Philip K. Dick was arguably the most influential science fiction writer of the late twentieth century. Several of his works, adapted as screenplays, explore the concept of free will. In Blade Runner we are brought face to face with the tension between genetic control and genuine feeling. The Adjustment Bureau pits choice against fate, as Matt Damon’s character attempts to alter the master plan for his life.
It all brings up an interesting, age-old question: Is it possible for there to be a sovereign God and for humans to have free will?
The stakes are high in this debate. If we surrender free will, life becomes bleak and hopeless. If God possesses exclusive control over our destinies, why should we do anything? What difference does anything make if life is all mapped out? If we surrender divine sovereignty, life loses transcendent meaning and purpose. We exist and then we die. The better the choices we make, the more apt we are to survive the race of the fittest, but for what—the mere propagation of our species? On the one hand we are left with unfeeling determinism, and on the other, a free-falling individualism.
Millions of people view the Bible as a source for knowing God. What does the Bible have to say on the topic of will?
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This Monday we discussed the Sovereignty of God & Prayer at City Seminary. We defined the sovereignty of God as: “The pleasure of the triune God in ruling over all things.” We then applied this doctrine to anxiety in our lives, which is often manifested in: controlling fear, constant busyness, or distracting habits.
Detecting Anxiety Idolatry
How do you discern where anxiety is festering in your life? Try to find where your feelings are out of control, and you’ll find your idol (paraphrase of TK). For instance, controlling fear may paralyze you in parenting, air travel, or solitude. Our feelings can mislead us. As Thom Yorke says, “Just because you feel it doesn’t mean its there.” Just because you fear failure doesn’t mean its there or to be trusted. Anxiety offers us a false promise: “Be anxious and you’ll have control or peace.”
Moving Beyond Anxiety into Sovereignty
In order to move beyond anxiety, we need a true promise to rely on. Phillipians 4:6-7 promises us “peace that surpasses comprehension” if we will bring our anxieties to God in prayer. Now, this promise can only be true and trustworthy if God is sovereign. If he isn’t, he can’t promise incomprehensible peace in all circumstances. However, there’s a condition on this promise. We must give up self-sovereignty before we can trust in God’s sovereignty. Where are your emotions out of control? What is sovereign in your life? God or fear or busyness?
Prayer Works with a Sovereign God
The way forward from paralyzing anxiety is to trust in God’s sovereignty. This doesn’t happen through mental resignation; it requires genuine prayer and trust in God. Repentance from trusting in false promises and new faith in true promises. This gift of prayer brings us into sweet communion with God.
But if God is sovereign, doesn’t he already know what I will ask? Yes, he does (Matt 6:8) but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray. He’s ordained our prayers to sovereignly accomplish our good and keep his promises of peace. Tim Chester puts it well:
God offers us prayer as a possibility and commands us to pray because he is a relational God who purposes to have a relationship with his people. It is not that God receives new data through our prayers, but that through our prayers information is clothed in love making it communication. God has ordained that he will be affected by our loving communication to him.
In prayer, anxious humans meet a joyfully sovereign God. He calls us to deep dependence on him and promises to replace our anxiety with peace.
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