The Arminian view of salvation posits that man has free will and the choice to accept salvation is purely on our own free will.

The total sovereignty of God (while disputed in some theological circles) carries a lot of Biblical evidence with it. Just two examples:

Whatever the Lord pleases he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.
Psalms 135:6

Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases.
Psalm 115:3

In light of those two statements, here is my question. How do Arminians reconcile the concept of a God who is in total command of the universe with the idea that humans can choose whether or not to accept His offer of salvation? Or do they not recognize God's sovereignty as total? Can a human being through His free will reject God even though God desires their salvation?

To clarify: I am not asking for judgement on the correctness of Arminianism, just how those who adhere to the school of thought would answer this question.

  • Your two verses, while they may support the sovereignty of God, by no means suggest that God does not please for humans to have free will in their salvation.
    – Flimzy
    Sep 28, 2011 at 21:57
  • That is correct and intended. The question is not meant to argue against the Arminian view but seek a well reasoned and supported answer to the question that is representative of the school of thought. Starting an argument wouldn't be constructive and helpful for future users.
    – blundin
    Sep 28, 2011 at 22:23

3 Answers 3


I can only speak from a Wesleyan-Arminian perspective. A classical Arminian may have a slightly different understanding.

  • God is both creator and ruler of the universe. As creator he has exercised complete sovereignty; God made all the decisions in setting everything up (Genesis 1), including setting up the means by which we could be saved (Romans 3:21-26). God created everything according to his good pleasure. Out of the whole universe he picked this planet for us to live on. He chose the times and places in which each of us would live, so that we could seek him wherever we are (Acts 17:26-27). In his role as creator, God is completely sovereign.
  • God created a world that was very good (Genesis 1:31). However, God created humans with the ability to act in ways that were not according to God's will (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:6-7). Rather than following God's will, we follow our own. This is what we mean by free will.
  • As ruler and judge, God is both just and merciful. Sometimes God may be more merciful than we deserve (Ephesians 2:4-7), but he will never treat us unjustly (Hebrews 6:10).
  • God has made his grace available to all (Titus 2:11), and desires everyone to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). But God does not force us into submission; rather, God leads us to repentance through his kindness (Romans 2:4) and gives us many chances to turn to him (Ezekiel 33:11).

TL;DR: God is sovereign in that he sets all the boundaries, both in putting each of us in a particular time and place, and in making a way that we might be saved and enjoy eternity with him. But God also gives us the freedom to turn away from him and the grace to turn toward him.


I would say your argument is entirely backwards. If the Lord has total sovereignty, then he can choose to let humans decide for themselves whether to accept salvation if that is what He wishes. Saying that God cannot possibly let humans freely choose whether or not to accept salvation is saying that God does not have total sovereignty.

The question is merely what God wishes. Nothing limits him from arranging things as he wishes. His sovereignty is not a limit on what he can do or not do. If he wishes to let humans decide whether to accept salvation, then that is what will happen. If he does not wish to let us do that, then that will not happen. That is what it means to be sovereign.

And, as Bruce Alderman points out, the Bible says God "desires everyone to be saved". So if God didn't leave the decision to us, everyone would be saved.

  • Great argument, and I couldn't agree more, up until the final claim. The reference to 1 Tim. is weak, and Calvinists have a very solid rebuttal from the context of the passage. Your argument doesn't need that citation anyway, so I'd strongly recommend removing it.
    – Jas 3.1
    Jul 11, 2013 at 3:26

I would say that yes, through free will a man can accept God's offer of grace and salvation. I believe God gives us the freedom to choose so that when we do choose to accept His grace, it is a conscious, humble, obedient choice. That does not mean that God cannot force someone to accept his grace, but I'm not sure there is any evidence of God doing that.

Titus 2:11 (NIV) says "For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people." If God's grace is offered to all people, then why haven't all people who know of God's grace accepted it? How many atheist biblical scholars are there that despite knowledge of His grace will still spend eternity in Hell?

God values our obedience. Throughout the Bible we are also called to "walk in obedience". We are not made to obey, but asked to obey in the same way we are asked to believe in Jesus Christ and accept salvation.

1 Samuel 15:22 NIV
22 But Samuel replied:

   “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
   as much as in obeying the LORD?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
   and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

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