I know this topic comes up quite a bit here and in many other Christian circles. I myself have struggled with the relationship between the two and recently have wrestled with it quite extensively. For the purposes of this post I’m not referring to free will/God’s sovereignty in respect to salvation but more in terms of daily living.
Scripture itself seems to offer the relationship between the two as paradoxical, something that we cannot fully grasp or understand. A recent sermon I listened to on the subject was by Tim Keller: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-V9zFtFLcY which outlines related verses from within the book of Proverbs.
He makes a good point that if you go too far on either end of the ‘spectrum’ you are in danger. If you believe in full theistic determinism then it doesn’t matter what you do because ultimately God’s plans will be done so you just don’t care and are likely to refrain from action. Likewise, if you believe that your own choices decide every single thing about your life then you’re paralyzed… the pressure to get everything right can be crushing.
Recently, while walking the dog with my wife, an analogy popped into my head and I’m wondering what everyone thinks of it in terms of its effectiveness to explain (albeit on a meager/human level akin to the water analogy to describe the Trinity) the paradoxical relationship.
Analogy: While I am walking my dog, he is completely free to go a certain distance in any direction he chooses. He can also walk, trot, or run in any of those directions. Additionally there are thousands of possible actions he can perform in varying order/sequence. He can sniff certain blades of grass, he can bury his nose in the dirt, he can pick something up in his mouth, or lift his leg and pee on a bush, etc, etc.
However…he can only go so far as I allow. I can shorten or expand the leash at any point in time. I can even see before he gets himself into something he shouldn’t be getting into and either allow him to do so or keep it from happening altogether by yanking back. I can also guide/direct him to certain areas that he may not have been ‘planning’ to head towards.
I think you get the picture. Would anyone think this a helpful analogy to describe the relationship or is it better to just explain it as a paradox, provide the accompanying scripture, and keep it moving?
On a more personal note… I have been struggling with this in terms of my own life/career. I often pray for God’s direction in life, that he would make it clear to me what direction he would have me head in, that something would happen to where His hand would be obvious to me. Not knowing whether I should stay put in my current line of work, pursue something else, or quit my field/career altogether and plan for going to Seminary in the future are huge life-altering decisions. I honestly want God’s will to be done so I would even prefer to voluntarily give up some of my ‘free will’ for Him to direct me to a place of His choosing (but then again…it would still be my ‘free will’ to defer the decision would it not? lol).
Ultimately I guess I would feel more comfortable knowing that God has a specific plan for me, that He is orchestrating things in my life for a specific purpose… that there was never a possibility of me doing A, B, C or D, but that I was always meant to do A. I know this would bother some because they’d feel like a puppet on a string but honestly it would comfort me. I wouldn’t even feel as if my will was violated, I’d still believe that I’m my own person and not a robot, and that God simply chose a specific role/career for me.