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How does God's sovereignty work together with free will?



    
    

Clarify Share Report Asked July 01 2013 Mini Anonymous (via GotQuestions)

For follow-up discussion and general commentary on the topic. Comments are sorted chronologically.

Mini Gary Creel

If God is Sovereign, omnipotent and omniscient and created the universe with His knowledge, then would it not be impossible to take any action that God is not aware we will take? Would it not mean that when God created the universe he also created each and every thought we think and every action we take or will ever take in the future?

December 02 2014 Report

Closeup Jennifer Rothnie

By God being sovereign, it does not mean that God must micromanage every thought and action and each movement of a particle in the universe. Rather, it means that God is in utter/final control of everything. That is, everything (all people, nations, physical laws, etc) is subject to God's rule.

You can look under my answer for more details on this, but in short:

A sovereign king sets laws that the people are to obey. They can chose whether to obey or disobey, within the limits of their own strength and means. But if a citizen chooses to disobey, then they are still subject to the laws of the king, and face judgement.

This is why even if we disobey God (as all men do) we stand condemned by God's rules. However, if we accept the pardon offered by God through Christ, then we can take this free gift offered by the Judge of all and escape condemnation. (John 3:16-21, Gal 4:1-7).

As to the second dilemma: God did not look forward 'into the future', and then later pass through time Himself unsurprised. Rather it is more like God 'fills' time, or is outside of time, whichever makes it easier to picture. God is not 'surprised' then as He sees the end from the beginning, but we freely act (or act within limitations would be a better phrase) inside of time. God does not 'pick' or decree all the actions/thoughts we do, as easily seen from verses like Jer 19:5.

Even Jesus, when He entered time to become the sacrifice for our sins, freely obeyed His father's will. (Heb 5:7-10)

December 02 2014 Report

Mini Gary Creel

A king is not God. A human king doesn't know what is going to happen in the future and did not create the events that would lead up to what will occur.

Think of life as a novel and God is the author. God has freewill to write whatever He wants, but the characters in the story, that would be humans, have no ability to do anything other than what was written by God and therefore we have no freewill to change anything in God's story of mankind. We can only do what God wants us to do and can change nothing.

December 02 2014 Report

Closeup Jennifer Rothnie

A human king is not God, but God is a sovereign king. That is what sovereignty is; royalty, reign, dominion, authority, kingdom. "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever." (Rev 11:15)

As such, God as Supreme King rules over all. This does not mean he chooses out every action or motion. For example, if you throw a ball into the air, do you have to hold onto it to make it fall down again? No, gravity and physics take care of its trajectory. Those are natural 'laws' that God has set in place. He does not need to direct the path of the ball, as His laws dictate it's movement.

Unlike an object, a person is capable of self-directed motion, action, and thought. These are all limited by God's natural laws as well (we can't fly on our own power even if we wished to, for example). Our ability to choose obedience or disobedience (and hence be punished) is a mark of the power of God's rule.

Men often do what God does not wish them to do, though not outside their own limits, and man cannot achieve righteousness by his own power.

"They have built the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as offerings to Baal—something I did not command/order or mention/speak, nor did it enter my mind." Jer 19:5

God desires all men to be saved, but not all men are (I Tim 2:1-7).

Though, Jesus is the author of our salvation in the sense of "founder/leader/source" (Acts 3:15, Heb 2:10, Heb 5:9).

December 02 2014 Report

Mini Gary Creel

Can you take any action that God doesn't know you are going to take before you take it?

Can you think any thought that God didn't know you were going to think before you thought it?

Did God create everything based on His knowledge of what each and everyone of us will do before we do it?

December 03 2014 Report

Closeup Jennifer Rothnie

1) No, but that does not mean that God chose the action or approves of it
2) No, but that does not mean that God chose the thought or approves of it (Jer 19:5)

3) No. While His knowledge/eternal state outside of time are certainly factors, He created everything based on His own divine counsel of what was best. This includes His Glory, His mercy, His love, His justice, His plan, His design, etc.

