Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sovereignty and Free Will

This is a very short blog for your consideration: food for thought, as it were. As I prepared to teach Sunday School this week, on the topic of God giving Christians the Holy Spirit as a "Helper" to enable us to obey His commands and escape from temptation, I read this fascinating passage. All passages in the Bible are excellent, and this one is especially helpful for the purpose of clarifying the way I see man's freedom and God's Sovereignty.

[This relates to the Sunday School lesson because God allows us to either give in to temptation and will discipline us, or accept His day-to-day grace and escape temptation, as He promised. God allows this choice, and yet is Sovereign.]

Consider, then, the following passage in which a messenger of the Lord delivers to David a message of discipline:

1 Chronicles 21:11-12
So Gad came to David and said to him, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Choose for yourself, either three years of famine, or three months to be defeated by your foes with the sword of your enemies overtaking you, or else for three days the sword of the LORD—the plague in the land, with the angel of the LORD destroying throughout all the territory of Israel.’”

In this, we see that God wants David to choose between three options. Yes, God, in his Sovereignty, WILLS that a person make a choice. God could choose for Himself. However, God is the boss, and if He wants a person to choose, then that person will be the one to choose. Why? Because God is in control, and He gets what He wants, according to the counsel of His will.

David gets a choice here. Does that make him in charge? Obviously not! If David was in charge, he wouldn't want to choose any of those punishments; he would choose peace, safety, and prosperity! As you can see, then, David is not in charge, even though he has a choice. God is in charge.


JD said...

Excellently made point! I like it!

Peter Pike said...

I humbly point out that if David's choice is a genuine choice (and I would agree with that assessment) then that will cause problems for you in other areas of theology. In other words, David could not have chosen a "good" option, nor the option he would have desired under the circumstances--as you have said.

But if only being able to choose one of three bad options is still a free choice, then doesn't logic lead us to accept that God could have presented Adam in the Garden with one of three *good* choices, preserved free will, and still had 100% universal salvation?

Skarlet said...


Just to clarify, since I know that you and I generally use the phrase "genuine choice" differently, when I speak of free will and true choices, I do mean that the person could (had the internal ability to) have chosen other than they did. I believe that David determined his choice.

Moving on to your suggestion that this would cause problems for in other areas of theology, I do not follow. I agree that David could not have chosen the option that he wanted; when I use the phrase "free will," I never mean "the ability to get what you want," I simply mean that choices are determined by self. David determined his response to the three options, and that was free will -- God was still Sovereign.

You explain that, given my example, logical must lead us to accept the idea that God could have given Adam free will in the Garden of Eden, without giving him the option of sinning.

I agree. God didn't have to put the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the garden. In such a case, Adam would have had many choices in everyday life, and yet would not have the possibility of sinning open to him.

Thus we know that God intentionally allowed the fall. He didn't have to give man that possibility, even to having a being with free will who thinks and chooses. In fact, animals think and chooses, and yet they do not have the option of sinning, since they are not moral beings. This intentionality must lead us to wonder why God did permit sin. Was it to allow man to choose whether or not to have a close relationship with Him? Was is so that He could demonstrate His love and grace in redeeming mankind? It could be both even.

Peter Pike said...

Hi Skarlet,

The only real "problem" that what you said above would run into is that it undermines the Free Will Defense in respect to the Problem of Evil. Now, since I reject that defense as being applicable in the first place, to me it's not really problematic that your view would oppose the FWD. :-)

Skarlet said...

Hi Peter,

I believe that we actually have talked about this before, and I said that I didn't believe that God had to give man the choice to do evil in order to give them free will. For instance, I believe that God has free will, and God cannot sin. But He does have legitimate self-determined choices.

Like I said, though, God could have desired to allow evil in order to have a voluntary relationship with man.

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