In the midst of “reading” for school, I’ve been perusing Scott Christensen’s What About Free Will? Reconciling Our Choices with God’s Sovereignty. Within Christian circles, discussions (more like two cats fighting in a trash can) about how God’s sovereignty does or does not impose upon our free will come from two main parties: Arminianism and Calvinism. Christensen’s book orbits around this debate:
- Libertarianism (think “liberty”) is generally held by Arminians.
- Compatibilism is generally held by Calvinists.
My next posts will focus on these two views, but I first want to look at how (not ‘if’) having a proper perspective on God’s sovereignty and our free will matters to our Christian life*.
- Sorting out God’s role and our role in matters of salvation.
- Making sense of how regeneration, conversion, and sanctification work.
- Understanding how we should engage in evangelism and discipleship.
- Building greater confidence in God’s providential purposes for both history and our individual lives.
- Navigating crucial questions about the existence of evil and whether God or man or even Satan is responsible for it.
The questions can be quite personal:
- If God determines the course of events in my life, how can I be responsible for my actions?
- How can I have a meaningful relationship with God?
- Doesn’t his sovereignty undermine my choice to freely love him?
- Why should I pray, if God has already determined the future?
- Can my prayers change God’s mind?
- Do my choices have any bearing on the course of the future?
- Do God’s commands really matter?
- If he is sovereign, can’t I do whatever I want?
- Isn’t divine determinism—another way of speaking of God’s absolute sovereignty—really fatalism, so that it doesn’t matter what choices I make?
- Shall I resign myself to “what will be will be,” since I can do nothing about it?
- How can I know whether my choices are in or out of the will of God?
The questions are endless, and the unbridled speculation about the answers threatens to wreak havoc on our limited brain capacity. (3-4).
*All above points are found in Christensen’s book.
There is much to be gained from Christensen’s book, and I hope to show how this book has helped me understand both sides of the debate. You may remain unconvinced, and that is okay. While I have my opinions, I can’t and won’t push them on you (and how can I? All it takes is one click and this page will disappear right before your eyes). So I hope this series won’t be boorish, boring, or bordering on the insane (or the asinine). I will try to keep things from becoming too woolly, and will instead keep it concrete. I’ll also try to keep these short (but we both know how that goes). Hopefully this benefits you as much as it has me.
- What’s the Point?
- Free Will and Liberty (Libertarianism)
- Compatible Free Will (Compatibilism)
- Discerning God’s Will
- Four Ways of Sanctification
- Evangelizing Under a Sovereign God