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Is Free Will Subject to God’s Sovereignty?

Rey, otherwise known as Beowulf2k8, has leveled more criticism my way. He has two posts, here and here, that criticize my own Reformed view of the Bible. The second was meant as pure sarcasm, and as such I will not be addressing it. The first one I will address after I clarify a few things.

First, Rey did not adequately respond to Genesis 50:20. He said that Joseph was not an oracle of God, so therefore it represents his erroneous opinion of what God is doing in his life. I countered with the fact that Joseph was an oracle of God, evidenced by the fact that he interpreted dreams, and therefore his opinion in this matter would carry some weight. This statement of God meaning someone’s free will evil for the good of all is inconvenient to Rey’s position that God doesn’t influence human free will.

Second, Rey did not respond to the litany of verses that show God does influence human free will. Among others that can be cited, I specifically cited the following verses (emphasis mine):

  • Exodus 4:21: And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.”
  • Joshua 11:20: For it was the LORD’s doing  to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the LORD commanded Moses.
  • Isaiah 63:17: O LORD, why do you make us wander from your ways
    and harden our heart, so that we fear you not
    ? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage.
  • Romans 9:18: So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

Third, Rey does not contend with the litany of verses cited in favor of God making the decision for Christ for us (emphasis mine):

  • John 1:9-13: The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.   He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of a human decision nor of the will of man, but of God.
  • 1Pet. 1:3:   Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead
  • John 6:44:   “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.
  • John 6:61-65:   Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you?  What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!  The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.  Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.  He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”
  • Acts 2:45-47: And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.   And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,  praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
  • Acts 16:13-14: And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together.   One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.

Fourth, Rey does nothing with my philosophical discourse on God’s foreordination. Rey merely continues to perpetuate the error that Calvinism teaches that God reduces human beings to puppets. He does this with no evidence from any Calvinist document that allegedly teaches this.

Now, on to the arguments that Rey did answer:

David’s prayers are his personal opinion except when they are Messianic prophecies. They are only inspired in the sense of being accurate historical accounts of what he prayed. That’s also why his lie in Psalm 51:4 “Against you only have I sinned” is there for the whole world to see as a bold-faced lie. This is no low view of Scripture nor does it argue against inspiration.

It must be nice to have this simplistic view of Scripture, to not have to wrestle with it or to not have to wonder why there are oftentimes things that are outright evil. But, if it is in the Bible it is there for a reason and we must wrestle with it.

Now, what about the following psalms that are not messianic prophecies? Are they true or false? And, more importantly, how do you know they are true or false?

  • Psalm 11:7: For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.
  • Psalm 18:30: This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
  • Psalm 19:7: The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is  sure, making wise the simple;
  • Psalm 25:3: Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
  • Psalm 34:4: I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
  • Psalm 47:2, 9: For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth. The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted!
  • Psalm 84:11: For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
  • Psalm 89:17: For you are the glory of their strength; by your favor our horn is exalted.
  • Psalm 92:15: [T]o declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
  • Psalm 145:17: The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.

Next, Rey admits my position is correct when he says this gem: “To turn a man’s heart to evil or incline a man’s heart to evil, would be to not only entice, but really force a man to do evil.” So, then, sir, you admit that compatibilisim is correct in the sense that man will always follow his strongest desire. Okay, thank you, we can now move on.

Rey says that I have nothing to back up the assertion that compatibilism is true. Okay, what about all of the Scripture that he refuses to deal with? What about that evidence? Okay, moving on.

Now, Rey says this:

If you are right, then God is simply pure evil. If I am right, then God is pure Good. If neither of us are right, then there is no God. Either way, I win and you lose, because I will live a better life than you.

How is God evil if I’m right? By the way, I have tons of Scripture that backs my position, as I’ve shown above. Yet, I believe that God is pure good. If neither of us are right, it does not follow that God does not exist because there are plenty of other views of God’s sovereignty versus man’s free will that fall in between the extremes that the two of us defend, like Molinism. Maybe one of the other views is correct and we are just flapping our gums.

It further does not follow that you will live a better life than I will. I follow the entire Bible, not just the parts that fit with my dogmatic view of God. If anyone is going to live the better life, it is me. But I really can’t make that assertion either, because, as Jesus said, “There is none good except God alone.” We are both, in the end, still sinners and fall under God’s condemnation.

Further, the Bible tells us not to judge our fellow brothers in Christ.

The difference between our viewpoints is that I believe that God will save me to the uttermost, while you believe that salvation is only possible. I believe in a secure salvation, you believe in one that is only possible, if only someone just believes in it. God is begging you, take the free gift! He won’t interfere with free will, it’s up to you!

