“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12b-13
Do we have free will? Is God in control of human acts? If God is sovereign, do our choices really matter?
Scott Christensen’s Book , What About Free Will? Reconciling Our Choices with God’s Sovereignty, is a must read for anyone who’s ever given thought to the topic. Christensen tackles the difficult topic of free will from a compatibilistic perspective, i.e. that God’s sovereign determinative plan is compatible with human free will or free agency.
What’s particularly interesting about this book is that it’s written by a philosophically minded pastor, not a philosopher. This may seem like a small detail, but it has many practical implications. Scott’s purpose is primarily pastoral, so while he deals with top shelf theology and philosophy, he makes it accessible for the theologian and laymen alike (yeah, I know everyone’s a theologian but you know what I’m saying).
The Author is vigorously logical, yet winsome and even-handed with contrary views of human free will. He does a fantastic job of teaching what other perspectives believe in a way that they themselves could affirm, then he refutes those positions with logic and most importantly, with the Bible. He’s even added an appendix where he concisely contrasts Libertarian (Arminian) beliefs with Compatibilist (Calvinist) beliefs right next to eachother for an easy and highly accessible juxtaposition.
What sets this books apart from others like it, is that Christensen is a teacher par excellence, making use of helpful graphs throughout the book, employing a glossary at the end of each chapter, giving the reader study questions at the end of each chapter for self reflection, as well as listing resources for further study at the end of each chapter. This man has really done his homework and he demonstrates that on every page.
If you have trouble with words like “hard-determinism”, “synergism” and “decretive will” then this is to book for you! Scott will teach you the phrases and words you need to know to engage in the discussion of free will and he’s provided a cheat sheet at the end of each chapter that you can return to at anytime for a refresher.
Christensen’s book stands in the tradition of Luther’s The Bondage of The Will and Jonathan Edwards’ Freedom of The Will, but he has the benefit of standing on the shoulders of these giants, along with hundreds of other giants, which allows him to observe the progress of biblical compatibilism as well as make some positive gains.
I commend What About Free Will to anyone looking for answers on the relationship between God’s will and ours, Arminian and Calvinist alike. Whether you’ve been studying the topic of free will for years or haven’t ever given it serious thought, you need to read this book. I will be using it with the guys I disciple for years to come.
This book will stretch you mentally, challenge your traditions, expose you to knew concepts, encourage you in your faith, provide you with lots of next steps and resources to check out, and most importantly, you will come away with a larger, more biblical view of the Living God of the Bible who works all things according to the counsel of His will.