How Sovereign is God?

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How Sovereign is God?

#1

Post by Seraph » Mon Feb 24, 2014 4:10 pm

How much control does God have over the events of the universe? Does He have absolute control over the way reality "plays out" or are there events in reality that He did not intend to happen, such as humanity becoming hopelessly corrupt prior to the great flood, or Satan becoming an evil being?

If He is absolutely sovereign, exercising full control over how the universe "plays out", wouldn't this imply that God is (ultimately) the author of all things that we see, both good and evil? If God did not intend for evil, why didn't He create the best of all possible universes, instead of one where suffering and things that drive people from God are rampant? Or are those things really necessary qualities of the best of all possible universes? If God has control over the factors that make people act in certain ways, are they really evil or just the way things are?

These questions seem to have implications of how sensible it is for God to judge someone. Not that God doesn't have the moral right to judge, but it seems nonsensical if God has total control, because nothing could truly defy His will. It would be like willingly designing something to not work properly, and then getting angry with it for failing to work. It's similar to the arguments surrounding predestination, what's the point of judging someone if there was no chance for them to do otherwise?
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Re: How Sovereign is God?

#2

Post by Byblos » Tue Feb 25, 2014 6:46 am

How much control does God have is like asking how much wetness does water have. God is existence. It makes no sense to speak of anything outside the framework of God.

However, God sustaining existence while maintaining free will are not mutually exclusive ideas.
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Re: How Sovereign is God?

#3

Post by Seraph » Tue Feb 25, 2014 8:31 am

I imagined that would be an answer.

Free will is a funny thing though. God knows what choices you'll make in whatever scenario he places you in, so He could easily place a person in a point in space/time where they would make the right decisions. It seems impossible for God who has complete control over existence to create a person and say "It's totally up to them. I have no responsibility over what they choose".
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Re: How Sovereign is God?

#4

Post by Silvertusk » Tue Feb 25, 2014 8:58 am

Seraph wrote:I imagined that would be an answer.

Free will is a funny thing though. God knows what choices you'll make in whatever scenario he places you in, so He could easily place a person in a point in space/time where they would make the right decisions. It seems impossible for God who has complete control over existence to create a person and say "It's totally up to them. I have no responsibility over what they choose".

Seraph - have you looked into Molinisn? It has a theological concept that I find most refreshing and revealing.

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Re: How Sovereign is God?

#5

Post by Seraph » Tue Feb 25, 2014 9:00 am

I've heard of it, but I'm not super familiar with it. I know that some prominent members like Jac consider it heresy and fundamentally in conflict with divine simplicity though. :P

Edit: Ah k I looked it up, I remember Molinism but I might not fully understand it's arguements. Even under Molinism, isn't God still ultimately in control of what people choose, even though they have the "illusion" of free will? The "problems" of providence/predestination don't seem like they've been hit upon to me.
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Re: How Sovereign is God?

#6

Post by Byblos » Tue Feb 25, 2014 9:21 am

Seraph wrote:I've heard of it, but I'm not super familiar with it. I know that some prominent members like Jac consider it heresy and fundamentally in conflict with divine simplicity though. :P

Edit: Ah k I looked it up, I remember Molinism but I might not fully understand it's arguements. Even under Molinism, isn't God still ultimately in control of what people choose, even though they have the "illusion" of free will? The "problems" of providence/predestination don't seem like they've been hit upon to me.
It's been my experience that such a topic will always end up on one of 2 sides, either predestination or pelagianism.

I have no problem whatsoever proclaiming God's sovereignty over all. If that makes me a closet Calvinist then so be it.
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Re: How Sovereign is God?

#7

Post by Seraph » Tue Feb 25, 2014 9:26 am

Calvinsism necessarily implies though that God predestined people to sin, and then He sends them to hell for it. I don't feel like the God we worship would do such a thing. Whether or not it was the persons own supposed "will" doesn't really matter, it traces back to God who predestined it that way. The only way it seems that God could pour out wrath on a sinner, is if He had nothing to do with their sin, and they acted defiant by their will completely and freely.
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Re: How Sovereign is God?

#8

Post by Byblos » Tue Feb 25, 2014 9:27 am

Seraph wrote:Calvinsism necessarily implies though that God predestined people to sin, and then He sends them to hell for it. I don't feel like the God we worship would do such a thing.
Are you then saying that you save yourself? ( :poke: )
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Re: How Sovereign is God?

