Is antinomy a good word to describe the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility? It depends what you mean by antinomy.
D. A. Carson, How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil (2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), 201n13:
Owing to the popularity of the little book by J. I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, it has become common to designate the two truths, that God is utterly sovereign and human beings are morally responsible, as an antinomy. [Cf. my summary and outline of Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.] But there is some confusion over the term, and a comment may help.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, an antinomy is: (1) “a contradiction in a law, or between two equally binding laws”; (2) “a contradictory law, statute, or principle; an authoritative contradiction”—and here an illustration is drawn from Jeremy Taylor, who in 1649 wrote that certain signs of grace “are direct antinomies to the lusts of the flesh”; (3) “a contradiction between conclusions which seem equally logical, reasonable, or necessary; a paradox; intellectual contrariness”—and this last meaning OED attributes to Kant.
Packer means none of these things. He certainly does not see in these truths a genuine contradiction (meanings 1 and 3), nor does he see in them the kind of opposition one finds between signs of grace and lusts of the flesh. He means something like “an apparent contradiction that is not in fact real.”
Although OED does offer that as one of its definitions, the term has come to have that meaning in some branches of philosophy (whence, probably, Packer borrowed it). In The Critique of Pure Reason, Kant was occupied in exposing the fallacies that arise when one applies space and time and some other categories to things that are not experienced. He argued that if these categories are not appealed to, we necessarily find four antinomies (which we need not detail here). Superficially, Kant thus used the term in the OED sense of real contradictions: the antinomies arise only when the categories of space and time are adopted. But precisely because he says these categories should not be adopted, the antinomies turn out not to be real contradictions, but only apparent ones. This generates the implicit meaning of “antinomy” that Packer utilizes.
My sole point in this note is to insist that when antinomy be applied to these truths, we understand that we are dealing with mystery, not contradiction.
Update: See also John Piper, “A Response to J.I. Packer on the So-Called Antinomy Between the Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility,” March 1, 1976.