The Marriage of Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility

John Frame on the unifying link between the sovereignty of God and creaturely responsibility:

Why do the biblical writers find it so natural to bring [God’s sovereignty and creaturely responsibility] together, a conjunction that seems so paradoxical to modern readers? Why does Paul in Philippians 2:12 – 13 actually appeal to God’s sovereign working in order to motivate our responsible activity? Here are some suggestions as to why this linkage makes sense in the context of a biblical worldview:

1… God’s sovereignty involves not only his control over everything, but also his authority, his evaluation of everything. He is the supreme standard, the source of all value. Control and evaluation are two aspects of lordship, mutually implicative. It is therefore not at all surprising that they should be conjoined in Scripture. By his control, God foreordains our actions; by his authority, he evaluates them. Because of that authority, we are answerable to him, responsible. Far from being inconsistent with God’s lordship, therefore, our responsibility is based upon it.

2. God’s promises of success motivate believers to act in accordance with those promises. Theoretically, of course, someone might respond to such a promise by relaxing and waiting passively for God to do it all. Two opposite responses to the certainty of God’s promises, then, are theoretically possible. But taking action to further God’s goals is not an irrational response to revelation, and it is eminently rational when we consider that our obedience is not only commanded, but also a tool by which God accomplishes his purposes. Those who obey have the joy of being God’s instruments – and of reaping his rewards.

3. When we are most aware of God’s providential control over us, we are most aware of the necessity to live responsibly before him…

4. Without God’s control over the universe, there could be no human responsibility. We live in a theistic universe, governed by a person, not by impersonal forces. Since God has planned, made, and governed all of nature and history, he has evaluated every event according to his perfect standards. If God did not exist, however, there would be no moral standards…

5. Scripture is therefore not nearly as concerned as we are to promote our self-esteem…Our meaning and significance are to be found in the fact that God has created us in his image and redeemed us by the blood of his Son. The biblical writers, therefore, are not horrified, a modern writers tend to be, by the thought that we may be under the control of another. If the other is God, and he has meet us for his glory, then we could not possibly ask for a more meaningful existence.
-John M. Frame, The Doctrine of God, 124-125

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Posted on August 7, 2012, in Christian Worldview, John Frame, John Frame Stuff, Reformed Theology and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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