God’s Acts of Providence (58)

hard-roadMeditation on God’s Providence (15)

The Hard Road from Revulsion to Embrace (4)

Human Free Will (2)

Perhaps we should acknowledge that there are some things we are not sufficient in ourselves to decide and thus should in gratitude accept God’s act on our behalf.  N.L. Rice once again will be quoted.

Again, according to the doctrine of Divine foreordination, God is the author of all that is pure in the Christian’s heart. He saw him “dead in trespasses and sins.” He purposed to renew his heart, not because of anything in the sinner moving him thereto, nor because of any foreseen co-operation on his part, but simply of his sovereign mercy. So that the most devoted Christian, comparing his present condition and character with his former condition and character, must say emphatically with Paul:-“By the grace of God I am what I am.” And of all his good works he must say:-“I labored; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

With regard to the exertion of our wills in secondary matters, the fact that God foreordains ends need by no means imply our loss.  An initial, but substantial discussion of this issue occurred previously.

We are comfortable with the concept by which actions by individuals, organizations and nature influence human acts.  There are laws, social conventions, arguments, economic incentives, natural disasters and so many more means by which this is accomplished.  In all of these cases we recognize that the responses elicited are by agents having free wills.

How much more God, Who knows our every thought and motive, Who has ultimate control over creation itself, is capable of so ordering events such that the acting out of all of our free wills will lead to the end that He has ordained.

Loraine Boettner has developed these ideas in greater detail and scope [20].[1]

The philosopher who is convinced of the existence of a vast Power by whom all things exist and are controlled, is forced to inquire where the finite will can find expression under the reign of the Infinite. The true solution of this difficult question respecting the sovereignty of God and the freedom of man, is not to be found in the denial of either, but rather in such a reconciliation as gives full weight to each, yet which assigns a preeminence to the divine sovereignty corresponding to the infinite exaltation of the Creator above the sinful creature. The same God who has ordained all events has ordained human liberty in the midst of these events, and this liberty is as surely fixed as is anything else. Man is no mere automaton or machine. In the Divine plan, which is infinite in variety and complexity which reaches from everlasting to everlasting, and which includes millions of free agents who act and inter-act upon each other, God has ordained that human beings shall keep their liberty under His sovereignty. He has made no attempt to give us a formal explanation of these things, and our limited human knowledge is not able fully to solve the problem. Since the Scripture writers did not hesitate to affirm the absolute sway of God over the thoughts and intents of the heart, they felt no embarrassment in including the acts of free agents within His all-embracing plan. That the makers of the Westminster Confession recognized the freedom of man is plain; for immediately after declaring that “God has freely and unchangeably ordained whatsoever comes to pass,” they added, “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.”

While the act remains that of the individual, it is nevertheless due more or less to the predisposing agency and efficacy of divine power exerted in lawful ways. This may be illustrated to a certain extent in the case of a man who wishes to construct a building. He decides on his plan. Then he hires the carpenters, masons, plumbers, etc., to do the work. These men are not forced to do the work. No compulsion of any kind is used. The owner simply offers the necessary inducements by way of wages, working conditions, and so on, so that the men work freely and gladly. They do in detail just what he plans for them to do. His is the primary and theirs is the secondary will or cause for the construction of the building. We often direct the actions of our fellow men without infringing on their freedom or responsibility. In a similar way and to an infinitely greater degree God can direct our actions. His will for the course of events is the primary cause and man’s will is the secondary cause; and the two work together in perfect harmony.

The Scriptures speak with great power and regularity about God’s desire for our right exercising of our free wills.  We must take these teachings with the greatest of seriousness.


[1] Loraine Boettner (March 7, 1901 to January 3, 1990) was an American theologian and author.  Boettner was born in Linden, Missouri. He received a Th.B. (1928) and Th.M. (1929) from Princeton Theological Seminary, and he received the honorary degrees of Doctor of Divinity (1933) and Doctor of Letters (1957). He was a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

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