Some Intriguing Thoughts on God’s Sovereignty

Check out this post on God’s sovereignty by bethyada.  It does a good job of explaining why Arminians have a hard time with the Calvinistic conception of sovereignty and believe that their definition of sovereignty is far more Biblical.  For a very funny (and somewhat irreverent) article on sovereignty and God’s desire to maximize His glory through irrevocable reprobation check out the wise words of Otis here.  And if you like what Otis has to say there then you will want to absorb even more of his wisdom here.

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12 Responses

  1. Bethyada makes some good comments in his post. He also makes a common mistake that noncalvinists sometimes make that merits comment.

    Bethyada writes:

    “I don’t think it possible for God to force anyone into heaven. Or rather force anyone to love him; heaven is the destination. So I think the Calvinists are incorrect about sovereignty over who is saved because it is not an question of sovereignty.
    . . . .
    However I think that if God creates us as beings that have the ability to choose or reject God then I think it logically impossible to force love from such a being.

    To have such a high view of sovereignty that claims that God can make us love him, seems, to me, as preposterous as a high view of God’s omnipotence means he can make 2 + 2 = 5.

    So I don’t think that non-Calvinists have a low view of God’s sovereignty, I think they have a more accurate one.”

    First of all, Bethyada is correct that the debate is about differing conceptions of God’s sovereignty. For the determinist who believes that all is predetermined (what I call “exhaustive determinism”) God is sovereign only if He has in fact predetermined every event and controls everything at all times directly. They equate sovereignty with determinism so that full sovereignty means everything being fully and completely determined. The non-Calvinist rejects this and sees God’s sovereignty as referring to the fact that God does as He pleases (with one thing that pleases Him being human persons who freely choose to trust and to love and to worship Him). It is critical to see that one can have a very robust and biblical conception of God being sovereign without believing that God has fully predetermined all events. As Bethyada puts it: “I think they have a more accurate one.” Calvinists and non-Calvinists have different conceptions of God’s sovereignty and the key is to see which one best corresponds with what God has revealed in scripture.

    Second, Bethyada speaks of God **forcing** people to love him. A mistake sometimes made by non-Calvinists is to view determinism as God **forcing** people to do things. So God is sovereign when he forces people to do things against their will, forces people to love him, forces people to believe in him, etc. What is forgotten is precisely what exhaustive determinism (ED) entails. If ED is true, then God directly controls everything about a human person including his mind, thoughts, thinking, will, body, brain, muscles, bones, EVERYTHING. Now here is what is missed, if God predetermines everything and directly controls everything, then whatever happens is exactly what God wants to happen and is bringing about to happen. If ED is true, then God controls the human person just as much before they are saved as well as when they are saved. So as a nonbeliever every thought, desire, movement, or action of “Paul” is predetermined and controlled by God. “Paul” will have only the thoughts and desires that God preplanned for him to have, nothing more or less. So God will determine and control “Paul” so that for a time he will be a nonbeliever with unbelieving thoughts and actions. Now again assuming that ED is true, and that “Paul” is one of the preselected and predetermined “elect”. God will control and predetermine that at a particular time “Paul’s” thoughts and desires and actions will change so that he ends up becoming a believer. Note carefully that in all of this, no **force** is involved, God does not have to **force** “Paul” to change his will because God already controls and predetermines “Paul’s” will, mind, body.

    If God controls everything and predetermines everything then there is nothing for God to OVERCOME, nothing for God to **force** to change.

    God would have to **force** “Paul” to believe only if “Paul’ had an independent will that could choose to go against God on its own (but as the determinists like to remind us there is no such thing as libertarian free will, or as some of them like to say nothing is independent of God and His will in any shape or form). So God in order to “convert” “Paul” does not need to **force** him to love God, God simply changes his will and desires and actions so that he ends up loving God.

    Now while it is true that under ED God never has to force anyone to do anything since he directly and totally controls everything, the problem is whether or not the God revealed in the bible ***controls us in this way or not***.

    I believe the bible presents things in such a way as to suggest that God is sovereign and yet he does not directly and totally control our wills as would be true if everything were predetermined and directly controlled by Him. Instead, God is sovereign in that He does as He pleases in any and all situations and at the same time He created us to be genuine persons who do their own actions (and doing our own actions means we choose to do some of those actions on our own, although God can intervene at any time if He wants to). So I would suggest that while some things are preplanned by God (most notably the crucifixion of Jesus) some things are foreknown by God (since God foreknows everything) but were not preplanned and predetermined to occur (e.g. our sins are foreknown by God and allowed by God but not predetermined by God and God did not control our minds, wills, bodies so that we would sin).

    Robert

    PS – Otis for President! 🙂

  2. Otis is the man.

  3. Kevin wrote: “Otis is the man.”

    Yea, I think the “ticket” ought to be Otis for President and HOMEY D. CLOWN (from one of my favorite TV shows of all time, IN LIVING COLOR) for Vice President. Now that would be a dynamic duo to vote for! 🙂

    Robert

  4. I am glad you put this article into the mix seeing BY makes some concessions and there is agreement among us that Calvin did not say or imply that God “forces” His Love on anyone of us.

