The Conversation continues…
The truth is of the utmost importance to me. More important than me being perceived as correct. Based on your response below, you identified an area where I might not be understanding you. Please explain how God’s absolute sovereignty and human responsibility work.
I did not mean to imply that you wanted to win an argument or debate. I do see you as a sincere seeker of truth. Let’s do this in parts. We begin with what the Scriptures tell us about the scope of God’s sovereignty. Please take some time and read each verse and its surrounding context.
I. The Scope of God’s sovereignty:
- All a man’s days are ordained by God (Ps. 139:16; Prov. 20:24)
- God does whatever He pleases (Ps. 135:6; Eph. 1:11; Job 42:2)
- God brings about evil/calamity for good purposes (Isa. 45:6-7; Amos 3:6; Job 2:10; 42:11) BUT without doing evil (James 1:13; 1 Jn. 1:5)
- God controls people’s emotions (Gen. 35:5; Exod. 12:36; 2 Sam. 24:1; Isa. 19:14; Prov. 21:1; Neh. 2:12)
- God hardens hearts (Deut. 2:30ff.; 1 Sam. 2:24ff.; Ezek. 38:10, 16ff., 21; Hos. 5:6; 2 Chron. 25:20; Exod. 4:21; 7:3, 13; 8:19; 9:7, 12; 10:20, 27; 11:12; 14:8) *Please note that people also harden their own hearts (Exod. 7:22; 8:15, 32; 9:34-35).
- God has mercy on whom He wants to (Exod. 33:19; Rom. 9:5)
- God grants faith and repentance–these responses to God are gifted (Eph. 2:8-10; Phil. 1:29; 2 Pet. 1:1; 2 Tim. 2:24-26; Acts 11:18; 16:14)
- God elects some to salvation unconditionally (Matt. 11:25-27 [It takes God to know God]; Jn. 6:37-40, 44, 65 [the giving of some to Jesus by the Father is the cause of eternal life]; Acts 13:48; Rom. 8:29-30 w/ Amos 3:1-2 [foreknowing is foreloving]; Eph. 1:3-6; 2 Thess. 2:13; Rev. 13:8; 17:8).
The scope is all encompassing. Not even a sparrow falls to the ground without God’s say-so (Matt. 10:29). It has yet to be proven that God has set up a system that relinquishes His sovereign say-so in salvation over to people endowed with free will. Free will (i.e. having ultimate or decisive determination) is something smuggled into Scripture. I believe that I have provided ample Biblical evidence for man’s pervasive depravity in past emails.
Let’s interact with this first and then we can turn to the passages that point to human responsibility.
Thank you, Adam! Of course this will take some time to go through, but I will get back to you!
Thanks again for continuing the conversation. Based on the below:
Is God’s decreed/hidden will ever in opposition to His moral will? Or are they always aligned? For example, would He ever decree something that was in violation of His revealed will?
You asked, “Are people’s individual choices all God’s sovereign will or can they be in opposition to His will?”
This is a difficult question for me to answer. As I mentioned in previous emails, I do believe that people make real choices and that God holds them responsible for their decisions. No one is a puppet. I have used the term “free moral agency” to describe this. How God brings about His ordained will/plan and keeps choices “real” is mysterious to me. For instance, I encouraged you to read through Ps. 139:16, which teaches us that all a man’s days are ordained. Should God give me 80 years of life, all 29, 200 days were somehow written down in His book and shaped by Him. Ordained is an interesting word. The Hebrew comes from a root word that means to fashion or form or shape. God takes a very active role in our lives, yet He somehow preserves our moral agency.
Just think about all the choices that a person makes that leads them to their final day. The decision to eat unhealthy, work a stressful job, join the Army in a time of military conflict, turn left on Randall Rd. instead of right, take the first flight out instead of the last. It’s staggering.
One of the best examples of how God’s sovereign say-so works with, in and through human decisions is found in the story of Joseph. Joseph’s brothers made real choices to sell Joseph into slavery, but God was at work in and through those decisions to bring about His plan of redemption:
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Gen. 50:20).
This is why we sometimes speak of God’s will in two ways: 1) His revealed moral will; and 2) His hidden will. People oppose God’s revealed will all the time. God’s revealed will tells us not to commit adultery, bear false witness, covet, etc. and people rebel against this on a daily basis. But God’s hidden will involves scores of things that He has not revealed to us (Ex. the date of our death, the return of Christ) or that He only revealed later in the progress of redemption (Ex. Christ crucified, the inclusion of the gentiles into the people of God, etc.). This is sometimes called his “will of decree”. Nothing can stop it; it will always come to pass. Job says, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).
Based on the below, Please help clarify something. Are people’s individual choices all God’s sovereign will or can they be in opposition to His will?
Is this all a puppet show where every individual has a role to play as predestined by God and it is being executed precisely as planned?
Or is this world more like improvisation where we each have an assigned character where God gets us to act based on how He pre-designed us and then guides our behavior by affecting our physical, mental, and spiritual lives via His own external plans?
Or something else? Can you give me a hypothetical visual?
I’m going to punt this one to John Piper for two reasons: 1) I don’t think that I could say it better; and 2) We’re still dealing with some stuff here at home because Ashton suffered a seizure (tests, etc.). I’ll re-read this article as well. Let me know what you think.
Making much of Jesus with you!
I am so sorry to hear about Ashton. I will keep your family in my prayers. We can talk again whenever you are able. Please keep us posted.