A Perspective on Freedom

June 2008

During a prayer meeting a few months ago, God gave me an insight into the age-old problem of free will and sovereignty. The leader of the prayer meeting used a definition of God as written by Gordon Lewis: “God is an invisible, personal and living Spirit, distinguished from all other beings by His attributes (thus He is holy)…he is self existent, eternal and unchanging, omniscient, faithful and wise, just, merciful and loving, detests evil, longsuffering, compassionate, free, authentic and omnipotent, transcendent and immanent, sovereign.”

The thing that struck me most about this list was the fact that God is “free”. And yet God is not free. He is only as free as His freedom is constrained by His other perfectly balanced attributes. God is not free to lie, because He is faithful. He cannot be arbitrary because He is just as well as merciful and loving. He must act in accord with His character.

If God Himself is not free to act against His character, how are we, who are made in His image, to view our “free will”? Is our will truly “free” or is it, more properly defined, limited by the character and skills God has given us and the situation and place He has put us in? If even God is limited by His own character, why do we complain that we are limited by His sovereignty? In a sense we are “freer” than God is, because we have the ability to sin, but isn’t true freedom in Christ (Gal 5:1) the ability to do what is right, no matter what? In that sense, those who have the Son have a freedom limited by their devotion to God and they are freer than any other beings in the universe.