God’s Revelation and Free Will

Against the critics of verbal inspiration, Gordon Clark, in his God’s Hammer volume, points out that they are wrong to misconstrue the doctrine as being one of “mechanical dictation.”  The critic complains that verbal inspiration turns the Bible’s writers into a “dictaphone, or at best as a stenographer whose personality is only minimally engaged in the transaction.”  But this is not at all what the doctrine teaches.  As Clark points out, God’s sovereignty is more prepared for the occurrence of verbal inspiration than this.

When God wished to make a revelation (at the time of the exodus or of the captivity) he did not suddenly look around as if caught unprepared, and wonder what man he could use. We cannot suppose that he advertised for a stenographer, and, when Moses and Jeremiah applied for the position, that God dictated his message. The relation between God and a prophet was not like that at all. A boss must take what he can get; he depends on the high school or business college to have taught the applicant shorthand and typing. But if we consider the omnipotence and wisdom of God, a very different picture emerges. God is the Creator. He made Moses. And when God wanted Moses to speak for him, he said, “Who has made man’s mouth? … Have not I, the Lord?”

The solution then is simple: not only does God control the circumstances of the human’s life, but he also created the mind itself; a mind which responds to certain things in certain ways, a mind which is full of unique personality.  He shapes each mind and thus, when he reveals his perfect word to the prophets, he has already prepared that mind to articulate His truth in the manner that He sees fit.

Now, the above is part and parcel too of the doctrine of the will.  Not believing as we Calvinists do that the will is not free in a “libertarian” sense, the critic wonders how we can claim both that the mind makes choices, and also that God has determined what those choices will be.  But the critic seems to forget, or perhaps he ignores, the fact that God has brought each human mind into being.  And thus he designed, down to every detail, the way in which each man would respond to every circumstance, how he would act in the world, the way he would think about those ideas that come across his mind.  Man has a creator who molded him in every detail and thus, the will itself, being a creation of God, works according to the direction of the hand that formed it.

As Robert Reymond observes:

Reformed theology does not deny that men have wills (that is, choosing minds) or that men exercise their wills countless times a day. To the contrary, Reformed theology happily affirms both of these propositions. What Reformed theology denies is that a man’s will is ever free from God’s decree, his own intellection, limitations, parental training, habits, and (in this life) the power of sin. In sum, there is no such thing as the liberty of indifference; that is, no one’s will is an island unto itself, undetermined or unaffected by anything.

God doesn’t need to have men as robots in order to determine their actions. For God has, in detail, pieced together the will itself, according to his sovereign decree.  It is not as if God has us on strings and we make no decisions; rather it is that God has crafted a mind to choose and decide according to the very way he made it! And how can man act not according to his very nature?

Thou dost not move men like stones,  
  but dost endue them with life,  
  not to enable them to move without thee,  
  but in submission to thee, the first mover.

Excerpt From: THE MOVER

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C.Jay Engel is the editor and lives with his wife in Northern California
  • Blake Deal

    This post seems to be a denial of occasionalism. Clarification?