Sunday, December 19, 2010

Free will is God's sovereignty - an introduction

What started as a hunch will now be propounded: that what we think of as the 'free will' of man is actually the sovereignty of God. That the two ideas are one thing, and the way to resolve the crisis is to look higher up at God than we did before.  Having said this, I suspect there are perhaps a number of other ways out of this trap.  The guys over here think the idea is to think outside the box.  Worth considering as well.  I know that this is a huge issue that many stumble at, but there are number of good reasons to ignore the failure of the ancients and push forward.
  1. Many (most?) people get part of the way to clearing up the discrepancy and simply quit. This site that I really respect just isn't trying when it says:
    Scripture is clear that God knows the future (Matthew 6:8; Psalm 139:1-4) and has total sovereign control over all things (Colossians 1:16-17; Daniel 4:35). The Bible also says that we must choose God or be eternally separated from Him. We are held responsible for our actions (Romans 3:19; 6:23; 9:19-21).How these facts work together is impossible for a finite mind to comprehend (Romans 11:33-36)
    It's no wonder they can't figure it with that attitude.  Just because a task is impossibly big doesn't mean we shouldn't try at all.  It just means that we have to be careful since the guard rails are off.

  2. There exists in the sinful mind a dichotomy between the two ideas, that because there can be only one sovereign, the two people or ideas must be in opposition. The Arminian says "Free will is given by God and He doesn't tamper with it. I have no scripture to back this up but otherwise men are robots."  The HyperCalvinist says "Well God is sovereign therefore there is no such thing moral agency.  He directly causes all things, even men to sin." and the moderate Calvinist says "God establishes moral agency by his sovereignty but beyond that no man can know."  In all cases there is a preconception that the two ideas are not similar but different in a fundamental way.  Parallel lines that meet only somewhere in heaven. I reject this dichotomy too.  Now that I have said that you probably see the answer I'm driving toward.

  3. There is the seeds of this idea/proposition already in place, and in orthodox soil.  The Westminster Confessions says this in chapter 3
    "God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established."
Of course, having said that last sentence I have given away the game.  But it's worth a more full treatment, nonetheless.  One more thing, an analogy- there is a famous math problem my dad used to torment me with when I was younger and incapable of sustained rational thought: Three people pay $10 each for a motel room for a total of $30. The manager realizes he has over charged them and gives $5 in ones to the bellhop to return to them, but the bellhop keeps $2 for himself before giving each of the men $1. If each of the men paid $27 (9x3) and the bellhop kept $2, (27+2=29) then where did the extra dollar go?
There could not be a more perfect analogy for the problem of God's sovereignty and human responsibility.  The problem resolves, or should I say vanishes, when viewed properly, and yet becomes formidable when viewed improperly.


Brendan Burnett said...

Concerning Free Will, does the Arminians really say "... I have no scripture to back this up..."? Also, does he say God "doesn't tamper with it"? I've never known any informed Arminian to say that. Have you never read about Jacobus Arminius' doctrine of concurrence? If God doesn't want a creature t do something, he can choose to override that possibility. So God is still in control, even if he doesn't causally predetermine each action we do.

Phil said...

Hey Brendan,
But if God overrides their decision, then that doesn't seem very sporting does it? Seems like the only place to end up from that admission is Calvinism...

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