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Reflections on Suffering & the Sovereignty of God: Discussions…

As I’m still working on Chapter 4, I thought I’d bring some of our more interesting discussions to the fore-front. To keep up-to-date on the discussion to far, please also read INTRO & CHAPTER 1, CHAPTER 2 PART 1, CHAPTER 2 PART 2, CHAPTER 3, & A DETOUR.

The primary issue that keeps coming up in my ‘response’ box is that of “free will”.

I will be the first to admit that I don’t have all the answers on this – I am convinced of one thing: there is a LOT of mystery in God and God has not chosen to answer all of our questions in the here & now. Look at Job, whom God not only allowed, but even seemed to direct Satan to (”Look at my servant, Job…”) bring trouble upon: God’s response to Job’s “WHY?!” was “Who are you?” – not in the rude sense, but in the sense that He let Job have a BIG revelation of God INSTEAD of a direct answer to his question.  And that’s, more often than not, what we really need in those circumstances: we don’t need answers, we need His presence, and revelation.

For years, I too struggled with the issue of “Free Will”, but now I struggle with it from the other-side: the Bible clearly says, “But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3). “Free Will” is a troubling man-made term, but IF “Free Will” exists in any sense, the only being that can have it is God, otherwise it could be possible for us to make decisions which could trump (and as a result “bound” – tied His hands) God’s will, making Psalm 115 no longer true.

Also, what is the ‘will’ – isn’t it simply our ‘desires’: what we want to see ‘come to be’? Do we really get to freely choose what those desires are? How much of what we desire comes from 1.) Family pressures, 2.) Cultural influence, 3.) our upbringing, 4.) psychological issues, 5.) social issues, 6 past experiences, 7.) Genetics (alcoholism is – in-part – genetic), etc. Can a will so shaped by so many factors be called ‘free’, when we seem most-times DRAWN to make the decisions we do?

As a result, the issue that is most often brought up by ‘free will’ proponents is the “If God is truly sovereign, how can we be held responsible?”. A good question, but more a philosophical question than a Biblical one. However, there are rare cases in the Bible where those sorts of questions are asked of God.

Romans 9;19-20 addresses this question directly: “You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’”

The issue in Romans 9 is exactly the one you bring up: if God chooses, how can we be held responsible. The answer seems to be “Who do you think you are?” Basically, God is so holy, so high above our thinking, that this is something we could never adequately understand, so we need to be very careful making such accusations (and such a question is, in all reality, an accusation veiled – that God is not ‘just’). The Bible affirms that God is just. The Bible affirms that He is absolutely sovereign. The Bible affirms that man is responsible for his actions. End of story. All three should be affirmed as true by Biblical Christians, even if we don’t philosophically understand perfectly how the three work together.

Lastly, I should note: I don’t believe that ‘predestination’ means what many of my readers may think I think it means. Biblically, predestination is used differently than it often is doctrinally and philosophically. Philosophy and Doctrine/Theology often use the word predestination to talk about any and all events that are planned out before-hand, and are pre-ordained to happen. However, in the Bible, ‘predestination’ is used of believers being conformed into the image of Christ. I know many ‘Reformed/Calvinist’ folks will take issue with me ‘giving away ground’ like that, but it is true – what is predestined, according to the Scriptures, is believers being made like Christ Jesus. Now, that doesn’t get non-Reformed folks off of the hook, as they still have to wrestle with the issue of ‘election’, but that’s an entirely different matter altogether.

I hope that helped and as you wrestle with these issues! Stay tuned for chapter 4!

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