What Do You Mean When You Say God is Sovereign?

Believing in the sovereignty of God is not an option of yes, no, or maybe within the Christian context. If the Bible is our authoritative guide, one must believe that God is sovereign. It is not unlike the issue of predestination. That God predestines people to salvation is not up for debate, what is up for debate is what it means that God predestines.

Both Calvinists and Arminians agree that God is sovereign, but they will often disagree as to what this means.

Here are the four primary options:

1. Meticulous sovereignty: God is the instrumental cause behind every action and reaction there has ever been. In other words, you chose white socks instead of the black socks because God caused it to happen. You have an itch on your eyebrow right now because God is actively causing it. In other words, every molecule that bounces into another is a result of God active agency in being the first and instrumental cause to the action.

This position holds little or no tension with regards to the human will and the divine will.

God is actively controlling everything.

Adherents: Hyper-Calvinists and some Calvinists

2. Providential sovereignty: While God is bringing about his will in everything (Eph 1:11), his will is not the instrumental cause of all that happens. God’s will plays a providential role in “causing” all things. In other words, all that happens happens because God did in some sense will it, but secondary causes are usually the instrumental cause behind the action. In the case of your socks, you chose them because you decided to, but it was also part of God’s will. God allows evil as it is part of his imperfect will to bring about a perfect end, but he is not the instrumental cause of evil.

This position holds much tension with regards to human will and divine will.

God is in control of everything.

Adherents: Calvinists and some Arminians

3. Providential oversight: Here God’s sovereignty is more of an oversight. He has a general plan, but is not married to the details. When necessary, God will intervene in the affairs of humanity to bring about his purpose, but this does not necessarily involve an intimate engagement with all that happens. God does not care what color socks you pick unless it somehow effects his meta plan.

This position holds much tension with regards to human will and divine will.

God could control everything, but only controls some things.

Adherents: Arminians and some Calvinists

4. Influential oversight: Here God’s sovereignty is self-limited. God could control things, but to preserve human freedom, he will not intervene in the affairs of men to the degree that the human will is decisively bent in one direction or another. He is hopeful that his influence will be persuasive to change a person’s heart or to guide them to his will, but is not sure if this will happen. Being all-wise, however, God will make strategic moves in people’s lives that will manipulate the situation to his advantage.

This position holds little or no tension with regards to the human will and the divine will.

God could control everything, but decides only to influence.

Adherents: Open Theist Arminians and some Arminians

Here are some charts that might help.

This first one is God’s relationship to evil. Please note: the definitions below are that of emphasis, not necessarily exclusivity—there will be overlap with some of the concepts.

I write this for many reason:

1. To give the spectrum of belief with regard to the issue of divine sovereignty.

2. To clear up some misconceptions about both Calvinists and Arminians. Most Arminians see Calvinists as only associated with number 1 (meticulous sovereignty). As well, most Calvinists see Arminians as associated necessarily with number 4 (influential sovereignty). To do this is to construct many possible straw-men representations.

Notice, according to my argument, an Arminian holding to number 2 can actually hold to a stronger view of divine sovereignty than a Calvinist holding to number 3 (although this is not typical). If that does not confuse your categories, I don’t know what will!

3. To create some new charts!

What do you mean when you say God is sovereign?

(Best of Parchment and Pen)

59 Responses to “What Do You Mean When You Say God is Sovereign?”

  1. I posted the following on my blog recently – it’s an exchange that happens regulary in discourse with my Arminian friends (who are almost always inconsistant Arminians in this manner):

    Ask people (Christians, to be specific) if God is sovereign. If they say “yes,” ask them what they mean by that. They’ll probably respond that He is sovereign over “everything.” Then ask them to define “everything.” Usually the response will be, “Well, everything. Nothing is outside His sovereignty.”

    OK. So ask if God controls everything.

    “Well, yes.”

    Then ask about our “wills.” Human wills.

    “Well, no, we have free will.”

    “So, God is not sovereign over our free will, right?” “


    “Then He’s not sovereign.”

    “Yes, He is.”

    “You just told me He isn’t.”

    “Yes, He is.”

    “Just not over our free will.”


