Sovereign grace and human freedom

  • John Hesselink


Philip Schaaf, a distinguished church historian of a past generation, once called the debate about God’s sovereignty and human freedom “the question of the ages.” That may not be so for everyone, but with the church it remains a question that will not go away. What the late Albert Outler wrote in 1975 is amazingly relevant today.‘In our day when all the great traditions that have held the world together for centuries (however tenuously) are suddenly becoming frazzled and “inoperative”—the issue between human self-sufficiency and God’s primacy is still the great dividing line in all our struggles for a theology of culture that is actually theo-logy and not some sort of religious anthro-pology writ large across a cosmic backdrop. All our most fashionable credos today (the new a-morality, the new secularism, the new emotionalism and “supernaturalisms”—ESP, psychokinesis, “transcendental meditation,” TA, and others) are all fresh variations on the old themes of human autonomy: viz., the conviction that human beings can and must accept final responsibility for their own well-being and their collective destinies.’