Biblical Studies

The Biblical Support for Compatibilism

Last time I looked at Compatibilism, the belief that God’s determination of everythingis compatible with human free will. There is a dual explanation for every choice that humans make. God determines human choices, yet every person freely makes his or her own choices” (254).


Here are 7 points with plenty to read. Read or skim through them, and feel free to leave comments. 

The Texts

1. God determines the outcome of every occurrence extending from the broad panorama of history . . . 

Dan 1.1-2, In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god.

1 Kings 12.15, So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word, which the Lord spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

2. . . . to the minutest detail of everyday existence

Ps. 139:16, Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Prov. 21:1, The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.

Scott Hafemann says,

There is no attribute of God more comforting to his children than the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles, they believe that Sovereignty hath ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all. (60)

3. “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” (Lam. 3:37–38)

1 Sam 2.25, “If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” But [Eli’s sons] would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death.

1 Kings 22:23, Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has declared disaster for you.”

John 9:2–3, And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

Rev. 17:17, for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.

4. He determines life and death (even when death involves injustice).

Gen. 38:7, But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death.

Deut 32.8-9, When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. But the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.

Deut. 32:39, “ ‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

Rom. 4:17, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

5. In the same way, he appoints evil rulers and armies to judge others.

Deut. 28:48, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you.

2 Kings 15:37, In those days the Lord began to send Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah against Judah.

1 Chron 6:15, and Jehozadak went into exile when the Lord sent Judah and Jerusalem into exile by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.

Isa. 10:5–8, 11-12, Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury! Against a godless nation I send him, and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. But he does not so intend, and his heart does not so think; but it is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off nations not a few; for he says: “Are not my commanders all kings? . . .  shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols as I have done to Samaria and her images?” When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes.

6. In many passages God ordains the actions of evildoers and then holds them responsible for their sin.

Matt. 18:7, “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!

Acts 2:23, this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

2 Thess. 2:11–12, Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

7. God always acts righteously and judges all things righteously

Deut 10:17–18, For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.

Deut 33:4–5, For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.

1 Peter 2:23, When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

Rev. 19:11, Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.

“God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5; cf. Hab. 1:13).

Furthermore, because of God’s intrinsic goodness, he cannot tempt people to act in evil ways (James 1:13). God can decree evil to occur, but relegates temptation to the work of Satan. This is difficult for us to get our arms around, and it leaves many mysteries unsolved. But we must allow the plain testimony of Scripture to speak with all the tension here juxtaposed. Only one conclusion is available to us. God always intends some good for the evil he decrees, and he does not always tell us what that purpose is (Gen. 50:20). (66)


This is only a taste of the biblical support for compatibilism (Christensen provides many more references throughout his book). Granted, many of the verses above are about God’s own doings, but a number of them dealt with his ordering of human affairs, such as in Dan 1.1-2. There the Lord gave the king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon.


Yet at the same time, ol’ Nebbie came in on his own accord and took over Jerusalem.


History will go according to God’s plan. It will end with the coming of Christ, the judgment of the wicked, and the final justification of God’s holy ones who will receive their resurrection bodies. God takes care of his children, and he will bring to completion the good work that he has begun in his children. Both we and the creation will be set free when Christ returns and we receive “the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8.23).


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