Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Sovereignty of God and Human Freedom

This issue seems to be at the heart of so many theological discussions that I find myself in.

My brother is a recent convert. He studies the Bible a lot. We have been talking about the question of “Can a true Christian go into a life of habitual sin?” He says that the answer is no. We talked about this at length today. He brought up this passage:
“For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor…” (1 Thessalonians 4:2-4).
He said if a person is a true Christian, God wills it that they should not do these things on the “red-letter list.” So, if God wills it, then it will be so. A true Christian will never do those things. He asked, “Can we resist God’s will?” So, in his understanding, God does it all in salvation, in sanctification and Christian living. So, if we don’t see Christian living and sanctification, it is because God is not doing it in the person, and therefore, they are not saved.

These are some of the things that I discussed with him today. We talked about this verse too:
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
He stressed the fact that God ordained it that we …. I stressed the part of the verse that says we should walk …

I realized that this is at the heart of a lot of the things that I ponder. This discussion about Christian living and sanctification is not so far from the TULIP discussions I have gotten caught up in. There is a common question: How much is God in control of people and how much are people in control of themselves? Where does one end and the other begin? Does God leave nothing in our hands? Do we really make any choices?

Something then suddenly occurred to me about my struggle and why I wrestle with this issue the way I do …
the END

34 Comments:

  • Thanks for sharing your heartbeat on this... with me Rose~.

    I can't wait to see how you will articulate it to your readers ;)

    ~John

    By Blogger J. Wendell, at 1/14/2006 5:20 PM  

  • Hi Rose,

    Is God sovereign, or does man have a free will? I think the answer is obvious. God has sovereignly decided to give man a free will.

    As an example of how this works: When God created man, He gave him the earth and put him in charge of it (Ps 115:16). Nevertheless, He Himself remained Lord of all, and the earth still belonged to Him (1 Cor 10:26.

    This is an arrangement called Pro-rex, and man's free will operates within the limits of this arrangement. He is the true sovereign, and we are the Prince(ss) Consorts.

    Another example of the pro-rex concept can be found in the story of David and Solomon. David was still the king, but he made Solomon king. In every effective way, Solomon was now in control. But David, in effect, remained the 'king of kings'. He could still intervene and overrule Solomon at any time, or give him further instructions, etc. And whenever he chose to do so, Solomon still had to listen.

    In a similar way, in the natural, we seem to have a lot of latitude to manage or mis-manage our lives. But God can oveerride this at any time He chooses, such as when He grants us repentance, or when he hardens Pharaoh's heart.

    Really, this perspective answers all. If you rule out man's free will, then our sinning becomes an act of God's will (Gal 2:17-18). But if you rule out God's sovereignty instead, we're back to "God helps those who help themselves."

    By Blogger Cleopas, at 1/14/2006 6:45 PM  

  • I know when I was saved, I know when I strayed from God's will and I know when I returned.

    I know I did not lose my salvation, and that, had I died during my straying, I would still have gone to be with Him, and I know that when I was astray, my heart knew I needed to repent.

    I did, He continued to forgive me, and, though I still sin, I am not presently "strayed" from fellowship with Him.

    So what does that all mean?

    By Blogger Joe, at 1/14/2006 8:47 PM  

  • Rose,
    Just to rush through an answer I'm going to assert that, though a man may be too weak not to covet more than he'd like, or even though he may be disgusted at how often he sees himself telling small lies and exagerations and struggles with it constantly, he can still feel assured that Jesus was the Son of God who's blood God said He provided for the atonement of his sins, and everyone's sins who would recieve Him, not dieing for the righteous, but for the sinner.

    A man/woman determines to keep their mind set on the Spirit, but their fleshly bodies are still subject to the law of sin. The battle rages constantly, the only victory is in Christ's finishing it for us.

    And I'm sure Christ looks very fondly on a heart striving to fight a good fight as well, but it's still a heart which Christ taught Paul as being capable of little or no good on its own apart from Him.

    Thanks for a good thought provoking post Rose.

    Being very thankful for Christ,
    Todd

    By Blogger Todd, at 1/15/2006 12:27 AM  

  • I guess it depends on what he means by “will.” Is this the desire or decree of God? Why do some sin more than others if God does it all in sanctification? I opt for monergism in salvation with synergism in sanctification.

    By Blogger Jonathan Moorhead, at 1/15/2006 12:30 AM  

  • Lets think this thing through.

    God is holy, right? He is absolutely separate from all moral evil and sin. He does not condone sin nor cause anyone to sin. If He did, He would retain a responsiblity for such. God does not desire people to sin, but to repent!

    Yet people sin. Why? They prefer their will over God's will.

    Anytime someone sins it is not God's will, for the unregenerate and the regenerate. God wills for them to repent and live! To say that God wills sin makes Him responsible for sin, thus God sins. And we know God does not sin, nor tempt anyman to sin.

