Saturday, November 9, 2013

Sovereignty of God - Unwanted Results - Inexplicable Teachings

The Sovereignty of God
Unwanted Results of an Inordinate Emphasis on the Exercise of Sovereignty

Election is terror not comfort

Ephesians 1:3–6
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

Ephesians 1:11
11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

Romans 8:29–33
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. 31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.

Another victim of the over-emphasis on sovereignty is the loving act of God electing to save mankind through Christ.  Election, the unquestioned sovereign act of God providing salvation for man, should be an example of God’s loving sovereignty and hope to the world that God loves.  Sadly, it has been made by some interpretations of Scripture to be the most terrifying doctrine ever articulated from the Bible for the majority of the lost world. 

What makes the difference?

The difference is the sovereignty extremist’s demand that only the most severe interpretations of election can combat their perceived, unsubstantiated crisis of scriptural truth regarding God’s sovereignty and man’s free will in this one matter alone.

One such severe interpretation of election is found in the spiritual deadness of men.  Although there is no question that men are depraved, sinful, and dead toward God, there is great question as to the interpretation of this by the sovereign extremists.

Ephesians 2:1
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

Ephesians 2:4–5
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

Their interpretation of Ephesians would include the analogy of comparing the physical birth process to the spiritual rebirth as articulated by R.C. Sproul one of the foremost proponents and authorities of Reformation Theology.

In addition, when He exercises this grace in the soul, He brings about the effect that He intends to bring about. When God created you, He brought you into existence. You didn’t help Him. It was His sovereign work that brought you to life biologically. Likewise, it is His work, and His alone, that brings you into the state of rebirth and of renewed creation. Hence, we call this irresistible grace.

The implications are clear from Reformed Theology; man, who is dead, must experience the new birth.  So, where is the severity?  All of us who believe the Bible would be happy with this until it is understood that Reformed Theology teaches that the rebirth occurs before faith can be expressed toward God.  This is quite disturbing since there is absolutely no support for this in the context of Ephesians.  The severity is in the order of the events in which a person is saved. 

If their order of events is sound, then how and when is man brought to spiritual life so he can express faith in Christ.  The answer is a severe interpretation of the Father drawing the lost to his Son which must include bringing spiritually dead men alive, regeneration, before any expression of faith.

John 6:44 (KJV 1900)
44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

Although reticent to explain in full and using euphemistic rhetoric, Dr. Sproul teaches that God, and God alone, must overpower each individual, intended for salvation by the choice of His good pleasure, spiritually and volitionally forcing that individual to live again spiritually prior to any expression of faith.  There is no salvation by grace through faith.

Dr. Sproul states that regeneration occurs before faith can be expressed by the unbeliever which is the historical teaching of Reformed Theology.   Regeneration, the act of the Holy Spirit working on the resistant heart of man during the calling event, must occur prior to any faith being possible (irresistible grace).  Thus, man is brought back from spiritual deadness so he can express faith.

“In historic Reformation thought, the notion is this: regeneration precedes faith. We also believe that regeneration is monergistic.”  (TULIP and Reformed Theology: Irresistible Grace from R.C. Sproul Nov 28, 2012, Article from Ligonier Ministries of R.C. Sproul)

J.I. Packer wrote the following.

Regeneration is the spiritual change wrought in the heart of man by the Holy Spirit in which his/her inherently sinful nature is changed so that he/she can respond to God in Faith, and live in accordance with His Will (Matt. 19:28; John 3:3,5,7; Titus 3:5). It extends to the whole nature of man, altering his governing disposition, illuminating his mind, freeing his will, and renewing his nature. (

The question must be asked.  Does God regenerate lost man spiritually prior to the salvation experience by faith?  There is one answer, no.  As supported by the text in Ephesians and Titus, there can be only one spiritual awakening, and that is the spiritual awakening Christ brings to sinful men for eternal salvation through faith. 

Titus 3:5–7
5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

If this historic teaching of reformed theology is true, then the calling or drawing is rebirth of the sinner, regeneration.  This is Irresistible grace.  Euphemistically, Sproul calls it “effectual” grace because it is always effective because no will can be expressed against it.   Irresistible grace is the act of God exerting sovereign control over a particular sinner, reconditioning his will (forcing) through regeneration.  This is clearly the teaching that man is saved prior to faith. The reconditioning and the rebirth of man spiritually must be the same act of God, else there are two acts of spiritual rebirth or some facsimile thereof.  This makes whosoever will a pawn of irresistible grace.

Intentionally, election must include irresistible grace.  This direct act of God with absolutely no expression of man’s will or faith becomes man’s only hope to be saved.

One must be warned; there is a terror to this system of belief because it demands also the ugly doctrine of reprobation.  By fact of such a severe interpretation, there can be no doubt that the opposite is true.  Those not personally impacted by God’s irresistible grace must go to hell.  They have no choice.

