Book Review | What About Free Will? Reconciling Our Choices with God’s Sovereignty

Pastor Scott Christensen has written what I believe is the best modern treatment critiquing the topic of free will currently in print. In fact, this book is not only good, but an important read for serious Bible students. That would certainly go for Arminians, but likewise for the Calvinists. Especially proponents from those two groups I frequently encounter on social media.

Christensen describes the focus of his book,

“Throughout the book, the main object of my critique is classic Arminianism and its appropriation of libertarian arguments. In contrast, I will devote the larger part of the book to defending a compatibilist perspective on the human will, which I believe is more faithful to Scripture and makes far better sense of our actual experience,” [7].

The first two chapters lay out what libertarianism is, exploring its various shortcomings as a system. Those chapters alone are worth the price of the book. Christensen’s presentation is concise and readable, identifying libertarianism’s foundational components. The section discussing how necessary and sufficient conditions allegedly drive our choices or non-choices was particularly well done.

Beginning in chapter three and moving forwards, he builds his case for compatiblism. He discusses how God’s absolute sovereignty shapes and determines human affairs and choices, explaining how they seamlessly fit together. He accomplishes that by interacting with such questions like, “Why should we pray if God knows what will happen?” and “How can a person be responsible for his actions if God has predetermined his life?”

Christensen also spends a considerable amount of time establishing a biblically defined human freedom, understood as man choosing those things his nature desires. He then contrasts what the Scriptures teach about freedom with the libertarian view that sees human freedom in conflict with divine determinism.

His study then moves to answering the one vexing question all systems of theology ask, “why do bad things happen to good people?” Basically, the so-called problem of evil. He provides a robust response by applying the theological ground work on compatiblistic freedom that he previously laid down. (By the way, Christensen is preparing a future book that will be a specific study on theodicy). He finishes out the book by considering the nature of man, God’s regenerating Spirit, and how they work together in the choices we freely make.

Christensen’s book is filled with copious footnotes. It is clear that he has done extensive research working through the difficult material related to this topic. Those footnotes are extremely helpful, so readers shouldn’t pass over them. Additionally, each chapter ends with three important resources. First, a glossary of key theological and philosophical terms for uninitiated readers. Second, a bibliography for recommended reading. Christensen supplies a short blurb why he thinks the book is useful. Lastly, there is a section of study questions that allows his book to be used in small group settings.

Two appendices round out his study. The first is a chart outlining and contrasting the main tenets of both compatiblism and libertarianism. The second is a review of Randy Alcorn’s book, hand in Hand: The Beauty of God’s Sovereignty and Meaningful Human Choices. Alcorn’s book is often recommended as a reliable source addressing the topic of compatiblism. Christensen explains why it is lacking in key areas.

Again, I can’t recommend this book enough. It is well researched, well written, and expertly presented. It was a delight to read. Any person wishing to lock down their thinking on the greatly misunderstood topic of man’s choices and God’s sovereignty, will benefit immensely from this book.

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