Sorry, God doesn’t beg. He doesn’t need any of us, he already has the Son and the Spirit for eternal fellowship. The amzing part of Reformed theology isn’t that God lets sinners perish by not electing them, it’s that he elects any of us at all! We should be grateful for that election.

Finally, Rey says:

If a molecule can overthrow your crappy god if he released micromanagerial control of it for a second, then he is no god at all. If you can’t see that, not only are you an unrepentant evil man seeking to justify your sins, but you’re a hopeless idiot.

I never made the assertion that a maverick molecule could overthrow God, simply that if one was outside of God’s control then he is not soverign and we have no assurance of anything. The God that I worship has control of every molecule and every human free will decision, none of it falls outside of his plan or surprises him.

In Rey’s view, which I now assume is open theism, human will is truly libertarian and therefore can fall outside of God’s perfect plan or surprise him. This means that God cannot plan for contingencies since he, like an ordinary human, doesn’t know what they will be.

The view that human free will can subvert God’s perfect plan is the view that denigrates God. Why would he create a world over which he is not sovereign? More importantly, why would so many Scriptures (cf. 2 Sam 7:22; Is 37:16, 44:6, 45:21-22; Jd 24-25; Rev 6:10) declare him sovereign if he was not? It doesn’t make sense.

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About Cory Tucholski

I'm a born-again Christian, amateur apologist and philosopher, father of 3. Want to know more? Check the "About" page!

Posted on May 3, 2009, in Apologetics, Heresy, Theology and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. “Is Free Will Subject to God’s Sovereignty?”

    The real question is the meaning of Sovereignty. To the Calvinist Sovereignty means micromanagement, but in no other group or sphere is Sovereignty understood to mean that. Sovereignty is generally understood to refer to the rulership of an Emperor as opposed to a vassal. A vassal, although king, has a higher over him, and is therefore not Sovereign. But the Emperor, being the absolute top, is Sovereign. Yet, the Emperor does not make all the decissions for his vassals and zap the decessions directly into their brains. Nay, but he expects them to make their own decisions, then he judges them when they make the wrong ones. He does not himself make them make the wrong decisions. Look at the parable of the talents. The Lord as Emperor gives his vassals money and opportunity to make a decision to do with that money as they will. When he returns from his journey to judge them, he chides the one talent man not because he only gave him one talent of silver, but because the man made the wrong choice of what to do with it. And the language used is clear enough to show that he did not zap this wrong decision into the man’s brain!

    And yes, the Jews being ignorant of the true God, as the Lord tell them, many times fell into the error of thinking that God made them do evil, as your quote of Isaiah 63:17 shows. But Jesus clearly tells them they do not really know God as they think, “my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God:” (John 8:54) In reality, Jesus’ Father was never the God of the Jews, for their notions of God were so far off from what God is really like that there is hardly any comparison of the true God with their false notions about God. This is one of the reasons why the coming of Jesus was necessary for man to truly know God, and why John says in John 1:18 “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”

    Note how John contradicts the OT by saying “No man hath seen God at any time.” Does not the OT say that Moses saw God in Exodus 33:23? Does not Jacob say that he has seen God face to face in Genesis 32:30? Did not Manoah say to his wife “We shall surely die, because we have seen God”? Did not Daniel see the Ancient of Days in visions? Did not Ezekiel see him riding on a chariot of cherubim? Did not Isiah see him on his throne, as he says in Isaiah 6:1 “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple”????? According to John, every last one of these Old Testament figures and writers is simply WRONG–they NEVER saw God despite their claims to having seen him–only JESUS has seen God, and therefore only JESUS can reveal God to us, not the Old Testament prophets. The same essential point is made by the mount of transfiguration–forget Moses and Elijah, HEAR JESUS. But the Calvinist is oblivious. Because the OT writers have a lower view of God, a view that makes God a petty man of genocide and turning men’s hearts to evil, they believe the erroneous claims of its writers that they saw or knew God when they did not. Like Paul, the Calvinist is deceived by his Phariseeism into having a higher view of the OT than he ought.

  2. “I never made the assertion that a maverick molecule could overthrow God”–Perhaps not, but I recognized the concept of a “maverick molecule” as coming from Piper, who in a certain book made a statement that if God allowed any molecule out of his control it could OVERTHROW him–Piper used the exact word “overthrow,” and I, recognizing that you are borrowing this concept from Piper, assumed you probably agree with him in that.

  3. “The view that human free will can subvert God’s perfect plan is the view that denigrates God.”

    I never said that human free will can subvert God’s plan. Human free will IS God’s plan. God has given everyone free will to see what they will do with, so that, in the end, he can punish those who abuse it and reward those who use it aright, as Jesus says in John 5:28-9 “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”

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