Sovereignty of God - Unwanted Results - Inexplicable Teachings

The Sovereignty of God

Unwanted Results of an Inordinate Emphasis on the Exercise of Sovereignty

The Universal Love of God is brought into Question
Another victim of an over emphasis on the sovereignty of God is the Bible’s clear declaration of God’s love for the whole world.  One of the greatest verses for all time is John 3:16 which unmistakably proclaims God’s love for the entire world.  Any doctrine or teaching which would bring into question this clear and simple truth is more dangerous to truth than it is beneficial to the body of Christ.

John 3:16–17
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

To the disappointment of many, sovereignty extremists bring the clear and simple meaning of John 3:16 into question.  They by their hermeneutical gymnastics make this verse mean something much different than its simple and obvious meaning.  They claim that both God loved the world and that God only loved the name by name chosen.  Both can only be true in their warped hermeneutical gymnastics with scripture.

Both cannot be true; because with their interpretation, you have to believe that God hated by His pleasure the bulk of men who have or who will ever live.  This reprobation by arbitrary pleasure of God means the opposite of God’s love for the whole world.  Rather than John 3:16 meaning what it says; they demand that it means that God loved the elect chosen by name before the foundation of the world and all others will go to hell.  Followers of Calvin have no other choice but to believe this; else, they are “childish” according to Calvin.

John 1:29
29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

1 John 2:2
2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

Although God clearly states that Jesus died for the entire world, the concept of Jesus dying for the world because of God’s love is diluted till it means what the sovereignty extremists want it to mean.  I have listen first-hand to an expositor much loved by the Reformed Theologian explain away, in detail, 1 John 2:2.  He unashamedly said that at first reading it says that Jesus died for the whole world, but it demands a closer study to truly understand what God was saying.

The love of God becomes a double edged sword.  Rather than loving the world his love is so restricted by their demand for choice that the bulk of the world is hated by God.  The love is only for those chosen by name individually.  The sin cursed world filled with the poor, the destitute, the hopeless, the suffering, and the sinful were never included in God’s love, because before the foundation of the world most were by the pleasure of God decreed by name to be hell bound.

To see what the love of God actually means you must read the fine-print disclaimers which are the bait and switch of the sovereignty extremists who have deliberately minimized the scope and effectiveness of God’s love.

God gave the New Testament in the common Greek language.  It was meant to be understood by the common man.  It was even written in the common language by common men for common man.  To imagine that common statements require enlightenment because of hidden meaning is offensive to the whole tenor of God’s actions and Word.  If he did not mean the whole world why did he say it over and over?  God meant the whole world; else truly, Jesus did come into the world to double damn and condemn.

Calvin wrote the following.

Although the Holy Scriptures contain a perfect doctrine, to which nothing can be added—our Lord having been pleased therein to unfold the infinite treasures of his wisdom—still every person, not intimately acquainted with them, stands in need of some guidance and direction, as to what he ought to look for in them, that he may not wander up and down, but pursue a certain path, and so attain the end to which the Holy Spirit invites him.
Hence it is the duty of those who have received from God more light than others to assist the simple in this matter, and, as it were, lend them their hand to guide and assist them in finding the sum of what God has been pleased to teach us in his word. (Calvin, J. (1997). Institutes of the Christian religion. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.)

It is not a mistake to read the words of those who have studied diligently the Word of God.  However, it must be remembered; they are the words of fallible men upon the Words of an infallible God.  God says he loved the world and without hermeneutical gymnastics, it would be wholly unquestioned.

Sovereignty of God - Unwanted Results - Inexplicable Teachings

The Sovereignty of God

Unwanted Results of an Inordinate Emphasis on the Exercise of Sovereignty

Another interpretation inconsistency as a result of an inordinate emphasis on the sovereignty of God is found in Exodus 4:10-12.  One author, in an effort to attribute to God’s sovereignty sweeping exercise latitude, claimed that God made everyone.  Then, he proceeded to attribute all human deformity to God by His deliberate intervention in the birth of humans.  I can only assume that he means that God overrides genetic transmission in the normal process of birth.  He said that God does this in all who are born deformed in particular.

His support for this is found in Exodus 4:10-12.

Exodus 4:10–12
10 And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. 11 And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.

As a person who helps people all over the world, this claim is particularly vulgar and odious.  I have seen deformity in the world, and it is a horrible picture to behold, especially in an under-developed nation.  There is not glory for God in such terrible deformity and mental deficiency.

It is even harder to accept that in this life a person is decreed by God to suffer untold agonies of deformity or mental deficiency; and then, this person is also deemed unworthy of salvation because God declared him reprobate as Calvin taught.  Then, that person would burn in hell forever only because God took pleasure to do this.