    “Then He’s not sovereign over everything according to you.”

    “Oh, yes, He is.”

    The cycle could go on ad infinitum.

    Then my Arminian friends will jump my case when I say Scripture’s mentions of “all” and the like don’t necessarily mean inclusion of every possible person or option, when they just did the same thing with their own definition of “everything.”


    (BTW, my view would be that God actively controls all our actions, but they are indeed “free” in the sense that I do what I want. Is there “tension” there? I guess so. I’m writing this now because I “want to.” If God didn’t “want me to,” then I wouldn’t, right? But, as Doug Wilson says (paraphrasing) in “Easy Chairs, Hard Words,” “I don’t think this keeps God awake at night.”

    Am I wrong here or is the “God allows” view really an extension of the “foreknowledge” view – God “allows’ what He knows will happen to best accomplish His will? The “allow” view implies the initial act of willing originated in the person making the choice (man) and not God, doesn’t it?

  2. Hi Michael,

    This was an interesting post to be sure. My trouble is that I want to affirm meticulous sovereignty on the one hand, but even influential oversight seems too strong to me with regard to evil. I would say “God overcomes evil for our salvation” – any notion of God getting buddy-buddy with evil for utilitarian purposes I have to reject. And yet I believe God’s providence is absolutely meticulous – working for our salvation in even the smallest of things. No action is unknown or surprising to him – nothing is outside his will – not evil can plague us which he doesn’t purpose for good.

    Anyway, the trouble I have with these discussions is that the term “sovereignty” itself carries baggage that cannot be applied to God without being redefined through Jesus. After all, his gospel was about proclaiming the sovereignty of God. And yet this sovereignty doesn’t look like what we expect – a meticulous deterministic controller (#1) or a distant overseer (#4). But consider Jesus’ descriptions of soverignty.

    The sovereignty of God is like a man who sowed seed in the field – falling among weeds & rocks where it would choke – but the good soil produced fruit a hundred fold. The sovereignty of God is like a man who allowed his enemy’s weeds to grow alongside the wheat, until the end where all would be set right. The sovereignty of God is like a mustard seed, or like leaven in the dough.

    But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

    The sovereignty of God looks then like God becoming the slave of all – the first being last. In a word, God rules the world through love.

    So to ask “is God sovereign over our free will” is not to ask “is God controlling our free will with with a meticulous determinism”, but rather “is God’s self-giving love sustaining and acting in our free will for our salvation”? If the answer is yes, then by Jesus’ definition of sovereignty, God is indeed king.

  3. Michael:

    Thanks for re-posting this. When it was lost in last year’s server problem I was really bummed. I tried to find it several times for reference and was always disappointed when never seemed to be among those that were recovered.

  4. Love the charts brother! Do you have a section of the website where all of your charts are available to look at? If not, would you make one? If not, would you just send them all to me? If not, I will understand!

    May God richly bless you – but more so if you give me easy access to all your charts!

  5. Truth Unites... and Divides February 22, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    Thank you Jeff Peterson for your 1st comment! It’s quite good.

  6. God is sovereign, In that He is the disposer of all that He ever created.
    He predetermined their ends and all the means to that end. Nothing ever happens without his foreordainitng it.

    He is master over all, and all is at his disposal. Everything does his
    bidding. HE IS IN FULL CONTROL.

  7. I was surprised to find out that some Arminians hold to #2 since, as a Calvinist, I myself hold to #2.

    For example, in John Oswalt’s (i.e. an Arminian) NICOT commentary on Isaiah, he writes:

    “7 The climax of the particular statement being made in this segment appears in this verse. Here the prophet spells out exactly what he means when he says there is no other than the Lord. If any question yet remained about the degree of uniqueness and exclusivity that he was claiming for God, this verse should lay it to rest. He chooses two areas in which to make his claims: nature and history, and in both of them uses the figure of antinomy, or polar opposites, to make his point. In each of the parallel pairs he begins with a verb which expresses specific, concrete action by God (form, make) and closes with one which is even more theologically expressive, the same one in both cases (create). What Isaiah asserts is that God, as creator, is ultimately responsible for everything in nature, from light to dark, and for everything in history, from good fortune to misfortune. No other beings or forces are responsible for anything…
    What the prophet is saying is that if bad conditions exist in my life, they are not there because some evil god has thwarted the good intentions of a kindly but ineffectual grandfather-god, who would like me to have good conditions but cannot bring them about. They are there solely as a factor of my relations to the one God. They may be there because I have sinned against his natural and moral laws, or they may be there because by their means I can become more like him, or they may be there for reasons that he cannot explain to me. But they are not there in spite of God. He is the only uncaused cause in the universe.”
    -John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1998), pp.203-205.

