Can we reconcile our choices with God’s sovereignty? I utilized my free will to write up this review. I chose what words to write, if and how many times I would proofread this, when I would post this, and even if I would read the book (which, by the way, I did). Did God force my hand (literally)? Was my little review in his broader plan? Was it predetermined? Am I merely a marionette puppet? Did I only think I had free will?
When it comes to the hopeless arguments on free will, some people feel like they are mice running around the labyrinth trap. There is no answer. It can’t be found. And if it can, it can’t be reached.
Christensen’s goal is to clear the swamp that flows from these discussions on free will and divine predetermination. God controls the big picture of history, but what about our actual choices (3)? Christensen lays out his goal early on in the book,
“If the libertarian definition of free will is correct, then God is limited in his sovereignty. On the other hand, if the compatibilist view of man’s will is correct, then it not only is compatible with a robust view of divine sovereignty, but also preserves human freedom and responsibility. I will seek to show how the libertarian view of free will falls short of making sense of human experience and what Scripture teaches.” (7)
Christensen begins his book with the main issue: either “God determines the choices of every person, yet every person freely makes his or her own choices,” or we are truly free “when we have the ability to choose contrary to any prior factors that influence our choices.” Either everything freely acts in accordance with God’s predetermination (somehow), or we are able to make our choices freely despite “our motives, desires, character, and nature, and, of course, God himself” (6-7).
In the first two chapters Christensen lays out the ideas and the faults of the libertarian positions. After that he charges ahead with the compatibilist position, showing how it explains why good and bad things happen (chapters 5-6), what it means to be free (ch 7) and how this affects what we do (ch 8). He explains how we do what we want to do because of our nature (ch 9), and he gives his best shot at explaining why only some, and not all, come to faith in Christ (ch 10). A Christian’s new nature now wants to serve God, but it has to battle with the sin that remains (Ch 11). “True freedom consists in knowing the best and right choices, in being unhindered in making them, and in experiencing the greatest joy when we do make them. The right choices are the ones that God has prescribed through the morally binding instruction of his Word” (ch 12).
There are two appendices at the close of the book: In the first Christensen charts the “Libertarian and Compatibilist Beliefs on Free Agency.” In the second, he reviews Randy Alcorn’s, “hand in Hand: The Beauty of God’s Sovereignty and Meaningful Human Choice.” (Yes, that “hand” is lowercase).
The Chocolate Milk
At the end of each chapter is a chapter summary, a glossary (found also at the book’s close), study questions, and/or resources for further study. Depending on your past interaction with the free will arguments, you may first want to slowly read through the definitions that are found at the end of each chapter. After you read the definitions found at the end of chapter one, then go back and read chapter one. This is especially important for the first two chapters which I found to be pretty difficult to get a handle on. I had to reread much of it before I could begin to understand what Christensen meant, but as you read on the rest of the book gets easier and helps explain these more difficult chapters.
Though difficult, it is important to understand the libertarian position given in those first two chapters. Though I would have liked to have seen more information about the beliefs and pitfalls of the libertarian position, one book can’t do everything. I’ll just have to pick up a book by Roger Olsen to see the libertarian view from his Arminian perspective.
I was already convinced of the compatibilist position, but now I understand more about the downfalls of libertarianism and the biblical support for compatibilism.
- Author: Scott Christensen
- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: P & R Publishing (February 29, 2016)
- What’s the Point?
- Free Will and Liberty (Libertarianism)
- Compatible Free Will (Compatibilism)
- Discerning God’s Will
- Four Types of Sanctification
- Evangelizing Under a Sovereign God
“But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. For Titus not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord” (2 Corinthians 8.16-17).
- Stephen J. Wellum, PDF
- Andy Naselli introduces the book
- Andy Naselli’s church hosted a Difficult Issues Series. One topic covered was free will.
- McCall (Arminian Perspective) – I Believe in Divine Sovereignty
- D. A. Carson, Praying With Paul
Buy it on Amazon!
Disclosure: I received this book free from P&R Publishing. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.