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FREE WILL OF MAN
VS
SOVEREIGNITY OF GOD


          The following study of the doctrine called "Sovereignity of God" and the opposing doctrine which we will call Free will or choice is intended as a sincere search for the truth on this important matter.  The writer is committed to the Free Will position and "Magnifying the Word of God" but is presenting fairly to the best of his knowledge, the claims of Sovereignity.  Some may deplore a challenging of teh views of Sovereignity, since among many, this doctrinehas been emphasized most strongly, and seems to be held by the majority.  I wish to show that this is no unimportant matter and that there is a very great and vital difference between the opposing doctrines, and that a wrong view in this field can lead to a whole wrong view of the Bible and the true character of God.  The difference between the two views is so sharp they can not in any way be reconciled.  One has to be wrong.  The variance is so great that the Bible can not possible support both view or even a compromise.
 
          These are rather bold statements in view of the strong contrary teachings.  However let it be clearly understood, criticism of any of those who teach or believe "Sovereignity" is not the purpose of this article, as we all can be sincerely mistaken.  The Bible alone is infallible.  If some of the things said seem blunt they are directed toward a doctrine and not to any one person.  We sincerely believe the doctrine of "Sovereignity" to be a serious error and this is written in the hope and prayer that we all might be of "one mind" as in I Cor. 1:10.  "Now I beseech you brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
 
          In dealing with such directly opposite statements of belief it is difficult to avoid some flat contradictory assertions.  Bug in comparing the two views, the one being completely at odds with the other, candor is called for.  We can not afford at this hour to be on the wrong side of this matter.
 
          The essence and prime goal of the doctrine os Sovereignity is to prove that the eternal destiny of every individual is locked up and sealed before he is born.  And that therefore some are "Born to heaven" and all the rest are "born to hell."  All this without the person having the least choice in the matter.  This unscriptural belief results from a confused and erroneous understanding of the subject of predestination, as will be shown in this article.  Predestination has perplexed the theologians ever since Constantine (He wasn't much of a saint) who was the first to espouse this doctrine.  However the Bible has contained the key all along but the theologians missed it.  It is quite true that the names of the elect were on the Lamb's Book of Life before the foundation of the world; but this is the result of God's infinite foreknowledge of the thoughts and intents of the heart of every person born into the world, so that He knew beforehand who would and who would not believe.
 
          In order to pinpoint the exact positions of the two opposing doctrines they are presented here in a way to show the great contrast.  The Bible doctrine of predestination is very definitely involved in a discussion such as this.  Every believer believes in Predestination.  However the two views, Sovereignity and Free Will, disagree sharply on the basis and reasons by which God predestinates.  This subject will be dealt with in detail.
 

 

Sr. No. 

SOVEREIGNITY (No Choice)

FREE WILL (Free Choice)

(1)

God, being sovereign ALWAYS enforces His will (This is the reason for the name "Sovereignity" being chosen to designate the belief."

God, being infinite, does not ALWAYS enforce His own will but in the act of Faith allows man free moral agency or free will in spiritual matters.

(2)

Salvation is IRRESISTIBLE.  No choice. Salvation is RESISTIBLE.

(3)

Damnation is IRRESISTIBLE.  No choice. Damnation is RESISTIBLE.

(4)

Man, in and by himself, if powerless to choose to believe and this choice is wholly in the hands of God.  Man therefore is not a "free moral agent" but is compelled to either believe or to disbelieve by a force outside himself. Man has complete freedom to believe or not to believe.  Therefore his eternal destiny is in his own hands.  Election is CONDITIONAL and that condition is made known throughout scripture as "Voluntary belief in and acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour."

(5)

Christ did not die for ALL but only for those who, for some UNKNOWN reason have the right to believe.  Therefore Salvation is not available to all and "whosoever will" does not mean everybody. Christ died for ALL.  The Bible says so.  If some do not CHOOSE To accept God's offer of salvation they, themselves are responsible, not God.  Salvation is available to ALL.  WHOSOEVER WILL means everybody.

(6)

God arbitrarily predestinates for an "UNKNOWN" reason some to heaven and some to hell.  Election is unconditional and irresistible. God predestinates in advance because He knows in advance who will accept and who will not.

