You affirm free will, but as a Christian, you also accept Scripture as a teacher.  What then do you make of Romans 9:19-21, which is often viewed as denying free will?  St. Paul says, “You will say to me then, ‘Why does [God] still find fault?  For who can resist his will?’  But who are you, a man, to answer back to God?  Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me thus?’  Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use?”


The theology of free will and divine sovereignty is not my area, but I will answer according to my ability.  I think it is a mistake to view St. Paul’s remarks about the potter and the clay as denying free will.  After all, he is alluding to Jeremiah 18:1-10, in the Old Testament, which uses similar words but plainly affirms free will:

“The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord:  "Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will let you hear my words."  So I went down to the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel.  And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.  Then the word of the Lord came to me:  "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? says the Lord.  Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.  If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will repent of the evil that I intended to do to it.  And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will repent of the good which I had intended to do to it.”  (Emphasis added.)

Because of the Jeremiah passage, and because of all the other passages affirming personal responsibility for our choices, I don’t think the challenger is asking “Why did you make me sin?”  God does not make anyone sin.  No, the challenger is making excuses for himself; he is using God’s foreknowledge to rationalize his free choice to do evil.  He is really asking a different question:  “Foreknowing that I would freely choose to sin, why did you make me at all?”  To this question, God answers in the same way He answers Job’s question about why he has been allowed to suffer:   Who are you to challenge what is so far beyond you?

In the end, Job is satisfied, not because God presents him with a philosophical solution to the puzzle, but because God visits him; all he wanted in his suffering was for God to hear his cry.  And so God has visited us; indeed He has died for us.  But the challenger in St. Paul’s remarks is not satisfied by anything that God has done, because he does not want to turn away from the evil he has chosen.