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God / Theism

Is God in Control or Are We in Control?

70I’m often asked where I “land” on the issue of God’s sovereignty and human freedom. How much free will do we actually have as humans? If God is all powerful and all knowing, if God knows the end from the beginning, if God has predestined us to come to faith, doesn’t it follow that humans are simply along for the ride? As a Christian, it’s clear to me that God is powerful enough to accomplish his goals without limit (see Daniel 4:35, Romans 9:15-16, Ephesians 1:5-6, and Romans 1:9-11). I call this power of God to accomplish whatever He wants the “Make Sure” Will of God. But if God is in complete control of every aspect of our lives, how do we answer the following questions?

When people fail to come to faith, is it God who is preventing them?

When evil happens in the world, is it God who is responsible?

How could God ever hold us responsible for anything?

Is the ‘will of God’ a divine plan for our lives?

While the Bible affirms the sovereignty and power of God, it also provides examples when God does not seem to be able to accomplish something He desires. In Matthew 23:37-38, Jesus seems to be unable gather Israel because they were unwilling. In 2 Peter 3:8-10, We are told that God does not wish that anyone of us should perish (but that all of us should come to repentance), yet we know that many people in our world will NEVER accept Jesus, never come to repentance, and simply will not be saved. So what’s up with God’s sovereignty? How can it be that something can be within ‘God’s will’ (God can desire something) yet He seems to be unable to make that something happen?

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I think the Bible actually describes two kinds of “will of God”. The first is what I call the “Make Sure” Will of God, the second is what I have come to call the “Sure Wants” Will of God. God wants all of us to be saved; He wants all of us to come to faith in Jesus; He wants all of us to reflect his moral precepts; He wants all of us to love one another. But he also knows that none of this is truly possible unless each and every one of us is allowed to have the ‘freedom’ to love, obey and follow (see Mark 3:34-35, 1 John 2:17, Ephesians 6:5-6, Romans 12:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 and 1 Peter 2:15-17). Without ‘free will’, humans are simply robots who respond according to pre-programming rather than from a position of true love and obedience.

Yes, it is God’s will that no one should be lost (it’s something that God ‘sure wants’), but this does not mean that God will ‘make sure’ that all come to faith. Yes, it is God’s will that no evil should exist in the world (it’s something that God ‘sure wants’), but this does not mean that God will ‘make sure’ that evil is eliminated. Yes, it is God’s will that we should live a certain way and seek to know His heart and character, but this does not mean that he will ‘make sure’ that no one behaves immorally. There are two kinds of ‘will of God’ passages in the scripture. Some describe God’s sovereignty and some describe God’s moral character and desire for our lives. While it is certainly within God’s power to eliminate all evil, to control our behavior and to allow none of us the possibility of rejecting Him, to do so would eliminate the possibility for something precious to God: the ability to love. (I’ve written more on this in the section on Evil here at Yes, it is God’s will that no one should be lost (it’s something that God ‘sure wants’), but this does not mean that God will ‘make sure’ that all come to faith. Share on X

For more information about the scientific and philosophical evidence pointing to a Divine Creator, please read God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe. This book employs a simple crime scene strategy to investigate eight pieces of evidence in the universe to determine the most reasonable explanation. The book is accompanied by an eight-session God’s Crime Scene DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.

J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case ChristianityGod’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.

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J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured cold-case homicide detective, popular national speaker and best-selling author. He continues to consult on cold-case investigations while serving as a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He is also an Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, and a faculty member at Summit Ministries. He holds a BA in Design (from CSULB), an MA in Architecture (from UCLA), and an MA in Theological Studies (from Gateway Seminary).



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  5. Clark

    January 1, 2021 at 1:01 pm

    Are you saying you believe that God willingly gave up his omnipotence when He gave us free agency so that we would freely love him without him forcing us to? If He can not pre-program us to genuinely love Him by choice then does that not mean he’s no longer all powerful?
    Or are you saying that He’s still all powerful because then all He has to do is reverse time, bring everyone’s souls back down to earth from Heaven and hell and start all over again if he so chooses?
    Or maybe we’re in the weeds here and this discussion doesn’t matter? Lol
    I’d appreciate your opinion as I couldn’t remember finding a place in your book where you tackled this head on about what I’m referring to which is the Epicurean Paradox.

    • Amanda

      January 11, 2021 at 12:20 pm

      Clark, I find the numerology of your comment interesting. Posted at 01/01/21 etc.

  6. Brian S.

    September 12, 2021 at 4:38 am

    I don’t believe that this question was answered thoroughly. By taking all scriptures (that I know of) into account, God’s will be done, not ours. I don’t believe that we truly have free will. God has everything planned. All Christians are predestined. If Thy will be done, how can everyone have their own free wills? If everyone has their own free wills, every event occurs randomly and God’s will won’t be done. We all were created specifically and for a purpose. We did not create ourselves. What do we truly have control over? God keeps our heart beating. This question is very complex and I’m not sure if our human minds with ever understand it. We won’t be able to understand everything. We must submit to God’s Word and trust in His will for our lives. God bless.

    • Mike

      March 7, 2023 at 11:48 am

      Brian just saw your comment. I think it is interesting that you mentioned, “Thy will be done.” That comes from Jesus teaching His disciples the Lord’s prayer. Jesus taught them to pray “Thy will be done.” He did not make a theological statement that God’s will is already always being done. If that were the case there would be no point to praying that His will be done on the earth as it is in heaven.

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