(7)

God DECREES and foreordains all the acts of man, both good AND sinful. God does not decree and predetermine all the acts of man both good and bad, but allows man free choice to do good or evil.  Otherwise God would be the author of all sin.

(8)

Believing faith is NOT AVAILABLE to ALL. Believing Faith is available to ALL.

(9)

Predestination and predetermination are identical. Predestination and predetermination are VASTLY different.
 

          To the best of my knowledge the above represents accurately the historic beliefs of the two doctrines being considered and the essential elements of each.

          Some may say, Why quibble about such small differences?  In reality these differences are not small; they are vert great and they are vital... In one view God is a vastly different God from the God of the other.  Sovereignty and Free Will believe the Bible is teaching two different kinds of Faith; two salvations; two damnations; two different Gods.  The two doctrines are irreconcilable, they are precise contradictions; there is no place of compromise; there is no middle ground.  In this crucial hour it should be important to study carefully the opposing assertions in the light of Holy Scriptures.

          The claims cited above under Sovereignty are also presented in the book "The Sovereignty of God" by Arthur W. Pink, a Calvinist theologian, who is apparently recognized as a leading modern authority on this doctrine and his book an approved text book on the subject.  Naturally he calls true the assertions on the left side of the chart and false those on the right side.  It is not the intention here to analyses the 324 pages of his book even though we consider the claims presented there are wholly refuted by Scripture.  Rather an attempt will be made to show the contrasting doctrines and compare the two by bringing out their basic contradictions, and let the reader decide.

          First consider the name, "The Sovereignty of God" assumed by the advocates.  This is a term which is an attribute of God only.  All Christian acknowledge the sovereignty of God.  However to take a name which is applicable to God alone and use it as a name for a questionable and debatable dogma or men is highly improper.  To Preempt such an exalted title for a controversial teaching is plainly presumptuous.  The whole trouble is that it is not a fitting and accurate name for the doctrine.  The title could with equal fairness be applied to the opposite doctrine Free Will (Free Choice) since it could be established that God in His sovereignty has granted men free choice.

          In addition to the objection that the name seems intended to coerece acceptance of the belief it can also be said that the name really does not fit or describe the doctrine.  The doctrine claims that your fate is sealed without recourse before you are born and that you, yourself have no choice but to accept whatever fate that might be.  No choice to resist hell or accept heaven.  There is only one word in the English language which does accurately describe such a belief as this.  The word is Fatalism.  It exactly fits the doctrine and is the only honest and precise word to describe it.

          Also it might be added that the word sovereignty hast to do with ruling or reigning and means supreme ruler, which of course God is.  However a supreme ruler might not be able to foresee the thoughts and intents of the heart, ages before the birth of the person involved; or to speak the sum into existence, create life and so on. But God can do all these things and therefore is much more than merely sovereign.  He is infinite.  He can do anything.  Sovereignty compared to infinity is a very weak word.  It is not any great honor to call God just sovereign.  Infinite in the proper word.

          The backbone of the teaching of Sovereignty is this statement: "God ALWAYS ENFORCES HIS WILL."  This is the central thought in the book referred to above and is constantly reposted from beginning to end.  It is the main theme of the doctrine and is the foundation upon which it depends.  As noted before it is the reason for calling the doctrine Sovereignty, emphasising the belief that God compels believing faith in those whom He has chosen, for some unknown reason, to believe.  It is quite true that God is fully capable of always enforcing His will.  He can do anything He wants to do.  However to claim that God ALWAYS does whatever is capable of doing is not uphelp by Scripture nor by logic.  But yet it is asserted that He always enforces His will because He is able to do so.  The big question is, Does He?

 II Peter 3 : 9
"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that ALL should come to repentence.

 I Tim. 2: 3-4
"For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour who WILL HAVE ALL MEN TO BE SAVED AND TO COME TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH."

 Ezekiel 18 : 23

"Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?"  saith the Lord God; and not that he should return from his ways, and live?" 

Verse: 32    For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: Wherefore TURN YOURSELVES AND LIVE YE."

 Ezekiel 33 : 11

"Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die Oh house of Israel?"