    As for your brother, this is an interesting fact:

    In 1 Timothy 2:4, Paul uses the verbal form of the very same word that he uses in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 -- the cognates thelw(verb: to will) and thelnma (noun: will).

    1 Tim 2:3-4
    For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires [wills Gk = thelw] all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

    1 Thess 4:3-4
    For this is the will [Gk = thelnma] of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;

    We know that all God wills does not come to pass, for not everyone will be saved, and the verse is clear that God wills that all men be saved.

    On a different perspective, your brother would agree that a sin so heinous as fornication could not possibly be committed by a true Christian. God does not will it.

    What is so substantially different with telling a lie, or not honoring your wife, or an outburst of wrath, or etc.?

    The reasoning of your brother robs God of His essential holiness. Any sin whatsoever is contrary to the very nature of God. God does not will for anyone (eithe saved or not) to commit ANY sin.

    So fornication is out, but outbursts of anger are ok?

    Antonio

    By Blogger Antonio, at 1/15/2006 1:33 AM  

  • Rose,

    by the way, what is up with you and John using tildes?

    Rose~ ~John

    Is that some kind of cosmic connection?

    Antonio

    By Blogger Antonio, at 1/15/2006 1:33 AM  

  • Rose,

    Have you ever looked into the reformed understanding of Primary and secondary causes. Sometimes in philosophy it is called mediate and immediate.

    A brief look at these may shed a little light on the topic. Which is a deep one.

    God bless,

    Doug

    By Blogger Doug E., at 1/15/2006 1:52 AM  

  • Hey Rose,
    Our Lord tells us that the one who sins is a servant of sin...they can only be in bondage to sin unless the Son sets them free.

    When free then we remain free forever because of the Son.

    A slave can only do what his master commands.

    Joh 8:34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Every one that committeth sin is the bondservant of sin.
    Joh 8:35 And the bondservant abideth not in the house for ever: the son abideth for ever.
    Joh 8:36 If therefore the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

    By Blogger ambiance-five, at 1/15/2006 9:19 AM  

  • "For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor…”

    Well, Christians do sometimes commit fornication so, obviously God does not decree this in an absolutely.

    “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)"

    An ordinance is a command. We are given the ordiance of baptism. We are to be baptized. Nevertheless, some Christians avoifd the waters of baptism.

    A man may be ordained as a minister (I am not offering any opinion on the validity of ordinations here). This does not necessarilly entail his acting a s a minister.

    I think a thorough study of Scriptural teaching on God's sovereingty reveals that God has a permissive will as well as an active will. He commands and allows for disobediance to these commands.

    With respect, am I the only one who is a little tired of the Calvinist/ Non-Calvinist debate? I realise these are important issues, Rose and you want to discuss them thoroughly.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 1/15/2006 11:38 AM  

  • I too am sick of the debates all.

    We do know that God tempts no man to sin.

    Jam 1:13

    (ASV) Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempteth no man:

    So since God does not tempt man it is man's own evil that does it.

    We just need to praise God that His Son delivers us from evil. He lives forever to intercede and saves to the uttermost.

    Thank you Lord!

    By Blogger ambiance-five, at 1/15/2006 11:52 AM  

  • Hello Rose,

    Just wanted to comment to Doug.

    Doug,

    Be careful about theologies, man's philosophy and other man-made principles regarding the Bible. God's word trumps those things and is the only true source of wisdom and knowledge with any value. My only point, be careful. Unencumber yourself of alot of it. It would be profitable if you learn how to sum up beliefs you have in your own words rather than refer to tired old theologies. My humble opinion. Love in Christ, Todd

    By Blogger Todd, at 1/15/2006 2:18 PM  

  • Mtthew,
    Is this a Calvinist discussion? I guess maybe it is. It didn't really feel like it when my brother and I had been talking about it. We were really talking about whether or not a true child of God could live a life of deliberate sin. He brought up the "will of God" issue. I guess underneath, maybe wwe were talking about "P".

    By Blogger Rose~, at 1/15/2006 3:41 PM  

  • Cleopas,
    Your words are good. I appreciate their thoughtfulness.

    Joe,
    What does it all mean? I think it means that you have been born again, and have a lot of experience with this subject.


    Todd,
    I am so thankful for Him as well. I am not good enough. Thanks for your words.

    Jonathan,
    Hi! Your thoughts are like the Doxoblogists on this, it seems. The "will" of God in the abstract sense really complicates the discussion for me. (desire, decree...)

    Antonio,
    I'm following your logic, brother. Thanks for contributing the Greek.
    My brother and I talked about this that you bring up:

    What is so substantially different with telling a lie, or not honoring your wife, or an outburst of wrath, or etc.?