As to the plan of Salvation though, the actions of humans would have factored in (As, He knew we would fall, He knew we could not achieve salvation via works, He knew the ideal time in human history to reveal Christ, etc). However, even in this God would have considered His glory/character/justice/mercy most of all.

It might be helpful to imagine God looking -backward- through time and collapsing options (In Quantum mechanics, related to the idea of Schrodinger's cat, an omniscient observer at the end-point looking back at the universe would be able to "observe" all points in time, and theoretically collapse equal options and hence determine them). While this is also not an accurate view of God and time, it helps to get 'outside the box' of imagining God at the beginning of time and then traveling through it.

December 10 2014 Report

Mini Edwin Danny Reaid

Out of the mouth of babies. My grandson was talking of someone being awesome and I stated, there was only one who is awesome. I know he said, God. I asked him, if God was speaking to you, could you turn Him down? My grandson replied, "not if He is awesome". So, who is it that has displayed a power of their own to reject an awesome God? One in power my delegate authority but in the end maintains the responsibility for the outcome. Because we don't understand how something works does not mean that it is not -so.

February 18 2015 Report

Img 0360 Terry Gillard

Just as an example of how the juxtaposition of God's sovereign will somehow works with our will.

Consider Cain; God warned him - master the sin entering your life (Gen 4:7) He - the Almighty - allowed Cain to make a decision that would affect all mankind; It was God's will that Cain resist: But it was Cain's will that chose to not resist.
Yet, at the same time, God had already put in motion the plan of salvation: so we can be set free.
God's power in "my" life only ever breaks through into "my" life when "I" decide to follow God's divine plan.

February 18 2015 Report

Closeup Jennifer Rothnie

The one in power only maintains responsibility in the sense of giving out final justice. Is a king or judge responsible for the crimes of the robber? Only that they have charge over law and justice; they are not personally responsible for the crime. That is, one can say God is responsible as in having care over us and being 'at the helm', so to speak. He's 'responsible' for the management of all humankind. But He is not responsible in the sense of primary cause of a sin/action/choice of man, hence blamable or creditable for it.

Jer 19:1-6 tells how the Judah will be judged for forsaking God and turning to idols, even sacrificing their children to Baal, a thing which God never commanded or mentioned, nor did it ever enter God's mind. God here was responsible to see that justice was done; he was not the instigator nor a culpable party in the sin of Judah.

Also, there are many who rejected God despite God's awesomeness. Israel repeated that cycle often. They saw God's majesty in the fire and were awed (Deut 5:23-33), yet quickly turned (Deut 9:7-29). Despite that God's presence traveled along with the Israelites, they rebelled countless times. Was God responsible for their rebellion? Only in the sense of commanding officer/final arbiter of justice/king. He was not responsible for their choice to turn from Him, He demanded the opposite (Deut 10:12-22).

As Terry mentions, God had already set the plan of salvation in place that would allow sinful man to be reconciled.

February 18 2015 Report

Mini Nils Jansma

The one obvious explanation that is gaining popularity which resolves this issue is called Molinism. Stated very simply, the reason God infallibly knows the future is because, for Him, the future has already happened. The physical description of this is called God's Middle Knowledge. Apparently, God is able to actualize, meaning to make a reality, of only one of a variety of possible outcomes. That means before an event is actualized, God sort of plays it in advance with us as the real actors all motivated by free will. Apparently, we are not conscious of these events because they happen “out of time.” It isn’t until God chooses to actualize the events “in time” that we become aware of our actions. So, when an outcome harmonizes with God’s purpose, He actualizes that reality.

Basically, we are all the product of a giant spreadsheet with the variables changed to accomplish God's purpose. That is the reason God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:9-10). That is why Jesus knew Peter would deny him (Matthew 26:75). Using this reasoning explains how God even knows what would happen without it ever happening. This is called a counter factual event. An example of this is found at 1 Samuel 23:9-13, where David asked God if Saul would try to capture him and if the city he (David) took refuge in would deliver him up to Saul. God said "yes" to both questions. So, David left the area and Saul hearing about it, didn't bother to try to capture him. So, neither of those events happened, but we are to assume that if David had stayed in the city, Saul would have definitely captured him. This knowledge should be comforting to all of us because apparently the Devil underestimated God from the beginning because the issue he raised had already been resolved in God’s favor from before the foundation of the world (1Peter 1:20).

