God’s Sovereignty and Free Will – Part 2

In part one of this article I explained some of the differences between Calvinism and Arminianisim, and why my theology leans much more in the direction of the latter.

One of the things that I stressed was that faith and works are always opposed by Paul.  To have faith is not a work. It is the grateful acceptance of the grace that God grants us through the death of His son. But, some will point out Ephesians 2:8, which seems to state that even faith is a gift from God:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

This is going to sound a little “Clintonesque”, but the key question in how to interpret this verse is what the word “this” means–what is it referring to.  I’m not a Greek scholar, nor do I play one on TV.  But, Dr. William Lane Craig points out that the word “this” in that passage is a different gender than the word faith (and for that matter, the word grace, as well). Craig says that the word “this” refers to the entire process that is described, which makes perfect sense. Paul here is referring to God’s grace, and the provision He makes for us to be saved through faith. This is the gift of God.

God is our Father

Another thing I didn’t cover in my first post is the concern some have over how God can be truly sovereign if man has the free will to make choices that would be contrary to God’s desires. This seems to be the crux of the question for many. How can God be truly sovereign if man can thwart his plans? I actually think this presents more of a problem for the Calvinist than it does the Arminian. If scripture states that God wants all men to come to a saving knowledge of  him, and God’s sovereignty rested on whether or not that actually happened, then it would look pretty bad for God. Not everyone comes to know God that way. In fact, very few do.

I don’t see a conflict between God’s sovereignty and Man’s will. The fact that God wants all men to be saved while only a few come to know him presents no problem for God’s sovereignty or His perfect will.

Here is an analogy. I like to think I am sovereign in my home (I can dream, right). Seriously, I am sovereign over my children. For the most part I can make them do what I want them to. They generally do, and if they don’t, I can punish them. I could be quite extreme. If I wanted to exercise more control, I could lock them in a closet, or put them on a leash. I could give them drugs to make them compliant. But, what kind of relationship would that be?  Not very loving. It certainly would not honor the innate freedom they were born with.

Instead, I give my kids the appropriate amount of freedom for their age to make their own choices. This does not make me any less sovereign. I’m exercising my sovereignty by making a choice–a choice to grant my kids a certain amount of freedom to make their own choices.  I hope they will make the right ones. I will do my best to point them in the right direction, and I’ll apply appropriate discipline when they stray. I’ll be happy if they honor me by obeying, and disappointed if they don’t. I’ll hurt for them when they suffer the consequences of not listening to my council. When they fall down, I’ll pick them up and try to make them feel better. Through it all, I am sovereign in their lives, and could exercise more control or even complete control (as much as humanly possible) at any time I like.

In the same way, God is sovereign over His creation, yet He made a choice to create free creatures.  He guides us through scripture and the work of the Holy Spirit. Some will listen and some will not. He disciplines us when we stray. He hurts for us when we hurt. In the end, He is still sovereign, and unlike me, He truly can make it all better when a child of His falls down. Through His power He can work all of the circumstances in this world together for good. We may not see that “good” right away, or even in this world, but we know it will be for the good of His Kingdom; and, if I have made a choice to follow him, then I have the hope of eternity, no matter how bleak it seems here and now.

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2 Responses to “God’s Sovereignty and Free Will – Part 2”

  • Comment from Josie H.

    I concur completely! Nice article, Rick! You really need to come to a Grace Conference (where I work part-time) http://www.gmint.org. I think you would love it! Follows the same fundamental teaching as what you explain here.