Am I Free If God Is Sovereign?

Calvinism does not claim to solve the mystery, but properly relates God’s sovereignty and human freedom as friends, not enemies.

Calvinism rejects this rationalistic spectrum entirely and provides us with a third option that is most consistent and faithful to God’s revelation in Scripture. Man’s freedom is established by God’s sovereignty. Man’s moral and rational capacities are created and maintained within the eternal decree of God and therefore have real existence and significance.

 

God’s sovereignty and man’s freedom are often thought to be in competition with one another in a sort of zero-sum game: either God is sovereign or I am free. This has led to thinking that there are only two basic options on the table to chose from.

Option #1: God’s sovereignty is limited by man’s freedom. Man’s moral and rational capacities are withdrawn from the eternal decree of God and given an independent and autonomous significance and existence.

Option #2: Man’s freedom is eliminated by God’s sovereignty. Man’s moral and rational capacities are wholly determined by the eternal decree of God and cease to have any real significance or existence at all.

The first option is correctly labeled “Arminianism.” The second option is often thought to be the teaching of “Calvinism,” but is actually in fundamental disagreement with Calvinism. It is a kind of fatalism or determinism, which Calvinism has properly rejected full force. Both options fail to maintain the basic Creator-creature distinction, which has led to the assumption that God’s freedom and man’s freedom are qualitatively the same. Hence, the zero-sum game. Accordingly, where one is free the other is not. So while options 1 and 2 seem to affirm totally opposite positions, they are actually both situated on the same rationalistic spectrum, just at opposite ends.

Calvinism rejects this rationalistic spectrum entirely and provides us with a third option that is most consistent and faithful to God’s revelation in Scripture.

Option #3: Man’s freedom is established by God’s sovereignty. Man’s moral and rational capacities are created and maintained within the eternal decree of God and therefore have real existence and significance.

Whereas options 1 and 2 begin with man’s reasoning, Calvinism begins with God’s Word. It does not claim to solve the mystery, but properly relates God’s sovereignty and human freedom as friends, not enemies. God’s sovereignty does not eliminate man’s freedom, nor does man’s freedom limit God’s sovereignty, instead God’s sovereignty establishes man’s freedom.

Read More