February 18 2015 Report

Mini Edwin Danny Reaid

Mans "Nature" goes against - Of God, his absolute right to do all things according to his own good pleasure, which is sovereignty defined and just having a foreknowiedge of something does not acknowledge being in "Control". God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. No action on His part is an action. If there is a molecule traveling anywhere in this Universe that is outside of His control then He is not God. This is difficult for many to accept - due to man's desire to be in control vice God.

February 18 2015 Report

Mini Edwin Danny Reaid

God is in control and we. See it in the story of Joseph : 19 But Joseph said to them, "Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
Genesis 50:19-20

February 18 2015 Report

Closeup Jennifer Rothnie

God set the laws that govern molecules - so He does not need to babysit them. Even quantum particles are subject to His laws. He does not need to push them around, or ensure that they go where He wants - as their movements must conform to the physical laws and limits that God made. In the same way, God does not need to micromanage the ocean. It cannot exceed its bounds, go past its limits, or act in a manner contrary to the nature God gave it.

Nothing is outside of God's control. However, God's 'control' does not mean that He is incapable of delegating or allowing 'free action' within proscribed limits. Indeed, if He had to micromanage and could not trust His word to uphold His limits and laws, then that would not be a true omnipotent and sovereign God (any more than a boss who could not trust His commands and policies to be implemented, but had to do everything himself, would be a 'good boss').

Rather, God's control means He sets the laws and limits, and punishment for humans who violate those laws. In the case of salvation, He set the plan before time began that salvation would be through faith. The means (Christ's death) was also planned before time.

Gen 50:19-20 shows that man may indeed violate the commands and will of God, but that God's plans (salvation, works inside history, etc) are not affected by this. Just because man has issues calculating with several variables or seemingly unknown variables doesn't mean God cannot cope with infinite variables.

February 19 2015 Report

Mini Edwin Danny Reaid

There is a difference in Believing in God and to actually Believe God. Believe and Faith are synonyms. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8 Now, recognizing that believe and Faith are synonyms is it something we generate? We could never pray for anyone to be saved for God could take no action in violation of a man's Freewill choice or it would not be Freewill. As it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. Romans 3:10-11. In prayer we are asking God do something and if man truly has a Freewill we cannot ask Him to violate his will. We would be insisting that he remains without Christ

February 19 2015 Report

Closeup Jennifer Rothnie

In Eph 2:8 salvation is the gift, by grammar (neuter 'that' vs. feminine 'faith'), and by context. Scripture frequently points out that salvation is of God through faith; we cannot save ourselves through works (Eph 2:1-10). It may refer to salvation that encompasses grace/faith. (Such as if it said 'salvation by faith is the gracious gift of God, so that no man can boast his works earned salvation') The sentence could also be translated, "For by grace you are saved, on account of faith, and this not of you; God’s is the gift". This fits well with Phil 1:27-30.

We can only have faith because of Christ - without Christ there would be no Messiah to believe in, and certainly man could not have come up with a way to save Himself, as Rom 3:9-20 points out. All men are under the power of sin. No man but Christ could bring salvation (Is 63:4-6). The faith we have is in Christ is from God sending Christ, not our own ideas, working, proof, or imagination.

As to your questions on freewill, these seem to be more philosophy than scripture.

https://ebible.com/questions/3317-how-does-god-s-sovereignty-work-together-with-free-will#answer-17091
https://ebible.com/questions/7882-is-salvation-created-by-faith-or-is-faith-created-by-salvation#answer-14614
https://ebible.com/questions/1234-what-is-calvinism-and-is-it-biblical-what-are-the-five-points-of-calvanism#answer-17319
https://ebible.com/questions/1239-is-monergism-or-synergism-correct#answer-17977