    And I would say that quote by James Harmensen over at the top at Arminian Chronicles is one the best quotes I have had the priviledge of reading!

    At least that much we are in agreement on!

  5. In my previous post I suggested that it is a mistake to claim that Calvin or calvinism believes that God **forces** people against their wills to love Him. This does not mean that calvinism is acceptable however, actually what calvinism proposes is worse than **forcing** someone to love God. You see if you were **forced** to do so, at least that would mean that you were a genuine person with a will, who was capable of making your own decisions and doing your own actions, on your own. Exhaustive determinism leads to ***something worse*** than us being **forced** to do things. At least then, we have our own will, if we are forced to do things.

    If ED is true, our minds, wills, bodies, everything is directly controlled by another agent outside of ourselves. The common metaphor often used to refer to this is that we become like puppets whose every string is controlled by and directed by the puppet master. In such a world where God is the puppet master and we are mere puppets completely and directly controlled by Him, we are no longer genuine persons capable of doing our own actions. Everything we do is directed and controlled by another person outside of our minds and bodies. That is **worse** than being forced to love God. That is merely being a puppet, with some puppets being controlled to love God and others being controlled to not love God, but with everything being always and only what the puppet master wants.

    Our own experience as well as the bible suggest we do not live in such a “puppet world”. Instead we are genuine persons who have wills that are not always controlled by an external person.

    Robert

  6. Robert,

    if I might, I would explore your reasonings here:

    [[Our own experience as well as the bible suggest we do not live in such a “puppet world”. Instead we are genuine persons who have wills that are not always controlled by an external person. ]]………?

    As you have charged me, that I am a calvinist, I respond, no I am not.

    However, your distinction here is something that opens to the door to something I have clearly and unequivocally read a Calvinist Theologian has charged as an error on the part of Arminians.

    You make no pretense about it and certainly are unequivocal that you are an Arminian, yes?

    So, I would like to in brief segments go at that that I highlighted above from your comment and ask you to respond to the charge a Calvinist Theologian charged generally is an error with Arminians?

    respectfully
    michael

  7. So, I would like to in brief segments go at that that I highlighted above from your comment and ask you to respond to the charge a Calvinist Theologian charged generally is an error with Arminians?

    But can the Calvinist theologian explain how their determinism avoids this conclusion? Anyone can assert that something is not representative of their belief system, but can they back it up? Arminians believe that they can back up the claim that Calvinism leads to cosmic puppetry on the part of God. We believe that Calvinists engage in double talk by affirming determinism and then denying the implications of determinism.

    Those same Calvinists who recoil at the charge of divine puppetry will turn around and call us lifeless lumps of clay in the hand of the Potter who has the right to shape us (which includes everything about us including our wills, desires, and actions) however He pleases and “Who are you O man to talk back to God”, etc. It’s really rather comical. Here is an excerpt from a post I wrote awhile back which makes this same point:

    Calvinists tend to get hyped up when Arminians accuse them of making puppets of people with their deterministic view of the will. Yet those same Calvinists will happily describe us as inanimate and helpless clay in the hand of the Potter who has the right to shape us however He pleases (which misunderstands what was being expressed in Jer. 18, Rom. 9, and related passages). If we object to their determinism then we are sternly rebuked for being like pots who are talking back to the Potter. And yet, the Potter apparently formed and shaped us just so that we would indeed talk back to Him. Strange theology indeed.

    Here is an excellent treatment on the double talk of Calvinists:

    Objections To Calvinism As It Is

    God Bless,
    Ben

  8. Thanks for the link Ben.

    To your comments Robert. I agree with what you are saying; if exhaustive determinism is correct then God is not forcing men to love him against their will because God is also altering the will. However my comment assumes free will. I wrote:

    I don’t think it possible for God to force anyone… to love him…. So I think the Calvinists are incorrect about sovereignty over who is saved because it is not an question of sovereignty….

    if God creates us as beings that have the ability to choose or reject God then I think it logically impossible to force love from such a being.

    I am not so much arguing whether or not us loving God is forced in terms of: against what we would otherwise want; I am arguing that:

    if free will
    then not forced love.

    Now the Calvinist could argue that my premise is incorrect, that we don’t have free will. I would answer that if that is the case then we don’t love.

  9. http://www.gracegate.org

    Would love for you to check it out….thanks!

