We were due to have our monthly Muslim-Christian dialogue yesterday. But, as anyone who has ever worked with South Asians will know, what you plan one day, might not hold the next. One has to learn to simply roll with these things and – though our Muslim friends will fatalistically say inshallah as though matters were entirely out of their hands – we can say genuinely that God clearly did not will it this time.
Our topic was due to be God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. It is an issue that has arisen a few times during our discussions. It is also a topic we may have spoken about before (I can’t quite remember) but it seemed worth revisiting. How can God be fully sovereign if people are free to sin and he has not caused it to be so? How can God hold people accountable for their sin if he is fully sovereign?
I am always struck by the force of Paul’s answer to that second question in Romans 9:
19 You will say to me, therefore, “Why then does he still find fault? For who resists his will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?” 21 Or has the potter no right over the clay, to make from the same lump one piece of pottery for honor and another for dishonor? 22 And what if God, wanting to display his wrath and to make his power known, endured with much patience objects of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And what if he did this to make known the riches of his glory on objects of mercy that he prepared beforehand for glory— 24 on us, the ones he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?
You say, God can’t hold me guilty for my sin because I can’t do anything other than his will. Paul says, shut up – you have no idea what you’re talking about. Who are you to say God can’t make you like this? If God wants to make you in order to smash you to bits, he has every right to do what he wants. Harsh, right?
Well, Paul doesn’t care. So much so, he says it again: pots don’t have any right or ability to tell the potter he’s messed up his pot. If he wants to make one pot for eating cereal and another for being smashed at a Greek wedding, the pots have nothing to say about it. Shut up.
In fact, he says, maybe God made some people to go to Hell so that the people whom he chose to save will more fully comprehend exactly what they have been saved from and the greatness of his glory. And if you don’t like that, tough. That’s what God decided to do and you’re just an inanimate clay pot. So shut up.
Not many apologetics books written like that these days, innit.