“The Christ who is depicted and desired merely to make the lot of life’s casualties easier by supplying them with aids and comforts is not the real Christ, but a misrepresented and misconceived Christ — in effect, an imaginary Christ. And if we taught people to look to an imaginary Christ, we should have no grounds for expecting that they would find a real salvation.” -J. I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, Chapter 3.
All posts tagged Sovereignty
Have you ever wondered why bad things happen to good people? Have you ever wondered how God can possibly use tragic or sinful events in history? Is God really in control, and does he really have a purpose for everything? Halim Suh, one of the pastors at The Austin Stone Community Church, delivers a sermon on Genesis 38 in which he affirms the complete and purposeful sovereignty of God in controlling sin and suffering for our good and God’s glory. It is rare these days, even among so-called Calvinistic churches, to hear such a positive explanation of God’s active role in causing such events according to his plan.
The sermon is part of a series on The Sovereignty of God over Suffering and Evil, and is entitled, The Purpose of Suffering and Evil. You can watch the video or download the audio here.
My good friend Lee has posted a very good article which surveys some of the problems of so-called Free Will. Whereas some of my recent posts have addressed Free Will as opposed to Determinism, Lee’s discussion focuses on Free Will as opposed to the Reformed doctrine of Total Depravity. Although Lee’s view of the biblical covenants and the nation of Israel may be different from my own, I find his primary arguments here to be good examples of logic applied to biblical truth.
Here is an excerpt which deals with the argument which runs, “If God commands something, then man must have the ability to obey it”:
In Ezekiel 37, God instructs the prophet Ezekiel to command dry bones to hear the word of the LORD (v. 4). Hear is in the imperative form in Hebrew, indicating that this clearly is a command. Dry bones are dead, lifeless bones. Because they are dead, they are not able to hear anything. However, through the power of God’s word that He will breathe life into these dry bones, they came together and became covered with skin (vv. 7-8). God then commands the prophet to call on the wind to breathe into these men and it is so (vv. 9-10). The bones would not have been able to hear God’s word until after He brought them to life. […] Another command given which was impossible for one to obey without God’s divine assistance can be seen with Jesus’ command to Lazarus. Jesus calls a dead Lazarus to come forth (John 11:43). Lazarus had been dead for four days. He in no way had the ability to respond to Jesus’ command to get up and come out of the tomb. God had to give him the life needed for him to be able to respond. In both cases, a command is given to a recipient that lacks the ability to obey.
The following quotes are taken from Gordon H. Clark’s essay, “Determinism and Responsibility.” In the essay, Clark endeavors to, and succeeds in demonstrating that man’s responsibility is not based on his having a so-called free will. The arguments in this essay are further developed in Clark’s book, God and Evil: The Problem Solved. I highly recommend both the essay, in its entirety, as well as God and Evil to anyone who has ever wrestled with how God’s sovereignty fits with man’s responsibility in a sinful world. May these quotes inspire you to read both of these small but significant works! Emphasis in bold is my own.
Clark writes, concerning “Free Will”:
…[I]t is well to note and emphasize that the reason – and has anyone found any other really basic reason? – for introducing the concept of freedom, either in its most extreme form of power of contrary choice or in some more modified form, is to hold man morally responsible. Could it be shown that man’s responsibility does not necessarily depend upon freedom, theology would be freed from an annoying problem. Well can we imagine the groanings which cannot be uttered if generations of young theologues were to be summoned before us to describe the tortures they endured in trying to reconcile God’s omniscience with free will. The Presbyterian and Reformed churches do not believe in free will. They substitute the concept of free agency, meaning that a man is a free moral agent when he acts in conformity with his own nature. Even so, some have stated* that the reconciliation of man’s free agency and God’s sovereignty is an inscrutable mystery. Rather the mystery is – recognizing that God is the ultimate cause of man’s nature – how the Calvinistic solution could have been so long overlooked.
*In the Brief Statement of the Reformed Faith of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., 1902; compare Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. II, pp. 251-252; also the four questions A.H. Strong cannot answer, Systematic Theology, I, p. 366 [Clark 40-41].
Later, Clark quotes, then comments on Calvin’s Institutes:
“… [H]ow exceedingly presumptuous it is only to inquire into the causes of the Divine will; which is in fact, and is justly entitled to be, the cause of every thing that exists. For if it has any cause, then there must be something antecedent, on which it depends; which it is impious to suppose. For the will of God is the highest rule of justice; so that what He wills must be considered just, for this very reason, because He wills it. When it is inquired, therefore, why the Lord did so, the answer must be, because He would. But if you go further, and ask why He so determined, you are in search of something greater and higher than the will of God, which can never be found [III, xiii, 2.].”
God is sovereign; whatever he does is just, for this very reason, because he does it. If he punishes a man, the man is punished justly and hence the man is responsible. This answers the form of argument which runs: Whatever God does is just, eternal punishment is not just, therefore God does not so punish. If the objector mean [sic] he has received a special revelation that there is no eternal punishment, we cannot deal with him here. If, however, he is not laying claim to a special revelation of future history, but to some philosophic principle which is intended to show that eternal punishment is unjust, the distinction between our positions becomes immediately obvious. Calvin has rejected that view of the universe which makes a law, whether of justice or of evolution, instead of the law-giver supreme. … God in such a system is finite or limited, bound to follow or obey the pattern. But those who proclaim the sovereignty of God determine what justice is by observing what God actually does. Whatever God does is just. What he commands men to do or not to do is similarly just or unjust [46-47].
An argument similar to the one Clark describes has shown up on this blog. Basically, it runs thus: Whatever God does is just, God holds man responsible for sin, holding man responsible for predetermined sinful actions is unjust, therefore God does not predetermine sinful actions of men. The third premise is not found in Scripture; it is only found in the philosophy of man. As such, it cannot be introduced into a system of deductive truth from God’s Word. If one is to discover truth about God’s dealings with men, one must rely solely on the Word of God.