The sovereignty issue.

Pastor Jermin says:

Note: This piece came out of a debate that I was having on Facebook with a dear brother who is of the Arminian/Wesleyan/point of view…

As I see it, the core problem here, as always, is the sovereignty issue.

Either we believe that salvation is a sovereign act of a sovereign God , or we believe that God’s will and salvific action is somehow secondary, or subordinate to man’s.

So many believe that in fact God can only offer, in hopes that man will respond, but since they do not want to go quite that far, they’ll say that He, knowing that you would choose Him, chose you first.

This is how most people try to rationalize Romans 8, and the doctrine of predestination. But it is, if you think about it carefully, quite silly actually. We ascribe complete sovereignty and omnipotence to God up until we get to man’s will.

This appears to be God’s Kryptonite. He has the power to create and hang the stars, but cannot determine whether or not I’ll get saved without first using His time vision to peek into forever, see my decision-making, and saying

 ‘Ok, he’s gonna pick me, so I’ll pick him’ 

Yes, it is indeed as silly as it sounds, but it is alas, what most Evangelical Christians believe. They won’t put it quite that way, but it is what it is.

If you’re offended right now dear reader (whomever you may be) , it is because you think that I am making light of this issue, or your position. Believe me I am by no means doing that. I have wrestled with this for some time. It is not ‘cut and dried’ by any means, but it is plain, and it is Biblical. I will not fight with the text any longer.

Hence it is my knee that most bow to His Word and His power, and His sovereignty, not His to mine. No matter what the Osteens of the world tell us.

Predestination, Election, Total Inability, etc. are not as some would claim, merely Calvin’s positions, they are the Bible’s. Clearly the Bible was around before Calvin was born. So let us not try to belittle these fundamental Biblical truths as being the sudden revelation of a 16th century man. They are those of the Most High God.

Here’s a fact: Dead (non living) things do not come to life on their own. They do not suddenly spring to life of their own volition… We all agree with this, clearly we are not believers in Spontaneous (aka Equivocal) generation. Yet, we who proclaim that the true life is the Spirit, seem to believe in Spiritual Spontaneous generation. We somehow believe that something spiritually dead can come to life on its own.

How can this be? Simple. Pride…

The vestiges of the grave clothes that we are consistently being released from a la Lazarus.  (Read John 11,) Lazarus’ resurrection as analogous to man’s salvation, and it becomes quite clear. The dead thing cannot hear because it is dead. It is the Master that has the stone rolled away, quickens the dead thing, and commands for the grave clothes to be taken off. Did Lazarus ‘Choose’ to get up, and come hopping into the light, yes He did. But he could not have done so, unless Jesus gave him the power to hear in the first place, dead as he was…

We all believe that the fruit/outcome/natural ordered result/wages of sin is Death, and the gift of God is eternal Life, yes? (Romans 6:23)

We all believe that pre-salvation we were dead in trespasses and sins, right? (Ephesians 2:1…-10)

Yet we still want to maintain the right to believe that we came to life by ourselves… Curious indeed…

I had a discussion/debate with a brother recently, and he presented a few well known oppositions to predestination, which I will answer below:

The progression, or sequential order of Romans 8, which says that:

The scripture sets a clear pattern there: “foreknew” BEFORE “predestined”, “predestined” and then “called”, “called” then ‘justified”, “justified” then “glorified”.

Essentially, because God is ALL-KNOWING, He already KNEW (foreknew) who was going to RESPOND to His Grace and CHOOSE to ACCEPT it, therefore, He determined (predestined) that those who make that CHOICE will hearken to His call (be called) and ultimately be “justified” in their calling and “glorified”. “

To which I respond that :

a) What God foreknew is not what you’d do, it is *You*. I needn’t know you to anticipate your actions, advertisers know this. Clearly, the scripture supports this fact that what is known is far more than your actions and/or behaviors, it is you, down to the hairs on your head (or in my case the lack thereof) (Psalm Psalm 22:10, 139:13, Galatians 1:15, John 1:47-48, Matthew 10:30 and more) .

