This year, R.C. Sproul's Ligonier Ministries Conference focused on "Tough Questions Christians Face." Dr. John MacArthur addressed the question, "Does the Doctrine of the Divine Decrees Eliminate Human Will?" MacArthur's answer radically affirmed Biblical paradox and divine incomprehensibility, while also radically affirming the clarity and reliability of Scripture. His words rang with the humility of a man who has wrestled with the twin truths of God's sovereignty and human responsibility, and found himself standing in baffled awe before the transcendent wisdom of God, as revealed in His Word.
Here are some excerpts from MacArthur's message . . .
"This is a very, very important question, and I think . . . for folks who are new to . . . Reformed theology, this is the big hurdle to get over. If God is sovereign - if God is in control of absolutely everything - then what place does human responsibility play? . . . It is also, I think, the most pervasive, nagging question in the minds of people who have already embraced Reformed theology, who still grapple with the solution to how divine sovereignty and human responsibility work together. It is unquestionably a paradox, at least apparently. Certainly it is not contradictory to God, nor is it contradictory in reality, but it appears to us to be contradictory. I know all of you have struggled with this question, all of you have. I have. It's not a question that goes away. You don't get a short answer. In wanting to prepare my thoughts for this occasion . . . I began to read everything I could find on how human responsibility comes together with divine sovereignty. What I got was a lot of philosophy, a lot of rational thinking, a lot of reasoning, a lot of adjectives, qualifying absolutely everything, but I really didn't get any satisfaction."
"I want you to see the way Scripture handles this issue. There is a reason why nobody yet has given you a fully satisfactory answer, and I know no one has. You may be a teacher of Reformed theology, and you haven't read or heard a really satisfactory answer to this difficult dilemma from the standpoint of human reason. Where you have to go with this is to set all of that aside and just see what Scripture says."
"The Scripture never equivocates on presenting these two great side by side realities in the very same place. . . . Human responsibility both for faith and culpability for unbelief is crystal clear, and it is put in the passages where sovereignty is emphasized strongly."
"The Bible doesn't tell you one side of this in this book, and then four books later sneak in the other side. It's in the same place over and over and over again. . . . I can't resolve this. You just need to enjoy the pain. . . . and you certainly don't want to come up with a hybrid in the middle which denies the reality of both. They are what they are. And if you're under the illusion that you can figure it out, you're on the level of a man who thinks he's a poached egg."
Can I just encourage you? Have you been struggling with this? Of course you've been struggling with this! . . . these two things go together and there is no explanation beyond that. You're there. . . . you've got it."
"You say, 'look, I'm struggling a little bit with this.' Good. It means you're human. . . . Are you surprised that you're struggling with this? Get over it. Who do you think you are? 98% water. Are you kidding me? Why should you expect to understand this? . . . This is way beyond us, but we love these truths, don't we? We love the truth of divine sovereignty. We embrace the truth of human responsibility. And we cherish Gospel duty. . . . These mysteries for us are inconceivable, incomprehensible, unfathomable, unsearchable. You don't need more information . . . You got it."
"Listen folks, not your individual intellect or our collective intellects are going to be able to comprehend the incomprehensible, inscrutable mind of God."
See the video here: