A proposed solution to the Divine Sovereignty v Human Free-Will issue.
I believe that God has given man genuine free-will to accept or reject God's grace, and so I reject the belief that God sovereignly chooses some to be saved and thereby others to be lost.
However there are some powerful arguments that I found hard to answer.
(1) If you think hard enough you will see that if God knows all things from eternity (Omniscience) then they are necessarily predetermined. The Bible says God foreknew those who would be saved. This foreknowledge implies our salvation, or not, was fixed before our birth (even if you use a weak definition of foreknowledge). In 1Peter 1:20 the word is correctly translated as foreordained.
(2) The full meaning of 'foreknow' is 'to choose', 'to set your heart (love) upon someone.' (Amos 3:2, Matt 7:23).
(3) 'He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world' (Ephesians 1:4). This is an amazingly far reaching statement if applied individually. In the context it seems that we were chosen from eternity, to receive the blessings of salvation (v3), chosen to be his Bride. But this also implies we were chosen to exist. When you consider the uncertainty of our existence (what if our parents never met, or did not make love that day, what if one of the other millions of sperm fertilised the egg? Then raise that improbability to the power of the number of generations since Adam!). You either deduce we are extremely 'fortunate' to exist, or that God has exercised an extremely high level of Sovereign control over history just to ensure our personal existence. (See also Jeremiah 1:5, 31:3)
I now present a theological speculation that may solve this problem.
The key thought is that God in His Omniscience does not just know all things that happen or will happen, but He knows all possible outcomes or universes. For instance Jesus said that if he had ministered in Tyre, Sidon, Sodom and Gomorrah they would have repented (Matthew 11:20-24)
Now the kind of universe that can exist is controlled by God's eternal decree (that is God decided before the foundation of the world what kind of universe He would create and what kind of end-result would come of it).
Some of the key aspects of this decree are:
(1) God's eternal PURPOSE is the logical starting point of His decree.
He does everything 'according to His purpose.' God's eternal purpose was to create a moral universe with free-will beings in His image who would glorify Him (Rev 4:11). His ultimate purpose was to bring forth a glorious Bride for His Son. God decreed (decided) to create such a universe.
(2) He further decreed the Fall of man (he chose a universe where sin entered). The purpose for this decree must be God's greater glory (the self-revelation of His sacrificial love and hatred of sin) that came through redemption and judgement. God chose to have an eternal state where the one terrible possibility of free-will (rebellion against God) had been revealed in all its consequences, judged and overcome once and for all. Thus His righteousness would be vindicated and the justice of His government demonstrated to all creation. This issue would then be eternally settled and established in His creation.
(3) SALVATION. He decreed the plan of redemption -the incarnation, death, burial, resurrection and glorification of His Son, Jesus Christ. (Acts 2:23, 4:27,28; 1Peter 1:20). He decreed that the grace of salvation in Christ would be freely offered to all men through the gospel, to be received or rejected on the basis of faith. He did not decree who would accept or reject, for that would infringe man's free-will.
*(4) Even with such restrictions there are an infinite possible number of universes and an infinite number of Brides.
In His Omniscience God saw them all.
In His WISDOM (the ability to view all possible courses of action and choose the best).
God decreed to give one and only one EXISTANCE.
In other words He CHOSE one Bride from a choice of many.
Peter wrote to: 'The chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.' (1Peter 1:2)
'He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him (to fulfil the eternal purpose).' (Eph 1:4)
He predestined us to sonship and eternal inheritance, according to the good pleasure of His will, according to His purpose' (Eph 1:5,11)
This eternal decree is His foreknowledge and predestination. He foreknew (chose) His Bride and decreed (predestined) her final state in everlasting glory, even before her creation.
It would be like an artist seeing many possible paintings and choosing to give one of them existence. The artist is outside (not limited by) the canvas therefore sees the final result and makes his choice based on that. To us in the picture, it seems to be being painted in time and that the future is not in existence. This is a Newtonian viewpoint. But it's interesting that Einstein's relativity describes space-time as a unity which means the future is 'out-there', although we can't see it. When God created the universe He created all of space-time (He is not continuously creating time). God interacts with us in time, but He also sees the complete picture (the end from the beginning).
