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How to think of God's sovereinty and the playing out of His decree vs. man's responsibility and the effectiveness of effort

One area even the most sophisticated Reformed theologians are a bit shallow (not an insult) is the area of laws as they pertain to man and his will and responsibilty. Laws as in God being sovereign in creation, providence, and grace, as-well-as the playing out of His decree and His control of all that unfolds. Also first cause, or prime mover vs. secondary causes that are either determined, contingent, or free.

One can write a thousand nine-hundred page books, but what one gets from the Westminster Confession of Faith on this subject is about all one can get, and the WCF puts it very succinctly. God is the first cause, but He acts through secondary causes that are either determined, contingent, or free, and from the mix of all those interacting secondary causes there forms a matrix out of which God is sovereign yet man's responsibility is established and effort is meaningful.

Still, that matrix seems a bit two-dimensional, even though we can accept the conclusions above. Is there an element in it all that will make that matrix more than seemingly two-dimensional and hence more alive (in a not-deterministic-to-any-degree sense)?

I think there is, and it's level of being. The Bible speaks of level of being in different ways. It shows different levels of being, but it also blatantly speaks of different levels of being, for instance the apostle Paul speaking of different levels of being of individuals in heaven, implying that level of being is set in this world having to do with progressive sanctification and so on.

If you take accident for one category of laws. Accidents are going to happen, and mathematically they are going to happen to a certain number of people, but do they have to happen to a determined set of people, or just any people, and what makes the difference of being one of the people that the accident happens to and one that doesn't get involved in the accident? In other words can the law of accident be transcended by level of being? For instance how awake you are in your environment. It's a feature of a higher level of being to be more awake in your environment (especially when there are no perceived dangers in the environment) as opposed to being in a state of sleep-walking through your day and environment.

The above example of accident shows how scale and relativity (that level of being brings into play) can make that matrix described above more than two-dimensional.

Another category of law is will. The difference between self-will and ability to act from God's will. A mark of a higher level of being is the ability to act from God's will rather than merely acting from self-will. When one is able to act from God's will one is not simply allowing bodily fears or desires, and then emotion to control one's thoughts and decisions. That is bottom up will. Self-will. When one is able to act from God's will one is able to act top-down. God's commands, to thoughts, to emotions, to actions. When one is able to act in the latter sense it obviously puts one in a different relationship to the various laws that control us at this level. Self-will can get you into all kinds of problems that looking back you would rather not be in. Ability to act from God's will keeps you free from such outcomes. The biblical phrase wait on the Lord refers to how acting from God's will happens. It is a kind of descent-of-the-dove will or action. Yet to be able to wait on that descent-of-the-dove higher will to manifest, especially when you are in a difficult event or situation, requires a higher level of being. We aren't born with that. We have to develop it.

So just with the examples of the laws of accident and will we can see how the subject of first cause and secondary causes (determined, contingent, or free) and how they relate to God's sovereignty and His decree and being in control of everything that unfolds can be seen as very much more than a two-dimensional matrix when you add the scale and relativity that level of being brings to it all.


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