Free Will

How do we reconcile Man’s Free Will with God’s Sovereignty? our responsibility to make good choices with God’s ultimate control of our behavior?

It’s clear that we all make choices of our own free will, and that our choices are not always good, yet we pray as if God governs other people’s choices and can control them as He wills; we even accuse God of letting people make horrible choices – we instinctively know He can prevent them.

It’s very difficult to understand how God can be in control of our behavior while holding us responsible – it’s like an open contradiction. This mystery is so profound, so difficult to grasp, many rebel against God because of it, or deny His existence altogether.

Yet denying God’s existence is equivalent to denying the existence of evil itself, so evil can’t be evidence of God’s non-existence: our very cry for justice proves we’re made in God’s image.

And rebelling against God for being in control while holding us responsible accuses God Himself of being unjust and evil, yet we can’t rightly define justice or evil apart from God … in fact, in redefining good and evil we’re exalting ourselves as gods. (Ge 3:22)

To resolve this dilemma, note that paradoxes are often rooted in incomplete perspective; in stepping back a bit and challenging our underlying assumptions we often find our answer.

If we assume Man is truly acting freely, apart from divine restraint, then God isn’t in control of Man by definition: thus it must be that Man’s freedom of choice is limited by God’s restraint. (Ps 76:10)

And if we assume Man’s evil choices are actually caused by God, then holding Man responsible for evil violates God’s own standard of justice (De 25:1); so Man’s own will is the ultimate cause of evil. (Jn 3:19)

And if we assume that God has no good purpose in allowing evil, then God is acting in a way that is ultimately harmful and not good; thus it must be that God knows what He’s doing, that He will be pleased in the final outcome, and therefore that it’s good. (Ps 27:13)

So, we resolve the paradox of God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Free Will by attributing evil entirely to Man’s total depravity, and attributing goodness to God’s intervening restraint: when Man chooses freely, apart from divine aid, Man makes the most evil choice God allows him to make every time he makes a choice, because that’s Man’s nature, freely chosen by him. (Je 17:9)

Yet God is constantly and mercifully intervening and controlling Man’s behavior by perfectly and imperceptibly restraining evil according to His perfect will and plan (Php 2:13); whenever God does permit evil it’s for a glorious final purpose (Ro 8:28), by which He intends to reveal and glorify Himself. (Ro 9:22-23) For this we ought to be genuinely thankful. (Ep 5:20)

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Put Out Their Name

Our name is how we’re known and recognized, our brand, how we’re differentiated from each other. It represents the unique integrity of our character, the faithfulness of our word, the wisdom of our experience. They that know God’s name put their trust in Him; knowing He’s perfectly reliable – He never forsakes those who seek Him. (Ps 9:10)

Our good name derives its goodness from our behavior, from our actions and how we’re perceived and known by others through them: a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches (Pr 22:1a), for this reflects our personal, practical righteousness in community, and reveals the nature of our souls. How we teat a person’s name reveals how we feel about them; God won’t excuse those who disrespect His name. (Ex 20:7)

When God judges the wicked He puts out their name, extinguishing it eternally. (Ps 9:5) After revealing their wickedness to the universe (Mk 4:22), God blots out the remembrance of evildoers from under Heaven (De 29:29); He deliberately obscures their uniqueness and identity (Ps 34:16), such that we can no longer recount or explain their way (Ps 1:6), how they were each unique in their behavior.

So, in addition to suffering the vengeance of eternal fire (Jud 7), in having their names put out the wicked essentially become indistinguishable from one another; they lose their individual identity. Collectively, they will be held in everlasting contempt (Da 12:2), their carcasses embodying a nameless insanity, an irrational, abhorrent, filthy depravity (Is 66:24), utterly consumed with terrors. (Ps 73:19)

God is perfectly just and upright in putting out the name of the wicked (Ps 9:8), for there’s no benefit in trying to differentiate between them as they exalt themselves against the Holy One. All sin is essentially the creature setting itself apart from the Creator, to seek identity apart from and outside Him. Though there are certainly varying degrees of depravity (Jn 19:11), after it is exposed in judgement, God need not continue to individualize all the terrible nuances and shades of such rebellion as expressed through His enemies – in the end, it’s all one and the same. (Jn 8:44)

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False Accusers

I’ve noticed recently how lightly we accuse one another; even if it’s only remotely possible, or totally absurd, it doesn’t stop many of us. Such malice seems to be more common among the political Left, a weapon to put others on the defensive and defame them, but it’s becoming much more common throughout our culture, all across the political spectrum. And I’ve begun noticing this in myself: not good – this isn’t Christ. (Ep 4:20)

I may suspect ill intent, but Love gives others the benefit of the doubt until he has proof.

When I accuse another of wrong I must have verifiable evidence, hard facts, convincing to a reasonable, unbiased person; otherwise I’m a false accuser (2Ti 3:3), and violate the law of love. (Ro 13:10)

For example, in accusing the elderly God requires multiple independent witnesses to verify facts. (1Ti 5:19) These key relationships command a singular respect (Le 19:32), so God takes special measures to protect them, discouraging hearsay, rumors and gossip. Such corrupt communication is similarly forbidden in all relationships (Ep 4:29); it genders mistrust, sows discord, and promotes bitterness and vengeance.

Releasing suspicions as accusations before I have sufficient evidence exposes my malice (Ep 4:31), that I’m hoping to find others in the wrong, speaking evil of them, judging and looking for a verdict before they’ve had a fair trial. (Ja 4:11a) But when I’m judging others like this I’m disobeying God (11b); imitating Satan and furthering his agenda. (Re 12:10)

Being a false accuser is more subtle than merely making untrue accusations, it’s having the tendency to accuse before I verify; it’s posturing myself as certain prematurely, arrogantly, presumptuously (Ps 19:13) – it’s living dishonestly, falsely, in a lying way. (Ps 119:29)

God hates false witnesses (Pr 6:16,19a), highlighting this sin in the Decalogue: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Ex 20:16), forbidding all forms of inauthentic, untrustworthy, malicious testimony. This is no small sin.

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