          These words are not hard to understand, the meaning is unmistakable God wants everybody to be saved and none lost.  That is His will.  The Bible says so painly in all the verses quoted as well as many many more in the Scripture.  Now if He ALWAYS enforces His will everybody is going to be saved.  But we know that will not be so.  Everybody is not going to be saved; only a small minority, the Bible says.  If God ALWAYS enforces His will and it is plainly His will that everybody be saved, why then is not everybody saved?  There is only one answer and it is this GOD DOES NOT ALWAYS ENFORCE HIS WILL.  Since this statement is the heart and basis of the doctrine called Sovereignty the Scriptures quoted above immediately place it in a very weak position.  It is true that God often does enforce His will but never can it be found in Scripture where He interferes with man's free choice and free moral agency in respect to believing or disbelieving.  That is completely the responsibility of man and is always the condition for receiving eternal life.  It must be concluded that this main thesis of Sovereignty is an unprovable assumption.  Yet this doctrine, that God always enforces His will by compelling man either to believe or disbelieve is the foundation of "Sovereignty".

          Take another example in a different field.

 Acts 17 : 30
"And the times of this ignorance God winked at but now COMMANDETH all men everywhere to repent."

If He commands it, it must be His will.  But does He enforces repentance?  He does not.  Few obey this command which is directed to ALL MEN EVERYWHERE.

          The verses quoted proving that it is God's will that all be saved and none lost, establish a solid premise which agrees with all scripture.  Therefore since God does not compel believing faith and repentance it is plain that He allows man perfect freedom in this area.  Each one can do as he pleases.  Everyman is the master of his own destiny.  In many ways God draws men to Himself but men can resist that drawing.  It is plain that God has delegated to each individual the exclusive God given privilege to either accept or reject salvation.  In the light of this scriptural teaching, the doctrine of irresistible salvation and irresistible damnation is unacceptable.  All through the Bible it is taught that salvation is based upon a CONDITION to be met by each person and that condition is plainly stated everywhere; believing faith is the condition required by God both in the old and new testaments.  It is contanded that man is powerless to exercise Faith but that God compels this Faith in some and refuses to permit it in others.  This is clearly in opposition to the Bible verses quoted stating that it is God's will for all to be saved.  A host of others could be given saying the same thing.  God neither compels acceptance nor denies the power to accept.  How can a sinner be held responsible for something which God has made it impossible for him to do?  How could he be justly condemned for not doing what he could not do?  And likewise how could God reward a person for doing what God forced him to do?  And yet that is the teaching.  Do we have a God like that?

          John 3: 16-18  "For God so loved the WORLD (that means all mankind) that He gave His only begotten Son that WHOSOEVER (anybody) believeth in Him (free choice) should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God sent NOT His son into the world to CONDEMN the world: but that the WORLD (everybody) through Him MIGHT (Possible and available to ALL) be saved.  That WHOSOEVER Believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  18; HE THAT BELIEVETH on Him is not condemned: but he that BELIEVETH NOT is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."

          How can we escape the conclusion that Believing Faith is NOT the gift of God; but the right to have the Faith IS a gift of God.  The responsibility to exercise that Faith belongs to each person.

          The following illustrate that the faith is of the individual, such as THY faith, Their faith, Your faith.  Matt. 9: 2, Mark 2: 5, Luke 5: 20 "Jesus seeing THEIR faith."  Matt. 9: 22, Mark 5: 34, and 10: 52 Luke 8: 48 and 17: 19 all state "THY faith hath saved thee."  Matt 15: 28.  "O woman great is THY faith."  Luke 7: 50 and 18: 42 "THY faith hath saved thee."  Matt. 9: 29 "According to YOUR faith be it unto you."  Luke 8: 25" and He said unto them, "Where is YOUR faith"?  II Pet 1: 5 add to YOUR faith virtue.  James 1: 3 Knowing this that the trying of YOUR faith worketh patience.  (If God supplied that faith it would not have to be tried and tested but since it is OUR faith it has to be tested) Hundreds of references on faith show that Faith is the sole responsibility of each individual.  "Without faith it is impossible to please God.

