Showing posts with label Sovereignty. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sovereignty. Show all posts

Monday, January 08, 2024

Anonymous Asks (283)

“Why should I care about the sovereignty of God if it has no practical effect on my life?”

If we reject divine determinism as unbiblical, we may be tempted to conclude that the sovereignty of God has no practical consequences for believers. In fact, this is quite untrue.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Hail and Farewell

I probably disagree with Michael Heiser as much as I agree with him. As I commented in an earlier post, Heiser “seems like a guy who has gone down a bit of a theological rabbit hole and may be in danger of seeing nothing but rabbits everywhere he looks”. That said, I have found what Heiser calls his “divine council worldview” exceedingly useful in broadening and fine-tuning my understanding of how God works. His books The Unseen Realm and Reversing Hermon are well worth reading and a good place to start if you have never heard of the man.

I was understandably saddened to read that Mike will not be writing any more books.

Wednesday, January 04, 2023

A Finger on the Scales

Let’s start with one of my favorite quotes from John Calvin:

“Those who have learned from the mouth of Christ that all the hairs of his head are numbered (Matthew 10:30), will … hold that all events whatsoever are governed by the secret counsel of God.”

If I say to you, “Your days are numbered”, I could be saying no more than that I know exactly how long your life will last. I could also be threatening it. That is much like what Calvin wants the Lord to have said: that God personally determines the number of hairs on our heads. And if God exercises personal control over something so miniscule and insignificant, then he surely exercises personal control over all other matters in the universe both great and small.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

My Contingent Ego (or A Matter of Pride)

You can’t discuss a matter effectively unless you really understand what the other side is saying.

Mischaracterizing the other position is extremely common in theological disagreements. I try very hard to avoid it here by quoting people directly, linking to context, and reading and contemplating an argument before I reply to it. I try even harder to avoid speculating about the motives of those with whom I disagree, since these are irrelevant to the truth or error of a person’s viewpoint.

But even these precautions cannot guarantee I have really heard and comprehended what the other side is trying to communicate.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Anonymous Asks (123)

“Why are birth defects allowed?”

Birth defects are not a small problem. One in 33 children in the United States is born with a birth defect, small or large. That seems like something about which a God who loves children might have a strong opinion.

Some birth defects are simply one of many consequences of living in a fallen world, as are tornados, tidal waves, earthquakes or disease. The vast majority, however, are due to choices made by human beings.*

So before we call on God to eradicate all birth defects, let me ask you this first: How would you feel if God overruled every bad decision you ever thought about making?

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Vessels of Wrath and Vessels of Mercy

We’ve been looking at the question of whether God really prepares some people for destruction and others for glory. How and to what extent is his sovereignty exercised within the human heart?

Romans 9 is much misunderstood where this subject is concerned. In yesterday’s post I made the case that nothing in the first 18 verses of the chapter deals with the subject of individual salvation. Paul’s subject there is God’s election of nations and other groups to strategic roles in human history for his own sovereign purposes.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Times and Dates

The phrase “unto this day” or its equivalent occurs 92 times in scripture by my count, 86 times in Hebrew and six times in Greek. Well over a dozen Bible authors use it. When I was much younger and more solipsistic, I read it — don’t laugh — as if it meant up until the late twentieth century, as if “this day” meant the day I was reading it. It seemed rather cool to me that so many landmarks in Old Testament history could survive so long.

Later it dawned on me that of course it really means up until sometime between the first moment the writer put quill to papyrus and the moment he finished editing what he had written. No more, no less.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Anonymous Asks (64)

“Does everything happen for a reason?”

That ominous yellow ticket under your windshield wiper: did God do that?

Just curious.

Some Christians are determinists. They think everything that happens, no matter how minuscule or insignificant, is a product of God’s deliberate calculations; in effect, that God micromanages the universe. In believing this, they feel they are glorifying God, because they are acknowledging his sovereign rule.

In their view, yes, God gave you that ticket. You will thank him later.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

God’s Sovereignty vs. the Idiocy of Man

What happens when, as Christians, you or I make a mess of our lives in very serious, potentially permanent ways?

I ask the question not as someone with a theoretical curiosity, but as someone who has a habit of doing so.

So, really, where is God when, as his servants, we make complete and utter idiots of ourselves?

Monday, February 05, 2018

Remember to Quote the Whole Thing

Christians in the habit of proof-texting should consider examining the context of their favorite “gotcha” verses once in a while. It’s a healthy exercise, useful in maintaining doctrinal balance.

Determinists, for instance, would benefit immensely from making context-scrutiny a daily practice. Most of the great passages they like to cite on the subject of God’s sovereignty have overtures to human responsibility at their core.

Let me grab a couple of favorites from The Calvinist Corner, because nobody can make the point better.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Evil That Men Do

Some time ago I acquired a cat. Or she acquired me.

She came through my window, crawled onto my shoulders, head-butted me and began to purr like a broken air conditioner. She had an obvious upper respiratory infection and one bad eye, but seemed energetic and very sociable. Once she found the dog’s dish and began to chow down, she obdurately refused to leave.

