because of any free will choice made by Jacob at some future time in Jacob’s life,rather God adopted Jacob BEFORE he (Jacob) had done either good or evil, i.e. made any choices.
Again the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus was clearly a sovereign act of God,as Saul was in the process of attempting to destroy the church at the time. Later the apostle Paul claimed that he was predestined to the roll of apostle to the gentiles by God.
It is presumptuous to conclude that God’s foreknowledge of the elect is based on the foreseen choice of man, that would make no sense of Rom 9:11. More correct to understand God’s foreknowledge of the chosen as God’s special favor to those whom from eternity he had chosen in his Son to be conformed into his Son’s image.
We all should be condemned to hell because we are all sinful but God in his mercy chose to save some from eternal punishment before creation. It’s not that He knew who would choose Him, He chose us. The Father gave us to Him. Romans 9 says there is NONE that seek Him..only because of the Spirit drawing us do we come to know HIm. When I get to heaven I want to be able to say LORD I give you ALL the glory..not well I CHOSE you and that’s why I’m here.
I do believe that God is sovereign and have preordained everything. i want to clarify some of my point
1. Man has his own will but is not free.
God gave man his own will and has the capability to choose between obedience and disobedience but the will of man is not free because the will of man is under the power o the perfect will of God.
2. God still has the complete control
Even if man has the choice to choose between obedience and disobedience.. It is still in Gods hands if he ALLOWS what choice the man chose…
3. All the things that God allows is for his very own glory
From the fall of men until the second coming.. all this things is allowed for the glorification of God…
I agree with Gordon’s view. I believe in Election itself, but believe the ideas of Limited Atonement and Irresistible Grace are nothing more than straining at gnats that exist solely within the mind of man. The ideas of Limited Atonement and Irresistible Grace go beyond what is revealed and completely fail to take into account that God’s ways are not our ways nor His thoughts our thoughts and that He has ways and means far beyond anything we know anything about as far as accomplishing His purposes. Election and Predestination are clearly presented in Scripture, but they are NOT explained as to HOW they work or what criteria is used. Nevertheless, people persist in applying human definitions and understanding to something that is clearly strictly within the hidden knowledge of the Divine Lord. He hasn’t told us how it works, but people think they have it figured out anyway. No, you don’t… you CAN’T, so just leave it alone. Election and Predestination exist, but we don’t know anything beyond that. It is not possible to reason our way into comprehension of something God has not revealed. The ideas of Limited Atonement and Irresistible Grace force the entire Bible to be understood as code where the clear meaning of words do not actually mean what they seem to mean. “Whosoever will” doesn’t really mean that. “Come to me ALL ye who…” doesn’t really apply to everyone. “Why will ye die…” doesn’t really imply a choice in the matter. “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered you, … but you would not” doesn’t really mean the Jews could have responded to Him. To believe in Limited Atonement and Irresistible Grace, one has to believe that although the entire Bible clearly is cast cover to cover with the implication that people can choose to accept or reject God, it doesn’t really mean that. That’s because (per their thinking, though they would never admit this) the Bible is actually written in code, and all the entreaties by God toward man don’t really mean what they say. That’s what they are saying!
It is absolutely true that we cannot come to God unless He draws us, because Jesus said so. Question is, how does that work? Well, we are told that it is through the “foolishness of preaching,” i.e., through His holy word. It says nothing beyond that. But that isn’t enough for some extreme Calvinists. No, they have to figure out which comes first… salvation or belief or repentance or faith… or something like that. And why is it necessary to figure that out? I don’t know. Ask them. That’s just another issue God hasn’t revealed, but they think they can reason their way into the answer. Since the Bible speaks overwhelmingly in language implying that man repeatedly rejects God’s calls to him, should we not assume it means what it says? No, extreme Calvinists insist that is just code language. It does not really mean what it says. You have to hold your mouth a certain way so you can see it like they do. Honestly, I mean that, because it strikes me that they get their minds into a maze-like cultic belief system, and it is hard for them to get back out. The fact that their belief dates back centuries does not make it true. Gnosticism also dates back centuries.
This mindset reminds me of a Baptist sect that believes any particular congregation is not actually a part of the true church unless it was birthed by another congregation that was actually part of the true church. That is, they believe it has to have been part of a long chain of true church congregations dating back to the time of the apostles. In order to maintain this belief, they have to reinterpret everything else in the Bible to be in accord with that idea. Thus they have redefined scripture’s meaning regarding the terms world, church, and kingdom of God. Similarly, those who believe in Limited Atonement and Irresistible Grace, in order to maintain that belief, have been forced to redefine the meaning of all scripture passages that imply man can reject the Holy Spirit when He calls them through “the foolishness of preaching.”