Understanding God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility


Two propositions from Don Carson taken from his talk entitled How Could God Allow Suffering?

Proposition 1:

God is absolutely sovereign, but his sovereignty never mitigates human responsibility.

Proposition 2:

According to the Bible human beings are morally responsible creatures. By that I mean we believe and disbelieve, we obey and disobey, we choose and so on, and we are held accountable for all of these things … But all such moral accountability, all such moral responsibility, never makes God absolutely contingent. That is it never relegates God to the place where he is merely a reactor. Now the Bible holds that those two things, those two propositions, are simultaneously true again and again and again …

… The Bible does not explain the mystery of providence — it doesn’t — there are huge questions about how God’s sovereignty works with human will, and the relationship between time and eternity …

… But at the end of the day what the Bible does do is insist that those two propositions I gave you stand at the very heart of any faithful Christian understanding of the mystery of providence. God is sovereign. But his sovereignty doesn’t mitigate human responsibility. We human beings are morally responsible creatures but that doesn’t mean that God is contingent.

And we live with those tensions and all the mysteries about how God in his eternity relates to us in our time. We live with those tensions until the very end.”