    Also, I think that we could add Grant Osborne to that list (see ESV Study Bible notes on James 4:13-15).


    Indeed, I cannot see how anyone who has read the Bible through can be a #3 or 4 (see 2 Samuel 12:11, 2 Samuel 24:1 but cf. 1 Chronicles 21:1, Psalm 105:25, Lamentations 3:37-38, Amos 3:6, 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12, and Revelation 17:17).

    Though, I cannot see how anyone can be a #1 either (James 1:13).

  8. Helpful article. Thanks & blessings…

  9. Michael,

    I think you have captured the continuum quite well. I would like to point out that it is a continuum and so there are actually an infinite number of points along the line.

    I would also like to point out that if God is sovereign, then we can’t really tell him how he must act. Perhaps in some situations he acts like a 1, and in other situations he acts like a 4! I think where we get into trouble is when we say that God must always act as a 1 or God must always act like a 4.

    As an Arminian, I do see God working in various ways from 2 to 4. In some cases being very direct as to his plan, in others being very much laissez-faire.

  10. Michael: ‘God allows evil as it is part of his imperfect will to bring about a perfect end…’

    So, God has an imperfect will. It seems that in order to maintain a strong sovereignty we compromise on God’s perfection. Actually, sovereignty refers to authority, not to will. God has absolute authority over all other existence; this is required when we define God as absolute. How He uses (or declines to use) the authority does not diminish sovereignty in any way.

    Oyarsa is on the right track. We should not think of sovereignty in terms of control but in terms of love.

  11. God has only a perfect absolute will. There is no imperfection with Him.
    Either you are in His will or you are out. You are either saved or lost, spiritual or natural. There is no half and half . You are in Doing His will, or you are not doing it.

    His will includes all the acts of men.

  12. I don’t see how God can determine the meta plan without also determining the micro plan. The meta plan is the effect of billions of trivial events (such as what color socks I put on this morning) working together.

    As rayner markley said, God’s sovereignty is defined as his right to dispose of things according to his will (ie. without obligation to conform to a higher pattern or standard), which is a separate question to the degree of God’s involvement in events.


  14. You know, I wasn’t quite following until you used all caps. That really made it clear.

  15. So let’s work this out in reality (or at least my version of it). Is this how the “allows” view works out?

    In eternity past God knew all thoughts and intentions of all people. There were a bunch of people in Palestine, say, around 2,000 years ago and they all had intentions of betraying some guy who was going to claim to be the Messiah. God, in His omniscience and omnipotence, suppressed that desire in all people except Mr. Iscariot. Or, maybe Mr. Iscariot was the only man with that intention and God “let him do it.” Is that how it works?

    How about a more contemporary usage? There a guy in Wisconsin in the late 70’s and throughout the 80’s who likes young males. He has desires to lure them into his dwelling and eventually do unspeakable acts there. In eternity past, did God know this man would have these desires and that He suppressed all the desires to lure young men A, B and C, but did not suppress the desire to lure young men D.E and F, whom he subsequently disposed of?

    Or, is this something that God did not decide in eternity past and that He is now “allowing” these actions as they arise here in time and space because to do otherwise would not permit these actions to be “free?” Would that view not be a challenge to God’s eternal omniscience?

    It would seem to me that the “allows” view still leaves the foundational initiation of any choice up to man, and not God. It would also seem that God is dependent then upon man in the sense that man has to generate “free” choices that will be exactly the right ones at the right times – choices that God then “allows” – in order to carry out God’s perfect plan. To think that man – fallen man – has throughout history always had just the right desires in and of himself which then implement themselves in such a way that God’s perfect plan is fulfilled is, welll….it sure takes a LOT of faith to believe that. Does Scripture give us license to believe that man will “do the right thing” (even if that “right thing” is an evil act) in order for God to “allow it” so that Scripture will then be fulfilled?

