Sheep Ministries -
GODS SOVEREIGNTY AND MANS FREE WILL: A MYSTERIOUS PARADOX
by Henry M. Morris
Everyone of sound mind is conscious continually of facing and making decisions of many kinds. Yet, when he makes such a decision, he must recognize that there have been many factors beyond his control which affected his decision. In fact, it could even be argued that if all such factors could be analyzed, it would turn out that it was actually inevitable that he would make the particular decision he did. His decision was really his own, and therefore, he is responsible for it, and yet at the same time it was foreordained certainty that he would make that decision!
This seems on the face of it contradictory, and yet it is somehow intrinsic in the nature of things. The problem itself is independent of whether a person believes in God or not. It has an exact counterpart in the scientific realm. Many scientists believe in determinism which states that, if all the characteristics of all particles could be determined at any one instant, it would be theoretically possible to calculate all subsequent positions of the particles and, therefore, that all events were fundamentally pre-determined by the initial conditions when the universe began. Conversely, the famous principle of uncertainty says in effect that, since it must always be theoretically impossible to measure both the location and position of any given particle at any instant, one can never predict its future behavior. In that sense, therefore, every such particle is free. This paradox is also reflected in the well-known problem of the dual nature of light, which behaves both as a wave motion and as a particle motion, even though these seem superficially to be mutually exclusive.
In the psychological realm, the term behaviorism is often applied to the system teaching that the actions of each person are directly caused by generic and environmental factors over which he has no control and for which he therefore has no responsibility. This, of course, must be somehow balanced against the psychological awareness by each rational person that he does to some extent at least have freedom to make decisions and to control his own behavior.
The only really satisfactory resolution of these basic paradoxes is to recognize that both sides of the coin are real, even though we can view only one side at a time. It is like the two parallel lines which finally come together at a distance of infinity.
It is not contradictory, therefore, but rather complimentary, to hold that man determines his own decisions and actions and yet also to recognize that God in some inscrutable way has foreordained those very things. Although admitting we cannot really understand this paradox, we can accept both aspects of it by faith and then act accordingly, trusting God to make it all clear in eternity.
The most important decision of all, or course, is the decision to accept or reject Gods offer of eternal salvation through the LORD Jesus Christ. All other decisions and their corresponding actions are either contributory to, or derivative from, this decision. The relation between predestination and free will is most clearly brought to focus on this question.
One thing seems quite certain the Scriptures teach that both Gods sovereignty and mans free responsibility are components of this supremely important decision. The Bible emphasizes the universal fact of sin and guilt on mans part. As it is written, There is none righteous, no not one
..that all the world may become guilty before God (Rom. 3:10 & 19). It also stresses that the death and resurrection of the LORD Jesus were of adequate universality and efficacy to atone for the sin and guilt of all men everywhere. He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world (1 Jn. 2:2.
..that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man (Heb. 2:9).
God, in His own Word, offers this great salvation freely to anyone who will simply believe and receive it as an unmerited gift. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our LORD (Rom. 6:23). Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely (Rev. 22:17). Also, each man is held responsible for the consequences of making a wrong decision. He that believeth not the Son shall not see life but the wrath of God abideth on him (Jn. 3:36). The LORD Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels. In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our LORD Jesus Christ (2 Th. 1:7 & 8).
It is clear, therefore, that every person, without exception, can be saved if he wants to be, by coming in simple faith to accept LORD Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. And yet, we also read that Jesus said, No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him (Jn. 6:44). He also said, Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you (Jn. 15:16). When the gospel was preached, it was said that As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed (Ac. 13:48).
A person who has accepted Christ and been born again through faith in Him knows that he has done so voluntarily. Yet, when he reflects more carefully, he sees that many different circumstances his family background, his friends, his personal difficulties, the messages and testimonies he has heard, the Scriptures he has read have all contributed to that decision.
The he begins to see that God was working in his life long before he came to the actual point of decision. Its as though he had come to a single great doorway in an endless wall, over which was inscribed the words: By Me, if any man enter, he shall be saved (Jn. 10:9). And so, he voluntarily accepts the invitation and enters the door. To his astonished gratitude, he finds himself in a magnificent paradise stretching as far as he can see. Glancing back at the gateway through which he had entered, he is amazed that there is no gate to be seen at all. Instead, on the wall are emblazoned the words: Chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4).
Although we cannot in our present finite understanding completely resolve the mystery surrounding Gods determinate counsel and foreknowledge (Ac. 2:23), we may nevertheless derive great joy and strength from His assurance that we who have acknowledged His Son as LORD and Savior have been predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11).
For those who are not yet believing Christians, on the other hand, the issue remains one of human responsibility either to live a life of absolute holiness and sinless perfection from birth to death (as did Jesus Christ), or else to come in repentant faith to that One who died for mans sin and was raised for his justification. For it is written that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life (Jn. 3:15).
- From The Bible Has the Answer