The selection of one universe from many has an analogy in quantum physics. At the sub-atomic level particles (like a photon or electron) are best described by a wave-function, which is a probability summation of all possible states.When observed however, this wave-function collapses and it's position takes on a definite value. I would speculate that the quantum nature of reality reflects the fact that we are in a free-will universe. On the other hand, the relativistic nature of space-time reflects a fixed reality.
In conclusion, this is a suggested solution of the paradox of God's sovereignty and man's free-will. It allows for man's free-will - allowing an Arminian view of salvation. It gives man free-will with respect to his salvation. God does not predestine or force anyone to be saved. If any one is saved it is his choice. Therefore if he rejects Christ he must bear the consequences. All the truths of human responsibility and the need for human response and action hold fully.
However this concept also presents a very strong doctrine of God's sovereignty.
1. This universe and its outcome is fixed by God from eternity.
2. Believers are individually chosen (elect) from before the foundation of the world.
God did not chose some to be saved and others to be lost, but He chose us to exist and be part of the Bride of Christ out from all possible Brides. That is, He looked at the end-result of each possible universe (the glorified Brides - the groups of those who would receive His saving grace) and chose this particular Bride.
This means (if you are and will continue to be a genuine believer)
He chose you personally to be eternally glorified before him in love (He foreknew you), out from a larger group who have not been given existence. This is a wonderful thought and gives the phrase 'the elect (the chosen ones)' a strong meaning.
The problem of why God would choose or allow a universe with so much evil is faced by all Christian views of reality, so is not a particular objection to this viewpoint.
However Romans 8:28-30 takes on great significance:
'We know that God works all things (all events) together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called (the elect) according to His purpose ' (this whole universe of events is designed for the bringing forth of His chosen Bride; this is the expected result in time, of the decree which fixes this universe)
'For whom He foreknew (chosen in eternity), He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son (He decreed the certain final outcome for his Bride)
We are 'predestined (according to the purpose of Him Who works all things according to the counsel of His will) ..to be to the praise of His glory' (Eph 1:11,12)
God's decree is manifested in time as a plan that He is working out, to bring His purpose to pass. Again we see that God is working all things together to fulfil His ultimate purpose (this is what we would expect to see from within creation as a result of the kind of eternal decree I am suggesting) Thus this view gives us a strong interpretation of the meanings of 'foreknowledge' and 'predestination'.
Romans 8:30 gives us the out-working of this plan in time: 'moreover those whom He predestined, He also called, and those He called He justified and those He justified, He glorified (the predestined end result - the glorious Bride).'
PRAISE GOD FOR HIS GLORIOUS GRACE IN CHOOSING US
and PREPARING US FOR ETERNAL GLORY WITH HIM!
'Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.' (2Tim 1:9,10)
Summary (A logical argument proving this thesis from God's Omniscience)
If God is Eternal and Omniscient then He foreknew everything that would happen, which means it was fixed (determined) before creation. It was necessarily fixed by God. In other words, He saw which universe would exist and thereby its existence was made certain before it was even made.
Omniscience saw all possible universes, not just this one.
He saw the one which would exist, which made its existence certain.
In other words, He chose to give this particular universe existence.
This would seem to eliminate free-will.
However His choice was according to His purpose of having a family of sons who would freely love Him.
The set of all possible universes included infinite free-will universes (with men in His image), governed according to all the laws of human responsibility that we observe in our universe.
Thus to fulfil His purpose God chose a 'free-will universe' to exist.
Therefore God brought forth a universe with inbuilt free-will. The fact that He caused this universe to exist rather than another does not infringe that free-will.
Thus God's Sovereignty and man's free-will can both be true in a strong sense, but in such a way that allows an Arminian doctrine of salvation with a real place for free-will.