    Scripture certainly seems to say that the foundational initiative behind any choice is God. These are choices that are “free’ – choices that we are held morally accountable for, even if they are decreed by God (see Pharaoh being held accountable for his not letting the people go even when God said He would harden his heart so he wouldn’t let them go). What shall we say then? Is there injustice with God? Oh, drat – Paul beat me to that line by about 2000 years……

  16. CMP –

    I’d love your thoughts on a semi-Pelagian and Pelagian view of sovereignty. Also, I would love to hear what you think is different between these two statements in your chart:

    Meticulous sovereignty – God causes evil for the greater good

    Providential sovereignty – God wills evil for the greater good

    How do you distinguish between God ‘causing’ and ‘willing’ evil? I think I know, but wanted to hear your specific thoughts.

  17. Thanks Scott,

    In the meticulous sovereignty, God is the active agent in the evil. In other words, he is bringing it about as the first and efficient cause.

    In providential sovereignty, God is not the active agent, but wills evil to come about through secondary means for the greater good. In this case, God could stop evil, but chooses not to because of the greater good that will come about by willing such. The most simple example would be death itself. If I read the early chapters of Gen correctly, theoretically God could have allowed Adam and Eve to stay in the garden and eat of the tree of live and thus live forever. But God willed that they should not have access to it, thereby assuring desease and eventual death. The the evil is an indirect effect of God’s will. He does not actively cause their death, but wills it so that their death could give a path for redemption.

    Hope that makes SOME sense.

  18. Ryan, this has traditionally been seen as the difference between God’s “will” (decree) and “wish” (desire). For example he willed (decreed) Christ to die by the sinful rejection of Christ but he wished (desired) that no one would sin in rejecting him.

  19. There seem to be some theological blinders on in the discussion so far. Let say that I am sovereign in my house hold. (On those days my wife lets me be :) ) That doesn’t mean that I dictate every thing that my kids do. Rather I let them make decisions in wide range of activities. I set guidelines for them and expect them to follow those guidelines. Because I am sovereign, it means that I am the one who sets the guidelines. Those guidelines may extend to choice of clothing (in the case of no revealing clothing), but to the color of socks.

    I see God as sovereign. He sets the rules in place by which we live, he may choose to guide or direct us using circumstances, or by direct command, or by giving us principles to live by.

    I personally use 1 Corinthians 10:31 as one of my guiding principles.

    1 Corinthians 10:31 – So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

  20. Dr. Foltz: ‘Either you are in His will or you are out.’

    Does that make sense in terms of meticulous sovereignty? Those who are ‘out of His will’ are actually in His will because God willed that they be there. It’s the dilemma that Gomer was in; if she had been faithful to her husband, she wouldn’t have been doing what God wanted her to do.

  21. God is sovereign – He evidently wanted me to post that on this thread. Thank God he is in charge – totally! I’m reading and blogging my thoughts through “Suffering & the Sovereignty of God” – it’s a great book for thoughts such as these.

  22. rayner markley said:
    “Does that make sense in terms of meticulous sovereignty? Those who are ‘out of His will’ are actually in His will because God willed that they be there. It’s the dilemma that Gomer was in; if she had been faithful to her husband, she wouldn’t have been doing what God wanted her to do.”

    You’re committing the fallacy of equivocation. You’re not differentiating between a prescriptive will (i.e. God’s Laws) and a providential will (i.e. God permitting evil so that a good event will come out of it).

    Example: Deceit

    Prescriptive: Exodus 20; Does God will (i.e. prescribe) deceit? No.

    Providential: 2 Chronicles 18:18-22; Does God will (i.e. desire an event to happen in order to bring about a specific good) deceit? Yes.

  23. According to meticulous sovereignty, God causes evil for a greater good; permitting doesn’t come into the picture. There is no distinction of ‘wills.’ There is never a conflict between what God prescribes and what He desires. So in regard to election, for instance, both the elect and the non-elect are as they are for the same reason: God made them so. The end justifies the means, pure and simple.