  10. Gatekeeper,

    I looked over some of your site and have not found anything that I haven’t seen or heard before from the Calvinist end (though I haven’t read it all yet so I may still run across something I suppose). I actually intend on interacting with some of what you wrote on your site as I find your logic rather puzzling. I noticed that you do not have comments at your site and do not encourage interaction, but when I post on some of your material I welcome any insights you are willing to share.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  11. Hello Ben,

    “But can the Calvinist theologian explain how their determinism avoids this conclusion? Anyone can assert that something is not representative of their belief system, but can they back it up? Arminians believe that they can back up the claim that Calvinism leads to cosmic puppetry on the part of God. We believe that Calvinists engage in double talk by affirming determinism and then denying the implications of determinism.”

    Exactly.

    The theological determinist/calvinist wants to believe in exhaustive determinism, but cannot stomach the implications of his own view (at least most, there are some exceptions such as Vincent Cheung who do understand where their determinism leads and still joyfully embrace it). Make no mistake, if exhaustive determinism is true, then we are no different than puppets being completely controlled and manipulated by a puppet master.

    The “double talk” comes in affirming one thing but refusing to accept the logical implications of the very things they affirm. Classic example is the existence of sin and evil. If all is predetermined then the fall, as well as every other act of sin is precisely what God wanted to occur in each and every instance. But most calvinists will not admit this but instead try to argue that all is predetermined (including evil and sinful actions) and yet God is not directly responsible for bringing about these evil events. You cannot have it both ways, if all is predetermined and directly controlled by God, then God is responsible and directly brings about every event which occurs without any exceptions. Now he may **use** puppets like us to accomplish his will, but since he directly controls and manipulates us, He is responsible.

    “Those same Calvinists who recoil at the charge of divine puppetry will turn around and call us lifeless lumps of clay in the hand of the Potter who has the right to shape us (which includes everything about us including our wills, desires, and actions) however He pleases and “Who are you O man to talk back to God”, etc. It’s really rather comical.”

    Your observation here is one that I find particularly instructive about the way determinists do not accept the logical consequences of their own views. It is amazing that the same folks who will gleefully point to the potter passages in Romans 9 to show that God completely and directly controls us so that He is sovereign and libertarian free will does not exist, will at the **same time** argue that their determinism does not make us into puppet like creatures whose every string is controlled and directed by a puppet master!

    “Calvinists tend to get hyped up when Arminians accuse them of making puppets of people with their deterministic view of the will. Yet those same Calvinists will happily describe us as inanimate and helpless clay in the hand of the Potter who has the right to shape us however He pleases (which misunderstands what was being expressed in Jer. 18, Rom. 9, and related passages).”

    Right, we are like clay that is without will and completely controlled by the potter, but we are not like puppets without will and completely controlled by the puppet master.

    Go figure.

    “If we object to their determinism then we are sternly rebuked for being like pots who are talking back to the Potter. And yet, the Potter apparently formed and shaped us just so that we would indeed talk back to Him. Strange theology indeed.”

    This is another good observation that I have too often seen to be true of determinists. They get upset and frustrated with our objections to their false theology and determinism. They will even call us names or question our salvation and engage in all sorts of personal attacks of us. If they really believed that EVERYTHING was predetermined by God, then that would include our actions and objections as well (which they see as “talking back to God”, well if all is predetermined WHO MADE US TALK BACK???). So why are they getting frustrated that God’s “sovereign secret will” is being carried out? We are only doing what God wants us to do, predetermined for us to do. And yet all the hostility against us when God supposedly predetermined all of our behavior.

    But in a way this should not surprise us too much as the same is true of the calvinist God. He also gets mad and frustrated by the very same events that He predetermined for to occur. The Old Testament is full of examples of God being frustrated and angry about events and things people do (and yet the determinist would have us believe that God predetermined for these very events to come to pass, so he brings these events to pass and then He gets frustrated and angry by these very same events; no wonder a friend of mine says that determinism makes God into a malicious sadist who is also a schizophrenic).

    Robert

  12. Hello Bethyada,

    “To your comments Robert. I agree with what you are saying; if exhaustive determinism is correct then God is not forcing men to love him against their will because God is also altering the will. However my comment assumes free will.”

    Thanks for the clarification.

    “I am not so much arguing whether or not us loving God is forced in terms of: against what we would otherwise want; I am arguing that:

    if free will
    then not forced love.”

    I agree with you that a “forced love” is an oxymoron, not what God desires nor seeks nor causes to occur. God created us with self-consciousness, the ability to do our own actions. He wanted human persons who would freely love, obey and worship Him. He wanted the opposite of a puppet. He wanted a genuine person who did their own actions (not completely controlled by Him) and yet freely chose to love Him.

    “Now the Calvinist could argue that my premise is incorrect, that we don’t have free will. I would answer that if that is the case then we don’t love.”

    I agree with you, if the **love** is not freely given, it is not the love that God wants from us. It is significant that the most basic things that God desires from us get eliminated by exhaustive determinism/calvinism. If all is determined then neither our love nor our obedience nor our worship is freely given to Him from ourselves (instead He has to directly control our thoughts, minds, desires controlling us like puppets to cause us to go through the motions of love, obedience and worship).

    Robert

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