Clay in the hands of the potter, free will,

Clay, Not Robots


Like rillets of water is the king’s heart in the hand of Yahweh; Wherever He inclines, He turns it aside.
—Proverbs 21:1

He turned their heart to hate His people, To plot against His servants.
—Psalm 105:25

All abiding on the earth are reckoned as naught: According to His will is He doing...with those abiding on the earth.
—Daniel 4:35

[He] is operating all in accord with the counsel of His will.
—Ephesians 1:11

Consequently, then, it is not of him who is willing, nor of him who is racing, but of God, the Merciful.
—Romans 9:16

Consequently, then, to whom He will, He is merciful, yet whom He will, He is hardening.
—Romans 9:18

Has not the potter the right over the clay, out of the same kneading to make one vessel, indeed, for honor, yet one for dishonor?
—Romans 9:21


God and man. I looked into Scripture one day to discover the relationship between these two. This, to me, seemed like such an important question that I could not imagine God ignoring it. Surely among the many, divinely-inspired pages of Scripture would be a simple, easy-to-remember explanation of what man was to God. I found it in Romans 9:21:

Has not the potter the right over the clay, out of the same kneading to make one vessel, indeed, for honor, yet one for dishonor?

Potter and clay. Here was the divine explanation, so simple, yet so difficult to believe, so damaging to man’s pride. God controls man as a potter controls clay. Even a child could understand that. The revelation was embarrassing and wonderful at the same time. It was embarrassing in that it humbles one to be compared to clay. The Greek word is pelos, which means mud. Yet it was wonderful in that all power, honor, and glory for anything that happened with the clay would go to the Potter.

Yet when I tried to relate this news to some of my friends, they refused to believe that God was the Potter and they were the clay. Instead, they told me they made independent decisions. They called this "free will." This was a good name for it, I thought, for one who is "free" is, by definition, unaffected by outside influences, including God. Free will means that not even God can cause a person to act. Otherwise, that person would not be free.

RobotsI was having a hard time believing that my friends actually believed what they said they believed (that they were not influenced by God), so I showed them the verses I quoted at the beginning of this article. These verses, I thought, would prove to them that God does influence man, and that no man whom God influences can be called "free."

"But we are not robots!" my friends objected.

This response puzzled me, as I never suggested that they were robots. Robots buzz and blink. Robots creak, squeak, and often work out of reach of their masters. Some robots will even bump into refrigerators with an impressive clank, should their masters doze at the switch.

Most robots have lights of different colors and whirligig circuitry that befuddles even the repairman. Robots impress their makers, they say, so that the technicians themselves have to sit back and admire the machinery they’ve wrought.

Robots? No. I never said that. Nowhere in Scripture are men compared to robots. But they are compared to clay—Romans 9:21. What a difference. Clay neither buzzes nor blinks; it makes no noise or movement of its own. Clay can do nothing apart from the Potter’s hand. It cannot wander from the wheel. It cannot run into a refrigerator, should the Potter sleep.

A hammer is required to reshape the robot; or a vise, or a welding torch, or a pneumatic drill. The Potter need only bend His fingers, and the ashtray becomes a water pot.

Those who resent the idea of being robots give themselves too much credit. They are not robots. They are clay.

Photo by "littlelostrobot"; Creative Commons License; Attribution