  24. I still think these definitions, while helpful in describing what people think, still ultimately fail at really wrestling with what God’s sovereignty means. They haven’t yet done business with how God is revealed in Jesus – ruling by sacrificial love. As such, we have a continuum where God is “more sovereign” but more compromised with evil on the one hand, and a God with “limited sovereignty” but more disassociated with evil on the other.

    What we need is a perspective where these things are not opposed to each other. The more sovereign God is, the freer humanity is, the more implacably he is opposed to evil, and the deeper his presence dwells in and through all he has made. But this requires a willingness to submit to a level of mystery.

  25. It is interesting that the Westminster Confession of Faith says as much:

    God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

    Now, of course, on a surface level these are all contradictory. But there must be a dimension in which these things actually converge rather than conflict in the fire of God’s love.

  26. Truth Unites... and Divides February 25, 2009 at 2:02 am

    What Do You Mean When You Say God is Sovereign?

    A Calvinist speaking to an Arminian: “God sovereignly chose for you to be Arminian.”

    An Arminian speaking to a Calvinist: “You chose of your own libertarian free will to be a Calvinist.”


  27. “God is Soveriegn, and we are responsible” DR. Floyd Barrackman, 1983. I see this like this, God is the maker and piolet of a ship, he is in control of its planned destination, nothing will thwart that heading, we are all passengers on that ship acting according to our free will.
    Thats my understanding at this time any way

  28. God is in control. A babysitter is in charge. God’s will appears imperfect
    because of the actions of ‘man’ to accomplish His will. Man’s actions
    because of his “freewill” are imperfect. God’s will is perfect. His decree
    is not based on what He “foresees”, (the beginning to the end) but
    what He ordains from all eternity. Eph.1:11, Act. 2:23, Isa. 14:24
    46:10, 48:3. There is a mystery here because His ways are much
    higher than ours; and I am 100% responsible for my actions, but I
    find great comfort in our God who is sovereign over all things.
    God Bless you all.

  29. “According to meticulous sovereignty…”

    I wasn’t referring to meticulous sovereignty (but to providential sovereignty).

    If you were, then I apologize.

    “So in regard to election, for instance, both the elect and the non-elect are as they are for the same reason: God made them so.”

    In providential sovereignty, the same end obtains but God actively chooses not to elect the reprobate and allow their own choice of unbelief to continue. Thus, He destines them for destruction (1 Peter 2:8).

  30. Greg S; Man lost free will when Adam sinned. It is now enslaved to adamic nature, and only wants to revolt against God. Man is saved by God’s Will, Not His-JOHN 1;12-13.

    Saint and Sinner. God elects to salvation, and reprobates to Hell

  31. CMP asks what each of us mean by saying that God is sovereign. Jeff Peterson in reply #1 plays upon a common confusion among Christians who haven’t given the concept of “sovereignty” a great deal of thought. One understanding of “sovereignty” is that of control, such that events and choices are determined; another is being subject to. There are other possibilities as well. Peterson’s Arminian friends are reacting against an idea of sovereignty as meaning that the one who is sovereign has determined matters because of his ability to control: Jane will wear black socks because I have decided she will and I will exercise my power so that she will in fact do so (and I’m being deliberately vague and inclusive with respect to what “exercise power” means). However, an Arminian could consistently say that God is still sovereign over a “libertarian” free will in that her libertarian will is not outside of God’s jurisdiction, that is, it does not escape his knowledge or power, and it cannot escape from God’s control should he wish to determine, constrain, or limit it in some way.

    The fact that “sovereign” is a noun, and refers to a concept that can be understood in a number of different ways, makes it substantially different that the word “all”, which is an adjective. The normal, unmarked meaning of all is everything possible. To make “all” mean less than that requires that it be marked in some way, either by adverbs, or by the context, etc.

    Understanding God’s sovereignty in relation to ourselves, requires understanding God’s sovereinty in relation to himself. In what ways is God’s own ability to choose to be understood? One can’t say that he is free to do otherwise, because for any potential circumstance His omniscience gives him knowledge of that circumstance, He knows his own self intimately, and He knows (omnisciently) what His choices in every situation are–He thus knows what he would do.