February 19 2015 Report

Mini Edwin Danny Reaid

Scripture is to be interpreted with reference to all other Scripture.
In that no words or expressions are to be isolated or interpreted in a way contrary to its general teaching - analogy of faith. The Law of Non-contradiction states that contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time, e.g. the two propositions "A is B" and "A is not B" are mutually exclusive. The mystery is not the debate of the two views and how they work together, but why a Sovereign God has elected to carry out His plan in the way he has predetermined according to the purpose of his will. Many churches approach is "pragmatism". Why? They have large numbers and it seems to be working - " if it works do it". If we look at things from the view God is (truly) sovereign and Doctrine is important then our focus moves to Preaching the Word as commanded and allow Him determine who comes. In the beginning I thought I had made the choice, but I now realize that if He had not first changed my heart to be receptive to the Word I would have never "believed". To truly die to self we need to recognize God is Sovereign and "It is all about Him and not about me".

February 19 2015 Report

Closeup Jennifer Rothnie

Scripture, in reference to other scripture, as posted here and elsewhere on eBible, shows that God in his sovereignty has given us the choice to obey or disobey, and the penalty of death for all those who disobey. Yet no man could obey 100%, as we are all sinners. So God, in His sovereignty, before 'time' began, set up a plan whereby humans could be saved not by our own insufficient works, but by faith in Christ. Those who reject this offer remain under condemnation (John 3:16-18).

"God is sovereign", and "Man can make choices/actions inside the limits God has given him (law of gravity, physical limitations, limited knowledge, etc) are in no way contradictory terms. These are not "A or B". Rather, they are 'A or Not A' statements like, "God is sovereign over all, or God is not sovereign over all", or "Man either has complete free-will, or he does not have complete free-will".

Certainly, we can derive the conclusion that man cannot have "complete and utter free-will" from the premise that God is sovereign over everything. But that says nothing about the level of will man has (no freewill at all, limited will, etc).

For example: If I said "Jane is or is not the oldest child", "Crystal is Jane's sister", "Crystal is the oldest Child"; we could easily determine that Jane is not the oldest. But could we say how many siblings are involved? What order Jane falls in? No.

God is sovereign. He set the plan of salvation: faith in Christ.

February 19 2015 Report

Mini Edwin Danny Reaid

If I am crossing the road and a car is barreling down the road - me crossing "A" and car "B" - it is either me or the car - not both. A judge in the court room can have two individuals with the same crimes and he has the full power invested to be lenient with one and give the other maximum punishment. Why? The power is invested in the judge.
John 6:44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

John 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

Rom 9:16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.
Rom 9:21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

February 19 2015 Report

Closeup Jennifer Rothnie

If I say, "Tom was hit by a speeding car", does that automatically mean he died? Perhaps he is merely injured or comatose.

An argument 'A is true or B is true', 'A is true', 'Therefore, B is not true' would be a disjunct fallacy. One must first show the premises are completely exclusive, with no other options available. (Such as 'Either A is true, else B is true').

God's sovereignty is not exclusive with God's revealed offer of salvation through faith in Christ, nor is it exclusive with God in His sovereignty allowing man to believe.

I agree the judge has the power to sentence or be lenient. In this case, God set up that justice was death for all sin (Rom 6:23, John 3:16-18), but by mercy He would offer a pardon through Christ. God according to His own will and council does not offer pardons outside of Christ (John 14:6), justify outside of faith (Rom 3:29-30), nor sentence death to those who have been pardoned (Titus 1:1-3). Since scripture shows us God's character and process in this regard, we should not assume He cannot do what He says He has done and will do.

We are taking over the discussion post so this will be my last comment here. There are many places on eBible where these issues and related scripture are discussed.

February 19 2015 Report

Mini Edwin Danny Reaid

The question based on the verse below: What power does a dead man have?
Eph 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath (quickened) us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

2Th 2:13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because (God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation) through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

Eph 1:4 According as he hath (chosen us in him before the foundation of the world), that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

Eph 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, (according to the good pleasure of his will)

Quote from someone Freewill opponents think believed in Freewill:
Predestination therefore, as it regards the thing itself, is the Decree of the good pleasure of God in Christ, by which He resolved within Himself from all eternity, to justify, adopt, and endow with everlasting life, to the praise of His own glorious grace, believers on whom He had decreed to bestow faith.”
― James Arminius

February 19 2015 Report

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