Sovereignty of God???

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by Artimaeus, Jun 10, 2003.

  1. Artimaeus

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    I am not starting a debate, just looking for a definition. I know that sovereignty means that God CAN do anything He wants and that He has the RIGHT to do anything He wants and that He DOES anything He wants and anything He does is by definition RIGHT. Apparrently, I have not been paying close attention to how this concept is being used. Is it a reasonable assertion that many people are saying that EVERYTHING that happens is because that is what God ordained or predestined or chose to have happen?

    My pastor made the statement a couple of weeks ago that when Elijah prayed for it not to rain that the lack of rain would have happened anyway because that is what God had willed. Everything that happens happens because that is the sovereign will of God. This is seriously bothering me.

    Is this the heart of the Calvinism/Arminian debate? If it is, then, I am really in trouble because I have only recently figured out that I am neither one. Answer me like I'm a novice who is just trying to understand what the concept is, because, I am a novice to this concept.
     
  2. Pastor Larry

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    Yes

    [qutoe] If it is, then, I am really in trouble because I have only recently figured out that I am neither one. [/QUOTE]People who believe they are neither one usually don't understand. The only people who are really "neither one" are open theists. At the heart is the sovereignty of God. You either believe it or you don't. It simply means that God is in control, working all things after the counsel of his own will (Eph 1:11). "All things" is the operative phrase. That means nothing is left out of his control, nothing, nothing, nothing.

    This is the most comforting doctrine I have ever believed. It brought a dramatic change in my life when I finally submitted to it.
     
  3. Jim1999

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    Whilst God is absolutely sovereign, there are some things God cannot do. He cannot act outside of His own character, or He would cease to be God. One must examine all the attributes of God when considering His sovereignty. One must also examine His spheres of operation. Those we divide into the divine prerogative, or sovereign will and others we divide into His permissive will. God is not the author of sin, but permits it. God is not the author of evil things, but He has permitted it to happen.

    Then what is prayer? Do we actually change the mind of God? Or, do we succumb to the will of God? We become so intertwined with the desires of God that our prayers are effectual.

    For our understanding, we tend to place God in a testtube, but in essence, we really can't do that. We cannot disrupt His unity. So, at best we have a fragmented understanding of who God is, and we can never examine one act in isolation. Who caused the rain to cease? In the first place, it was the word of the Lord that came to Elijah that the rain would cease and it did. It had nothing to do with Elijah's prayer. (1 Kings 17:1)

    There is more that could be said, so much more.

    Cheers,

    Jim
     
  4. Baptist Believer

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    Yes

    People who believe they are neither one usually don't understand. The only people who are really "neither one" are open theists. At the heart is the sovereignty of God. You either believe it or you don't. It simply means that God is in control, working all things after the counsel of his own will (Eph 1:11). "All things" is the operative phrase. That means nothing is left out of his control, nothing, nothing, nothing.
    </font>[/QUOTE]Here you are making an assumption that our sovereign God has decided that there is no freedom in His creation, that is, instead of God setting wide boundaries in which free will is exercised you insist that God is manipulating all things.

    It is possible to be sovereign yet allow freedom at the same time. Permit me this inexact but helpful analogy:

    If I have an aquarium, I am sovereign lord of the world of the fish that are in my care. I can introduce new fish, treat disease, remove fish, redirect fish, clean the aquarium, and directly intervene into the lives of the fish at my whim. The fish are ultimately dependant upon me for their food, light and health, but they also have freedom to act within the context of the aquarium that has been established for them. At any time I could destroy the entire aquarium environment or release the fish into the wild. I am sovereign, but I have set up the aquarium world according to my own desires and timing and am ultimately in control of it.

    I have great comfort in my life because of the character of God Himself, not a doctrine that gives me something of a fatalistic certainty about things.

    I believe God is actively working all things for good according to His purposes while allowing human beings to exercise their God-given will to respond to Him in faith or reject Him according to their unbelief. The world is fallen, but not out of control, yet our loving Father is redeeming all things and extending redemption to all people through His own acts of grace and revelation as well as through people like me and you. :D
     
  5. Johnv

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    I know that sovereignty means that God CAN do anything He wants and that He has the RIGHT to do anything He wants and that He DOES anything He wants and anything He does is by definition RIGHT.

    I think that the whole arguement can end up splitting hairs. For example, can God make a boulder so large that he can't move it? If God says "I'm lying", then is he telling the truth? If God has feelings, then can he be in a baad mood? And so on, and so on, and so on... I usually don't often ponder such things, since for me they tend to take away from God, rather than help me understand Him.
     
