In recent conversations, I’ve read and heard a common theme when it comes to the question of God’s sovereignty and human free will. Everybody wants to have their cake and eat it too, by allowing for a free agency in humanity, and still giving God his fair share of control! But no one can satisfactorily reconcile the two ideas once you really start to practically work it out. It makes me want to just settle on determinism–it makes it easier to sleep at night when there are no unanswered questions, when time is only there to carry me along my destined path. A poem by Omar Khayyam is a perfect anthem for those who are “determined” to think that way:
With Earth’s first Clay They did the Last Man’s knead,
And then of the Last Harvest sow’d the Seed:
Yea, the first Morning of Creation wrote
What the Last Dawn of Reckoning shall read.
From The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (translated by Edward FitzGerald)
The favorite Bible passages of the deterministically inclined are found in Romans, where we read in 8:29 that “those whom he foreknew he also predestined.” In John 6:44, Jesus contributes his own words to the question, saying, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
Only those who are drawn to Jesus will come, but in John 12:32 he said, “when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” In addition, 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God wants everyone to come to repentance. Throughout Scripture there is the call to respond to, follow, and believe God. So who finds salvation? Those whom God chooses and predestines for it? Or those who “choose on this day” (Joshua 24:15) to believe and trust him?
In Proverbs 20:24 it says “a man’s steps are from the LORD”, which begs the question that we find in the second part of the verse: “How then can man understand his way?” This is the bottom line question about the mystery of salvation. God is sovereign, and in his wisdom he has chosen to make my choices and my will interweave with his purposes and his will. It’s a reality that we are destined to spend our lives exploring, as we are continually re-created into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29), knowing that we can’t explain it or package it perfectly in our theological systems. Now there’s a destiny I can embrace.