I believe that our author has lifted a statement out of context and made a sweeping claim of doctrine.  The context of this passage is not deformity and mental deficiency.  This is not an admission by God that he is personally responsible for each horrible deformity or deficiency in the world.  It does not approach the level of importance that would make us believe that God pre-imps the standard birth process which he established just to make sure that there are deformed or deficient people in the world.

The specific context is Moses feeble excuses about his ability to do God’s work in the deliverance of Israel.  This is all that is addressed; not a universal statement that makes each individual, deformed human being a special object of God’s negative attention.

Moses is not speaking of a deficient speech because of physiology, but he is speaking of needing God's great sufficiency to help his ability to communicate.  There is no indication in scripture that Moses was physically unable to speak clearly, because of deformity.  The thrust of Moses entire argument is who will listen to him; he is not gifted in elocution and articulation of thought; and he is fearful that he will be unbelievable to those listening to him.  It would be inconsistent to assume God’s answer is a broad admission of horrible physical actions against human beings because of this lame, at best, rebuttal from Moses.  This is made clear in verse 12.

The context is accomplishment of God's will, and God can control speech and sight if it is necessary to accomplish His will.  Here God clarifies that he can make the deaf and dumb, blind and seeing for the work of his will.  That is all he is saying.  Zacharias is a perfect example of this argument in favor of God’s will.

Luke 1:18–20
18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. 19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. 20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.

This type of interpretation lends itself to the thinking that God can do things strictly for the purpose of his good pleasure apart from the other attributes he possesses.  God can do horrible things to man because he wants to, and because He is sovereign.  From that argument comes the thinking that God can reprobate men into hell as Calvin taught, simply because he is sovereign, no matter how horrible it might be.

Sovereignty of God - Unwanted Results - Inexplicable Teachings

The Sovereignty of God

Unwanted Results of an Inordinate Emphasis on the Exercise of Sovereignty

Another difficulty of an inordinate emphasis on the sovereignty of God can be inconsistency of interpretation and application of scripture.  The existence of rebellion, sin, and evil in heaven and the creation exposes a great inconsistency.

An inordinate emphasis on sovereignty accentuates the problem of sin’s existence.  If God created all beings without any degree of self- determination then rebellion, sin, and evil, by course, must be God’s choice making God the sovereign author of all evil in heaven and earth.

For those who make sovereignty the attribute of God to which all other attributes must give way, the existence of sin has to be the quintessential challenge to their strongly held belief in God’s sovereignty.  The rebellion of heavenly creatures and earthly man’s fall into sin would register the death of God’s claim to sovereignty. Inexplicably, the sovereignty group readily accepts that the existence of sin offers no challenge to God’s sovereignty.  To the contrary, the depraved nature of man, totally “dead in sin and trespasses,” is the first element of the “TULIP.”  They find great pleasure in stressing the existence of sinful nature, depravity, and spiritual deadness.

Even more inexplicable, the sovereignty group, with great vigor, opposes any allowance that God allows man free will to accept or reject God declaring in the strongest possible language that free will of man is an irreconcilable affront to God’s sovereignty.  In fact, they would go so far as to say such an affront is a defection from the true God of Scripture.

They accept that the creatures of heaven and earth can rebel defying God’s will which is sin and God’s sovereignty is unaffected.  Yet, they choke on the possibility that God could decree that man may choose life or death, for himself, without mortally wounding God’s claim to sovereignty.  Why is this so?

It is very simple; existence of rebellion, sin, and evil does not allow latitude to challenge in scripture.  Also, when you realize, total depravity is the bedrock teaching that God has to bring man to life so he can bring man to life; the reason for their lack of challenge becomes apparent.    What is the scriptural position concerning both concepts being in harmony with the sovereignty of God?

It appears that the only true God-honoring explanation for rebellion, sin, and evil is free will to accept God or reject God.  If Lucifer and his angels in heaven were not free to choose then God made Lucifer and the angels fall   I cannot find this in the scripture.  Lucifer and fallen angels chose their lot.

Jude 6
6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.

Angels had self determination will, intellect, and freedom to keep or leave.  They chose to leave.  Thus, sin was a consequence of choice.  There is absolutely no indication that they were subjects acting under irresistible sovereign manipulation.

Even the angels in heaven following Satan choose to fight against God.

Revelation 12:7–9
7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, 8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

There is no indication that God made Satan or angels rebel and sin against Him.  To the contrary, as intellectual beings, they were given the ability to choose to fight God or serve God.  They could accept obedience to God, their superior, or they could exalt themselves and leave their sovereign.

If this is true, then it is only reasonable that God gave all His creation free will.  This is in keeping with clear, simple statements of scripture

Genesis 3:6
6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

1 Timothy 2:14
14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

The introduction of sin does not hinder God’s sovereignty nor does the free will of man make God less sovereign.  Freedom of choice is a consistent interpretation of Scripture.