It is not the actions that God Forknows, it is everything.

b)  I see no progression or sequence in that verse, it is not an ordered sequential thing, rather it is a one time totality. the ‘ordered sequence interpretation’ (I may have just coined a phrase) allows us to insert man’s will in where we please. So it becomes: Because God Forknew that I would do A, He did B.

Here is the problem. In order to get to that you must turn ‘also’ into ‘and then’. Of the 17 English Bible translations that I have, only one (the ERV) translates the end of verse 30 (and only the end) in a sequential way.

Here’s another one that the brother posited:

“The ONLY true predestination is that which starts with a person’s choice – the choice to accept or reject Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. Once you make that choice, it’s similar to choosing a path… that path (based on your choice) will then lead you to an expected end (predestination). To remove this necessary prequel of choice from the ‘predestination’ as it is in this dispensation is errant theology, my brother and is completely antithetic to the Person and Character of God.”

In this the brother plainly declared the fundamental belief that people have, which is that when presented with a choice, we will choose righteousness. Biblically, I cannot find this supported. Not only that, but it is a complete mis-definition of the word.

What does Predestination look like in the scripture? Does it begin with MAN’s Choice?Really? Let’s look in the book:

The word predestined, as used in Romans 8:29-30 is the greek word προορίζω, or proorizō according to Strong. It appears 6 times in the NT twice in the aforementioned verses in Romans, Once in Acts, (4:28) once in 1st Corinthians, and twice in Ephesians (1:5, 11). In NONE of these passages can it be accurately defined the way that the brother did.

For example, here it is in Acts:

The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel *determined before* to be done. – (Act 4:26-28)

Can we fit his definition into this? That man’s choices led him down a path to an expected end?

Or what of this:

Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God *ordained before* the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. – (1Co 2:6-8)

I will ask at this point again that you take the time to read Ephesians 1:3-14 in its entirety, but will list the verses for you that contain this word:

According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having *predestinated* us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, – (Eph 1:4-5)

 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being *predestinated* according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: – (Eph 1:10-11)

So having read in context the Biblical uses of this word, can one stand by this definition? If so, can it be done with the scripture not sentiment?

Later in the debate the brother said:

Let me ask you this: does Satan exist? Is there a devil? If so, what is his current role on the earth and in the affairs of men?

I replied that yes he does exist, and his two main ‘roles’ are as follows:

1) To accuse the brethren (Rev 12:10)

2) To blind the eyes of the hellbound (John12:40) As a sidenote, please read John 12:38-40, and note the reference to Isaiah 53. Note that it asks to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? So once again we see that the selection is God’s.

He then posed this question:

If you believe there is a devil and you believe in hell, yet tout this type of ‘predestination’ claim, then you must be saying that God created some people exclusively for the devil. They NEVER had a say in the matter, they NEVER had a choice, they were just offered to the devil before the foundations of the world!

What he is representing here, is the doctrine of double predestination, ( a common misinterpretation of predestination) and it is not Biblical. For the purposes of clarity, I gave him (knowing full well that we are trying to use mere human words to explain the mysteries of God, so they will be somewhat inadequate) the analogy that we have used in our services:

Everyone is on the line to go to Hell, and God picked some off the line.

Again and again we see the doctrines of sovereign election and predestination in the Bible, and we seem to have no problem with them as long as it happens to others in the book, and not to people we know now…

But what of EVERYONE in Ur of the Chaldees except Abram and his wife? They ALL died and went to Hell. What of EVERYONE on the earth except Noah and his family, and the animals that Noah Chose? They ALL died and went to Hell. What of EVERYONE in Sodom and Gomorrah save Lot? They ALL died and went to Hell! Do we go back and rail at God, or take issue with him over those people?

 

Just some thoughts…

What say you fam?

 

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2 thoughts on “The sovereignty issue.

  1. First off, if God micromanages everything that happens, then it follows that the devil is working for God. Which makes God the instigator of all sin. You can’t have it both ways, either he is controlling everything or he isn’t

    Beyond that, your explanation of God picking some off the line, does not somehow make God less liable for sending the others to hell, when he could just as easily choose to save all.

