Freedom of the Will in an All-Knowing and Sovereign God’s World

cri-blog-hanegraaff-hank-divine-sovereignty-human-responsibilityHow can God be sovereign when humans have freewill?

I think the fact that God can work out His sovereign plan using genuinely free creatures really shows how sovereign God really is. We have genuine freewill. This is against the idea that we fatalistically determined or determined by God in some way, which is not biblical.

The fact that we have freewill and that God knows what we are going to do is biblical. Even we can see this by way of human analogy. We can look backwards on our lives and see things in our past and know them exhaustively and recognize at the same time the fact that we know them exhaustively did not mean that we determined them. We cannot think about our future being fatalistically determined, but we can know that God who is omniscience knows the beginning from the end, and yet works through genuinely free creatures to accomplish His purposes.

There is no real philosophical problem in saying that God is sovereign and omniscient yet we are genuinely free with the ability to act or act otherwise.

Without choice, love would be rendered meaningless. God is neither a cosmic rapist who forces his love on people, nor is he a cosmic puppeteer who forces people to love him. Instead, God, the personification of love, grants us the freedom of choice. This freedom provides a persuasive polemic for the existence of hell (Hank Hanegraaff, Resurrection [Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000], 79.)

The fact that God knows the outcome does not mean that the outcome is fatalistically determined. Once you go down that road you can start saying, “Well, God knows if my hands will be clean tomorrow, and therefore, they’ll be clean whether or not I wash them!” God ordains the means as well as the ends, so you have to pick up the bar of soap and wash your hands.

For further related study:

Why pray if God already knows what we need? (Hank Hanegraaff)

How Could Pharaoh Be Morally Responsible If God Hardened His Heart? (Hank Hanegraaff)

How Should Christians Approach the Problem of Evil? (E. Calvin Beisner and Chad Meister)

Reformed Theology Resurgence: New Calvinists and the Future of Evangelicalism (Warren Nozaki)

The Divine Sovereignty/Human Responsibility debate: Part 1 (James White and George Bryson)

The Divine Sovereignty/Human Responsibility debate: Part 2 (James White and George Bryson)

Between Radical Freedom and Total Determinism (John S. Hammett)


What Does Calvinism Teach? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Blog adapted from “How can we be genuinely free if God is sovereign?

Apologetics, Journal Topics

A Christian View of Human Nature

Consider the following situation. You meet someone: born on the wrong side of the tracks, raised in an abusive home, surrounded by cynical and unbelieving friends who scoff at the Christian faith. If God works miraculously and he comes to faith in Christ, how free is he to really progress in the Christian faith? Should occasions when he falls back into sin be seen as inevitable, given all the influences in his life, or actions for which he is fully responsible? Consider a contrasting situation. You meet someone who believes we are free to be whatever we want to be. Though born a male, this person wants to be female and decides to have a sex change operation as an expression of her freedom to be whatever she wants to be. Are there hard limits to the freedom we have? I will argue (in my article in the current issue of the Christian Research Journal) that a Christian view of human nature sees humans as neither completely free nor totally determined. We have enough freedom to be responsible for our actions, but our freedom is limited by or created nature, and we are influenced by the fallen, dysfunctional world in which we are born, raised, and live.

Which way is our culture heading? Do you see more emphasis on humans being free to become whatever they want to be, or the growth of ideologies claiming that our freedom is illusory and that we are determined by forces outside our control? What evidence could you cite to support your answer? How do we hold others responsible for their choices without overlooking the powerful influences family background, genetic inheritance, and environment exert upon us? What are the hard limits our created nature imposes on us? Is gender fixed at birth? Is physical mortality something we should aspire to?

John S. Hammett, Ph.D., has been a pastor, missionary, and professor of theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, since 1995. He is author of a number of books and articles, including “Human Nature,” in A Theology for the Church, ed. Daniel Akin (Nashville: B and H Academic, 2007). His cover article in which this post is based appears in the Volume 34, No. 2 issue of the Christian Research Journal (a 6-issue subscription is $39.50). Or give a gift subscription. Tune-into the Bible Answer Man broadcast on April 19 when Hank discusses this article with its author.