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Calvinism Part IV - God's Sovereignty, Character and Will

A failure to grasp what God's Sovereignty actually means - and to make the distinction between His unchangeable decrees and what He simply wishes or desires has had devastating consequences

Carol Brooks.

Index To All Sections

 Part 1: An Introduction to John Calvin and his Doctrines of Grace

Part 2Introduction to the acronym T.U.L.I.P - each letter standing for one of the five fundamental tenets of Calvinism.
  2A. Total Inability
2BUnconditional Election
 2C. Limited Atonement
 2D. Irresistible Grace
  2E. Perseverance of The Saints

 Part 3: When the Gospel Becomes a Lie
You Are Here 001orange Part 4: Godís Sovereignty, Character and Will.
Part 5:
Hypocrisy Unlimited
Part 6:

Part 7: The Sins of Augustine. Early Church Theologians



God's Sovereignty
It is believed that
because God is sovereign He must dictate every facet of our lives.Thus a man cannot possibly have the ability to reject or ignore the Gospel. This is a terrible misunderstand of what God's Sovereignty means.

God's Character
Just as we judge the character of a person based on the evidence, i.e. his deeds, we come to a conclusion about the character of God exactly the same way... based on His deeds.

God's Will
The failure to make the distinction between God's unchangeable decrees and what He simply wishes or desires is the beginning of the road to Calvinism.

 God's Sovereignty
The word sovereign means a ruler who exercises supreme and absolute power and authority uncontrolled by any outside force.

There is little question that God is the Most High, the Almighty who laid the foundations of the earth and stretched out the heavens. He reigns supreme and possesses all power. None can stay His hand or thwart His purpose. He sets up and remove kings thereby determining the course of dynasties. He is the first and the last, the Alpha and Omega. He is King of kings, and Lord of lords.

    See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand. 'Indeed, I lift up My hand to heaven, And say, as I live forever, (Deuteronomy 32:39-40 NASB)

    By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth" (Psalm 33:6)

    It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding.  (Daniel 2:21 NASB)

    All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, 'What have You done?' (Daniel 4:35 NASB)

    ... He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen. (1 Timothy 6:15-16 NASB)

Misunderstand God's Sovereignty

However, the problem is that Calvinists tend to misunderstand God's sovereignty, often assuming that it means absolute totalitarian control. In their line of reasoning, since God is sovereign He must dictate every facet of our lives and in fact, the smallest working of the entire planet. Thus a man cannot possibly have the ability to reject or ignore the Gospel.

Unfortunately, they are laboring under a misapprehension that has had, and continues to have, enormous and far-reaching negative consequences. 

    Being sovereign means that God has ultimate control over every aspect of His creation and can permit or prevent any or all inventions of man. He has the final word. (See Deuteronomy 32:39-40 above)

    Being sovereign does not mean that God wishes to control every single aspect of human behavior much as a master puppeteer controls the puppets dangling on his strings. The very fact that God has supreme power and authority means it is His decision to give man freedom of choice.

Let me repeat that... If God chose to give man freedom of choice, then it was His choice to do so. And the fact that He made that decision means that He is sovereign.

I have no idea how the erroneous concept of God's sovereignty came about considering the Bible so clearly shows that man often did things that God not only disapproved of, but was totally opposed to. They even did things that were completely forbidden. Take for example, what the prophet Isaiah said, (Emphasis Added)

    I will destine you for the sword, And all of you will bow down to the slaughter. Because I called, but you did not answer; I spoke, but you did not hear. And you did evil in My sight and chose that in which I did not delight." (Isaiah 65:12 NASB)

Jeremiah also showed that man does things that God never even thought of, but can choose to do things that they knew God was dead set against. What more, they got away with it.. FOR A WHILE. However, God has emphatically and repeatedly outlined the consequences that those who continue to flout His laws will suffer. His Sovereignty shown by the fact that that He will carry out the sentence and none can deliver out of His hand.

    Because they have forsaken Me and have made this an alien place and have burned sacrifices in it to other gods, that neither they nor their forefathers nor the kings of Judah had ever known, and because they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind; therefore, behold, days are coming," declares the Lord, "when this place will no longer be called Topheth or the valley of Ben-hinnom, but rather the valley of Slaughter. (Jeremiah 19:4-6 NASB)

So those who continue to break God's laws today do so on their own initiative. And they often get away with it - temporarily. As the old saying goes.. the mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine. Retribution will come more certainly than the sun will rise on the horizon tomorrow morning.  [See The Wrath of God]

Also See What a Sovereign God Cannot Do
It is a fallacy to imagine that for God to be in control of His universe He must therefore foreordain and initiate everything. In other words, He causes sin, then punishes the sinner. Seriously? There is neither logical nor Biblical reason why a sovereign God by His own sovereign design could not allow creatures made in His image the freedom of genuine moral choice. In fact, there are compelling reasons why He would do so.

