Inescapable Love of God

Inescapable Love of God

Free will in light of God’s sovereignty has always been one of those spiritual subjects that, just when I think I’ve got it figured out, I realize it either doesn’t jive with Who God is or what God does, or else I find new questions that I hadn’t thought to ask before.  Either way, I know I’ve got to rethink free will in light of God’s sovereignty.

This is an interesting quote I wanted to share, although I’m not sure whether it is entirely true.  “He [God] is like the grand chessmaster who, though exercising no direct causal control over the moves of a novice, is nonetheless able to checkmate the novice in the end.” – Tom Talbott, Inescapable Love of God

Sometimes it is beneficial to wrestle through difficult concepts, to be dissatisfied with the tension of two or more “truths” that can’t both be true.  Sometimes it’s best to shelve it for a while, trusting that God knows exactly what He’s doing, even if we aren’t able to explain with absolute certainty how or why He is Who He is and does what He does.  But don’t forget to dust off that shelf from time to time in case God is ready to make sense of it in your heart and mind.

Related: Theodicy of ProtestHowl: Job and the WhirlwindCharacterAre God’s Hands Tied by God’s Protocol?Free Will?Picking the Petals Off of TULIPs

  • Lanny A. Eichert June 1, 2013 at 2:05 am

    Alice, free will in light of God’s sovereignty is much simpler when you know God saves only His Elect and nobody else.

  • Mary Vanderplas June 1, 2013 at 6:28 am

    I like what you say by way of acknowledging the challenge of wrapping our minds around the paradox of absolute divine sovereignty and the responsible freedom of people. I think, though, that the paradox is a mystery that can never be understood by finite creatures, that expecting God to “make sense of it” for us is unrealistic, given the gulf that exists between finite creatures and an infinite Creator. I agree that the best counsel for those who have been endowed by the Creator with minds that can’t help but wrestle with such questions is to maintain a posture of humility and trust that “God knows exactly what He’s doing” when we don’t and can’t understand.

    Regarding the question of how God works to achieve his purposes in relation to the free and responsible acts of human beings, I agree (with the quote) that God doesn’t act to determine the choices of his human creatures; he doesn’t violate human freedom. I agree, too, with the thought conveyed in the second part of the quote: human beings do not finally frustrate God’s purposes. I don’t know, though, (indeed, I don’t think it can be known) just how it is that God achieves his ends without having himself be the only real player in the game.

    • admin June 2, 2013 at 12:12 pm

      I agree with most of what you wrote, but I disagree about the word “can’t,” in theory, at least. Think of Jacob wrestling with God for a blessing or Abraham reasoning with God over Sodom – the takeaway in these stories represents a truth to which I subscribe, that nothing is impossible with God, even understanding things we “can’t” understand, if God sees fit to enlighten us. So the way I see it is that it God could decide to give that understanding, and that we have the freedom to expect that God will (even if we’re mistaken).

      • Mary Vanderplas June 2, 2013 at 5:49 pm

        I’m not placing a limitation on God. The limitation is with us, not with God. There are things we can’t understand and never will be able to understand this side of glory because of our creaturely condition – “things too great and too marvelous” for us, as the psalmist puts it (Psalm 131:1). This doesn’t necessarily mean that we shouldn’t wrestle with these things (and, in fact, it’s pretty much impossible for us not to wrestle with them). But it does mean, I think, that we shouldn’t expect to understand – any more than I should expect that, if I talk to Sweetpea about eschatology, she will clean up her act in preparation for the Lord’s return.

        I have trouble seeing how the texts you allude to fit here. Neither Jacob nor Abraham was seeking the solution to an insoluble mystery.

        • admin June 2, 2013 at 7:33 pm

          That’s funny about Sweat Pea 🙂

          I allude to those texts because they illustrate how people can and do expect from God more than they should, and that sometimes, God responds according to their expectations. It’s not as if we can manipulate God, but it’s like He plays along. Think about Martin Luther and how he struggled over Romans 1:17. He could have settled with the idea that the righteousness of God was a personally unattainable thing, since he had spent a long time trying and failing to live up to that standard, but in his struggle to attain the unattainable through his own efforts, he discovered that the righteousness of God is given to him. He expected what seemed to him to be impossible, and God gave him revelation. After centuries of darkness, something changed, and the church has never been the same since.

