10/14/10

THEOLOGY: God's Absolute Sovereignty


You guys ought to be proud of me. Think about it, I am a Calvinist who has not written a blog on God's absolute sovereignty for two whole months!!! Now that is impressive, since us Calvinists cannot help but to go around praising the absolute sovereignty of God. OK, this is a bit sarcastic, but what do you expect from me? :)

The purpose of this blog is to show with scripture and simple logic that the absolute sovereignty of God is something that is either completely true and absolutely necessary for there to even be a God at all, or that God does not exist. The point I am getting at is that the absolute sovereignty of God is an absolutely central Christian doctrine. There is no way around it. God is either completely sovereign and absolutely nothing can frustrate His purposes, or He is not.

1. Is God absolutely sovereign?

To answer this question, our best resource by far is scripture. Does the bible itself proclaim God to be absolutely sovereign? It undoubtedly does, without question. I won't point to every single scripture that proclaims this, but rather, only to a couple. Proverbs 16:4 declares that God has made EVERYTHING for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble. Proverbs 16:33 declares that the lot is cast into the lap, but its decision is from the Lord. Proverbs 21:1 declares that the Lord turns the king's heart wherever He wills. Daniel 4:35 tells us that the Lord does according to His will with the inhabitants of the Earth and of Heaven. Here are a few more:

Daniel 4:17: The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.'

Daniel 4:25: that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.

2 Kings 19:25: "Have you not heard that I determined it long ago? I planned from days of old what now I bring to pass, that you should turn fortified cities into heaps of ruins,

Isaiah 46:10: declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,'

Psalm 33:10-11: The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.

Ephesians 1:11: In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 

Isaiah 14:27: For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?

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

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

Romans 9:18: So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

Acts 2:23: this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Acts 4:27-28: for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

John 6:65: And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father."

And on and on and on...scripture declares without ambiguity that God IS absolutely sovereign. Over everything. OK, so I couldn't help it. I just HAD to post more than just a few scriptures about God's absolute sovereignty.

a) What I DON'T mean by it.

I do NOT mean God is 'generally' sovereign. I do not mean that God simply creates and then lets everything carry out its purpose according to the creation. The purposes are carried out not by the creation, but by God. God USES the creation to carry out His purposes, yes. But ultimately, the purposes themselves are determined only by God, and His purposes are always carried out and never thwarted. If God has determined (decreed) to bring something to pass, by default, it MUST come to pass. Here is why.

2. If one of God's promises were to fail to come to pass, what does that say about God?

To put this quite bluntly, if one of God's promises were to fail, God is not God. Why is this? Simply because if one promise were to fail, by implication there is another power out there who is able to cause a promise of God to fail. So, we ought to be worshiping that power, and not the God of the bible! This argument implies that God tries to bring His promises to pass, but is not always able because there are things that can frustrate His plan. If such a thing exists, God is not all-powerful. In other words, the 'sovereign will' of God was defeated by something that prevented God from fulfilling a promise He made. May it never be so!

3. If the above argument is true, and it is, this would apply to ALL of God's promises. Namely, what about salvation?

Salvation is a promise given to the children of God. If God fails to bring it to pass, why are we trusting in God for salvation at all? That being said, we must press this a step further. Since God is absolutely sovereign over salvation and it is an absolute promise He has made, the only possible way it CAN be brought to pass is if the entire process of salvation is completely in the hands of God. If salvation were left up to the will of man, it would NOT be brought to pass. Why, you ask? Simply because humans are fallen creatures. Our will can do nothing to bring salvation to pass, nor effect it in any way, shape, or form. If we could, there would be no salvation. We would fail miserably. Therefore, salvation, to be of any worth at all, must by default be monergistic. It must also be monergistic to qualify as a promise of God. If it is synergistic, it cannot qualify, since it cannot be guaranteed to be brought to pass by God. In other words, He could not promise it, and if He did, His promise would fail, making Him less than deity. Salvation cannot be a promise in the form of "I will, but only if you." If we think it can be, we completely miss the condition of humanity that scripture teaches. We would not be dead in sin, but only sick in sin. Jesus would never have said "No one CAN (implies ability) come to me unless it is granted to Him by my Father."

This is also the explicit teaching of scripture. Paul tells us it is not of him who wills, or who runs, but of God. (Rom 9:16) Jesus tells us in John 3:3 that no one can even see the kingdom unless they're first born again. God surely is absolutely sovereign even in salvation. The vast majority of Christians would surely affirm God's absolute sovereignty until it is applied to salvation, then they balk! The flesh hates this, that an absolutely sovereign God is in utter control of salvation. The problem is, if God is not absolutely sovereign in salvation, He is just plain not absolutely sovereign.

So again, I ask.

1) How sure are God's promises? If they are less than 100%, He is not God, since there are more powerful things out there that can thwart His promises.

2) If something is thwarting God's promises, why aren't we worshiping that thing, since that thing is more powerful than God? If God attempts to bring things to pass, but can't because of something else, that something else is exerting power and authority over God. May it never be so.

To conclude, absolutely sovereignty is an absolute central doctrine in Christianity. Without it, we have no God at all, or at least, we have a sub-deity who is not worth our worship who's purposes and promises run the risk of being thwarted by things or beings that are able to stop them. To deny God's absolute sovereignty is to deny God Himself and who he says He is and erect an idol created in the image of man. The God of the bible is absolutely sovereign, there is no way around that without His losing His deity. Truly His holiness, sovereignty, immutability, and love are way beyond what we can even imagine.