These two words cause a lot of discomfort for a lot of people because they pose a threat to what they perceive as their “freedom“. Far from it, for unless certain things are predestined, and unless certain acts are predetermined, outcomes are left up in the air.
People have problems with these ideas, especially when it comes to certain elements of Christian theology, but they don’t seem to necessarily pose a problem for adherents of naturalistic philosophy unless you seem predisposed to something they oppose, but that’s for another day.
So, what is the problem? The problem, seems to hover around what Christians identify as God’s sovereignty, which is best classified as freedom.
If God, as most believers assert, is totally sovereign, totally free, if he exerts complete, free control over the universe, if he knows the outcome of every situation, and he is as powerful as to create with just a word, why is there evil and suffering in the world?
If we are even to attempt to answer this question, we have to consider a few items about God:
1. If God is sovereign, and good sovereigns do something extraordinary, they delegate;
2. If God has wisdom to delegate, to create not only a system, but to install checks and balances and place beings in those positions and make them responsible;
3. If God has placed beings, all manner of beings, in places of responsibility he will certainly hold them accountable for the performance of their duties;
4. If God has delegated, has given responsibilities, and intends to hold them accountable, then He must predetermine certain rewards for faithfulness and certain punishments for failures and, most surprisingly, give an opportunity for those who will, when faced with the reality, admit and accept responsibility for their failure in order to be forgiven.
If we truly consider point number 4 as legitimate, then we have to ask a question: what does it mean to “accept their responsibility“? If there is any one word in orthodox Christian doctrine that captures the thought, it is “repentance“. It is taking what God offers and living in accordance with it.
People often don’t have a problem with a sovereign God, they have a problem with a God who would hold them accountable for their actions, and would be willing to establish punishment for their unfaithfulness and shirking of their responsibility to Him.