    The problem with this whole debate is that the Calvinist definition of sovereignty saying that A sovereign God must predetermine everything. God is sovereign over his sovereignty. He can choose to act or not to act in any given situation.
    Certainly, He could have pre-programmed everything, but if that were the case, about 90 percent of the Bible makes no sense. The entire struggle between good and evil becomes merely an elaborate charade in that scenario.

  2. Hi Wildswanderer
    Firstly, please accept my apology for not responding sooner.I really appreciate you taking the time to both read and comment. Thank you.
    Allow me to address your comments in order:

    First off, if God micromanages everything that happens, then it follows that the devil is working for God. Which makes God the instigator of all sin. You can’t have it both ways, either he is controlling everything or he isn’t.

    Though I would not use the word ‘micromanage’ to describe the activity of God, I would say that yes, He is Sovereign over everything that happens, and over every being, including the Devil. I am of the conviction that the Bible is clear in its declaration that the Devil is God’s Devil (to summarize Martin Luther) and never operates outside the Lord’s decree, or parameters. He is subject to God, and is not able to act in any way (in particular concerning the children of God) without the knowledge and permission of God.

    Consider Job and his travail (Job 1:8-12) , consider Jesus telling Peter that there was a request to ‘sift him as wheat’ (Luke 22:31-32) consider Pharoah, in particular the fact that Moses and Aaron were told ahead of time that God was going to harden his heart, and he was not going to let the people go until the firstborn had died… So then, how do you look at that?

    As for controlling everything clearly that is the Bible’s position. Nothing surprises, occurs to, or catches God off guard. He is completely and absolutely Sovereign.
    Keep in mind that God declared the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), every hair on your head, and even when a sparrow falls, (Matthew 10:29-31)

    Beyond that, your explanation of God picking some off the line, does not somehow make God less liable for sending the others to hell, when he could just as easily choose to save all.

    I never said, or intended to imply, that God is not ‘liable -responsible by law; legally answerable.’. Consider Romans 9. If a vessel is ‘fashioned for destruction’ what does that mean? It means that the maker has the right to determine the purpose, fate, and disposition of that which he has created. That is what absolute sovereignty is, no less, and it is clearly the Bible’s position.
    As for liability: Liable to Whom? Who is the God of the Universe answerable to? Remember the 4 Chapters of ‘Who are you to question me?’, and ‘Mind your business’, that Job got in Chapters 38 through 41? Or the rebuke that Peter got when he questioned Jesus about John’s fate? (John 21:22-23)

    The problem with this whole debate is that the Calvinist definition of sovereignty saying that A sovereign God must predetermine everything. God is sovereign over his sovereignty. He can choose to act or not to act in any given situation.

    Not completely sure what you mean here, (more specifically, what you define as a ‘Calvinist definition of sovereignty’ as opposed to your own, or better yet, The Bible’s. Perhaps we will have a chance to explore that in subsequent conversation… That said, I think that we are in agreement that God is indeed Sovereign over His sovereignty.
    If I may, I believe that most people’s objection to the Biblically portrayed sovereignty of God is that is seems somehow ‘unfair’, but the reality is that the Bible knows nothing of ‘fairness’. There is justice, there is mercy , there is righteousness, there is sin, there is penalty, and there is Grace. Not fairness…

    Certainly, He could have pre-programmed everything, but if that were the case, about 90 percent of the Bible makes no sense. The entire struggle between good and evil becomes merely an elaborate charade in that scenario.

    ‘The struggle between good and evil’ on the macro level does not for all intents and purposes exist. I am sure that you are aware of that. The Bible declares that battle long over and even spells out the end of the entire thing. As for the micro level, the struggle is ours, not God’s, and the Bible is clear that this is the case. Re: your use of the word charade. The word implies trickery or deceit of some sort. I would again ask you to carefully consider Romans 9, the entire Chapter, but in particular verses 14-24.
    Blessings to you
    Pastor Jermin

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