“If God is in control of everything, can Christians sit back and not bother to evangelize? Or does active evangelism imply that God is not really sovereign at all?
In this age lone discussion and man's grasping for understanding, I personally found J.I. Packer’s “Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God” to be not only insightful and relevant, but incredibly helpful when dealing the difficult harmonization of this antinomy; the sovereignty of God in salvation and man’s efforts in evangelism (free-will of man and sovereignty of God). While the bible clearly teaches both the responsibility of man as followers of Christ to reach out to others for the sake of God’s glory and His will to save men, as well as the fact that God has clearly opened and called some to His kingdom, something which only he can do, and something that we cannot know, it is difficult for us to understand how they can both be true simulataneously for they seem a contradiction of one another, a paradox.
Packer attempts to tackle what he calls and antimony (which I think he does a marvelous job of), distinguishing this from a paradox. While most modern English dictionaries would have paradox and antimony as synonymous, Packer makes his case that they are different in this case of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility by because he says that a paradox is a play on words (24) while an antimony is a genuine “contradiction between conclusions seemed equally logical, reasonable or necessary” (23) which he also amends to mean and “appearance of contradiction” (24). He gives an example of antinomy by showing that our understanding of light has cogent evidence to show that it consists of waves, and equally cogent evidence to show that it consists of particles, well we do not understand how they can be both waves and particles. I personally think this distinction is not that necessary, but I found his example of light to be insightful and illuminating because it shows other areas where we as mankind are comfortable with excepting our limits of knowledge and understanding without throwing away one side of an antinomy and holding them both in the balance of truth.
He does make a point however that there are several antinomies in the Bible that are a mystery which we cannot expect to solve in this world, and that “our minds dislike antinomies for we like to tie up everything into meet intellectual parcels, with all appearance of mystery dispelled and no loose ends hanging out. Hence we are tempted to get rid of antinomies from our minds by a legitimate means: to suppress, or jettison, one truth in the suppose it interests of the other, and for the sake of a tidier theology.” (29-30)
I can appreciate his acknowledgments of this human condition as this leads me to think of Paul's words that we live by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7) and that there are things too marvelous for us to understand (Ps 139:6).