Just thinking about God, Providence, and Free-will


Switching gears here. Let’s go from the topic of strong wills to free wills, shall we?

I no longer have any doubts as to God’s sovereignty over all things. The question becomes, How far does God take His sovereignty? (Well, sovereign is sovereign).

And I’ve heard questions and defenses like this: “Oh, but what about free will? God wants people who choose to love Him. He doesn’t want robots. You can’t have a personal relationship with God if He controls our wills. His greatest gift to us is freedom to choose.”

I’m not sure where to begin. I did not intend to write this particular post. The kids and I are memorizing the questions and answers regarding providence, so it’s on my mind. In a fit of frustration with myself, I sat down to share my feelings about how nice it would be for God to just completely take over my will. I’m sure there are problems with that line of thinking, but in too much thinking I’ve opened a can of worms for myself. Now I’m playing with them.

First worm, what is free will?
Free will involves the question of whether or not thinking people have real control over their decisions and actions. We could also discuss what “free” means in this context, but it is moot to me because our wills are not totally free in that we are bound by sin. This is Wayne Grudem’s definition in the glossary of his Systematic Theology:

Free will with respect to man: The ability to make willing choices that have real effects (however, other people define this in other ways, including the ability to make choices that are not determined by God).

As evidenced by our own experience, I doubt that anyone would argue that we definitely have the ability to make willing choices that have real effects. We make real decisions that have real consequences all day long.

Second worm, how does my freedom to make real choices reconcile with God’s real sovereignty over all things?

This is a big worm, and I have too much real life going on right now to stop and play with it. I am choosing to walk away from this screen and keyboard. Talk amongst yourselves. I’ll be back tomorrow.

7 Comments on “Just thinking about God, Providence, and Free-will

  1. You and I embrace the same biblical truths. That said…it is still a marriage of mystery that I too grapple with at times. Great worms… I mean questions 🙂

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  2. Hvae you ever read Jerry Bridges book “Trusting God Even When Life Hurts”. This book helped us tremendously in growing in the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. The one place I can still struggle is how God is sovereign over peoples choice and the effect that has on others. One thing he points out is our inability to grasp some of this truth…that’s not all he says but that helps me to be at peace and take God’s sovereignty one cirucmstance at a time. The big picture is overwhelming. I am interested to follow this post.

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  3. GOOD WORMS!!!!! LOVE IT!!!ALL I know is that I’m thankful that nothing can thwart His plans! Man can plan his steps, but it’s the Lord’s will that WILL prevail! : )

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  4. “This is a big worm, and I have too much real life going on right now to stop and play with it. I am choosing to walk away from this screen and keyboard. Talk amongst yourselves. I’ll be back tomorrow.” I think I know what can of worms you’re talking about, but maybe not. Is it the same can I’m working on? I’m dealing with the concept of God’s “Perfect” Will for My Life which is so popular in Christian theology these days: http://devotions.pragmaticcom.com/2007/10/learning-in-flux.html

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  5. Think of a good book or movie you’ve enjoyed. From the opening lines or scene, the characters are faced with conflict. They may struggly inwardly (drama) or outwardly (action/adventure), but they are having to make choices. In a good movie, you walk away feeling as if you had just been snooping on someone else’s life. You’ve witnessed someone face real conflict and make real choices. If anyone asked you if those characters had made their own choices, you would say that they had.But they didn’t, did they?An author sat down in front of his typewriter or notepad or laptop and he wrote (spoke) these worlds into existence. Before he wrote, there was only a blank page. After he wrote, there was the semblance of life. He created people with feelings, desires, motivations. But these were not real people. He wanted a protagonist, so he created a protagonist that he knew would appeal to readers and would connect with them. He knew the traits he needed to give that character so that those things would happen.He also had a plot. He had a plan. He had something that he wanted to happen in this story, so he gave the emotions and motivations to the characters so that they would realistically accomplish the tasks he had for them.How sovereign is God? How sovereign is any writer over his creations?God has a plan. He has things He intends to and will accomplish. He has created man to fulfill that plan. Not just the race, but each individual is perfectly designed by his Creator with the personality, emotions, motives, etc. to fulfill His purpose. (This is why I find much of the ado over finding God’s will to be ridiculous. God’s will is already being accomplished in your life. And He has designed you so that you will fulfill His purpose. God’s will is inevitable.)It is not a perfect analogy, but it is one that has helped me immensely to understand God’s sovereignty and our (seemingly) free will.

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  6. You are one of my favorite bloggers because you always make me think!

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  7. Love the worm analogy. My son brought home a big one when his class started studying the Great Awakening with Calvin and Wesley. Like you, I played with it a little, then put it back in it’s jar for another day!

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