  6. BrianT

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    What about free will? If "nothing, nothing, nothing" is out of his control, if he is absolutely sovereign, is not free will an illusion?

    How did you submit to it? Did you "choose" to?

    In other words, if what you're saying is true, if someone is not a Calvinist, they can't help it because that also must be God's sovereign will.
     
  7. Caretaker

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    Just to throw a monkey wrench into the works:

    What of the sovereignty of satan who is described as the god of this world, who Jesus did not deny had the authority to offer Him all the kingdoms of this world?

    Do not make assumptions, for my God IS in control, but does satan have a sovereignty operating within the ultimate soverignity of God?

    A servant of Christ,
    Drew
     
  8. Pastor Larry

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    You are wrong. I do believe in freedom. I believe that man is completely free to do whatever he wants to do. It is the same as it is with God. Just as God can be free without being able to do everything, so man can be. He, like God, is free to do anything in accordance with his nature.

    YOu have demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be free.

    BTW, You are not sovereign over your aquarium. The fish do not respond to your control.

    I am not the least bit fatalistic. The character of God is what makes him sovereign. There is nothing that works apart from his sovereign control.
     
  9. Artimaeus

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    Thanks guys, I really appreciate your responses. I was and am primarily interested in defining the concept rather than trying to convine me or each other of the validity of your position. I will be paying close attention and really want to understand this concept. I typed in "Sovereignty of God" into Google and got over 37,000 hits. Almost all of the ones I have read so far defend Pastor Larry's position but I had always thought of it more like what Baptist Believer said but I will continue to study this issue. Feel free to educate me further as I am hungry for more.
     
  10. Dr. Bob

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    Q. What is the WORST THING man has ever done?

    A. Killed the Son of God.

    Was EVEN THAT awful thing planned and determined by a Sovereign God? First NT sermon (acts 2) of the church said . .

    And to clarify that, so that man doesn't get hung up on that word 'foreknowledge' and think God just KNEW and didn't PLAN IT ALL, look at the NEXT sermon (acts 4)
    Yep. I believe God is Sovereign and Bob isn't. PTL [​IMG]
     
  11. Major B

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    Real simple for this old boy: The first fact of all theology is "There is a God--it ain't me."
     
  12. swaimj

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    How do you reconcile this with James 5:16-18? Doesn't your assertion directly contradict this text?

    From BrianT
    Sometimes when I read the assertions of calvinists I think "How can they possibly believe that?" Your question points out the fact that, at a practical level, they don't believe it the way that they state it.

    Artimaus,
    If you question people about sovereignty and free will in relation to salvation, you often get a view that is extreme. However, there is another area of doctrine which requires us to reconcile the two, and that is the area of the inspiration of scripture. In the doctrine of inspiration, we hold that the scriptures are God-breathed. The scripture is God's Word. The scriptures are God's words. Man could never have written it for its contents are above man and beyond him. All of this affirms God's sovereignty. And yet, men wrote the Bible. Each book has the indelible imprint of its human author. Denying this denies the true nature of inspiration. Yet, affirming it is not an attack on God's sovereignty. How can both of these be true? There is an element of mystery in it which I cannot explain, but I affirm both because the scriptures affirm both.

    If we take the view of sovereignty that has been espoused on this thread in relation to salvation and apply it to inspiration, we come up with a dictation theory of inspiration. God simply dictated the words one by one to man and he wrote them down. That is an extreme and inaccurate view. The proper view of God's soveriegnty balances the work of God and the activity of man in the area of inspiration. A proper view of God's sovereignty will balance the two in the area of salvation as well.

    BTW, shouldn't this thread be in the calvinist section?
     
  13. russell55

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    No, you come down to the idea of the Holy Spirit approving the words as adequate to express the intended meaning. The authors used their own words, their own style, and yet the finished product is exactly as God intended.

    Which, BTW, is pretty much how most Calvinists see God working elsewhere as well. The motivation for the acts of those who crucified Christ came from within their own hearts. They did what they wanted to do. But they also fulfilled God's pre-determined plan.

    After all, they had wanted to kill him earlier, but circumstances (all of which were in God's control) prevented them from carrying out their deed until the God-approved time, the time that suited His purposes.


    Even on a more personal level, the trials of my life (and there have been some doozies in the last two years) are purposefully allowed by God to bring about His good purposes for me, to work His perfect will in my life.

