One of the fundamental teachings of Arminianism is that man has a free will. This teaching essentially says that man’s will is outside of the sovereignty of God. Thus, man is free to choose between believing in God and rejecting God. On the other hand, one of the fundamental teachings of Calvinism is the sovereignty of God over all things and thus man does not have a free will. Therefore the question that must be asked is: does the Bible teach that man has a free will? Calvinism says no, for several reasons, the one that will be considered in this post is God’s sovereignty.
First, the Bible teaches that God is sovereign over the creation. The miracles throughout the Bible point to this. The flood, the plagues of Egypt, the sun and moon standing still, and the walls of Jericho falling down are all acts of God’s sovereignty over the creation. The fact that God created the entire universe as recorded in Genesis 1 and 2 should imply that God is sovereign over all. After all He created it! Psalm 135:6, 7 says, “Whatsoever the LORD pleased, That did he in heaven, and in earth, In the seas, and all deep places. He causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; He maketh lightnings for the rain; He bringeth the wind out of his treasuries. Who smote the firstborn of Egypt, Both of man and beast.” It is God that is in control of all the acts of creation. He controls the weather, even death and life. It is all an act of God. Why should God, who is in control of creation, not be in control of our wills?
Second, the Bible explicitly teaches that God is in control of sin. The story of Joseph is a good example of that. In Genesis 50:20 we read, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” God was in sovereign control of the sin of the brothers of Joseph. God even made good come out of it. Acts 2:23 says, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” Christ was not crucified by some random act of chance and vengeance. No, His crucifixion was an act of the sovereignty of God; an act that God had determined from before the world began, so that His Son might be glorified and that we might be saved. God determined that these people would sin and put Christ to death. Isaiah 63:17 explicitly says that God is sovereign over sin, “O LORD, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? Return for thy servants’ sake, the tribes of thine inheritance.” God even hardens man’s heart. In Deuteronomy 2:30, we read of how God hardened the heart of Sihon, king of Heshbon. “But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him: for the LORD thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as appeareth this day.” Further, God hardened the heart of Pharaoh so that he would not let Israel leave Egypt. Why? So that the name of God might be honoured and glorified throughout the nations. That they might know that He is God. Why should God who hardens man’s heart not be in control of our wills?
That God is sovereignly in control over our salvation is taught throughout Scripture. Even before Jacob and Esau were born, He had determined who He loved and who He hated. Romans 9 refers to God as the Potter and we as the clay. He can do whatever He wants with us and the clay can say nothing in response. Because of this sovereignty Paul asks, “Is there unrighteousness with God?” The answer is, “God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” (Romans 9:15) We do not have a freewill. God has determined who He will have mercy on and whom He will harden.
In response to this some might argue that that makes God the author of sin, but that is absurd. James 1:13 – 14, states this, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” Man is tempted by his own sinful nature, but God still sovereignly guides his sin but in such a way that He does not sin. Also, we must remember that God is a holy God, knowing no sin. Isaiah 6:3, states this about the holiness of God “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.” God can do no sin, because he in infinitely holy. This is especially emphasised in Isaiah 6:3. When the Jews wanted to emphatically say something they repeated it. God is holy (the statement), holy (the confirmation), holy (the repetition). God cannot sin because He is completely devoted to Himself who is righteous. Therefore He in no way is the author of sin and does not sin in His sovereign control of all things.
Others might argue that this makes man a robot in the hands of God. God pushes a bunch of buttons and we do whatever He commands. But God works in such a way that man is not a robot. Man is not a machine with buttons that make him do certain things. He has a mind and will and he makes choices. Calvinism refutes the idea that man has a freewilll. Calvinism teaches that man does have a will; man even makes choices such as when to get up in the morning, what to have for breakfast etc. This is what we refer to as free agency. Even though God has sovereignly determined and controls all things in man’s life, man lives in such a way that he is unaware of that sovereign control. We are unaware of that sovereign control, but Scripture speaks plainly of it (Mat. 10:29 – 30). Since even the hairs of our head our numbered (a relatively insignificant thing) how much more should our wills be controlled (a very significant thing)?
Thus, God is sovereign over the will of man; man does not have a freewill. This should be a great comfort for us. Nothing can happen to us without the will of our heavenly Father. Even as earthly fathers take care of us, even so our heavenly Father takes care of us through His sovereign will. It would be a terrible thing to be outside the sovereignty of a holy God. But we have the comfort that not one of our hairs can fall to the ground without the will of our heavenly Father.