The Gordian Knot of Theology

A.W. Pink writes:

“Nowhere does Scripture speak of the freedom or moral ability of the sinner, on the contrary, it insists on his moral and spiritual inability.

This is, admittedly, the most difficult branch of our subject. Those who have ever devoted much study to this theme have uniformly recognized that the harmonizing of God’s Sovereignty with Man’s Responsibility is the Gordian Knot of theology.

The main difficulty encountered is to define the relationship between God’s Sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Many have summarily disposed of the difficulty by denying its existence. A certain class of theologians, in their anxiety to maintain man’s responsibility, have magnified it beyond all due proportions until God’s Sovereignty has been lost sight of, and in not a few instances flatly denied” (A.W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God).

This supposed “Gordian Knot of theology” is only a Gordian Knot to those who know not what it means to be God. The absolute sovereignty of God ties many Calvinists in knots because they wish to retain control over some aspects of their souls. God unconditionally and actively hardened Pharaoh so that Pharaoh COULD NOT obey. You will then say to me, Why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will? Paul’s objector (along with Pink and most Calvinists) ASSUME that responsibility presupposes freedom, so that a person must be free from God (in some sense) to make his own sinful decisions if he is to be held accountable for them. God through the apostle Paul REJECTS this assumption. A person is condemned and punished for his sins because he has transgressed God’s command (e.g., Pharaoh).

A fool once wrote:

It matters not how strait the gate;
How charged with punishments the scroll;
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

Similar to the fool above, many Calvinists are Paul’s objector who entertain the delusion that they are the “compatibilistic captains” of their souls.

Another fool wrote (revealing his cavalier disdain for the straitness of the gate):

“Men are often better Christians than they are logicians. There is a vast chasm between maintaining, as I do, that semi-Pelagians (and Pelagians too, for that matter) can be saved, and maintaining, which I do not, that semi-Pelagianism saves” (Douglas Wilson).

The primary reason why Wilson and other tolerant Calvinists say things like this is “that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ” (Galatians 6:12). They wear their ashamedness of Christ’s cross like a proud badge on the sleeve.

“For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, For this very thing I raised you up, so that I might display My power in you, and so that My name might be publicized in all the earth. So, then, to whom He desires, He shows mercy. And to whom He desires, He hardens. You will then say to me, Why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will? Yes, rather, O man, who are you answering against God? Shall the thing formed say to the One forming it, Why did You make me like this? Or does not the potter have authority over the clay, out of the one lump to make one vessel to honor, and one to dishonor? But if God, desiring to demonstrate His wrath, and to make His power known, endured in much long-suffering vessels of wrath having been fitted out for destruction, and that He make known the riches of His glory on vessels of mercy which He before prepared for glory, whom He also called, not only us, of Jews, but also out of nations” (Romans 9:17-24).

The relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility is one of the most simple and clear doctrines taught in Scripture (see Romans 9:17-24). Man is responsible, not because he is free from God in some sense, but because God is absolutely sovereign. Forthrightness compels the Calvinist admission that the “main difficulty encountered is to define the relationship between God’s Sovereignty and man’s [sovereignty].” Lurking underneath the white hooded robe of supposed Calvinist piety are two beady little eyes that gleam intermittently in their writings, “I shall be like the Most High.” One glistening eye is named envy. The other is called rivalry.

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