The Sovereignty of God I

March 28th, 2009 § 3 comments § permalink

Oftentimes a study of Calvinism is couched in terms of election and predestination. Sometimes it begins as a conversation about the five points or TULIP. Though I do not dispute the doctrine of election, nor do I dissent from any of the five points, neither of these are really good starting points for a solid understanding of Calvinism. Instead, one should begin with the two Biblical premises of absolute sovereignty and total depravity. (Oops, I just mentioned a point.) These are two of the key elements of understanding the Gospel. In fact, though some other religions may believe the doctrine of absolute sovereignty, no other religion claims the totally depravity of man; it is unique to Christianity.

So let’s begin with a discussion of sovereignty. Let us define it. That God is sovereign means that he has authority, power, and control over all things. He does all things according to his will. There is none who can affect change in him. What he wants to do, he does; what he wants to be, is.

The Bible is full of scripture extolling God for his sovereignty. A topical study of every passage that mentions sovereignty would take multiple posts. One of the themes of many of these passages is God’s sovereignty over nature. Psalms 135:6 says, “Whatever the LORD pleases he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” His power over nature is clearly evident in the creation. When Job began to have a wrong attitude about God’s sovereignty, this is the argument God used against Job (with blatant sarcasm) In Job 38.

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

His power is controls hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes, diseases, and wild animals. His decree gives us starry skies, blue seas, and the green shade. His is the artistry and imagination behind the Grand Canyon and Mount Everest. He maintains unmitigated control over his creation and upholds it at every moment for his glory.

God’s sovereignty doesn’t stop with “nature” but extends within every person, too. God is sovereign over the decisions of men. We read about this in Exodus. When God called his people out of slavery in Egypt, he performed miracle after miracle before Pharaoh in order to convince him to let the Israelites go. And miracle after miracle Pharaoh refuses. Indeed, after the sixth plague, we read that “The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had spoken to Moses.” and again after the seventh plague, “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants.” (Ex 9:12; 10:1) Right before the final plague we read, “The LORD said to Moses, Yet one plague more I will bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt. Afterward he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will drive you away completely.” (11:1) The story of the Exodus is a story of God’s control not merely over plagues and disasters; God does not merely work miracles in the public arena of nature, but also in the intimacy of our hearts.

Paul recalled the story of Pharaoh in Romans 9, when he talks about God’s sovereignty in the act of salvation, saying, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.” Proverbs 21:1 presses the point home, saying, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.”

I could find plenty more scripture references that support this historic doctrine of Christianity, but I’m not going to. I hope that I’ve made the case that the doctrine is biblical, but I also think that this idea that God is sovereign over man’s decisions is logical. If God is to have power over everything, over the events of history, the rise and fall of civilizations, of life and death and what in the world I’ll be doing five years from now, then he must have control over the hearts of men, including my own.

In talking about God’s sovereignty, then, we’ve agreed (or at least you’re humoring me) that God is sovereign over nature and over men’s decisions. God is also sovereign over calamity. Of course, I think this flows logically and directly from the previous points we’ve made, that God is sovereign over nature and people, but this point has its own particular emphasis in scripture. In Amos 3, God is talking about the punishment he will bring upon his chosen people when he says, “Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city unless the LORD has done it?” When Job said, “Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?” he seemed to assume that God has absolute control over Job’s disastrous circumstances (a claim thoroughly upheld by the ongoing dialogue in heaven). In Isaiah God says, “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD who does all these things.”

The sovereignty of God is foundational to the Christian religion. Up to this point, I have especially attempted to show God’s sovereignty in the arenas of nature, the human heart, and calamity. No doubt this has raised some important questions. If God controls everything, how can I be responsible for my actions? And does God cause evil? These problems are important, so I’ll not neglect them, but they must wait for another essay another time.

Next time, we’ll see how knowing the sovereignty of God should affect us.

How to Count to Infinite (in One Second)

March 26th, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

Some people say that it is absolutely impossible to count to infinite. After all, if I count to some point, and then I am finished, that means that I have reached the end, but infinite doesn’t have an end, so I obviously didn’t count to infinite, right?

Well, here’s how to count to infinite (in one second). Take half a second to count to one. Then use the next 1/4 of a second to count to 2. In the next 1/8 of a second count to 3. Continue this for each number, so that it takes half as long to count to the next number.

When you have spent 1 second counting, you’ll be at infinite. Piece of cake.

See, infinite isn’t that hard! (It usually takes me longer to count to 10 then it does to count to infinite.)

My Magnum Opus

March 21st, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

I’ve had a draft for part III of my ongoing (and I use the work “ongoing” rather loosely in light of my lack of any writing) series in the works for some time, but I do not feel that I’m able to complete it right now. Were I to do so, it would be my magnum opus. Our present-day shallow view of the goodness of God bears very little resemblance to the real thing. We think of God’s goodness as something comforting, like a hot shower after a hard day’s work. But really, God’s goodness is more like a consuming fire. We should fear His goodness as much as His wrath, for His wrath flows directly from His goodness.

To properly express the goodness of God will require some time. It is not really a topic for a 23 year old to undertake lightly. I hope to return to it someday. It seems far from accidental that “God” and “good” are nearly the same work in English. That we have such a selfish view of them both should be rather unsurprising. Neither God nor His goodness are really intended to make us happy. The world does not revolve around us humans.

So, let’s see if I can’t get back into writing a bit, eh? Now that I’ve stopped writing this series on God and Goodness, perhaps it’s time I looked toward something just a bit lighter to write about. What might that be, you ask?


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