Sovereignty Reloaded. Nature of God's Sovereignty.
Nature of god's sovereignty
Much modern theology presupposes the deistic assumption that the first step is to prove God exists. No, the biblical question is what kind of God exists? (Resident Aliens, Hauerwas and Willimon).
In discussing God's sovereignty we must come from the aspect of who God is and not build a God based on one's definition of sovereignty. We must first also decide the differences between attributes and character and also distinguish their source. From where does one's attributes originate? Are they inherent or developed? Is character learned or a process of development? In looking at the nature of God's Sovereignty we want to pin point two major aspects those being its source and its purpose and let those two parameters build a basis for the sovereignty of God.
A Traditional Course
Pascal says God made man in His image and man returned the complement. To reiterate that thought in todays vernacular I found this posted on Face book: You can safely assume you have created God in your image when it turns out that God hates the same people you do.
Man in his drive to define God's sovereignty first defines free will and then from that definition he then proceeds to define God's sovereignty. In using this approach man gives God control up to that free will which he first defined. Because of this method religion gives the supremacy of wills to man over the desires of God.
Does God control every aspect of His creatures? A. W. Pink says: Either God governs or He is governed. Either God has His way or we have ours. This actually is a very critical juncture for it is one thing for God to give man the power to rebel but another for God to control everything so meticulously that He must effectively cause man to sin.
Sovereignty is defined in religion as one of God's attributes with its premise of understanding from a conglomeration of ideas that revolve around God's power, God's knowledge (past, present, future, and His wisdom) and His ability to be located everywhere at the same time commonly called The Three O's.
It was during the late 1800's Charles Spurgeon said: I believe that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes. The path of the fall of leaves from the poplar is as fully ordained as the tumbling avalanche. Another writer in the same time period adds: He has foreordained after the counsel of His will the moving of a finger and the mistake of the typist.
In our current time period we might say God has foreordained or has determined the changing of the stoplight from red to green. He has determined the timing of your computer's hibernation even to the passing of gas. We seen to assume God flicks His finger and the stoplight changes or God tells your computer to go to sleep. We place all power with God and it is so, but it is because He is all powerful that He does not have to control every minute and meticulous detail of everything in creation.
Certain things occur because of distinct principles that God has put in place and are not under His scrupulous control such as gravity, computer program code, or even bodily functions. The Psalms declare we are fearfully and wonderfully made but gas happens. It is a principle of cause and effect that is an integral part of creation's function.
It is this line of reasoning (God's meticulous and exhaustive control) that removes cause and effect. A stop light changes due to a programed time and traffic flow. Computer hibernation is also based program code. Flatulence is a reaction of food and bacteria.
People tend to use the sovereignty of God to their convenience in that we sometimes have areas that we close off to God and others we readily let God have such as those that we cannot control or that we do not understand. We figure He can handle those areas better than we can. If we cannot control it them it must be in God's sovereign rule such as death and especially natural disasters because everyone knows they are called acts of God.
An act of God is defined as a manifestation of a violent or destructive natural force that is beyond human power to cause, prevent, or control. It is a violent and catastrophic event caused by forces of nature which could not have been prevented or avoided by foresight or prudence. This idea of will eventually cause tornadoes, hurricanes to be taken off of the list as acts of God as man becomes more adept at weather forecasting and warning systems. Is man's knowledge encroaching on God's acts? Of course not. Man is learning about a earth in bondage. Natural disasters are just thatnaturally occurring events initiated by weather patterns of the earth aging and shifting. Colossians 1:15-17 says the image of the invisible God being the Logos holds all things together then is He loosing His grip? Or is it simply the detriment of man allowing the entrance of sin and death (Rom 5:12) which has caused the earth and its atmosphere to groan also? (Rom 8:18-22) Natural disasters may be more man's fault than God's acts.
Could it be our interpretation of blessing and cursing that pinpoints all blame to God? For example when God pronounced judgments in Genesis on Adam and Eve does He not say because you have done this... (Gen 3:14)? Yet, we blame God. If I go hiking in the woods and I go off trail and get snake bit did God cause it? Or was it a curse from God because I did not go to church last Sunday? No. I entered the snakes habitat and stepped on its tail and in a natural response I got bit. Did God plan it's occurrence? Or was I free to go off trail and look down the beautiful mountainside?
What if what we have perceived as blessings and curses or judgments and punishments are simply occurrences that happen and God is foretelling the events and not causing them? If I jump off a ten story building I will fall ten floors. Was I punished for walking of the edge? Did God cause my death? Or did gravity take over as an inevitability because I stepped off the edge? Then we can assume gravity evil because it caused death. No. Gravity responded in that it can bless (keep me on the earth) or curse (put me face first in the pavement). Again no, gravity is a principle that God placed and it responds in only one way as God designed but we perceive its blessing or harm based on the manner of our actions.
