Compatibilism is the term of choice for how God’s absolute sovereignty rules in the universe without stripping man’s responsibility to choose and make decisions that have real, live consequences. Like ‘Trinity,’ ‘inerrancy,’ and ‘homoousia,’ compatibilism is not a ‘Bible word,’ but it summarizes what the Bible teaches about God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.
Today, I want to look at a sampling of Scriptures to help explain how the Bible talks about God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. To begin with, it might be helpful to state exactly what compatibilism is. Here is D. A. Carson’s definition from his book on suffering: How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil.
(1) God is absolutely sovereign, but his sovereignty never functions in such a way that human responsibility is curtailed, minimized, or [negated].
(2) Human beings are morally responsible creatures—[we] significantly choose, rebel, obey, believe, defy, make decisions… but this characteristic never functions so as to make God absolutely contingent.
With this definition in place, lets consider from Scripture how the Bible describes the relationship between God’s exhaustive, meticulous sovereignty and man’s freedom to choose. Continue reading