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Sunday, February 22, 2009

What Do You Mean When You Say God is Sovereign?

Great article on the differing views of the Sovereignty of God...from the Parchment and Pen blog


Reclaiming the Mind Ministries
What Do You Mean When You Say God is Sovereign?
Posted: 21 Feb 2009 06:49 PM PST

Believing in the sovereignty of God is not an option of yes, no, or maybe within the Christian context. If the Bible is our authoritative guide, one must believe that God is sovereign. It is not unlike the issue of predestination. That God predestines people to salvation is not up for debate, what is up for debate is what it means that God predestines.
Both Calvinists and Arminians agree that God is sovereign, but they will often disagree as to what this means.

Here are the four primary options:

1. Meticulous sovereignty: God is the instrumental cause behind every action and reaction there has ever been. In other words, you chose white socks instead of the black socks because God caused it to happen. You have an itch on your eyebrow right now because God is actively causing it. In other words, every molecule that bounces into another is a result of God active agency in being the first and instrumental cause to the action.
This position holds little or no tension with regards to the human will and the divine will.
God is actively controlling everything.

Adherents: Hyper-Calvinists and some Calvinists

2. Providential sovereignty: While God is bringing about his will in everything (Eph 1:11), his will is not the instrumental cause of all that happens. God’s will plays a providential role in “causing” all things. In other words, all that happens happens because God did in some sense will it, but secondary causes are usually the instrumental cause behind the action. In the case of your socks, you chose them because you decided to, but it was also part of God’s will. God allows evil as it is part of his imperfect will to bring about a perfect end, but he is not the instrumental cause of evil.

This position holds much tension with regards to human will and divine will.
God is in control of everything.

Adherents: Calvinists and some Arminians

3. Providential oversight: Here God’s sovereignty is more of an oversight. He has a general plan, but is not married to the details. When necessary, God will intervene in the affairs of humanity to bring about his purpose, but this does not necessarily involve an intimate engagement with all that happens. God does not care what color socks you pick unless it somehow effects his meta plan.

This position holds much tension with regards to human will and divine will. God could control everything, but only controls some things. Adherents: Arminians and some Calvinists

4. Influential oversight: Here God’s sovereignty is self-limited. God could control things, but to preserve human freedom, he will not intervene in the affairs of men to the degree that the human will is decisively bent in one direction or another. He is hopeful that his influence will be persuasive to change a person’s heart or to guide them to his will, but is not sure if this will happen. Being all-wise, however, God will make strategic moves in people’s lives that will manipulate the situation to his advantage.

This position holds little or no tension with regards to the human will and the divine will.
God could control everything, but decides only to influence. Adherents: Open Theist Arminians and some Arminians

This first one is God’s relationship to evil. Please note: the definitions below are that of emphasis, not necessarily exclusivity—there will be overlap with some of the concepts.
I write this for many reason:

1. To give the spectrum of belief with regard to the issue of divine sovereignty.

2. To clear up some misconceptions about both Calvinists and Arminians. Most Arminians see Calvinists as only associated with number 1 (meticulous sovereignty). As well, most Calvinists see Arminians as associated necessarily with number 4 (influential sovereignty). To do this is to construct many possible straw-men representations.

Notice, according to my argument, an Arminian holding to number 2 can actually hold to a stronger view of divine sovereignty than a Calvinist holding to number 3 (although this is not typical). If that does not confuse your categories, I don’t know what will!

3. To create some new charts!

What do you mean when you say God is sovereign?

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