who doesn’t want a slice of freedom pie?

God doesn’t. And as it turns out, neither should you.

At least that’s what Michael Horton, doyen of contemporary Reformed theology, recently suggested at the Edinburgh Dogmatics Conference (h/t Brad Littlejohn).

Horton apparently slammed the idea that “Like a pie divided unequally between the host and guests, free agency is something to be negotiated or rationed between God and human persons”. In contrast he argued:

God is qualitatively distinct from creation, and so too is our agency distinct from though dependent upon God’s. There is no freedom pie to divide… God alone is sovereign, but that is the source of rather than threat to creaturely liberty. God does not make space for us by restricting his agency, but rather gives us our own creaturely space precisely by creating, governing, sustaining, and saving us. Unlike the tyrants of history who stalk the earth extinguishing the voice and power of subjects, God’s sovereign presence animates and liberates human agency.

This kind of conception is one I’ve been drawn to for quite a while.

An appropriate emphasis on the freedom and majesty of God may well cut across our rebellious longing for autonomy (ie. independent self-governance) — and the sinful distortions of human desire wrapped up with it.

But we can drive this so hard that we end up an awful long way away from the picture the New Testament paints of human life redeemed, liberated and ultimately perfected in ‘sonship’.

Worse, we can start imagining God as a cosmic tyrant — and then wonder why people run a mile in the opposite direction as soon as we try to start a conversation with them about a good and sovereign God.

So let’s stop arguing over how much pie we get and how much we have to leave for God!


  1. Thanks Chris,
    Richard Bauckham’s “God and and the Crisis of Freedom” takes a similar line and is a helpful read. It is comforting to hear this from Horton. I’ve never read him, but had this picture of hypercalvinist headkicker, which doesn’t fit with this quote.
    I’ve never understood why those who want to talk about sovereignty a lot seem to want to model it on the rulers of this age rather than Jesus’ way of ruling.
    Thanks again

    1. Amen! And thanks for the heads up about Bauckham. Did you read Matheson’s article in CASE #27? It was pretty indebted to Bentley Hart’s Doors of the Sea, but he had a helpful take on fitting ‘sovereignty’ together with the integrity and ‘independence’ of our creaturely wills.

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