God's Character
There are degrees of false doctrine. While a few may be almost harmless, most are misleading and dangerous. However, Calvinism is in a class by itself, striking at the very heart of the reliability of God and the Bible. As judge Rick Brooker says...

    The Calvinists I've met will insist on asking me why I reject the possibility of a sovereign God electing certain ones to save and damning the rest, if that's what He wants to do? I don't reject that possibility at all. God could do exactly that if He chose to do so. You see, the point is not, "Can't God do whatever He wants with His creation?" Of course He could, He's God. The real issue is, "What has the God, who cannot lie, promised to do, according to the Bible? In order for Calvin's view of election to be true, God MUST BE a cheat, a liar and a hypocrite. It is unavoidable! [01]

In an attempt to explain what they call "several common misconceptions about Unconditional Election, the Calvinistic site got.questions.org says (Emphasis Added)

First it is important to understand that the doctrine does not teach that God's choice is capricious or arbitrary. It is not random or made without reason. What it does teach is that the reason God elects someone to salvation is not because of something worthy God finds in that individual but because of His inscrutable, mysterious will. He makes the choice as to who will be saved for His own reasons, according to His own perfect will and for His own good pleasure (Ephesians 1:5). And while some object to the doctrine of election as being unfair, it is nevertheless based upon God's will and it pleases God; therefore it must be good and perfectly just. [02]

It is assumed that the doctrine of election is true therefore, working backwards, it has to be based on God's will and has to please Him. If it is based on His will and pleases Him, it has to be "good and perfectly just".

This is faulty reasoning at best.

Judging a Tree By Its Fruit
Doesn't the Bible itself tell us that we can judge a tree by it's fruit? in other words the fruit of a tree is a clear indication of how good or productive the tree is. Isn't a deliberate crime committed by a person plain evidence of the moral character of that individual? Wasn't Hitler judged by the atrocities he committed on the Jews?

So why should it be any different with God?

On what basis are we to believe that our God is a just, holy and loving God? Because He said so?

Not good enough!

Many might think I am being very irreverent or even a blasphemer for saying this but, if you think about it, the Scriptures consistently makes appeal to evidence to support it's truth claims. In fact, it is actually quite remarkable as to how many times, God, Jesus, and the prophets of both the Old and New Testaments, appealed to facts to support what they said and taught.

Using evidence is the only sensible and reliable method of judging whether something is true or not.

When it comes to people - just as we judge the character of a person based on the evidence, i.e. his deeds, we come to a conclusion about the character of God exactly the same way... based on His deeds.

The Evidence For God's Character
To begin with the Bible is literally strewn with passages that tells us what God hates. For example,

    those that burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods (Deuteronomy 12:31), People who love violence (Psalm 11.5), Haughty eyes, lying tongues, hands that shed innocent blood, hearts that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, liars and those who spread strife among brothers (Proverbs 6.16-19), He hates robbery and and iniquity. (Isaiah 61.8).. Those who devise evil in their hearts against others (Zechariah 8.16) and deal treacherously against their spouses (Malachi 2:15)

He says He takes no pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices when the hands of the people are covered with blood. Their sacrifices meant nothing to Him and their incense was an abomination. He would not even listen to their prayers unless they made themselves clean, which meant ceasing from doing evil, learning to do good; relieving the oppressed, protecting the fatherless; defending the orphan, pleading for the widow (Isaiah 1:11-17)

In the New Testament Paul, as spokesman for God, urged the Colossians to put aside "anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth" and "not lie to one another". (Colossians 3:8-9). He further urged them to " chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;  (Colossians 3:12 NASB) bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone;" (Colossians 3:12 -13)

More Than Words
God's warning to the house of David was that unless they administered justice every morning, and delivered the person who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor, His wrath would go forth like fire and burn with none to extinguish it, because of the evil of their deeds. (Jeremiah 21:11-12)

The fact remains however, that unless His threats remain just words  unless they are followed through by action against those that do not keep His commands. And there are no dearth of examples that show that He meant what He said.