          The one great question which completely divides the two doctrines is the question of free choice in spiritual matters.  "Sovereignty"  claims that Man in and by himself is incapable to accept the salvation offered by God.  "Free Will" claims that Man is perfectly free to either accept or refuse.  Sovereignty claims that Man has no responsibility in the matter since he has no power over his own will to believe but that God causes those whom He has chosen to believe; and those whom He has chosen not to believe will not be permitted to believe.  This brings about the conclusion that the lost will end up in hell because they never had a chance to escape it.  And the reason given is that God did not love them but only loved the ones whom He had motivated to believe.  This certainly does violence to the countless Scripture which declare that God loves the whole world of mankind and it is His desire that none be lost.  Throughout the Bible God offers a blessing and a curse on a condition.  A blessing if He is believed and obeyed and curse if not.  The heart of Sovereignty teaching is "Man does not have free choice."  The heart of Free Choice is that Man does "have free choice."  It is impossible to conceive of a compromise between these two.  It is either FREE CHOICE or NO CHOICE.

          Advocates of Sovereignty dare not admit to free choice because that would destroy their whole doctrine.  To quote from the book "The Sovereignty of God" page 25 "To argue that man is a free moral agent and the determiner of his own destiny, and that therefore he has power to checkmate His maker, is to strip God of the attribute of omnipotence.

         On page 101 "Without faith, there is no salvation . . . . . He that believeth not shall be damned" . . . ."hence if there were some of Adam'm descendants to whom He purposed NOT to give faith, it must be because HE ORDAINED THAT THEY SHOULD BE DAMNED."  What a statement.  God ordained damnation without a chance?  The doctrine of no choice leads to some strange and cruel notions concerning the character of God.

          On page 58 declaros" . . . . . . no actions of men, no errands of angels, no deeds of Deveil -- nothing in all the vast universe can come to pass otherwise than God eternally purpose:" (This can only mean that God is the author of every evil deed, every murder, every wicked device and thought for 6,000 years).  He further says that every deed of man both good and evil has been DECREED by God.  Of course all these interpretations of Scripture are indispensable if the doctrine of Sovereignty is to be supported.  What do you think?

          Some Sovereignty followers may say that they do not go along with Dr. Pink completely.  Let us hope that is the case, especially regarding the scriptures purporting to support the author's views.  However one of the strange things about this doctrine is that once you deny that man has free choice, you really are committed to the whole package of the doctrine of irresistible fate under the heading of "Sovereignty" since there is no middly course.  This again proves that the conflict centers on free choice.  This may seem to some a minor matter but really the two views produce two distinctly different concepts of Christianity.  There is simply no basis of concord in the two.  It is impossible to harmonize divine justice and mercy with the ideas of irresistible salvation and damnation without the person involved having a part in the decision.  From first to last in the Bible the principle of free choice of man to believe or doubt, obey or disobey is plainly and unmistakably taught.  It is one of the most essential truths of all Scripture.

          The erroneous contention that "Faith is the gift of God" is supported by two scriptures which are taken out of context as follows:  Ephosians 2: 8; "For by Grace are ye saved through Faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God."  A careless reading and understanding of this passage can lead to the conclusion Faith is "not of yourselves, it is the gift of God."  That is wrong; it is Grace that is not of yourselves.  IT is GRACE which is the gift of God.  The treatment given this verse is the old mistake of isolating a verse from its context.  Considered without the preceding verses it is true that the verse is ambiguous.  It could be either grace or faith that is "not of yourselves."  But by reading verses 5 and 7 we get the true meaning.  Vs. 5 "Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved.)"  Vs. 7 "That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His GRACE in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."  Thus the immediate context proves that it is Grace that is not of yourselves Grace IS the gift of God.  Only God can supply that, but man can supply faith.  Grace is the unspeakable gift.  Faith and believing are identical.  God does not do our repenting and believing for us nor does He compel faith.  He wants volunteers not draftees or puppets.

          The second verse intended to show that God provides the faith is Acts. 18: 27 " . . . . who when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace."  The passage is speaking about a certain Jew named Appollos, who was eloquent and mighty in the scriptures, who was fervent in the spirit and taught diligently.  The Diaglott correctly translates this as follows" . . . . Who, having arrived, he greatly assisted those believers by his gift."  His gift was eloquence etc.  This has to be correct translation because there is no support scripturally that believing faith is supplied by Grace.  The reading of verses 24 to 28 will verify this.  The word translated is equally translated gift.

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