The Sovereignty Of God
There is a great divide amongst those who profess to be disciples of Jesus Christ and believers in God as to the very character and nature of God, and particularly in the matter of how He works and operates in relation to His Creation. That divide begins with the concept of Divine Sovereignty, and exactly what it means, and the consequences of the various concepts of how exactly God demonstrates His sovereingty over all.
But the word sovereignty, or sovereign is not one we commonly use, so it may be that an explanation is in order before we discuss the differences. First, the word sovereign simply means, as a noun, "a person who has supreme power or authority," and, as an adjective, "having supreme rank, power, or authority." Applied to God, the user means He has supreme power over all, but that really doesn't explain things when one might naturally ask a follow-up question: So what does that mean?
Here is where the differences arise in explaining how, exactly, God exercises supreme power or authority over His Creation, namely man. Some say Divine Sovereingty demands that God direct every action or even thought of man; in other words, there is nothing that happens without God's direction. Others will argue that God certainly rules over all, but that He picks and chooses whom He directs, and that the individual's free will works in concert with His predetermined will. Others will argue that God certainly has power over all, but that He allows the free will of man to direct what happens, without conceding to man any power or authority. Obviously, these various views cannot all be true, for each view contradicts another; God cannot direct everything and, at the same time, allow man to choose his own way. Men have argued over the proper understanding and application of this characteristic of God for hundreds of years, and it is likely the arguing will not end anytime soon. Many doctrinal issues arise from whichever view of God's sovereignty is believed, and much error exists now simply because men misunderstand how it actually works, and are unwilling to concede their concepts contradict even Scripture.
Friends and brethren, we cannot hold any belief that contradicts Scripture and still claim to be properly interpreting and/or applying it. By the very nature of truth (God's word, in this case; John 17:17), truth cannot contradict itself; God's word cannot contradict itself. If we find that what we understand from Scripture [whether in interpretation or application] contradicts some other passage, we must not redfine terms or just shrug our collective shoulders and say, "God's thoughts are not our thoughts" as a way of dismissing the contradictions. That is hermeneutical laziness and outright dishonesty with the Scriptures! If we are unwilling to reject a conclusion that contradicts Scripture simply because it is what we have always believed, we are not being honest with ourselves!
And, yet, that is exactly what is being done by some who argue that God directs every action of man. When challenged with the most obvious questions -— Does God direct man to do evil? Is God the source of evil? — some have replied, "When evil occurs, both God and creatures are involved, but only the creature is guilty of wrongdoing. That is because the creature’s intent is evil, but God’s is not." In other words, when God directs a man to do evil [and that man whom God directs to do this cannot resist or frustrate God's directive], then the man is guilty of evil, but God is not! Who can believe it!
In this very same article [Sovereign Over Evil, www.ligioner.org], the author is so bold to say, "ultimately it is good that evil exists or God would not ordain it." Now, before I make my comment on that audacious statement, let's first understand that the word ordain means "to order or command." So, in this man's words, he plainly teaches God commands evil to be done by men, and yet God is still without blame and it's actually a good thing that evil exists!
But this is the problem with much of the so-called interpretation of Scripture regarding God's sovereignty. Many intellectual hoops have to be jumped through and many leaps of faith have to be taken — all without a final explanation that does not contradict some other, earlier explanation — when men refuse to abandon this untenable picture of God's sovereignty. If we find a passage that contradicts the position, we just throw out the "God's thoughts are higher than our thoughts" or "We just can't really know" reply as a termination of any further questions, which leaves only lingering doubts about this "God" this doctrine portays, and has been [and is] the cause for many to despise God and want nothing to do with Him at all, if that is the God of the Bible. [It is not!]
There is not enough space in this article to thoroughly deal with the matter of God's sovereignty, but let us consider just one thing today before we make any rash and — to be perfectly blunt — blasphemous statements about God and how He works in the lives of men.
God Does Not Direct Every Action. If only one passage could be found that showed this to be true, then it would only be honest of us to abandon that false concept of God directing every action and thought of man. And there is one such passage. Once, when God was speaking through Jeremiah to the Israelites about why they were going into captivity, He pointed to the practice of child sacrifices and described how they had “built the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or speak, nor did it come into My mind” (Jer. 19:5). [This is stated again in Jer. 7:31 and Jer. 32:35.] Now, if God did not command or speak it, and if the thought had not entered into His mind for them to do such an abominable thing, how can anyone say this evil act was directed by God?
The simple fact is, if God directed every action of man, then sin could not exist, by definition (cf. 1 John 3:4; sin is transgression of law). And what would that say of the God who directed men to do evil and to sin, and then condemned them to an eternal punishment for simply doing what He directed they do and could not resist?
No, God is still sovereign, but He is also just and righteous. He does not direct men to do evil. — Steven Harper