#9

Post by Seraph » Tue Feb 25, 2014 9:30 am

Byblos wrote: Are you then saying that you save yourself? ( :poke: )
God does the saving, but it's a persons choice if they accept it. Assuming free will is a thing...

Predestination makes no sense because according to the Bible, God desires that all be saved. Well if he's completely sovereign and he predestines, why not just do it?
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Re: How Sovereign is God?

#10

Post by Byblos » Tue Feb 25, 2014 9:33 am

Seraph wrote:
Byblos wrote: Are you then saying that you save yourself? ( :poke: )
God does the saving, but it's a persons choice if they accept it. Assuming free will is a thing...

Predestination makes no sense because according to the Bible, God desires that all be saved. Well if he's completely sovereign and he predestines, why not just do it?
And how exactly do you know he doesn't? :ewink:
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Re: How Sovereign is God?

#11

Post by B. W. » Tue Feb 25, 2014 9:37 am

Seraph wrote:Calvinsism necessarily implies though that God predestined people to sin, and then He sends them to hell for it. I don't feel like the God we worship would do such a thing. Whether or not it was the persons own supposed "will" doesn't really matter, it traces back to God who predestined it that way. The only way it seems that God could pour out wrath on a sinner, is if He had nothing to do with their sin, and they acted defiant by their will completely and freely.
Here is something from Craig on this subject quoted below from his Q and A section:
Dear Dr. Craig,

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/molinism ... e-election


I am an atheist currently reading Reasonable Faith, and I must begin by saying how engaging and challenging your book has so far been! I am looking forward to reading more of your ideas in your other books, as well, and as a member of the "loyal opposition" I applaud you for a job well done in your search for the truth.

I have two very different questions. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration in addressing them, and I look forward to your response.

First, in one of your early chapters in Reasonable Faith, you claim to lay the foundation for the resurrection of Christ from the dead by God by cumulatively building a case for the existence of a personal, moral, powerful divine Creator who is temporal with our universe, and then on the basis of your case you make the claim that God raised Jesus from the dead.

The thought occurred to me, then, whether it would be valid for an atheist in a debate with you to likewise present a cumulative case for the nonexistence of God as you defined Him, and similar to your method, conclude that at the very most Jesus raised from the dead by means of something different from God as given in your cumulative case - thereby concluding that Christianity is false even if a historical resurrection is certain.

Of course I know you very likely hold that counterarguments against your case are invalid, but I am wondering if you think that such a method on the part of the atheist is in and of itself logically conclusive against Christianity if you assume for sake of argument that all of the atheist's premises here are true.

2. In Romans 9, Paul describes Jacob and Esau as being judged as loved and hated (or "loved less") before they did any good or evil. Paul then goes on to liken all of us as clay molded by a potter, and states that it is not the will of he who runs but of He who shows mercy which saves us. Paul relates God telling Pharaoh: "for this purpose I have raised you up ..." and then discusses an idea that the vessels God made for "common use" are there only for the purpose of showing His patience to his more special pots.

Many Reformed think this passage shows double-predestination and unconditional election, and I am forced to agree with them - as is Christ Himself in John 6:65! The Reformed God is something I view as tyrannical and unworthy of worship, and indeed it is tough for someone outside the faith to respond to the Calvinist interpretation of Romans 9 with anything but hatred: as the prominent Reformed scholar James White describes this very chapter, "I understand that the only way one can believe this is by an act of grace."

In my view, this defeats your position of molinism, since one cannot freely choose God on his own in any potential setting without God's prior help. Furthermore, the context of the related story in John 6 has disciples abandoning Christ, prompting what He says in 6:65 and proving that Christ is not offered as a free gift to all! What is left for the freedom of man to choose Christ given these passages?

Thank you graciously for your time,

Darrin

Molinism and Romans 9

Let me say straightaway, Darrin, how much I appreciate the tone of your letter. Though you disagree with my views, your letter is a model of civility, which all the rest of us would do well to emulate. It's a pleasure to address your questions.

