How are we responsible if God is sovereign?

Part 7 - Doctrine of Man
Chapter 35 - Human responsibility and freedom

How is man responsible if God controls even his decisions?

Man is indeed called to be holy, as God is holy (Lev. 19:1; Matt. 5:48).  It is God's sovereignty is the foundation of our responsibility to Him.

Most people think we are only responsible for what we do freely.  While ignorance or inability sometimes lessen or alleviate guilt they do not always completely eliminate it (Luke 12:47-48; Romans 5:19).  "Scripture... urges us to inform sinners not only of the senses in which they are unable to believe, but also of the ways in which they are able" (822).

"Freedom refers to various kinds of abilities" (823).
The freedom to do good is moral freedom.  We lost this in the fall.
The freedom to do what we want is compatibilist freedom.  Compatible with predestination!
The freedom to choose a or b with "equal ease."  If we don't have it, we aren't responsible.  Frame calls this "Libertarian" freedom.

Libertarian freedom refuted:
The Bible doesn't teach it.  It assumes our responsibility because God made us, not because we are "Free to Choose" [HT: Norm Geisler].  Not even civil courts seek to prove that we are guilty because there was no cause but our will.  The Bible rejects we have a freedom of will independent of God.  God Himself is not morally responsible by this theory, since He cannot act against His holiness.  Libertarianism requires you reject God's exhaustive foreknowledge of anything.  It often relies on intuition that free will is right.  It requires that God has limited His sovereignty in some way, which the Bible never says He has.

The common objection to this is that we are robots, or that God shouldn't judge man for what He is responsible for making us to be.  But the Bible speaks of us as clay in the potter's hands.  We are creatures other than God, and He ordains our lives in a way that is consistent and maintains our integrity.  He gives us a role to play so that we are free, responsible and significant.  Arminians want to affirm this in a way that denies God's sovereignty over man; hyper-Calvinists want to deny this.

Being made in God's image involves choosing.  "We act according to our desires."  Not in a way that is independent of God's causation, but we participate in (copy?) His creativity.

Pilot and co-pilot.  No good, as only one of them flies the plane at a time.
Teacher and classroom.  Fits the libertarian view: God sets boundaries and students act freely.
Primary and secondary cause.  Common among Calvinists, but how is God not responsible for being a remote and primary cause?
Commander and Troops.  Gets at the authority aspect, especially through the Word, but only describes it, and not much else.
Author/characters.  This analogy works quite well.  The author is the ultimate cause of everything, but writes in a way that the characters are consistent and act according to their nature.  Macbeth is responsible for murder, but Shakespeare made him do it!  Macbeth is not technically responsible to Shakespeare for his murder, though the author is his judge, and it is possible to write the story such that the author is the One to whom we are responsible.

The last analogy of author and characters in a story also fits with the idea of covenant presence.  God the author is present at every point of the drama He writes.  He interacts with us as persons, not robots.  This analogy doesn't answer all our questions, but it does help us think biblically.

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