We often assume divine sovereignty and human freedom are irreconcilable. We presume they are contradictory. However, we do find them side by side in the Bible. The doctrines, therefore, cannot contradict each other.
A common article of proper thinking is the so-called law of non-contradiction. This principle comes out of God. It says, “A” cannot be “A” and “non-A” at the same time and in the same relationship. Take the Trinity for example. The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks: How many persons are there in the Godhead? Answer: There are three persons in the Godhead; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory. God is not three persons and one person at the same time. This would be a contradiction. God is not one substance and three substances at the same time. This would also be a contradiction. When we look at God in relation to the persons of the Godhead there are three persons. When we look at God with regard to the essence of His being, there is one God. The Trinity is not a contradiction.
The same thing applies to divine sovereignty and human freedom. Human beings cannot be free and not free at the same time and in the same relationship. This principle stands. With regard to the essence of our beings as creatures of God, we are not free. We are not autonomous. We are not our own rule-makers. There is a higher power over us, the sovereign God. Suddenly we introduce a new element. It is the element of rules or laws, the moral element. We are moral creatures. We are not computerized robots or programmed androids. We think; we make choices; we take actions hundreds of thousands of times each day. All of our choices are ultimately good or bad. It is good for us to get up in the morning, get dressed, eat breakfast and go to work. It is bad for us to get up and fail to dress before going to work.
We are free in the sense we make myriads of choices each day which affect our lives and the lives of others. At the same time, every decision we make is within the confines of the indisputable fact we are finite beings. We are moral beings and we are finite beings. These are two very different things. God is a moral being and an infinite being. We are like God in that we are moral beings. We are distinct from God in that we are finite beings. When we look at ourselves as moral beings and as finite beings we see ourselves and God from two quite different perspectives. We should also see divine sovereignty and human freedom are not contradictory.
All of this is a great comfort to me as a Christian. The Bible distinguishes between the law of God’s decrees and the law of God’s precepts. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). The former relates to God’s infinite being. The latter relates to God’s moral being. We cannot violate, walk outside of, God’s plan, His decrees. We can and often do violate, walk outside of, God’s moral requirements, the Ten Commandments. When I sin, I seek God’s forgiveness for my moral failings. I can do so because I remain in the grip of God’s omnipotent hands. Divine sovereignty and human freedom kiss (Psalm 85:10).