First, as to the feasibility of framing an atheistic perspective on the historicity of Jesus' resurrection parallel to the case I build for it, it seems to me that this is, in fact, the atheist's best hope of success. First present arguments against theism such as the problem of evil or the impossibility of non-embodied persons, so that when you turn to the evidence for the resurrection there just is no such supernatural person to appeal to by way of explanation.

Note, however, one potentially significant difference between the two cases: in the case of theism, the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is itself confirmatory of theism (see the fine article by Timothy and Lydia McGrew in the forthcoming Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, ed. Wm. L. Craig and J. P. Moreland), so that the addition of the evidence for Jesus' resurrection serves to increase the probability of theism even more. By contrast, for the atheist, the evidence for the resurrection tends to be disconfirmatory of atheism, so that it weakens his original anti-theistic case and renders atheism less probable. If one esteems the evidence for Jesus' resurrection to be quite powerful, it might just outbalance the probability of the arguments you gave for atheism, so that in the end theism might look like a pretty good alternative after all. In any event, the case for atheism will look weaker after taking account of the evidence for Jesus' resurrection than before.

Molinism and Romans 9 –Election was understood to be part of the Jewish identity

Second, let's talk about Paul's doctrine of election in Romans 9. I want to share with you a perspective on Paul's teaching that I think you'll find very illuminating and encouraging. Typically, as a result of Reformed theology, we have a tendency to read Paul as narrowing down the scope of God's election to the very select few, and those not so chosen can't complain if God in His sovereignty overlooks them. I think this is a fundamental misreading of the chapter which makes very little sense in the context of Paul's letter.

Earlier in his letter Paul addresses the question of what advantage there is to Jewish identity if one fails to live up to the demands of the law (2. 17-3.21). He says that although being Jewish has great advantages in being the recipients of God's revelatory oracles, nevertheless being Jewish gives you no automatic claim to God's salvation. Instead, Paul asserts the radical and shocking claim that "He is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is of the heart, spiritual and not literal" (2. 28-29).

Paul held that "no human being will be justified in God's sight by works of the law" (3.20); rather "we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law" (3. 29). That includes Gentiles as well as Jews. "Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one" (3. 29-30).

Do you realize what that meant to Paul's Jewish contemporaries? Gentile "dogs" who have faith in Christ may actually be more Jewish than ethnic Jews and go into the Kingdom while God's chosen people are shut out! Unthinkable! Scandalous!

Paul goes on to support his view by appeal to the example of none less than Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation. Abraham, Paul explains, was pronounced righteous by God before he received circumcision. "The purpose," says Paul, "was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised [i.e., the Gentiles] and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them and likewise the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised [note the qualification!] but also follow the example of faith which our father Abraham had before he was circumcised" (4.11-12).

Molinism and Romans 9 – God’s election is broadened to include Gentiles

This is explosive teaching. Paul begins chapter 9 by expressing his profound sorrow that ethnic Jews have missed God's salvation by rejecting their Messiah [= Christ]. But he says it's not as though God's word had failed. Rather, as we have already seen, "not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants" (9. 6-7). Being ethnically Jewish is not enough; rather one must be a child of the promise—and that, as we've seen, may include Gentiles and exclude Jews.

The problematic, then, with which Paul is wrestling is how God's chosen people the Jews could fail to obtain the promise of salvation while Gentiles, who were regarded by Jews as unclean and execrable, could find salvation instead. Paul's answer is that God is sovereign: He can save whomever He wants, and no one can gainsay God. He has the freedom to have mercy upon whomever He wills, even upon execrable Gentiles, and no one can complain of injustice on God's part.

So—and this is the crucial point—who is it that God has chosen to save? The answer is: those who have faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul writes in Galatians (which is a sort of abbreviated Romans), "So you see that it is men of faith who are the sons of Abraham" (Gal. 3. 7). Jew or Gentile, it doesn't matter: God has sovereignly chosen to save all those who trust in Christ Jesus for salvation.

That's why Paul can go on in Romans 10 to say, "There is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. For 'everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved'" (10. 12-13). Reformed theology can make no sense at all of this wonderful, universal call to salvation. Whosoever will may come.

Paul's burden, then, in Romans 9 is not to narrow the scope of God's election but to broaden it. He wants to take in all who have faith in Christ Jesus regardless of their ethnicity. Election, then, is first and foremost a corporate notion: God has chosen for Himself a people, a corporate entity, and it is up to us by our response of faith whether or not we choose to be members of that corporate group destined to salvation.

