To deny the Sovereignty of God, people always first come up with this question-“If God is Sovereign, why do anything?” But what does the Bible say regarding God’s Sovereignty and human responsibility?
God’s sovereignty, as I am convinced the Bible teaches it, means that God has fore-ordained everything that happens. Before creation, God planned and decided (‘ordained’) the entire course of human history down to the smallest details. All circumstances in time are therefore the outworking of God’s plan which He decreed in eternity.
In light of this, a common objection is ‘If God has already decided what will happen, then why should I do anything? We don’t control history anyway. Therefore, we can just sit back and do nothing.’ The objector is saying that the logical outcome of belief in the absolute sovereignty of God is what we will call ‘indifferent fatalism’–the view that we should do nothing since God controls everything.
How are we to answer the objection of the indifferent fatalist? Why doesn’t belief in God’s absolute sovereignty lead to indifferent fatalism? And if God is absolutely sovereign, how can our choices have real meaning? These are very good questions that a proper understanding of God’s sovereignty will answer.
First we need to understand the difference between fatalism and what is called compatibilism. Compatibilism is the view that God is absolutely sovereign (as explained above) and yet our choices have real meaning and we are responsible for them. It is what I believe the Bible teaches, and is often called ‘Calvinism.’ Fatalism, on the other hand, teaches that no matter what you choose or do, things will turn out the same. For example, if it is determined that Bill will get an ‘F’ on his test tomorrow, then no mater how hard he studies or how well he knows the material, he will fail. His choices do not really affect what will happen.
Compatibilism, in contrast to fatalism, says that our choices really do affect the future, and that if different choices had been made, the future would have been different. On this view, if Bill doesn’t study, he will fail. But if he does study hard, then his studying will be the means that brings about a good grade. In regards to God’s sovereignty, this means that God does not just ordain the ends (for example, a good grade for Bill) and then say ‘this will happen no matter what.’ No, God also ordains the means to His planned end (for example, God ordains that Bill will study as the means to the good grade that He decreed). Our decisions are each links in the chain of means ordained by God to bring about His planned ends. If different decisions had been made, the consequences would have been different. But God works to ensure that the means He has ordained will most certainly occur so that none of His purposes can fail. This makes human decisions truly significant and vital…(continued here)
Excerpt from an article by Matt Perman at Grace online Library.