Free Will and God’s Sovereignty

So a while back I wrote a post that espoused what might seem like an extremely Calvinistic (for me) about the sovereignty of God.

I want to try and reconcile what I said then with what I also believe to be true: that we as people have free will.

I think this is true primarily for philosophical reasons: the absence of free will, I believe, undermines our capacity for knowledge and results in a radical skepticism.

I also think that belief in free will is in line with the teaching of scripture.

Equally prevalent in scripture, however, is a strong notion of divine sovereignty.

This presents a tension within the text of scripture itself.  That tension, I believe, is an accurate reflection of life, and therefore I don’t think it can simply be resolved.

In very broad terms, here is how this tension seems to play out:

  1. God is sovereign. He chooses whom he will to be his. This has nothing to do with their meriting being chosen, it is entirely up to God and his purposes.
  2. People are free. God’s choosing us may not be up to us, but fulfilling our being chosen is. God’s choosing people is not a blank check, it’s a calling with great responsibility and high expectations. Whether we will be true and faithful to that calling is what we must choose. The fulfillment or working out of our salvation is up to us (at least in the sense of cooperation) even if the initial calling is not.

We see this played out in scripture, for instance, in the example of the people of Israel.

Read through Deuteronomy and you will notice both these themes coming out over and over again- Moses tells the people they have been chosen by God (and not because they deserve it).

Then he urges them repeatedly to choose to follow God in their calling and to be faithful to what he commands.

The New Testament seems to me to suggest a similar tension.

What’s more, our lives seem to reflect this tension.

God has worked mightily in our lives as Christians in a way that perhaps we did not seek and certainly we did not deserve.

Yet, it seems all too apparent to most of us that we are responsible for how we live out and work out our lives after that (and before it). And unfortunately it is all too apparent that we frequently live and work out our lives badly.

Thankfully, God is not limited by us, nor does he abandon us.

The Grace that found us also wants to transform us.


What do you think? I would love to hear from you, please share your thoughts. Just remember to be respectful of others.

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