          I think that we should expect to gain understanding, not because we are capable of receiving understanding, but because God is capable of giving us understanding. In other words, to borrow your analogy, if you were God, you could cause Sweet Pea to understand eschatology.

          Consider Ephesians 1 – I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

          Do you think that today, it is possible that God will give revelation to the church about Who He is and what He does (particularly, revelation that resolves the tension between free will and His sovereignty), just as He did for Luther, regarding the nature of the righteousness of God?

          • Mary Vanderplas June 2, 2013 at 9:26 pm

            I’m not saying that we should give up trying to gain a deeper understanding of God and his ways. All I’m saying is that we need to acknowledge our finitude as creatures and accept the fact that there are many things we will never know this side of glory simply because we are incapable of knowing them. I am also not saying that God doesn’t give new revelation, new truth; he does. Indeed, Jesus promised to send the Spirit of truth, who would lead his followers into new truth (John 14:26; 16:13). But the revelation we receive is incomplete: “now we see in a mirror, dimly,” Paul says (1 Corinthians 13:12). Only when we see God face to face will we know completely.

            It seems unlikely to me that having made us finite creatures, God would transgress the boundaries of our finitude in order to “give us understanding” of things that lie beyond what a finite mind can grasp. I would include the paradox of absolute divine sovereignty and responsible human freedom in this category. The revelation that Martin Luther received is not, in my view, in the same category. What Luther received was the basic gospel, the message of God’s free gift of grace, which is knowable by the human mind (illuminated by the Spirit). Also, there are more than a few scriptures that either state explicitly or imply that we should be content with not knowing everything. The Psalm text I cited earlier is one such text. So is, I think, Exodus 33:18-20. Someday we will see directly and know completely, but not now. In light of this, our posture should be, as I said earlier, one of humility, contentment, and trust.

            So, my answer to your question is a qualified “yes.” Yes, I think that God gives revelation to the church about himself and his ways, particularly his saving act in Jesus Christ, as he did for Luther. However, I doubt that God will – or even that he can, given his decision to make us finite creatures – give to us understanding of truths that are beyond what we are capable of knowing (and what is good for us to know), such as the paradox of divine sovereignty and human freedom.

            I’m not sure what my causing Sweetpea to understand eschatology, assuming that this were even possible, would accomplish. It might not be good for her to know that one day cats will lie down with squirrels.

            • admin June 2, 2013 at 10:34 pm

              LOL!!! Lions and lambs, cats and squirrels…

  • Lanny A. Eichert June 1, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. {Luke 12: 32}

    LITTLE flock, dear Alice, it is throughout the entire Holy Bible from Genesis to the Revelation standing in contrast to the world. Everywhere it is always little us and great them. Those are Jesus’ words and He aught to know how many He saves by means of sovereignity and free will and how many He condemns by means of sovereignity and free will.

    Jesus has told you in Matthew 7: 13 & 14 He saves few and condemns many, yet you refuse to believe Jesus’ sayings and still think you’re a Christian.

    • admin June 2, 2013 at 12:04 pm

      I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

      • Lanny A. Eichert June 3, 2013 at 1:50 am

        So, Alice, what’s your point since I’m not seeing it? The little flock including Gentiles and now one fold is STILL little. It still does NOT include the world as distinguished from the church. All Israel is not Israel remains true today. All of the “not Israel” in the broadest sense that has lived and died without Christ over the last 6,000 years are still perished in hell awaiting eternal torment in the Lake of Fire without remedy. To date that’s greater than 90% of 6,000 years of human population. Do you wish to dispute the poor numerical influence of the regenerate church over the course of history to date?

        The church has failed to date to prove your God saves everybody heresy.

    • Lanny A. Eichert June 2, 2013 at 7:48 pm

      Alice, And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. {John 10: 16} has nothing to do with another flock in hell AFTER physical death. That other flock is non-Jews on this earth. The Gospel goes to the Jew first and then the Gentiles. The Jews are this fold and the Gentile are the other fold. That’s basic contextual stuff proven by the Acts of the Apostles, especially chapters 10 & 11, and you dispute that?

      • admin June 2, 2013 at 8:07 pm

        I don’t dispute that this speaks of Jews and Gentiles, according to the letter of the law, but according to the Spirit of the law, “there is no longer Jew or Gentile.”

