Friday, February 6, 2015

God is sovereign? But--*gasp*--that must mean we are robots!!!

Or does it?

If God has written out our story from eternity past, do we have a choice to live out our lives the way we want to? And really, this question sounds pretty selfish, but this same question is the one many people will turn to again and again to try and disprove that God is at complete liberty to shape His creation how He wills. In the end, it all boils down to this same question that Paul asked almost 2,000 years ago:

Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?
 (Rom 9:21 NASB)
I know a good many friends and acquaintances who might mumble a begrudged "yes" to this question, but in reality--if they were completely honest--"no" would be their answer. "God's created us with free will!" they are quick to point out. "We have choices; we're not robots!"
But hold on a second, don't we want God to be in total control over His creation? If the Lord is not sovereign, than how are we to rest in the promises He has made us? Can we still have that peace that surpasses all understanding--that peace that says "God's got a plan, and all these things, good or bad, are working out together for our good"--if we don't believe He is completely sovereign?
No, I would say, not really.
A this point, some of you might be thinking, "Wow, Kyle, I didn't know you were one of those whacky people who believe man doesn't have free will!" Don't worry; I'm not. In fact, I believe in both God's sovereignty and man's free will. Our choices really do matter. We aren't robots. But yet, I also believe just as emphatically that God is completely sovereign!
The idea seems completely incompatible, doesn't it? But before you dismiss me as crazy (which, depending on your definition, I may or may not be) ;0), take a look at these verses:
Proverbs 20:24 NASB - Man's steps are ordained by the LORD, How then can man understand his way?
Proverbs 16:9 NASB - The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps
Proverbs 19:21 NASB - Many plans are in a man's heart, But the counsel of the LORD will stand.
Proverbs 16:1 NASB - The plans of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD
I know I blinked a few times when I first read these verses. What if it is true that despite man planning his way, God is still in control of his steps? What if despite our free will, God is still in control of every decision that we make? These verses seem to say so, and as I have studied this topic more and more in Scripture, I am more and more convinced that this is the correct balance to have to this whole debate between God's sovereignty vs. man's free will. Both are true. Man really does make choices. God really is sovereign over everything, from when the lowly deer or mountain goat will give birth or when the hawk will soar (Job 39), on up to every decision man makes--even man's decision to sin.
And yes, this is just about precisely the time my friends who err more on the side of man's free will will argue something like: "But Kyle, God NEVER forces man to sin!" I wholeheartedly agree. Our holy, holy, holy Lord never forces anyone to sin. Yet, I still believe our sin never catches God off guard. He has never resorted to a "Plan B". So yes, by definition then, I would say that even sin is not outside of God's plan. When we choose to sin, it is a terrible, terrible thing. We should repent and live righteously, but what if God almighty can even use the ugly things in our lives to fulfill His purposes?

Take a close look at these passages:
This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.
(Act 2:23 NASB)
"For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.
(Act 4:27-28 NASB)
So wait, it was clearly a sin to crucify the Son of God, and Peter affirms in Acts 2:23 that the men who nailed Jesus to the cross will be held fully responsible for their heinous actions, but yet . .. this sin was still all part of God's plan?
 And this is not the only instance in the Bible where God uses man's sin to bring about His plan. Really, there are quite a few. Another great example is Israel's rejection of their Messiah. That was clearly sin, and Jesus was genuinely grieved by this sin when He said in Mathew 23:37:  Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling." I think you would agree with me, though, that Jesus was not distraught because somehow His purpose for coming to Earth had been thwarted by the Jews unbelief. In fact, it was all part of God's plan so that we Gentiles could be "grafted in"--and so that ultimately, Israel could be brought back to God. (see Romans 11)
How amazing to believe that despite the terrible things--evil, godless things-- that have happened or will happen in the world, God can and will still use them to work together all things to both bring glory to Himself and for the good of His chosen people! Does this mean that we should have a nonchalant attitude towards sin and evil? No, definitely not! As God's people, we have been given the task of destroying fortresses of evil and everything that raises itself up against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5), and we should be constantly striving to put off our "old self" as we clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience through the Holy Spirit. (Colossians 3:12-17) In short, we must as Christians continually desire to become more like Christ! However, with God's sovereignty over sin in mind, we need not be dismayed over anything that happens in our world. Now that is the peace that surpasses all understanding!
 I can only conclude with Paul:

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
(Rom 11:33-36 NASB)
Amen indeed!



  1. What a great discussion Kyle. I enjoyed reading your thoughts, and I agree with your conclusions. So have you been studying Reformed theology recently? Or is this just a combination of thoughts?

  2. Hi Elanee,

    Thank you for the note! Yes, in the past 6 months or so, I have really been studying Reformed Theology. It has been very interesting and very fruitful to study the topic of God's sovereignty and what the implications are in a practical and theological sense if this really is true. So yes, this post was vastly affected by my studies, and also my discussions with my "unreformed" (they don't like to be called Armenian) friends.

    I heard from Evan that you are thinking a lot on Reformed Theology yourself. I bet your parents and bro are giving you plenty of ideas to think about in that regard, but if you would like my thoughts as a fellow sibling in Christ, I would be happy to continue a discussion on RT either here or through e-mail. :0) I believe wholeheartedly that Reformed Theology is the best way to interpret the infallible Word of God.

    In Christ!

  3. Thanks for the post! I agree with you in these things, but I would not call it Reformed theology. To me that has more to do with your belief about the doctrines of salvation. Do you believe that man is able to choose not to be saved? ;)

    BTW, Andrew Peterson wrote an awesome song about Romans 11. You should look it up.

  4. Thanks for the comment, Kate. Can a man chose not to be saved? Actually, man doesn't want to be saved in and of themselves. Before God saved us, we were _dead_ in our trespasses and sin. (Ephesians 2:1-5) A dead man can't choose life. He's dead. It's only through the Lord drawing us that we come to Christ, and all who the father draws will be saved. (John 6:37-44) So yes and no to your question, I guess. If you're talking about a man who is not one of the elect, he has and will choose not to be saved, for that is his nature. If you are talking about a man who has been chosen by God, than no, he won't choose not to be saved because God has given him a thirst that will only be fulfilled by drinking the living water of Christ!