How does God’s control of my life fit with me being a human being?
I am a Christian but my friend is not and he is asking me questions, just recently he asked “if God controls our lives and everything is already planned out for us, when does one stop being a human being and start to become just an object following a line?”
I was chatting to my mum about it and we came up with Philippians 2:12-13 as it being kind of a 2sides to a coin thing, do you have anything else that may be helpful to explain to my friend? i want to be as clear as possible.
Sounds like your friend is asking you some thoughtful questions. So how does God’s control of our lives fit in with us being human beings?
This is one of the most difficult questions people ask about God. The problem is not that there is no answer but that the answer has significant ramifications for how we think about ourselves. Lets first look at what the bible says:
1. God is sovereign and totally in control (Dan 5:21). By this we mean that God is a completely free agent able to do whatever pleases him. He has the power and the will and is constrained only by his own nature (what I mean by that is that God cannot lie because it is against his nature). God has a plan and a purpose which he has and will bring to fruition in his own time.
2. God creates humanity with the ability to choose (Gen 1:27). This is what people often call “free will”. But what do we mean by this? We are not free to choose anything like God is, we are always constrained by things beyond our control. For example given the choice of brussel sprouts and brocolli I will always choose brocolli because I hate sprouts. My hatred of sprouts is not something I choose but is part of who I am. My hatred may be the result of genetics or the environment or my experience but I have no control over it. This is a trivial example but highlights that point that I am free to choose but only within the constraints of who I am and the circumstances I find myself in. This is the nature of being human.
Now, who determines who I am and what my circumstances are? God of course! This is Paul’s argument in Acts 17:22-31. God sets the circumstances of our lives and so influences things that our choices are made in accordance with his plans.
So God is totally in control. We have freedom to choose within the constraints of who we are and the circumstances we find ourselves in. Yet while God controls those circumstances but does not control us. While God is able to control us, and if he wanted to he could override our freedom, he chooses not to.
The problem with this answer comes (and this is the question that your friend is really asking) when we consider sin and punishment. If God can set our circumstances so that we will choose him, why does he not do that for everyone? The answer to that is that God is sovereign and can do as he wills. If he choses to save some and not others then that is his choice. Pauls argues this ways about the Jews in Rom 9:1-29. It is a hard hard teaching but we must remember that God is God and we are his creation.
Here are some passages that might also help you:
Psalm 135:6, Psalm139:16, Proverbs 16:3, Job 12:23, Job 14:5.
Proverbs 16:1, Proverbs 16:9, Proverbs 20:24 Jeremiah 10:23. Acts 2:23.
2 Thessalonians 2:11-12, 1 Peter 2:8, Romans 8:28, Proverbs 16:4
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