Two Wills, One Outcome


Sam Storms:

In his book, What About Free Will? (Presbyterian & Reformed, 2016), Scott Christensen seeks to articulate the significance of what is known as compatibilism. On pp. 77-78 he says this:

“Biblical compatibilism seeks to demonstrate one simple reality. Every human action in the course of history has a dual explanation, one divine and one human. In this model of “double agency,” the human side of the explanation is the more tangible, visible and familiar side. The divine side is largely intangible, invisible and less familiar. This juxtaposition is expressed simply and clearly by Solomon: “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Prov. 16:9; cf. Prov. 19:21; 20:24). The vast throngs of earth’s inhabitants contemplate, deliberate and articulate their plans to pursue the paths that define their lives. Then they act upon those plans. Yet, God secretly stands behind them all directing each set of footsteps along the specific course he designed. His guiding providence is like a transparent, colorless, odorless gas—the fuel that fires up the burners of human action. Yet he does so without undermining human freedom and responsibility.

When one reads the Scriptures with careful eyes this dual explanation for the same human events begins to emerge with clarity. . . . In it we will see two wills at work in the same events: the will of God and the will of man. Although often the intentions differ, the outcomes of the exercise of these two wills never come into conflict. What God determines to occur in human events just so happens to coincide with the outcome of corresponding freely (voluntarily) made human choices. D. A. Carson has provided us with a careful definition of compatibilism through two propositions:

1. God is absolutely sovereign, but his sovereignty never functions in such a way that human responsibility [and freedom] is curtailed, minimized, or maligned.

2. Human beings are morally responsible creatures—they significantly choose, rebel, obey, believe, defy, make decisions, and so forth, and they are rightly held accountable for such actions; but this characteristic never functions so as to make God absolutely contingent.”

Peter serves as a pastor-teacher, at home and abroad, resourcing gospel-centred communities.

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