Daily Decisions (Part 2): We’re Like Clay
‘If God is sovereign and knows eternity past to eternity future and knows every decision we’ll ever make then it makes us like robots, right?’
I’ve got two responses to this question.
1) Honestly, I would frame it in a little more biblical language – I would say it makes us like clay in the Potter’s hands (see Romans 9). God has formed us and shaped us. He has secured and guaranteed our salvation and sanctification. Why would we want to hold onto our own ‘freedom’ if we know our hearts are prone to wander? A logical response to this is, ‘okay, so why do I sin?’. Who’s to say that God isn’t sovereign over your sin and uses it to show you your depravity, but also for your good and his glory… to show you how much you still need him? He uses affliction, suffering, hardship, and many other circumstances – why not sin? Why not allow satan the leeway to tempt us to sin (like we see in Job)? His ways are much higher than ours. This doesn’t make him responsible for sin, but it does hold him as sovereign over it in such a way as to use sin to his own glory (e.g. stories of redemption and grace in sinful lifestyles, wicked situations, etc.).
2) Lots of folks are uncomfortable with saying that and following that line of thinking, so I offer this second response… Just because God is sovereign and knows everything because he’s outside of time doesn’t mean that we do. We make decisions. I choose certain shirts and meals to eat and sins to engage in. God knows, and we are sealed, but it doesn’t mean he’s controlling every aspect of who we are and guiding our hand to sin. It does mean that he knows the path he has set and how it all plays out, but that doesn’t mean that we in the passing of time in our lives don’t make decisions. We must remember that God is outside of time and we are in it. He knows eternity and we do not.
Even if God were controlling every aspect of who we are and everything that we do, we would not know it because we’re locked into a temporal mindset and cannot operate outside of that no matter how hard we try. Therefore, we operate as Scripture says to operate – trust God, fear him, obey him, and trust him with our sin as well. He has guaranteed our salvation, set in motion our sanctification, and has propitiated our sin by Christ on the cross. And that’s not merely our past sins, but our sins in the near future and the sins of our distant future. Our grandchildren’s sins. All of them were taken care of by Christ on the cross.
I see no contradiction between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility (though it is a very difficult issue to be sure), and none of this discussion should change what God has clearly revealed about how we are to live. We must avoid and combat sin in our lives, pursue holiness, and give him the ultimate glory for it is he who is at work within us (Philippians 2:13).
If you want to read some solid resources, I would point you to “On Free Choice of the Will” by Augustine, “The Bondage of the Will” by Martin Luther, and “God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility” by D.A. Carson. None of those are light, easy reads, but they will delve into this issue as well as anything I’ve read.