Friday, October 5, 2012

Our Sovereign God


I recently read a blog post a good friend mentioned to me, and I guess, I have decided to "wade in" as it were with my 2 cents worth.  This post was asking the theological questions of God's responsibility for evil in this world.  The Pedestrian Christian (heretofore referred to as TPC) particularly took offense with a description of Sovereignty that makes God THE controlling factor in all the events of the world - Evil or Good.  TPC was not making straight straw man arguments, and my own introduction of his blog post is woefully poor.  The post can be read here: http://thepedestrianchristian.blogspot.com/2012/10/god-doesnt-give-deformed-retarded-or.html
 
As I read this article, there were several points at which I was very glad.  One might be the additional understanding of Sovereignty as to being His Rule over the whole of creation.  I appreciate that!  Our God is more than a control freak, if that is what some might think.  But I would not want to give up the idea that he does orchestrate all events and has his hand in them, at least in a secondary manner.  

TPC made this comment which is to my eyes the first clue as to his orientation, "God saw down through the corridor of time that you would make this decision and that decision and decreed to permit that history to take place, thus he ordained it to be so. Therefore, those decisions you made and will make are not ones God has forced or predetermined that you will or must make, rather ones God decreed or ordained to permit you to make them and his decree or ordination makes that a certainty."

This statement is the clue to his Arminian leanings.  But let me state at the outset, though I see this, and call the statement as it is, I do not say that Arminian’s are outside of Orthodoxy.  I strongly disagree with this doctrinal position though. It raises Mankind up too much, stealing Gods glory over and over again.  But I digress...

I cannot name the theory or idea which I have used to comprehend the Sovereignty of God and the freedom of men, but I can describe it.  It is much like this... God, being Sovereign, knows all that could or might happen to occur in any set of eventualities, and He has chosen the Best set of occurrences, or state of the universe, that would get Him the most glory and therefore, while we have freedom, it is within the sphere of His authority.  He has already considered every possible choice, and every follow-up choice, for every person ever alive or who ever will be, and has by decree, chosen that set of decisions which glorifies Him the greatest.  

While I agree with TPC on his analysis of this statement, "In other words, “God does bad in order to do good”. Wrong, wrong, and wrong" it does not represent the reformed view properly, at least as I understand it.  I would say that God allows evil, but He is not the author of it.  It is much like the rug which has on one side a beautiful pattern but the underside is confused and ugly.... We see only the underside at this time.  God sees the whole.  Job during his lifetime NEVER knew of the conversation God had with Satan regarding him.  One wonders how Job's worship of God is now, while in glory - and in possession of the upper side of the rug, as it were!

The Book of Job demonstrates this well.  It is Satan that DOES the evil.  God allows it.   And here it is that I want to bring in another theological premise, that of the "Will of God"  I am not (technically) a theologian, so I may not use the proper terms, but, at the least we can admit that God does have more than one kind of will, and TPC doesn't really address that.  To understand God's purposes we must understand His will.  I know of at least 3 "wills" of God, though there may be others theologically, which I have not considered. There is His Revealed will, that which He has directly spoken, such as when He told Abraham that He will make him a great nation.  There is his Secret will, which is not known to men, as shown in Deuteronomy 29:29.  And then there is the Permissive will of God, as shown in the book of Job, where God uses Satan's evil intent to ultimately Glorify Him.  Confusion of the intent of God regarding His will is really at the heart of the matter.

TPC makes a statement, "Joseph’s brothers could have made another decision and we would be reading a different account but with the same ending, God working his purposes."  In theory, yes - but in the actual working out of eternity, it did not happen.  We cannot begin, as men, to venture too far into the events of eternity past without trampling on Gods' Secret will.  Is this statement a capitulation of the argument?  Perhaps, from our (human) point of view.  But I would rather trust Him, than my own comprehension into these matters.  They are deep and to some extent mysterious.  

Some months ago I wrote a post which addresses some of these matters as pertains to Providence.  I invite you to review it here: http://mysoapbox2.blogspot.com/2012/02/on-skinning-my-knee.html
 
To TPC - I do hope you can still call me brother, though we have significance differences theologically.  I greatly respect your handling of the subject.  Your tenderness is evident.  I think we will be seeing each other in glory one day brother. 

1 comment:

  1. Dave,

    I saw your comment and recommendation to visiting your blog and the article mentioned.

    On the outset allow me to be clear, I reject Arminianism and I am not "part Arminian" nor am I "part Calvinist" nor am I or you part "Catholic" though me and my Catholic friends hold to the same view of the Trinity and their view of the Trinity was established long before our Teachers or any identification we use, existed.

    Your complaint that God seeing down through the corridors of time what you and I would do being a raising up of man, too much, is rather arbitrary. Exactly where is the level to which man is to be raised and not more. To me whatever is in Scripture is the point to which man was raised so to observe God setting up man with volition and using his decisions, via his omniscience (with foreknowledge in view in this case) as how he exercises his general decree and sovereign rule, well that leaves God, not me, as having place man in this position.

    As to God's will, indeed God acts directly and permissively. God's secret will is with reference to the unseen work of God in bringing about his general decree and neither God's permissive will where other free agent do as they will under the sovereign rule of God while he uses such decisions and exercises and God's direct will or secret will, gets in the way of God ultimate sovereign rule.

    I do believe one rather critical mistake you are making here is over prescribing God's Secret Will as if it is intended to be responsible for the volition of other volitional agents. It is not. It is in reference to God's unseen and unrevealed work which does not imply a taking over or responsibility for the volition of other volitional agents.

    Finally, per the other article...that men have volition or free will (I prefer the expression volition) is not a "presuppositional rational" it is, repeatedly, an observable reality found in Scripture. This property, that of being a volitional agent, is one of the highlights of mankind's creation and God's purpose of mankind's creation and function both now and in eternity future.

    Thanks again, for the visit.

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