Free Will and Sovereignty by Christopher Fisher

soviergnGrace Family Fellowship asks:

OT argues that absolute sovereignty destroys real relationship since real relationship is predicated on free will. If I am not free to take on the relationship or to reject it then I can have no relationship. The question is, how can a sovereign God really relate to me as a person, if my personhood, by definition, requires absolute freedom. How do human responsibility and divine sovereignty co-exist? This is not a new question and has been answered effectively elsewhere.

Perhaps Arminians and Calvinists and other shades of Classical Theists need to find a new word. Sovereignty just does not have the meaning that makes in incompatible with free will, as evident by the more common use of that word in relation to human monarchs. Roger Olsen writes:

There is no “sovereignty” in human experience like the “sovereignty” Calvinists insist we must attribute to God in order “really” to believe in “God’s sovereignty.” In ordinary human language “sovereignty” NEVER means total control of every thought and every intention of every subject. And yet it has become a Calvinist mantra that non-Calvinists “do not believe in God’s sovereignty.” I have a tape of a talk where R. C. Sproul says that Arminians “say they believe in God’s sovereignty” but he goes on to say “there’s precious little sovereignty left” (after Arminians qualify it). And yet he doesn’t admit there (or anywhere I’m aware of) that his own view of God’s sovereignty (which I call divine determinism) is not at all like sovereignty as we ordinarily mean it. That’s like saying of an absolute monarch who doesn’t control every subject’s every thought and intention and every molecule in the universe that he doesn’t really exercise sovereignty. It’s an idiosyncratic notion of “sovereignty.”

The Classical Theist seems to be coopting a word with positive connotations to illustrate a concept for which there are better words. Micromanager, Control Freak, or Petty Tyrant come to mind. But these words do not inspire positive imagery. These concepts are explicitly rejected as attributes of God by Open Theists, eliminating all conflict between these concepts and Free Will.

source: Christopher Fisher, “Answered Questions – Free Will and Sovereignty” (godisopen).

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