Molinism and Romans 9 – Those who reject Christ freely choose to do so

Of course, given God's total providence over the affairs of men, this is not the whole story. But Molinism makes good sense of the rest. John 6. 65 means that apart from God's grace no one can come to God on his own. But there's no suggestion there that those who refused to believe in Christ did not do so of their own free will. God knows in exactly what circumstances people will freely respond to His grace and places people in circumstances in which each one receives sufficient grace for salvation if only that person will avail himself of it. But God knows who will respond and who won't. So again the fault does not lie with God that some persons freely resist God's grace and every effort to save them; rather they like Israel fail to attain salvation because they refuse to have faith.

Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/molinism ... z2uLugaKQy

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/molinism

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/molinism-vs-calvinism

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/is-molin ... -calvinism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molinism
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Re: How Sovereign is God?

#12

Post by Seraph » Tue Feb 25, 2014 9:42 am

Byblos wrote: And how exactly do you know he doesn't? :ewink:
Because then everyone would be saved. Hell would be a meaningless concept. The Bible wouldn't be correct. etc...

If Christian Universalism were true, that would be fantastic and a load off my mind, but I'm sure most people here would agree it's not consistent with the Bible.
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Re: How Sovereign is God?

#13

Post by B. W. » Tue Feb 25, 2014 9:55 am

Seraph wrote:
Byblos wrote: And how exactly do you know he doesn't? :ewink:
Because then everyone would be saved. Hell would be a meaningless concept. The Bible wouldn't be correct. etc...
Then how could God really be just to those who reject him, his ways, and his love completely i.e. force them into a place they do not want - how can that be just?

Isn't salvation by God's grace through faith and if involvement of faith, then doesn't the definition of the Greek word - faith - contain in part of its meaning - being fully persuaded? (Note Romans 10:13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19...)

How could God really be all powerful if he is limited to one mode of controlling by merely pulling stings?

Isn't God all knowing - knowing the beginning and the end of all things?

Therefore - the role of faith in God's grace teaches what about the word going forth mentioned in Romans 10 and John 1:1 ?
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Re: How Sovereign is God?

#14

Post by Seraph » Tue Feb 25, 2014 10:15 am

Under predestination, they only rejected God because He made them do so in the first place!

Though I guess under this model, the regret part of Hell will be missing, since the people there will take comfort in the fact that there was nothing they could do to avoid their current predicament.
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Re: How Sovereign is God?

#15

Post by Jac3510 » Tue Feb 25, 2014 11:15 am

Seraph wrote:I imagined that would be an answer.

Free will is a funny thing though. God knows what choices you'll make in whatever scenario he places you in, so He could easily place a person in a point in space/time where they would make the right decisions. It seems impossible for God who has complete control over existence to create a person and say "It's totally up to them. I have no responsibility over what they choose".
If I may go all the way back to this, what makes you think the underlined part is true?

Let me put it this way. The will is acts deterministically or not. If the former, then there is no such thing as free will. It acts as it must. But if you say that God can "easily place a person in a point in space/time where they would make the right decisions," you are saying that there are conditions such that the will would always make a particular choice. In that case, the choice is determined by the conditions or circumstances, which is to say, it is determined by them.

I would, then, dispute your claim. It is not true that God could put people in such a position where they would (necessarily) make the right choice and still give people free will.

By the way, that is one of the reasons I reject Molinism, becuase while it thinks it preserves free will, it actually does the opposite insofar as it conceives of the will on a fundamental level as determinent rather than indeterminent. I think the best model fo the will is to say that it is always directed toward the good, but since none of us are omniscient (not to mention the fact that we have a fallen, sinful nature), our will is not bound to choose this good rather than that one. It is, then, indeterminent, which is to say, we are free to choose this rather than that. That's what "free will" means.

In light of that, I think Byblos' answer was correct. God is absolutely sovereign, and everything happens within His control. But what we must also say is that God causes things to happen in accordance with their nature. He causes deterministic events to happen in a deterministic fashion, and He causes voluntary events to happen in a voluntary fashion (which, is to say, He brings about our indeterminate choice for this rather than that good to be according to that indeterminate nature), and all this He does in virtue of what He is: existence itself.
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And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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