Question: How can God be sovereign if free will exists? |

TBC Staff

Question: You have often defended the idea that man has free will, yet many leading Christian scholars teach that this cannot be true. If a man could establish his own destiny, then God would not be sovereign—His own purposes for mankind could be influenced and even changed by the whims of mankind. How can you believe otherwise?

Response: The subject your question introduces is really a Calvinism issue, which we have addressed elsewhere (See What Love Is This? In that book, Dave Hunt mentions and debates some of Calvinism’s most staunch defenders. The fundamental cause-effect concept that he dealt with have major implications for non-believers and non-Calvinists as well.

The essence of the matter is this: Just because God knows all that will happen before it happens does not mean that He therefore causes it to happen. He knew of all the sin that would occur on this planet, but he surely did not cause it! There is a big distance between causing and allowing. He likewise knows who will accept and who will reject His offer of grace, but He allows men to reject His offer if that is their decision.

None of us could come to Christ if the Father did not compel us—but we must still consent. Love does not coerce, or it would not be love. Nonetheless, many Calvinists say, “You don’t seem to understand Calvinism. If you are in possession of the truth and are a clear-thinking person, you will do what is best for yourself—that is, you will obey and serve Christ. You are predestined!”

On the contrary, Calvin taught total depravity, such that we would almost never do what is best for us in a spiritual sense. God would have to make us do it, and we would have no choice in the matter. God is sovereign and has the right to send us all to hell and we could not complain, because that is what we deserve. However, his Word assures us over and over that He is not willing that any should perish but He desires for all men to be saved (2 Peter:3:9, 1 Timothy:2:4); and that Christ did not die only for the elect (Calvin’s unbiblical doctrine of limited atonement) but that “He gave himself a ransom for all, for he is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world. God sent his Son that the whole world through Him might be saved…. The Father sent the Son to be the savior of the world” (1 Timothy:2:6; 1 John:2:2; John:3:17, 1 John:4:14, etc.).

The entire Bible testifies to the fact that God desires all mankind to repent and be saved. Since it is the will of God for all to be saved, we cannot say that men are not saved because God withholds from them the necessary grace. But that is what Calvinism teaches—and it denies God’s love and provision for all.