Pharaoh in a fishbowl?

“The decrees of God not only ensure the end to be obtained, but they ensure free human action as logically prior thereto. All conflict between the decrees and human exertion must therefore be apparent and not real. Since consciousness and Scripture assure us that free agency exists, it must exist by divine decree; and though we may be ignorant of the method in which the decrees are executed, we have no right to doubt either the decrees or the freedom. They must be held to be consistent, until one of them is proved to be a delusion. The man who carries a vase of goldfish does not prevent the fish from moving unrestrainedly within the vase. The double track of a railway enables a formidable approaching train to slip by without colliding with our own. Our globe takes us with it, as it rushes around the sun, yet we do our ordinary work without interruption. The two movements which at first sight seem inconsistent with each other are really parts of one whole. God’s plan and man’s effort are equally in harmony. Myers, Human Personality, 2:272, speaks of ‘molecular motion amid molar calm.'” (A.H. Strong, Systematic Theology, p. 363)

Both A.H. Strong and A.W. Tozer give similarly risible illustrations of their “‘god’s’ sovereignty”:

“Perhaps a homely illustration might help us to understand. An ocean liner leaves New York bound for Liverpool. Its destination has been determined by proper authorities. Nothing can change it. This is at least a faint picture of sovereignty.

On board the liner are several scores of passengers. These are not in chains, neither are their activities determined for them by decree. They are completely free to move about as they will. They eat, sleep, play, lounge about on the deck, read, talk, altogether as they please; but all the while the great liner is carrying them steadily onward toward a predetermined port.

Both freedom and sovereignty are present here and they do not contradict each other. So it is, I believe, with man’s freedom and the sovereignty of God. The mighty liner of God’s sovereign design keeps its steady course over the sea of history. God moves undisturbed and unhindered toward the fulfilment of those eternal purposes which He purposed in Christ Jesus before the world began. We do not know all that is included in those purposes, but enough has been disclosed to furnish us with a broad outline of things to come and to give us good hope and firm assurance of future well-being.” (A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy)

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