Saturday, December 22, 2012

God's Sovereignty and Man's Freewill

If asked, "Is God in control?" my answer, as I understand it from scripture, is absolutely, he most certainly is! In fact, God wouldn't be God if he wasn't in control over what he made. If his will can be frustrated, then ultimately, he's not omnipotent; if he can be surprised then he's not omniscient; if he's subject to time then he's not eternal. If any of these are true then he's not holy (separate from creation).

Is it possible for God, who is omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal, to not thereby bear ultimate responsibility for everything that occurs? If he's capable of speaking the worlds into being, then, minimally, he is capable of stopping anything he wants to, anytime he wants to, with a word! Since nothing happens that he was not aware would happen, then, maximally, he is the cause of all that does happen. God is sovereign, and therefore God is responsible. 

Why then do things occur that are specifically stated in his word as being outside of his desire and will? It would seem that it must be his will for things to occur that are not in his will. What kind of mechanism would make that kind of doublespeak possible without making God hopelessly divided against himself? Namely, independent will would, created by God, for God, and allowed under his governance to express itself as it, rather than he wills.

It makes sense even if it is counterintuitive, seemingly contradicting God's omni characteristics. If will wasn't independent it couldn't actually be will, it could only be instinct or some such like. When God created wills other than his own, independence or autonomy in their expression is what he willed for them in creating them. And evidently, having created them, he is not willing to contravene the exercise of them (at least not for a while). 

So, in his sovereignty, it is God's will that we express ours. That is real, God-given freedom. I take this to be the very core and substance of being created in his image. Because I see things this way I find that Arminianism, rather than Calvinism, more fully encompasses the truth concerning God's sovereignty. The truth is that God is sovereign, and that humans truly have free wills.


  1. Hi SLW, Per your first paragraph in the original post, I believe that manifestations of God such as the Incarnation and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit are completely holy and have entered into temporality. Do you disagree or how do you explain those manifestations in relationship to temporality and atemporality?

    1. JG,
      Thanks for the comment. Here's wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

      The incarnation and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit are most definitely holy, and both represent God entering into the temporal creation in a way that is participative and eternal. Neither the Son nor the Spirit lose holiness because of that participation, but neither do they lose their extra-creational, atemporal reality either. If they participated in creation but did not retain their extra-creational nature, neither would be holy (not withstanding the kenosis since Jesus had the power to lay down his life and to take it back again).

      In a related matter, humans are made holy through their participation in the holy God.

    2. Thank you SLW. I hope you enjoyed the holidays.

      Per your reply, I see holiness not as separation from creation but separation from sin.

    3. JG,
      In our world that would be synonymous. But I think there is something more fundamental to holiness than separation from sin. Was God holy, according to the reckoning of time, before Adam and Eve fell, or for that matter before the Devil and his angels fell (whenever that was)? What would he have been separated from before there was sin (or perhaps he wasn't holy then)? If holiness is separation from sin and God was holy before or apart from the Devil's and mankind's fall, then sin would have had some substance in God (an latent attribute or something like that) for him to be separate from it.

    4. Well, What was God separated from before creation? I see purity/sinlessness as the core of holiness. Perhaps the term "holiness" only makes sense in the case that there is something other than God, but I still say that God has always been holy because God has always been pure and sinless.

    5. Good question JG. Of course, whatever he always was, there wouldn't have been anything else there to serve as the foil for defining it negatively. But could God in himself be sinless, for how could he go against his own knowledge of the way to be? If he could have a sinful thought that he refused to act upon then he wouldn't be sinless in the first place. "Sinless" has no meaning if there could be no sinful. I suppose purity could be a good candidate to capture a concept of holiness--what God is he is singularly, fully, but I still think that does not do justice to the concept of otherliness, or separateness, that is inherent in holiness. Perhaps all that can be said about God's holiness that withstands scrutiny is that only God is what God is.


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