Friday, December 19, 2014

Who Is Sovereign? God? Or My Free Will?

"I am God, and there is no other;
     I am God, and there is none like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning
     And from ancient times things not yet done,
Saying, 'My counsel shall stand,
     And I will accomplish all My purpose,'...
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
     I have purposed, and I will do it."
- Isaiah 46:9-11

These verses occur in a portion of the Prophet in which God is revealing His plans for Babylon, for its conquest and exiling of Judah. While those events were part of God's plan for the punishment of the sins of His people, the Babylonians certainly didn't act for His glory, but for their own. And, as seen here, God had a plan, to "call a bird of prey from the East, the man of My counsel from a far country" (v. 11), i. e., Cyrus the Mede. These events occurred approximately two-hundred years after the prophecy was given.

Consider some of the contingencies that had to occur, in order for these prophesied events to occur. That is two-hundred years of politics, wars, geography. Even something as minuscule as sets of parents that had to come together to result in this particular person, and to name him this exact name (given explicitly in Is. 44:28). Yet, God planned all of those details to bring about His purposes, His counsel.

Whenever the subject of predestination comes up, someone will unfailingly claim that God cannot override the free will of men. Aside from the obvious question of where that is mentioned in Scripture, we have a problem here of how many steps of free will of men could have derailed the plans of God. Two-hundred years of free will!

Let's consider some other verses:

Psalm 33:11: "The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations."

Proverbs 19:21: "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand."

Isaiah 14:24: "The Lord of hosts has sworn, 'As I have planned, so shall it be, and, as I have purposed, so shall it stand.'"

And Isaiah 14:27: "The Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?"

What is the consistent testimony of these verses? That the free will of men can veto the intentions of God? I certainly don't see that. Rather, I see God acting as God, fulfilling His own purposes out of His free will, for He is God and we are not! That is the way that Calvinism and Arminianism reflect utterly inconsistent worldviews. The Calvinist says that "the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof" (PS. 24:1). Arminianism holds that men are little gods, with sovereignty in our own little spheres, our lives. What does God say to that? "My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all My purpose" (Is. 46:10). He is not restrained by our pretensions to independence.

I think that the Westminster Confession of Faith (III:1) says it well: "God from all eternity did, by the most and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established."

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