    The answer is plain: none. Sin is sin and can't enter His presence.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 1/15/2006 3:52 PM  

  • "Perhaps a li' ul bi^ of both?"... Forest Gump.

    When I think about myself... well all the foolishness bound up in me all my life. I have to opt for monergism simply because it is impossible for me to even think that I could have made it this far as i know How weak I am and how strong He is.

    I don't know if it is for us to know though.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 1/15/2006 4:06 PM  

  • Hi Doug,
    It is a complicated way of looking at it that my bro brought up to me. You bring some concepts up that may simplify it a bit? Thanks.

    Ambiance,
    The Son sets us free and we are free indeed, but we still have to face the fact that, try as we might, sin is still present with us. We shouldn't embrace the sin, though. We should embrace the forgiveness and the life in Christ. Thanks for visiting!

    Matthew,
    With respect, am I the only one who is a little tired of the Calvinist/ Non-Calvinist debate? I realise these are important issues, Rose and you want to discuss them thoroughly.
    This is my brother. My discussion with him was something that I wanted a little feedback on from those with whom I have already discussed the "will of God." I'm sorry if you are tired of it. I am too, but yet, here is my brother, talking like this to me. Every where I turn I have to deal with this philosophy. HELP!

    Ambiance,
    He lives forever to intercede and saves to the uttermost.
    Amen! That is so simple!
    I am sorry too, to you, if I brought something up that you were sick of. (You should've been over here a couple of months ago, then you would really be sick of it). I really didn't mean it to turn into a debate anyways. :~)

    Todd,
    Although I just said that I didn't bring this up to turn it into a debate, I don't mind if you address Doug and discuss anything debatable is a civil manner. I read a comment last night from somebody on another blog and they said that another blogger had actually helped them to see some truth. The blogger spoken of is very "debate" like.

    So, although some may be "sick of it" it isn't all bad.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 1/15/2006 4:07 PM  

  • Bhedr,
    You deleted your blog, didn't you? I clicked on it about 5 days ago and it said "not found." Your profile said: "not available." So, I then deleted your link as well. (I thought you were doing the same that you did back in the fall with Leaving Oz ... )
    Anyways, glad you are back! Judging by your comment just now, I think you may like my next post.
    :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 1/15/2006 4:11 PM  

  • I think perhaps You and your brother might just bring balance to the force:-)

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 1/15/2006 5:42 PM  

  • Rose,
    As I see Paul in Phil.3:12-16, he seemed so captivated by the person and calling of Christ in his life that nothing else mattered to him,just Christ. see also 3:7-11. Keeping our eyes on Christ, learning of Him, loving Him.

    I am not tired of your blog. I am still addicted to it. Rats, it seems there is no escape from rr. :~)

    Mark

    By Blogger bluecollar, at 1/15/2006 6:08 PM  

  • Thanks Todd,

    I will be sure to use caution.

    Doug

    By Blogger Doug E., at 1/15/2006 6:08 PM  

  • Rose hon,

    I didn't think you were wanting to debate.

    Trying to learn and just wishing an argument are two different things.

    You know there used to be a sin I struggled with..I couldn't understand at the time I was a slave to it. Then one day I realized if God's Word were true.. and I confessed the sin then He was faithful and just to forgive and clean all unrighteousness.

    It wasn't about me being good or bad..it was about God's Word being true and God being faithful.

    Guess what! I no longer struggle with that sin.

    Praise God!

    By Blogger ambiance-five, at 1/15/2006 6:49 PM  

  • Hi Rose,
    Another good, thought provoking post IMHO. I am convinced that what is born of the will of God is perfect and cannot sin and what is born of the will of the flesh cannot help but sin. As believers we are both. If God’s will for our life is that we bring our unruly parts under subjection then this becomes a matter of responsibility and not a matter of will. He ordained that we will be responsible for these things and our will cannot change that fact. We will be held accountable, not only for what we commit, but also for what we omit concerning those things He has determined we should accomplish in our life.

    By Blogger Kc, at 1/15/2006 8:51 PM  

  • Hi Bluecollar!
    It is good to see you again. Thank you for the comment with the scripture. :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 1/15/2006 11:25 PM  

  • Ambiance,
    What you say makes sense. Thank you, methinks you have much wisdom.

    kc,
    Your statement is the best thing I have read on the blogosphere this week. ... and it was only a comment on my blog, not an actual post anywhere.
    YOU! are a blessing.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 1/15/2006 11:28 PM  

  • It is strange that your brother views the word 'will' in that verse that way. I do not think even the Calvinists understand God's will here to an absolute decree that believers will abstain from fornication. It sounds to me like theological naievaty.

    Christians do have strange views based on peculiar interpretations. I know a Christian lady who interprets the second commandment to mean that any pcitures, including photgraphs are sinful.

