The different views between God’s autonomy and man’s free will is an age old debate. There are many ‘heavy’ theological and philosophical books about it. Is there an easier way to understand it, using ‘wholesome thinking?’
# The issue is:
If God is sovereign with the ultimate power to decide what people must do and what not, man has no free will. For example,
- A man marries. Then he begins to abuse his wife and leaves her and the kids, so that they are destitute. Was that God’s doing? Of course not. God didn’t give husbands the right to abuse or reject their families. Scripture commands husbands to love their wives and not to embitter their children. 1
- When a person hates, loathes, or even kills someone else, was it God’s will?
- What about Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin, or Robert Mugabe? Were their deeds ordained by God, or did they decide themselves to be so cruel? If God ‘froze’ their free wills, then the whole Bible makes no sense. That is because:
# The Bible has no value if we do not have free will.
If God ordained everything and man has no free will; if God does as He likes and we have no say in it at all, then we don’t need a Bible. Then we live and die and that’s it. Logically the Bible is then superfluous. But we do have a Bible with careful instructions on how to live. It tells us that we have to make choices concerning God almost daily.
# God proved that the universe belongs to Him, but we can reject Him.
God shows us in Genesis 1 that through His creative will, the universe was formed. If He made it, it belongs to Him.
- He is like the owner of a firm. He knows what he wants to accomplish in the firm. The people who work in the firm have the fullest right to leave if they don’t agree.
- Similarly God is the Boss, the Owner of His Firm. He decided He wants to establish an eternal Kingdom of love and peace. People who agree with His goals and are willing to ‘work’ for Him and become part of the ‘Firm.’ Those who want to leave, may leave.
- He is like a governor of a country. He wants all people to obey the laws so that they can have a righteous state. But whether the citizens obey depends on each individual’s free will.
- Broadly, we have the same situation in God’s Kingdom. There are two opposites: God is Ruler in heaven over all, and He is sovereign. But man is sovereign on earth and has the right to decide whether to fit in with God’s plans or not.
No one can deny we make many choices in daily life based on what we want. We decide what to buy, where to work, who to marry, et cetera. If God controls all that, we are all robots, but we are definitely not. Wholesome thinking tells us that God rules from heaven and we rule on earth. Strange, but fact!
1. Ephesians 5:25-32; Colossians 3:19; 1 Peter 3:1-6