How is God in Control if We Are Free?

I recently received a question about Divine Providence and free will.  The question was how to respond to an unbelieving friend who denies God’s providence based on their own experience of free will.  How can we say that God oversees our lives when we make free choices, and even our own birth seems to be the result of the free will choices of our parents?  Where is there room for God’s sovereignty?

My response is below:

It sounds like your question relates to how God’s divine providence relates to our free will decisions.  How is it that God is sovereign over her free choices or her body if it seems that her body came about through the choices of her parents and her free choices seem to be her own?

We should make a distinction here between the means by which God does something and the fact of God’s doing it.  Consider, for example, someone who owns a pet dog.  They know that the dog loves treats and so they offer the dog a treat and the dog eats it.  There are two things going on here.  First, the dog’s owner has in fact brought it about that the dog eats a treat and it is equally true that the dog chose to eat the treat.

God’s sovereignty works the same way.  Consider in the book of Acts chapter 17 where Luke writes that God chose where and when people are born so that they may choose to seek after God.  In that case God is the one bringing about the circumstances in which people freely choose to seek him.  In the same way, God can bring about the circumstances in which your sister-in-law is born or makes the free choices that she does.

I am unsure if this is a great starting point for an unbeliever, however.  I would encourage you to focus on the person and work of Jesus Christ and the historical evidence for the resurrection.


Matt Bilyeu

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