The Sovereignty of God vs. the Responsibility of Man

Sovereignty of God vs Responsibility of Man


When we talk theologically, there is always the problem of the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man that emerges.

Where does God’s sovereignty end and where does my responsibility begin?

So please follow this: the Scriptures hold to neither extreme.

Anyone who denies sovereignty is unbiblical. Anyone who denies responsibility is unbiblical. The Bible writers hold both of these truths, albeit in tension, but they hold them in balance.

For example, Jesus used the words:

Offences must come (sovereignty of God) but woe unto him through whom they come (responsibility of man).

The Apostle Paul said it:

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (responsibility of man) for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure (sovereignty of God).

Peter used it in his Pentecost sermon:

That which God hath foreordained from before the foundation of the world (sovereignty of God), you with wicked hands have taken and crucified (responsibility of man).

Ravi Zacharias




What we have here is an antinomy. Which is two truths, two truths that sit side-by-side, seemingly irreconcilable and yet both undeniable.

Truth #1 God is sovereign. Truth #2 Man is responsible. That is an antinomy.

That God, first of all, orders and controls all things, human actions among them, in accordance with His own eternal purpose; the first truth.

And then, that God holds every man responsible for the choices he makes and the courses of action that he pursues.

Now, I’m no physicist, but I believe that there is something of an antinomy in the world of physics in relation to the question of light.

For I believe, unless times have changed, that light is conceived of in terms of waves, but it is also conceived of in terms of particles.

And it is both true that light is waves but that light is also particles. To try to explain it in terms of one to the detriment of the other, is to be inaccurate.

Both are true, but it is difficult to see how both can be true side-by-side.

Now in this matter, the preponderance of response, in an endeavor to “tidy things up,” to try to get our theology all buttoned down and to make sure that there is no mystery left, we tend to be confronted by the temptation to reject one side of the equation.

And so, you can talk to people who will tell you “I believe only in human responsibility and thereby I reject divine sovereignty” Or “We believe in the sovereignty of God, and therefore we reject human responsibility.”

The reason that you or I may still live with problems in this area may largely be due to a reluctance on our part to recognize the existence of mystery and to allow God to be wiser than us.

A reluctance to subject ourselves to the truth of Scripture. An exalted notion of human logic which says “if I can’t understand it, I won’t believe it.”

Alistair Begg