Initially I thought she was an outdoor kitty belonging to a neighbour, but from her trusting nature and complete absence of interest in going anywhere near the door, I concluded that being outdoors was not normal for her (something that was confirmed when her former owner admitted she had been outside for only two weeks of her life).

Still, whether the original owner (who declined to take her back) lost his cat intentionally or otherwise, her untroubled, sunny disposition suggests that he must have treated her reasonably well.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Who Hardened Whose Heart?

Sovereignty discussion time.

Scripture is rife with examples of the peculiar streak of human perversity that sets itself against the will of God to the bitter end. But even with all that competition, Pharaoh and his Egyptians must surely rank in the Top Ten.

Or do they? What about this verse:

“Then Israel came to Egypt; Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham. And the Lord made his people very fruitful and made them stronger than their foes. He turned their hearts to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants.”

On the face of it, Christian determinists would seem to have good reason to jump on the words of the Psalmist and say, “Aha, you see, it says that God ‘turned the hearts’ of the Egyptians to hate his people. They didn’t have a choice!”

Except they did. Let’s look at why.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Yet Another Rigged Election

Does God really prepare some people for destruction and others for glory?

It’s a good question.

Most Christians accept that God is, by definition, able to control all that he creates down to the last detail; it is difficult to read the Bible and come away with any other picture of him. But the question of how and to what extent his sovereignty is exercised within the human heart is what generally divides believers.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

A Non-Binary Proposition

God took a nation for himself from all the peoples of the earth. If you’re Israel, that’s what you might call a mixed blessing.

On the one hand, there was lots of good stuff that came with being uniquely God’s. As Paul puts it to the Romans, “to [Israelites] belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises”, and he goes on to mention the patriarchs and Messiah. Being a Jew was a tremendous privilege.

On the other hand, as another Jew once put it, “With great power there must also come — great responsibility.”

Thursday, December 29, 2016

No Guarantees

For the Christian, winning is not guaranteed.

Oh, of course it’s guaranteed in the long-term. We’ve read the ending of a story that has already been written, edited and published to the world. It is a done deal. All is to be summed up in Christ, and those of us who belong to him are destined to be glorified with him and united with him for eternity.

That’s definitely what you’d call a win. Might not happen in your lifetime or mine, but our long-term prospects are guaranteed.

Short-term is another story. Today may hold what appears to be a resounding loss.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Coin That Always Comes Up Tails

Vox Day contemplates the British parliamentary vote to abandon 900 years of legal sovereignty, and why it is that culture wars are rarely won or lost in the span of a single human lifetime:
“Some think that these extended timescales prove that there is no conspiracy and ‘progress’ is a mere accident of history because no human lifespan is long enough to encompass the strategy or the consequences. The logic is correct, but then, logic also suggests an alternative, which is that there is something, or someone, that exists on a larger timescale and is capable of guiding events of these temporal proportions.

So, the question comes down to this: given what we can observe with the limited means at our disposal, which do you find more unlikely? A coin almost always flipping tails at random or some sort of unknown, long-lived being imposing its will on the coin toss?”

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Vessels of Wrath and Vessels of Mercy

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Strategic Roles in Human History and God’s Election

The most current version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

God’s Sovereignty vs. Suffering

There is very little more disorienting and disturbing than a sudden change of circumstances for the worse. Even those who have studied and enjoyed the word of God for years can be knocked off their pins by tragedy.

I remember reading C.S. Lewis’ book A Grief Observed as a very young believer and thinking that for a mature Christian, he sure didn’t seem to handle loss very well.

Yeah, right.

A few years went by. A few things went wrong. I discovered what real pain feels like.

Friday, May 23, 2014

God’s Sovereignty vs. Hardened Hearts

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

God’s Sovereignty vs. the Evil That Men Do

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

God’s Sovereignty vs. the Idiocy of Man

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, April 07, 2014

God’s Sovereignty, Man’s Responsibility and the Two Witnesses

In his recent post on Calvinism, Immanuel made the point that pretty much every Christian believes in God’s sovereignty. The debate, he says, is not really about whether God is sovereign, but:
“… what they disagree about is how prescriptive His management of the universe has to be in order for that to be true. Does He have to mandate the movement of every molecule that twitches? Or is it possible that God allows human beings some measure of freedom of choice and action? How “tight” does sovereignty have to be in order to remain sovereignty?”
My personal conviction, and that of many fellow believers (obviously including Immanuel), is that Scripture teaches both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man.

The “two witnesses” of Revelation 11 appear to me to illustrate both these principles, and one way in which the two might co-exist (I’m not suggesting that in every instance the two work together in precisely this way).

Let’s suppose in analyzing the chapter that its words are intended to be taken at face value; that is to say, that when John writes “if anyone would”, it means “if anyone would” (as opposed to something along the lines of “if the sovereign God compels anyone to”).

If we do that, is it possible to see the sovereignty of God on display at the same time as man’s will?