Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Concurrence: The point at which the human will intersects the divine will.

This is an important doctrine in Christian Theology. It serves to answers questions related to God's sovereignty and human accountability. For example: How can God be truly sovereign if I have the freedom to do contrary to what He wants? Or on the other hand: How can my choices be truly free if God has predestined, or predetermined, the outcome for my life?

Here are just three of a multitude of pasages that touch on this issue:

Genesis 45:4-8, 50:19-20

Joseph said to his brothers, "Come close to me." When they had done so, he said, "I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt... Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

Notice the one act (Joseph being sent to Egypt). Notice the two actors (God and Joseph's brothers). Notice the motives of the two actors (God had a good motive - to save many lives; Joseph's brothers had an evil motive - to harm their brother out of envy). This is concurrence.

Isaiah 10:5-7, 12-13, 15

God said, "Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of My anger, in whose hand is the club of My wrath! I send him against a godless nation, I dispatch him against a people who anger Me, to seize loot and snatch plunder, and to trample them down like mud in the streets. But this is not what he intends, this is not what he has in mind; his purpose is to destroy, to put an end to many nations... I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes. For he says: 'By the strength of my hand I have done this, and by my wisdom, because I have understanding. I removed the boundaries of nations, I plundered their treasures; like a mighty one I subdued their kings...' Does the ax raise itself above him who swings it, or the saw boast against him who uses it? As if a rod were to wield him who lifts it up, or a club brandish him who is not wood!"

Notice the one act (Assyria attacking Israel). Notice the two actors (God and Assyria). Notice the motives of the two actors (God had a good motive - to discipline His people and to punish the evildoer both in Israel and Assyria; Assyria, in arrogance and pride, had an evil motive - to destroy the nation of Israel). This is concurrence.

Acts 2:22-23; 4:27-28

"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a Man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know. This Man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross... Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed. They did what Your power and will had decided beforehand should happen."

Notice the one act (the crucifixion of Jesus - arguably the most sinful thing ever to take place). Notice the two actors (God and the men involved in putting Jesus to death). Notice the motives of the two actors (God had a good motive - to save His people from their sins by propitiating His own wrath against them; the men involved in putting Jesus to death had an evil motive - to conspire against and murder Jesus). This is concurrence.

A sound understanding of concurrence brings the conclusion that man's freedom is neither violated nor destroyed. That is, the human will does not fall victim to coercion; God works out His divine will in and through the choices made by the human will; and this is done not through mere foresight, but through fore-ordination. At no time does He reduce humans to the level of impersonal or non-volitional puppets who can move and act only as their strings are pulled externally. We are free but not autonomous. We don't so much have free will, but we are volitional creatures.

Perhaps on another day, we'll discuss Jonathan Edwards' treatise, "The Freedom of the Will," alongside Martin Luther's, "The Bondage of the Will." The two works come to the same conclusion, despite having contrary titles. Nevertheless, know this: that everything you thought, said, and did yesterday was completely done by you freely, yet it was also fore-ordained by God for His sovereign and eternal purpose. And that is also the case for today and tomorrow, though it gives us no excuse for our sinful behavior and no reason to boast in our successes. This is concurrence.

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