An Inquiry into Divine Sovereignty and Human Will -- By: Owen H. Alderfer

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 11:0 (NA 1978)
Article: An Inquiry into Divine Sovereignty and Human Will
Author: Owen H. Alderfer


An Inquiry into Divine Sovereignty and Human Will

Owen H. Alderfer

The Christian church across the years has wrestled continuously with issues related to divine sovereignty and human will. Relative to human nature the persistent questions concern man’s condition as sinner: is he sinner by nature or by imitation in an exercise of his will and what is the nature of his responsibility for his sin? Relative to divine sovereignty the questions focus on the paradox of grace: is grace unto salvation irresistibly provided for a limited body of elect? Or is grace generally offered to all on condition?

Generally, the contemporary church has moved elsewhere in its doctrinal concerns; nevertheless, current presuppositions with which the church operates include these issues. Because these matters continue to be material for discussion, it seems appropriate that yet another statement on them be offered. An historical review and Biblical analysis relative to these issues may provide material for new thinking for some. Here, then, is a study which seeks to find middle ground in an age-old theological and philosophical struggle which was present before the beginning of the Christian era and has been crucial across the years of Christian history.

This study focuses centrally upon that area where soteriology and anthropology converge. Upon the presuppositions of the writer, a great many issues are already decided: the supreme authority of the scriptures for Christian doctrine; the sovereignty of God and the necessity of the divine initiative in man’s salvation; the atoning work of Christ as the means appointed by God for man’s salvation. The issues of this study, then, are rather narrow of focus: the study does not deal with questions of works—however much or little—as compared to grace in man’s salvation. It does not raise questions as to the appropriateness of such concepts as “election” and “predestination” in Christian discourse: these are Biblical concepts which must be responsibly incorporated into the conversation.

Of the state of commitment relative to Christian anthropology Reinhold Niebuhr has written, “The Christian doctrine of sin in its classical form offends both rationalists and moralists by maintaining the seemingly absurd position that man sins inevitably and by a fateful necessity but that he is nevertheless to be held responsible for actions which are prompted by an ineluctable fate.”1 This classical formulation as it has been worked out in Augustine, Luther, and Calvin is arbitrary and inflexible, leaving little or no room even for discussion on subjects regarding which much more must be said. The study of the history of doctrine...

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