When He told the Israelites to 'Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother;" and not to "oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor" or evil in their hearts against one another.' (Zechariah 7: 9-10), the prophet said

    "They made their hearts like flint so that they could not hear" ... therefore great wrath came from the Lord of hosts who "scattered them with a storm wind among all the nations whom they have not known. Thus the land is desolated behind them so that no one went back and forth, for they made the pleasant land desolate." (Zechariah 7:11-14)

The Lord told the Israelites that he hated their festivals and solemn assemblies. He would neither accept their grain offerings nor listen to their songs or harps until justice rolled down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5.21) He warned that "those who recline on beds of ivory and sprawl on their couches, and eat lamb from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall" would suffer dire consequences, 

    "Seek the Lord that you may live, Or He will break forth like a fire, O house of Joseph, And it will consume with none to quench it for Bethel, For those who turn justice into wormwood And cast righteousness down to the earth." (Amos 5:6-7 NASB)

    "Therefore, I will make you go into exile beyond Damascus," says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts.  (Amos 5:27 NASB)

    "For behold, I am going to raise up a nation against you, O house of Israel," declares the LORD God of hosts, "And they will afflict you from the entrance of Hamath To the brook of the Arabah."  (Amos 6:14 NASB)

Although he did not specify Assyria by name, during his active years (760Ė755 BC) Amos accurately foretold the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel that began approximately in 740 BC

Similarly, Paul warned the Colossians that if they did not put to death fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness the wrath of God would come down on them - the sons of disobedience. And although it hasn't happened yet, God's wrath is about to descend on this planet yet one more time.  [See The Wrath of God]

And this God who is so concerned with justice and righteousness, the orphan, widow and stranger. Who hates anger, wrath, malice, railing, shameful speaking and lies. Who will punish cruelty and inhumanity, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness. Who values compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering, forbearing and forgiving. This is the same God who arbitrarily allows people to be eternally damned without giving them any opportunity to do what is necessary to change their fate?

Give me a break.

God's Will
I can almost guarantee that should you even want to venture into the complicated world of the so called various "wills" of God,  in very short order you will find your head spinning. Not only are the man made definitions mind boggling, you will not necessarily find any consensus of opinion on how these terms are to be understood.

    gotquestions.org says "theologians see three different aspects of God's will in the Bible: His sovereign (decretive) will, His revealed (preceptive) will, and His dispositional will. [03]

    Bible.org says The Bible speaks of the "will of God" in several different ways - God's "decreed will," His "perceptive will", preferential (desiderative) will, "permissive will," and "directive will" [04]

Certainly the Bible uses the word will in different ways however, humans have this immense propensity for complicating matters. In reality God's will is far simpler than you may have been given to understand.

In the New Testament, the English will has largely been translated from the Greek thelema which has more than one meaning. Strong's Hebrew and Greek lexicon says thelema can be used actively or passively

    Actively... a choice, purpose or decree (official order). Passively... an inclination: a desire, pleasure, will.

So when the Bible uses the word thelema it does not necessarily mean that this is what God has determined or made a fixed decision about, but could very well mean that this is what He wishes. The failure to make the distinction between God's unchangeable decrees and what He simply wishes or desires is the beginning of the road to Calvinism. However, a plain reading, untainted by any preconceived ideas should tell you when the New Testament means determine and when it means wish. Some examples of each include

God Determined or Decreed
There can be no question that the verse below is saying that God has determined that everyone who believes on His Son will have eternal life.  It is a fixed decision that cannot be changed.

    "This is the will (Gk. thelema) of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.  (John 6:39 NASB)

God Wishes or Desires - thelema
The example from Ephesians perfectly illustrates how thelema can be used as wish.

    Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires (Gk. thelema) of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.  (Ephesians 2:3 NASB)

In the following example, there is no question that thelema means desire or wish because the ignorance of foolish men is seldom silenced.

    For such is the will (Gk. thelema) of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.  (1 Peter 2:15 NASB)

In the case of verses that may be difficult to understand, you must ensure that your interpretation does not conflict with other Scriptures especially those that are plainly understood.  In other words, let Scripture interpret Scripture.

is another Greek word that has to be taken into consideration. Used almost 40 times in the New Testament, it unambiguously means 'wish' or to be inclined'.

    Wishing (Gk. boulomai) to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.  (Mark 15:15 NASB)

    And when Paul wanted (Gk. boulomai) to go into the assembly, the disciples would not let him.  (Acts 19:30 NASB)

    But those who want (Gk. boulomai) to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.  (1 Timothy 6:9 NASB)

It is Peter's word of choice in his second epistle

    The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing (Gk. boulomai) for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 NASB)

Peter was simply saying that God does not wish or want people to perish. The death of the wicked gives Him no pleasure. This concept is neither difficult to understand, nor does it challenge His sovereignty.

Tragically, all this effort to protect God's Sovereignty has had one devastating consequence. It has made God (and Jesus) into the worst kind of hypocrite.

End Notes -  God's Sovereignty, Character and Will
[01] Rick Brooker. Calvinism on Trial. http://rickbrooker.blogspot.com/2010/11/calvinism-on-trial.html

[02] Unconditional Election - is it Biblical?  Got Questions Ministries. http://www.gotquestions.org/unconditional-election.html

[03] What is the difference between God's sovereign will and God's perfect will? http://www.gotquestions.org/Gods-will.html

[04] Can you help me understand God's perfect will versus His permissive will?


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