The Sovereignty of God versus the Free Will of Man
Few doctrines generate more debate or have more doctrines that hinge on this doctrine. Just to name a few, Calvinism, Arminian, Free Grace, Lordship Salvation, the source of Evil, Classical View, and Open Theism. The very attributes of God come into question when this subject is approached. Is God the great puppet master and we his puppets or do we have a choice? If we don’t, are we accountable for an act that we did not freely choose to execute?
These and many other questions besides arise and have been debated for centuries. The question here is, “Can we reconcile the teaching of God’s sovereignty with the teachings of man’s freedom of choice?” Putting it bluntly, no we cannot. There are sufficient scriptures that teach both election and free will. Even though that is the case it should not prevents us from determining for ourselves, where we stand in the debate of free will.
The first principle to be determined is, “Does God possess a total, complete, and exhaustive foreknowledge of all things?” This can be answered with an absolute affirmative. The scriptures, as stated by Bruce A. Ware, have over 3,000 references attesting to God’s comprehensive divine foreknowledge. God has total knowledge of all things. Yet, his foreknowledge in no way lessens our ability to make free choices in our lives. God wishes to have a relationship with us based on our making a free choice to be one with his Son, not based on intimidation, coercion, or manipulation. God’s total knowledge makes it possible for God to know who will choose him, not because he willed it but because he knows what choices will be made.
Second, where does election come in then? God’s elect are those that he through his Foreknowledge knows will choose him. To say God arbitrarily selected some to go to Heaven and some to go to Hell, before the foundation of the world, go against everything the Bible speaks of concerning God’s love for all humankind and his desire that none should perish. If as Dr. Pentecost states, that the foundation of our faith is based on the literal interpretation of God’s word, we can come to no other conclusion than that God desires none to perish and the elect is based on God’s complete divine foreknowledge, not on an arbitrary choice made before the foundation of the world.
In summary, God freely placed some of his sovereignty on the shelf, that you and I might have a free choice in this life to choose him or not. This free choice causes the angels to rejoice over every soul redeemed from sin while causing the Holy Spirit to be grieved over sin the Christian continues to practice. God’s judgment is sure and fair because we are being held accountable for those acts we freely choose to execute contrary to his desire that none should perish.