“God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, ‘What doest thou?’ Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.” – A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God
Some seem to believe that for God to be considered “sovereign” then men cannot have a free or autonomous will. But this view presumes that God, the infinite and omnipotent One, is somehow incapable of maintaining sovereignty over genuinely free creatures; thus this view, while attempting to defend those very attributes of God, seem to actually undermine them.
Should sovereignty be interpreted and understood as the necessity of God to “play both sides of the chess board” in order to ensure His victory? Or should it be understood as God’s infinite and mysterious ways of accomplishing His purposes and ensuring His victory in, through, and despite the free and evil choices of creation? Must God be in equal control over the choices of those who oppose Him in order to accomplish victory? Or is God so powerful, wise, intelligent, all-knowing and infinite that He is able to overcome, work through, and in-despite of free evil choices to accomplish the ultimate good?
I’m not pretending that we can really understand His infinite ways or the means by which He accomplishes all things in conjunction with man’s will. We cannot really even understand our own ways, much less His. But, I’m saying that the revelation of God’s holiness, His unwillingness to even tempt men to sin (James 1:13), His absolute perfect nature and separateness from sin (Is. 48:17), certainly appears to suggest that our finite, linear, logical constructs should not be used to contain Him (Is. 55:9).
For example, some argue such things as, “If God knew what would happen in this world prior creating the world, but chose to create it anyway, then God must have determined everything to be as it is.” While the logic of this sounds plausible, we must recognize the limitations inherent within such finite observations. The argument imposes a linear way of thinking, and a cause/effect construct upon an infinite Being, who is not bound by time, space, cause and effects. His ways are higher than our ways and so we cannot presume that his knowledge of future events is somehow equal to what our knowledge of future events might be if we had a crystal ball and could somehow look through the linear corridors of time.
The infinite God is not stuck on a linear timeline, looking into the past or the future. He is the timeless great “I AM,” which suggest that His knowledge is less like our set knowledge of past events (or future ones if we had a crystal ball) and more like our knowledge of present reality. We know what is happening right NOW because we exist in the NOW, not because we are necessarily determining what we are experiencing in the here and now. God eternally exists in the eternal NOW, which is beyond our comprehension for sure, but should we (indeed CAN WE) draw hard and fast conclusions about such infinite realities? Should we conclude that God determines the evils of this world with the same “sovereignty” that determined the redemption by which those evils are reconciled? Is God determining to merely correct his own determinations? I have to believe it is a bit more complex than that. There is nothing that impressive about a deterministic worldview, after all even a good computer programmer can create a deterministic virtual world. Certainly our omnipotent God is more creative and complex than what can be manufactured by a man-made virtual world.
Much more could be said, but in short we must refrain from bringing unbiblical conclusions based upon our finite perceptions to our understanding of God’s nature. We must accept the revelation of scripture. He is Holy (Is. 6:3). He does not take pleasure in sin (Ps. 5:4). Some moral evil does not even enter His Holy mind (Jer. 7:31). He genuinely desires all men, every individual, to come to Him and be saved (2 Pet. 3:9). No man will stand before the Father and be able to give the excuse, “I was born unloved by my Creator. I was born unchosen and without the hope of salvation. I was born unable to see, hear or understand God’s revelation of Himself.” No! They will stand without excuse (Rm. 1:20), because God loved them (Jn. 3:16), called them to salvation (2 Cor. 5:20), revealed Himself to them (Titus 2:11) and provided the means by which their sins would be atoned (1 Jn. 2:2). No man has any excuse (Rm. 1:20).