        And in my beginning to speak, the Holy Spirit did fall upon them, even as also upon us in the beginning, and I remembered the saying of the Lord, how he said, John indeed did baptize with water, and ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit; if then the equal gift God did give to them as also to us, having believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ, I – how was I able to withstand God? And they, having heard these things, were silent, and were glorifying God, saying, “Then, indeed, also to the nations did God give the reformation to life.”

  • Stephen Helbig June 1, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    Predestination is an attention-grabbing word to look at when we contemplate free will.

    Predestined ~
    proorizó: to predetermine, foreordain
    Original Word: προορίζω
    Part of Speech: Verb
    Transliteration: proorizó
    Phonetic Spelling: (pro-or-id’-zo)

    This word in the Strong’s Concordance is ~4309 proorízō
    (from 4253 /pró, “before” and 3724 /horízō, “establish boundaries, limits”) – properly, pre-horizon, pre-determine limits (boundaries) predestine.

    [4309 (proorízō) occurs six times in the NT. Since the root (3724 /horízō) already means “establish boundaries,” the added prefix (pro, “before”) makes 4309 (proorízō) “to pre-establish boundaries,” i.e. before creation.] determine before, ordain, predestinate.

    Strong’s Greek 4309 (6 Occurrences) ~

    Acts 4:28 ~ to do whatever your hand and your council foreordained to happen. (See NAS RSV)

    Romans 8:29 ~ For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (WEB NAS RSV NIV)

    Romans 8:30 ~ Whom he predestined, those he also called. Whom he called, those he also justified. Whom he justified, those he also glorified. (WEB NAS RSV NIV)

    1 Corinthians 2:7 ~ But in dealing with truths hitherto kept secret we speak of God’s wisdom–that hidden wisdom which, before the world began, God pre-destined, so that it should result in glory to us; (See NAS)

    Ephesians 1:5 ~ having predestined us for adoption as children through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his desire, (WEB NAS NIV)

    Ephesians 1:11 ~in whom also we were assigned an inheritance, having been foreordained according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his will; (See NAS NIV)


    From the GREEK words “pro” and “horizo”; to limit in advance, i.e. (figuratively) predetermine — determine before, ordain, predestinate.

    GREEK “pro” ~ To go before
    GREEK “horizo” ~ Our English word horizon, To set the horizons

    p.s. ~ Thus to go before and set our horizons ~ I love horizons ~ “LOOK AND SEE”

  • Edy T Johnson June 3, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    You grabbed my attention to pop in with a comment. Recently I wrote one of my Salt & Light Report articles, beginning with an experience around seeing the movie Sophie’s Choice. Here’s what I wrote:

    “Such poor timing for the movie my brother and I decided to see! We had just bid farewell to another (single parent) brother and his two little children who had spent a couple weeks of vacation with us. I couldn’t have loved little Amber and her year-older brother, Aaron, more if they had been my very own children. Their delightfully unique personalities wrapped around my heart as I tried to provide a bit of maternal comfort for them in the time we had together.

    “As the story on the screen unfolded, telling Sophie’s story in flashbacks to World War 2, I couldn’t help but put myself in her place. Her two children clung to her as the realization of the choice she had been given hit her. I heard myself sobbing aloud, astonished at the cruelty of the Nazi officer, and how any loving mother could possibly respond. There was absolutely no way I could have chosen one or the other of my brother’s two children to be taken away. All I could think of would have been to tell the officer, “Take all three of us!” At least that way I could have provided some measure of comfort for the little ones by my physical presence.

    “Whenever I read or hear someone expounding on our supposed “free” will, memories such as this boil over in a bit of rage for me. Certainly we have choices to make in this life, but we definitely do not have any freedom in what the alternatives might be. Instead, we have to endure the consequences of impossible choices we are forced to make….”
    [One Hope by Edy T Johnson]

    Here’s another of my favorite resources on the subject: [God on Trial – Free will]

    Before we know the Truth, is there such a thing as freedom of anything?

    • admin June 3, 2013 at 9:39 pm

      I would like to read what you wrote in full. Do you have a link?

      • Edy T Johnson June 4, 2013 at 1:13 am

        It’s in my Notes on Facebook. Or, I can message you with it there.

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