The following is a note to my Sunday school teacher regarding our discussions on Open Theism which we believe to be the greatest threat to orthodox Christianity in general. The discussion centers around our study of Erwin Lutzer's book Ten Lies About God. Last week's dialogue tended to focus on God's abosolute control of all things. Since the pendulum has swung wildly in Christian history and there is a tendancy toward overcorrections, I had the following concerns.
As promised, I have a general question about the consequence of an overemphasis on the sovereignty of God to the detriment of man’s responsibility.I know that God is absolutely sovereign over the universe from its smallest quark to its most mammoth star. Studying our solar system alone is enough to cause us to marvel at the precise order which makes it possible for life to exist here on Earth and only here – for now. God’s sovereignty is also obvious in the disorder because we know that even when we can view asteroids darting across the sky and sometimes crashing into the earth, God is in control. So, I do believe God is sovereign in all. The order and the disorder; the good as well as the evil. However, if all we focus on is God’s absolute sovereignty without discussing the obvious Scriptures relating to man’s responsibility, we are creating the atmosphere, which I believe, leads to a sort of pessimism about the relevance of our actions in response to God.
In the interest of a defense against open theism I do understand the necessity of making sure that we all comprehend just how in control God is. Nothing in this existence is left to chance with our God. However, I have always been taught, in Bible believing churches, that while God is sovereign, man is responsible. For whatever reason, God has given us a measure of freedom to make decisions that we hope are consistent with his desired will and even when they are not, they are consistent with His determined will. My concern is this – In an effort to defend the Biblical witness about God’s complete knowledge of all things past, present and future are we emphasizing His sovereignty/control to the exclusion of the necessity of a response on our part? Will this cause a certain fatalism on the part of believers that is similar to the fatalism seen in Islam where believers accept death and destruction as a part of God’s will as if any attempt to avoid the consequence of evil is useless since this is what Allah desires? Does religious fatalism create a malaise on the part of believers who lose any enthusiasm for participating in God’s plan since He will work it out according to His plan anyway and really doesn’t require our participation? How do we acknowledge God’s complete control without allowing our faith to atrophy and our works to disappear?
The Scriptures give equal time to God’s complete sovereignty and man’s responsibility, but ultimately, from God’s perspective, He is in absolute control. However, there is a psychological aspect to all of this at the human level. By God’s grace we are given a measure of free will to accept God’s plan and participate with Him or reject God’s plan and do what is right in our own eyes. I hope I have made some sense.