Sovereignty vs. Free Will

Stumbling through the blogosphere brought me to this interesting post and, subsequently, this oft-repeated dilemma:

So, the question remains… are we ultimately self-determining, meaning that we have the free moral ability to choose Him and based upon this choice of Him, God “elects” us? (It doesn’t seem to me like God is choosing anything here, but that He is just acknowledging our choice to come to Him.)

Or, is God ultimately self-determining… meaning that according to His sovereign election He chooses some to salvation according to His electing Grace?

First off, I would like to point out that even this apparently Calvinist notices the deep-seated connection between freedom and moral responsibility- …we have the free moral ability…. That, to me, is a fairly stunning and refreshing admission (whether or not the author views it as an admission is another issue). Second, I really have no idea what the word sovereignty means anymore. I hear it used all the time, and when I confront divine-determinists about it they usually retort that it means that God is in control. Thank goodness we aren’t ambiguous. For me, it comes down to this: does God cause all that happens? If not, then what does He cause? Does He cause calamity, faith, sin? Does he micromanage or does He sit back unconcerned? Is there a possible middle route?

I tend to think that God does not cause everything in the truest sense of the word cause, though He does often contribute to “causes” and provides the necessary conditions for us to do things. Take salvation for example. We certainly aren’t searching for God prior to salvation. God uses his drawing power and grace to put us in a salvific situation. Does God cause us to be saved? Doubt it. If so, then I have some questions:

*Why not save everyone? God appears to want all to be saved.
*Why the show? Let’s just end all this pain and suffering and take the elect the heaven and send the un-elect to hell.
*Why tease the unelect? Doesn’t appear to be much use in badgering those He never elected with offers of salvation.

Anyway, I think that words like “sovereignty” and “control” are more or less useless, and should be left out of this particular debate.

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2 Comments on “Sovereignty vs. Free Will”

  1. Scott Says:

    I will be glad to jump in here and take a crack at your questions and ponderings.

    First of all, sovereignty is not useless. God is sovereign throughout all of scripture and still is today. What does sovereign mean? It means that God is in full control of His creation. It means that He sustains what He creates. He set forth a plan from before the beginning and that plan is on target to this very day. Nothing has happened that surprises Him nor will there ever be anything that surprises Him. None of us will change His mind on that mission. Something else, God’s Sovereignty will not step aside for man’s free will to choose. Man will come to Christ only with the prompting of the Holy Spirit and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit…without that man is dead spiritually and cannot bring themselves back to life spiritually.

    “Why not save everyone?” This is a good question actually, but that is not the plan God has. Some things we just may never fully understand about this plan, but God’s ways are not our ways nor is His thoughts our thoughts. Who are we to question the creators work. Does the pot tell the potter how to make the pot? I don’t think so. We must accept it how it is and be thankful if we are chosen. Some to be chosen for heaven and others not chosen is for God’s purposes not ours. It has been those wicked non-believers throughout the ages that have persecuted the believers towards God, to a reliance upon the power and strength of God. Some, in my opinion, have been created to further the saints on rather than letting people be lazy about their praise and glory to Him. This life in all of its splendor is about God not at all about us.

    “Why the show?” Not all the elect have been brought into the family yet…possibly not all have even been born on this earth yet. God is very patient with His elect. 2Peter 3:8-9 “But do not forget this one thing, Dear Friends. With the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
    Now, first who is He speaking to? “Dear Friends”…who are these people? You can go back to the beginning of chapter 3 “Dear Friends. But who are the Dear Friends? Is it everyone? Refer back to the beginning all the way back to 1 Peter 1:1 “…to God’s Elect…” This is who the Dear Friends are in this passage.
    You may also ask, well who the “you” and “anyone” and “Everyone” spoken of here? Well, we know who the “you” is easily referring back to the beginning of verse 8…”Dear Friends” and we know who the “DF” are, “God’s Elect”. The “Anyone” is translated in the Greek as “certain ones” or “anyone of these dear friends”. He does not desire that anyone of His elect perish because He got impatient. So, He is slow to return and end this “thing” because of this. “Everyone (pas in greek)” is the collection of saints or elect from all over the world and He wants all of these to come to repentance.

    “Why tease the unelect?” Not sure what you really mean with that one, but I would not consider God’s handling of the non-elect by “teasing”. Those that will not be saved will never experience the desire to come to Christ. They will never have a clue what the believers experience. So, they do not know what they are missing. It is not like they have this overwhelming desire to accept Christ and have faith in Him and repent of their sins, but they cannot because they are not chosen! They will never expereince that. If they have all the above, they will be saved, but they will not experience that spiritually. Now, some have worldly remorse for wrong choices, but no spiritual remorse or repentance. The worldly remorse is more along the lines they are sorry they got caught or actually caused themselves or their family pain, but not sorry for sinning against a Holy Sovereign and Righteous God. So, they are never “teased” they are simply a part of the greater plan for God’s purposes.

    You might remember that God made a statement about Jacob I loved and Esau I hated? Esau was godless…he never really knew what he lost in that transaction. His heart was not towards God, but was towards himself. Jacob was the one God wanted and chose before they were born. Read Hebrews 12:12-17…great explanantion of how man cannot bring about change in God’s mind to be saved even with remorseful tears…from Esau the tears were worldly not godly. Also, study deligently Eph 1:3-14. This is one of the amazing passages to me that clarifies God’s intentions well.

    I do not claim to know much of anything spiritually, but when it comes to God choosing me as wretched and sinful as I was from birth is the most amazing form of grace and mercy I could ever imagine. He did not have to choose any of us, but He did out of His abundant grace. I do not have a clue who is elect and who is not, but I know this….we are to share the true full gospel to all and let the Holy Spirit determine who His chosen ones are.

    Hope that clarified a few things maybe.

    In Christ,

  2. Josh Says:

    Howdy Scott,

    I thank you for clarifying your usage of “sovereign” and “control”. If only more Calvinists (and others) would expound what they mean as you do. In your first paragraph, you seem to say that God has a plan that does not bow to the will of men. But what if God’s will was to allow men a certain amount of freedom?

    Secondly, your answer to why all men won’t be saved is familiar to me, but not because I find it scriptural or sensible. To me, the clearest answer to why men aren’t saved is because they don’t want to believe, not because they weren’t chosen arbitrarily.

    My whole “why the show?” question was meant to push the discussion in the direction of the observance of a few Calvinist facts:

    1) It is up to God who is saved and when
    2) God knows the elect
    3) He could save the elect at any time
    4) There is suffering in life

    So why doesn’t the sovereign God just gather all the elect to himself right now? Surely He doesn’t need to wait for the elect to do something, because He is in control and not men.

    I thank you for your cordiality in discussion, and I pray that you have a wonderful day!


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