8. The Coexistence of Sovereignty and Free Will – Calvinism Series

God is sovereign, but that doesn’t lead to the philosophy of St. Augustine or John Calvin. God chooses to limit His sovereignty in the case of man’s free will. He has established a framework of natural laws and spiritual laws. His natural laws include the laws of physics. Everything in the universe obeys God’s natural laws. Gravity is a good example of God’s physical laws. Spiritual laws apply to people. A good example of a spiritual law is found in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.” God allows events to run their natural course in conformity to His laws. Evil is either directly caused by Satan, or it is the natural result of man’s choices, not God’s sovereignty. God allows man to make choices that can have far reaching effects both good and bad. He even allows Satan free reign on earth within certain parameters. Because mankind has largely rejected his Creator, God allows the natural consequences to take their toll. 

Many Calvinists would have you believe that you must choose between a God who is all sovereign, directly controlling everything both good and evil, or else you must believe in a God who is weak and unable to control everything. But, logical thinking and biblical evidence indicates none of the above. God is both all powerful, and self restraining. He can control everything, but He chooses not to. He allows free will. He loves every sinner and earnestly desires that all repent and turn to Him for mercy. Yet, He holds man’s freedom to choose above His love for man, and His desire to save. While He provided the ultimate gift of love, by becoming a man and paying the penalty for sin Himself, He will not violate the freedom to choose.

He warns of the consequences of rebellion against His laws, and He offers salvation and forgiveness to all, even the pagans in remote places, (Psalm 19:1-4, Rom. 1:18-20). But, he allows man to make his own choice. In this way God is not responsible for evil at all. He does not create evil, nor does He cause evil. 

God has established universal laws. When people oppose God, the natural result is bad things happen. God does not cause them to happen, they happen as the result of God’s laws. In the physical realm, if you step off a cliff, you will fall and get hurt. God did not hurt you. No decision was made by God that you should be injured. But gravity, God’s physical law, which is obeyed by all physical matter, does not make an exception for you. It takes its toll on you because of your bad decision or stupidity. In the same way, man’s rebellion against God’s spiritual laws has terrible natural consequences. These consequences may be manifest for several generations. They can accumulate and compound, affecting people long after the offender is gone. If it was not for God’s intervening in behalf of His people’s prayers, this world would have perished long ago. Sometimes God intervenes in the natural course of events in what may appear to us a negative way, but always in order to prevent the compounding devastating consequences of disobedience.

At times, sin and its results go so far that God steps in to judge and bring things to a conclusion so as not to corrupt entire civilizations. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is a good example of this kind of intervention. This is also the reason God commanded Joshua to wipe out entire cities and tribes. At the time of the flood, things got so bad God wiped out the entire population of the world except eight souls. Things are approaching that level of corruption again and God will again intervene in the history of mankind in a cataclysmic way, 2 Peter 3:1-10. 

While generally God allows His laws to interact with man’s choices, He also personally and sovereignly interacts with His creation by choosing to intervene in this natural course of events in response to faith. He alone can circumvent these natural and spiritual laws. He is looking for people who will choose, by faith, to respond to His offer of grace. He wants to change the undesirable natural outcome of circumstances for His children when they act in faith upon His promises. And He is ready and able to save to the uttermost all who come to Him.

2 Chronicles 16 

9 For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him

1 Peter 3 

12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. 

Copyright © Tim Warner – 10/2003

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