In ancient times, if it rains for a long time and your fields are flooded and your crops are ruined, you perceive this is an act of God punishing you, yet a few miles away, on higher ground, this rain is a blessing because their crops were drying up and now God has decided to bless them. Whichever one of these individuals has the greater capacity to record this event is what history and sacred text will say how God treated man that day. God did not curse man causing the consequences of the fall. He told them what would happen if they jumped off the roof!
Then what are real Acts of God? Redemption.Preservation.Health. Wisdom. Incarnation of the Logos. Resurrection. Unconditional Love no matter what we choose.
Is everything that happens God ordained, and if not does that diminish His Sovereignty? Depends on what we view as the source of God's Sovereignty. Is it to rule or love? Is it to control or lead?
God's Sovereignty. Is it from His power or His love?
When Sovereignty is discussed what is your first point of focus, is it His love or His power? One main point of realization is just because He is all powerful does not mean He exercises all of His power. We tend to use sovereignty to fit God into a box in order to predict His actions and what we have done is defined His sovereignty outside of His Character. Outside of who He isoutside of His choice to redeem, to love, thus presenting a dark picture of His sovereignty.
From where does His sovereignty issue? His position as God of the Universe or from His character He expresses to man being Love and Father. Does it matter? Of course because in defining the source of His sovereignty determines how it effects creation and how those under His sovereignty see Him and how they express God to others. It's about how He governs and the choices He makes that changes the dynamics of our understanding of His sovereignty. Let love define sovereignty not His power. Let Relationship define sovereignty not Rulership.
Does God enter into a reciprocal relationship with us in which our thoughts, decisions, and actions contribute to a dynamic relationship not with an untouchable God but with a Father? Then, is His wisdom such that He is able to interact with us and we with Him all the while maintaining His sovereignty? In answering this question it will highly depend on one's perception of God. Is He a God who is impassable and untouchable or is He relational God who interacts with all men.
The power of His Sovereignty versus The Sovereignty of His Power
How does He govern? Does He govern by force or by love? Is there a difference in the God of the Old Testament versus the New Testament? In the Old Testament He was expressed or perceived by His attributes while in the New Testament He was perceived or seen by His heart in His Christ.
Are there differences in His attributes and His heart? Only in our perception as one is in power and the other in love and religion has not figured out how to marry the two. It is through His power He expresses love and not because of His power. John 3:16 indicates He is capable of so great love because He is love and He expresses this love because He is loving and desires love returned and not simply because He is powerful and can command it.
The Power of His Sovereignty is the ability, freedom, and purpose of His Sovereignty not His governing power. He is God and He can accomplish His purpose. But in the awesomeness of His sovereignty His character is displayed over His ability and His might. Can we see the Sovereignty of God in the Christ? Yes, the love of Christ trumped the power and might of God as perceived by man time and again.
Jesus consistently went against the anticipated reaction of the crowds who thought they knew God's will in the matter and showed them a different portrait of God. The woman caught in the act of adultery according to the crowds thought she should be stoned but Jesus countered with He who is without sin throw the first one. In the case of Mary and Martha, Jesus instead of getting on to Mary for Martha who thinks she is the true servant tells Martha she was troubled about many things. One more instance: in the Prodigal son, the Father never said you owe me, repay me first, but he ran to him. He demonstrated love over judgment and justice and that is the picture Jesus tells of the Father and this was antithetical to the understanding of the big tough God in the sky. This is not a weakness in God's sovereignty but demonstrated the power of His Sovereignty.
The Power of His sovereignty is centered in His character operating out of who He is which is Love. Then we come to realize His sovereignty is governed by His character and follows love (suffers long, kind, never fails) rather than in His power to command and cause the creation to follow His directives. In other words It is His love which bounds or governs the sovereignty of God not his power. His character is love while omnipotence is an attribute.
Character versus Attribute
God's Character defines Him by utilizing His attributes to reveal the 'I AM'. To reveal Jehovah. To reveal God. To reveal Father. Character appropriates or utilizes the attributes. Therefore Love defines our Father who is revealed by His attributes (holy, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence) all the while the attributes are bound and operate by love and not their stand alone definition. Character is who you are while your attributes are a possession or what you have and are fashioned or operated out of your character.
Sovereignty is not about His ability but about his purpose. It is about His actions and choices. It is about His choosing to redeem and placing His Image and His Character in Christ during the Reconciliation. We have formed a picture of the Sovereignty of God out of our definition of a god but not our Godnot Abba Father.
The Sovereignty of His Power is a sovereignty based on God's attributes and His might. This God can do anything He wants because He is all powerful and this God might hurt us. He might bring destructive judgment. He might cast into hell forever. You never know what the Lord is gonna do. But when His Sovereignty is based and sourced in His Character and His power and His might flow from His love then He has the ability to govern and to obtain a desired outcome regardless of our choices as He administers justice and love through His Heart. This God will never harm us and we can call Him Father.