    Nevertheless she is inconsistent with this. She cannot bring herself to put her money where her mouth is and burn her husband's paintings and photos of her grandchildren. Her poor conscience!

    God Bless

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 1/16/2006 5:06 AM  

  • Matthew,

    "I think a thorough study of Scriptural teaching on God's sovereingty reveals that God has a permissive will as well as an active will. He commands and allows for disobediance to these commands. "

    Hey I agree and when you say active will vs. permissive will, but I normally called permissive will the revealed will in the scriptures. (I wonder if the verses we are thinking of we agree with though?).

    There is God's revealed will to the Christian in how we are to live as a believer. I think of the God's will of decree meaning those purposes of God being accomplished absolutely.

    Some thoughts on this can be found at my biblical studies online website not blog.

    Maybe I'll post on that someday as God's will in accomplishing his purposes are so clear in the scriptures. We can have hope in his sovereignty.

    Man's Responsibility and God's Sovereignty are so important throughout the scriptures.

    By Blogger Shawn L, at 1/16/2006 7:17 PM  

  • Shawn, yes, we both agree that man's responsiblity and God's sovereingnty are vital.

    I think where we would differ is in whether God exercises His sovereignty by ordaining all that comes to pass or whether He simply permits derogations from His revealed plans, but exercises His sovereignty by accomplishing His purposes regardless.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 1/17/2006 6:58 AM  

  • Matthew, re: your comment marked 5:06 am: it is the same issue that I commented to you on your poat this morning about the words "as touching". If we don't have a systematic approach to understanding Bible doctrine, it can become very subjective, and we can read into it things that God never intended.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 1/17/2006 9:51 AM  

  • Shawn,
    I am surprised to hear you say that about the wills of God. I though Calvinists generally didn't go along with the idea of God having a permssive will. That is, however, how I see it, a perfect will and a permissive will, either of which is done, He is always in control and soveriegn.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 1/17/2006 9:53 AM  

  • [quote]He is always in control and soveriegn. [/quote]
    Hey Rose, Yes God is always soveriegn. He could wipe all that evil off the face of the earth if He wanted....but He is patient which brings about salvation to the elect.

    Thanks for your comment about me being wise..but any wisdom I have is from the Lord. Without the Lord I am dumb as a brick..how else did I get myself in such messes before conversion?...lol

    By Blogger ambiance-five, at 1/17/2006 10:54 AM  

  • Rose,

    Calvinists have always believed in a will of decree and will of command. I have interpreted Ephesians 2:10 like Proverbs 16:9 so I see this as the will of decree(though flawed obedient works are decreed there).

    However people call it differently.

    1) Sovereign Will and Moral Will

    2) Efficient will and permissive will

    3) Secret will and Revealed will

    4) I always think of it as the God's decrees vs. God's revealed will in his commands.


    Matthew,

    Did you view my article on sovereignty at biblicalstudiesonline.com? There is such a large influence in the scripture of teaching both God's sovereignty which I wrote up and man's responsibility.

    It would be a great topic for discussion to discuss how we see the mountaints of verses on God's sovereignty and trying to understand them all in context.

    Either way it is good to soak up the Word on these things as we as evangelicals don't spend much time pondering God's ways in this way.

    This is so helpful when you are doing your through the bible in a year you seem to see greater and greater glories by growing through this method.

    Blessings,
    Shawn

    By Blogger Shawn L, at 1/17/2006 11:02 AM  

  • Shawn,
    I hope that I do spend plenty of time pondering the great truths of the Bible.

    I cannot remember if I did read that post. I have read a lot of Calvinist stuff on sovereignty.

    I think Calvinist proof-texts for their view of sovereignty are often taken out of context.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 1/17/2006 11:15 AM  

  • Matthew,

    Okay thanks. I understand your concern and such.

    I don't have much stuff on my site except a listing of verses to ponder which you may have already so if that is the case I understand why you wouldn't want to.

    I've noticed this kind of discussion to get really thinking about the verses seems to help best on a one on one setting anyway.

    I'm just a man in desperate need of Grace trying to see a small picture of God's glorious acts of God in the Bible. I'm not expecting everyone to come to the exact same conclusions, but see and delight in Christ and His Word. It seems to be best to do these things more on one on one bible study as maybe intentions are know better then. I'm not certain.

    By Blogger Shawn L, at 1/17/2006 11:38 AM  

  • 'I'm just a man in desperate need of Grace trying to see a small picture of God's glorious acts of God in the Bible. I'm not expecting everyone to come to the exact same conclusions, but see and delight in Christ and His Word.'

    I could probably say the same about myself, Shawn, though I am not so sure I do delight in Christ that much.

    God Bless

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 1/17/2006 12:24 PM  

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