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GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY AND MAN'S RESPONSIBILITY TO BELIEVE

As stated earlier, another one of the reasons many people reject the doctrine of sovereign election is because it seems to contradict what the Bible teaches about man's responsibility for his actions. But the fact is, scripture teaches both that God is sovereign and that man is responsible for actions. This is considered an antinomy; two truths that appear to contradict themselves.

Many Christians attempt to reconcile these two apparent contradictions in one of two ways. Their minds are boggled at the thought of everything having been planned and determined by God so long ago. It bothers them. For where is God's holiness? If he ordained the sin of Joseph's brothers (Gen. 45:8; Gen. 50:20) and the sin of Judas (Acts 2:23; Acts 4:28), isn't God to blame? Where is man's responsibility if God has foreordained everything. ...It is the great mystery of divine sovereignty and human responsibility, How can we reconcile the two?

There are some (commonly called Arminians) who correctly see the problem: reconciling the two opposing forces of God' sovereignty and man's responsibility. But in solving the problem they substitute man's reason for the Bible. They reason that they cannot logically reconcile these two apparently contradictory facts. So they hold to one set of facts and deny the other. They hold to man's freedom and restrict God's sovereignty. In this way, they have no rational problem. The contradiction dissolves. Man then has the control and the free will to act as he wills. God will not override his will. His sovereignty is generalized and limited to the giving of free will and the supervision of man's actions.

There are others who resolve the contradiction by taking the opposite extreme. These are the ones who are often called Hyper Calvinists (not to be mistaken with Calvinists) They stand with the same reasoning as the Arminian, but on the other end of the pole. They reasons, as does the Arminian, that the sovereignty of God and man's responsibility cannot be reconciled. So again, like the Arminian, they solve the problem in a rationalistic way, denying one side of the problem. They look at the numerous verses declaring God's sovereignty and foreordination, and holding firmly to that, they deny man's responsibility. Claiming that man only acts as God has foreordained. Most Hyper-Calvinist therefore don't have much care for evangelism. "God will draw them" they say. They also believe in "double predestination" that God did not merely choose out of a world of depraved hopeless sinners a people on whom he would have mercy, but rather predestined each person, actually choosing some for heaven and others for hell. (This is not the accurate biblical portrayal of election.)

The final angle from which to look at the question of man's responsibility and God's sovereignty is to look at both sides of this issue, see that both are true and both are biblical; and admit that although our finite minds see no reconciliation of these two apparent contradictions, both are presented in scripture; therefore both are true and must be accepted. Those who take this position are often called Calvinists.

As Edwin Palmer explains it: "The Calvinist freely admits that his position is illogical... He holds to two apparently contradictory positions. He says on the one hand, "God has foreordained all things, then he turns around and says to every man, "God commands all men every where to repent' You must believe. It is your duty and responsibility. And if you don't you cannot blame God. You must blame only yourself. But if you do believe, remember that it was God who "works in you both to will and to do according to his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12,13)...In face of all logic, the Calvinist says that if man does anything good, God gets all the glory; and if man does anything bad, man gets all the blame. Man can't win.

To many people such a position seems foolish. It is unreasonable. So the Christian has to make up his mind: what is his authority? His own human reason, or the Word of God? If he answers human reason, he will have to exclude or limit one of these parallel forces. [But if he answers the Word of God], he cannot do that. He believes that it was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and [knows that His Word is inerrant and infallible.]

With that firm belief...he accepts this paradox of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. He cannot reconcile the two; but seeing that the Bible clearly teaches both, he accepts both. And it does not embarrass him that he cannot understand everything about God. After all, God's ways are higher than his ways. (Isaiah 55:9)"

Charles Spurgeon in his Defense of Calvinism wrote: "That God predestines, and yet that man is responsible, are two facts that few can see clearly. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory to each other. If, then, I find in one part of the Bible that everything is foreordained, that is true; and if I find, in another Scripture that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other."

The gift of faith and repentance - given to all?


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