Now there’s a word that, perhaps, many have not come across in a lifetime of reading. In discussing this subject, this blog entry could easily be 97 pages, minimum. Relax, I will not write 97 pages on this subject and I’m not sure that I, personally, could, but there are others extremely more qualified that could write voluminous books on this subject...and have, for that matter. Jonathan Edwards and "The Freedom of the Will" immediately comes to mind and that book covers 348 pages, not counting the preface and the table of contents and there is very little "white space". What can I do, then, in 3 or 4 short paragraphs on this so profound and deep subject? My goal would be limited to entice to further and in-depth study and research.
I cannot count the number of times that I have heard or read the phrase.."God is in control..." This phrase can be recited in connection with everything from death and disease to happiness and health and everything else in between. Do we really believe, as Christians, that God IS in control..or is it just "lip service"? Is it just religious lingo or is it a firmly held and scripturally understood belief? Compatibilism attempts to explain how it is that "God IS in control AND that human responsibility and accountability is also in full effect. We see this supposed dichotomy in full view in the following scripture: (Jesus) "..being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken , and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." Acts 2:23 Here we see that God has determined and humans have carried it out and yet they are fully accountable for their actions and will ultimately be held responsible. Our Holy Scriptures sees no inconsistency with Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility. The scriptures teach both!
Another example of this supposed unresolvable dichotomy is illustrated for us by Moses and Pharaoh in Exodus Chap 7: "You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh that he let the sons of Israel go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh's heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt." (vs. 2-3) God commands, through Moses, that Pharaoh "let my people go", yet He says, "I will harden his heart..." Again, scripture sees no inconsistency with God’s Sovereignty and human accountability. Now, just so we will not think this passage is an anomaly, the inspired, infallible scriptures repeat this phrase no less than four times in the book of Exodus. (4:21; 7:3; 14:4 & 14:17) As we hear so often in this modern culture the phrase, "..the devil made me do it", here we see that, perhaps, Pharaoh might have said, "...not my fault, mon, ..God made me do it!" But what does he say? "And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the LORD is righteous, and I and my people are wicked." (Ex 9:27) God says He hardened his heart and Pharaoh readily acknowledges his accountability. Here again, we see that God is in control and yet man is accountable for his actions.
How is all this possible? How can God be in control of all things and hold individuals accountable for their sinful actions? In scriptural terms how is it that "..all things work together for good to them that love God.."? We all certainly believe that verse found in the book of Romans, don’t we? Can God actually work all things together for good without being in control of all things? That would be a logical impossibility. The next question that follows logically is are we really doing what we want to do when we do what we want to do? How could it be any other way? Could we possibly do anything that would be contrary to our greatest preferences? Of course not! And, that is all that is needed for human accountability. "I want what I want when I want it!", as the old hedonistic phrase goes. The Science Channel has a program called "How it’s Made" which delves into a plethora of products that we all seem to take for granted. We could also ask concerning God’s Sovereignty and Human Accountability..."How Does God Do That"? I’m sure this topic will never be on the Science Channel, by the way. There should be no question that He does..do that, that is. In Ezekiel God says "And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." Ez 36:27 Look up the verb "cause" in the Bible and see how many times it refers to God’s actions in human lives.
Compatibilism simply takes verses like the Ezekiel verse to its logical conclusion. God is in control of all things. "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh." Ez 36:26 Matt Perman, from whom the inspiration for this blog entry comes, writes, "Since we always choose the option that we find most preferable, then it is clear that our choices are determined--they are determined by our greatest preference. But since this is a determination to choose the option that we want the most, it in no way destroys our moral agency. Having understood this, it is not hard to see how God can control all things without violating our moral agency. He simply arranges the situation so that the option which we find most appealing is the choice that He has ordained for us to make. In other words, if God wants us to choose option A instead of option B, He works things out so that option A is the one that we find most preferable. Thus, God is in sovereign control, yet we are choosing what we want most and are therefore making real, genuine choices." An understanding of this doctrine which is clearly taught all through-out the scriptures should cause us to give all the glory, praise and honor to God for all the great things He has done and continues to do in the lives of all believers. God is in control! "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power..." Ps 110:3
Rich Mullins has written: "Our God is an awesome God, He reigns from Heaven above, With wisdom power and love, Our God is an awesome God! " Amen!