    I don't believe God is arbitrary or capricious. He chooses when to intervene, and for each choice to act He has good reason; and He chooses when not to intervene, and for each choice not to intervene, He has good reason.

    I hope this conversation doesn't get moved. It will be much more fruitful here.
     
  14. Artimaeus

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    This is how I have always understood the concept. What worried me was that with the seemingly extreme view that God exercises complete control of EVERY action, thought, motive, and deed as the definition of Sovereignty then, I would be forced to say that I didn't believe in the Sovereignty of God. Yet, I DO believe in the Sovereignty of God. I cannot even imagine a Christian believing otherwise. Even atheist would say that IF there is a God, He is Sovereign. Romans 9 has something to do with this, I just read it but I have to get ready for work.
    "I will be back" (In my best Arnold Swartznegger impression)
    :D
     
  15. BrianT

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    I believe the "sovereignty" of God is something that cannot be fully understood from our position. We wrestle between the concept of God knowing all things (including the future), and God allowing free will (our choices in the future), because we are limited to thinking from *within* the domain of time. However, God is not bound by this limitation (indeed, "time" is just part of his creation) and thus there is obviously much more to the issue than we can even comprehend. We try to apply labels and rules, to explain the unexplainable. Thus, no explanation or viewpoint we could come up with could be entirely correct.

    That may seem like a cop-out to some, but I'm content not having an answer for everything. [​IMG]
     
  16. russell55

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    Well, I would see that quote you quoted of mine as meaning that God has complete control of EVERY action, etc. He exercises that control by choosing when to act (or intervene) and when not to act (or intervene).
     
  17. superdave

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    I agree with many who have posted.

    BrianT, I think you hit real close to the mark. I am a calvinist from a theological perspective, that doesn't mean that I understand all the inner workings of God's will and how it squares with the clear teachings of the free will of man. All I know is that God has decreed all things, or else he would cease to be God. To be an uninterested univolved watchmaker who set the world in motion and let it go would be inconsistent with his very nature, as revealed by his creation, and his Word! However, his sovereign decrees are made in such a way that he is not responsible for the "bad" things that happen or the poor decisions of man, or else his attribute of Holiness would be impaired. I can't logically align the two, but they are both true, we have to remember that we are finite creations of God attempting to understand the infinite creator, my advice to those who want to do that is this "Get over yourself"

    I agree also with the sentiment that most calvinists do not express their beliefs from a pragmatic practical sense, only from a theological perspective. That leads to confusion about their actual practice, and how their belief actually impacts their actions.

    Believing in the sovereignty of God in Salvation does not make me a fatalist, or a determinist. I believe man does have a "free" will, but that it floats within the confines of God's will.

    Great discussion :D
     
  18. Artimaeus

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    Well, I would see that quote you quoted of mine as meaning that God has complete control of EVERY action, etc. He exercises that control by choosing when to act (or intervene) and when not to act (or intervene). </font>[/QUOTE]Thanks russell55, I see your point but my concern was that some were saying that God DOES intervene in EVERY action and doesn't choose to not intervene. I realize that I am not a theologian and I am willing to learn but with what I understand about the Bible this is a totally unacceptable concept. God did not set the universe up and then step aside and He doesn't micromanage every detail of everything. He has the right to intervene in anything He wants to, at anytime He wants to but the extreme of either view is not supported by scripture.
     
  19. Major B

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    Thanks russell55, I see your point but my concern was that some were saying that God DOES intervene in EVERY action and doesn't choose to not intervene. I realize that I am not a theologian and I am willing to learn but with what I understand about the Bible this is a totally unacceptable concept. God did not set the universe up and then step aside and He doesn't micromanage every detail of everything. He has the right to intervene in anything He wants to, at anytime He wants to but the extreme of either view is not supported by scripture. [/QUOTE]

    When I was in charge of a large outfit in the Air Force, everyone knew I was in charge, but nobody knew all I did. I never kept to a standard schedule; the troops never knew when I would pop up. God is God. He is totally in charge. What he lets us do and what he does Himself, that's all in His mind, but He does whatever He wants whenever He wants, however He wants, and we have neither say nor control. I like that. Someone is at the wheel, and He knows the way.
     
  20. npetreley

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    It depends on what you mean by micromanaging or invervening. The Bible seems to say God is involved in everything and does not just sit back and watch anything. Jesus says, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father." And He says, "And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered."

    The latter is interesting because it says our hairs are numbered, not that God happens to know how many hairs we happen to have on our head. (In my case, the latter interpretation wouldn't be very impressive, anyway, since God wouldn't have to count very high.)
     

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