    Can God create humans with a libertarian free will? Is it something that is impossible for him (like creating a square circle, or making 1 + 1 = 3, or making the law of noncontradiction untrue)? Or is it possible for Him, in which case it is an issue to determine whether He has in fact done so.


  32. This is something of a response to Michael Bell above…

    First, the options listed above were not, I think, intended to be a continuum, since they actually contain different qualities, not simply a single quality in different quantities.

    Meticulous sovereignty isn’t the same thing as any amount of “first cause” providential sovereignty. It’s a totally different set of actions.

    Patton’s definition of providential oversight contains a good deal of flexibility as to the amount of control God might exercise as part of providence, but it’s still an entirely different type of action than either of the two extremes (even if it’s only different from providential sovereignty in failing to be 100%).

    Influential oversight appears (to me) to simply make a statement about God’s motives — rather than saying that God chooses certain types of actions, it explains that God refrains from making certain choices in order to allow others to make those choices.

    Most of these categories could coexist with one another — only “meticulous sovereignty” would be incompatible. And only providential oversight is really a continuum.

    Second, however, I strongly disagree that attempting to characterize God’s workings is “telling Him how to act”. That would be terribly impious, of course, but we’re not doing any such thing; rather, we’re attempting to read His revelation to find out how He’s revealed Himself. If we’re right, we have a closer knowledge of Him (in a limited sense, of course); if we’re wrong, we don’t bind Him in any way, but injure only ourselves.

    Our theologies are not magic spells that bind God to obey them.


  33. I hope you won’t mind if I repost a comment I wrote on a friend’s blog. She linked to your blog post, and so I read your post and left a comment on her blog. And I thought I’d repost it here, even though I haven’t read the previous comments.

    (I might state my opinions matter-of-factly, but I realize that I’m not infallible and so I’m open to things I haven’t considered. But, of course, I do believe I’m correct at the moment :P )

    I actually think that the four views are tied together more than people might initially think.

    If God exercises providential sovereignty, that means that nothing happens apart from His will, and that everything that does happen is only “allowed” because it’s according to His will. The “difference” between providential vs. meticulous sovereignty is that “secondary causes” are the direct, active cause of the effect. But who created every single secondary cause in the universe? God did. Who sustains every single secondary cause in the universe? God does.

    Who fashioned the exact nature of every single secondary cause in the universe, so as to determine how it would act and “choose” in the future? God did. God did not “roll some dice” when creating the universe, or human beings, or the angels or demons. He didn’t have some random number generator that fashioned “free wills” independently from His intentional design. No. Even if you believe that God created beings that have chosen evil (e.g. demons, or humans that fell into sin in Eden), it wasn’t because God set them loose and they chose evil, and God just threw up His hands and said, “Well, I knew that was going to happen, but really – you can’t say I’m directly responsible for how things are not.” No, I don’t think so. Because God is in control of everything, even if He causes things to turn out a certain way using what we would call “indirect” means, there’s no real difference from if He did it “directly” Himself. Because He controls everything. He made every single indirect “cause”, or at least the earlier causes of that “cause”. I think the only difference between God being the “direct” cause vs. “indirect” cause of something is moral culpability.

    God does not carry out sin as an act of His will/power. But God does ordain sinful actions, I believe, in the sense that He decides it will happen (as a result of sinful moral agents, whom are responsible for the sin that they carried out, but which God also ordained or decided would happen).

    Anyways, I’m going to cut short here, but in summary here’s what I believe God reveals to us in His Word (and which I think is evident through philosophy/logic as well):

    God is in control of everything, which means that every single detail, including sin, has been decided by God will happen. That’s different from saying that God does the sin. He just decides that it will happen and makes sure it happens (but as a result of sinful moral agents – e.g. me – and whatever other causal factors that are involved).

    Basically, if you believe in meticulous sovereignty to the degree that God actively and personally carries out every single thing in the universe, including sin, then it would seem you believe that God commits sin, too. Which is unbiblical and wrong. God has purer eyes than to even look upon sin (that’s from Hab 1:13, I think). So, obviously, God must be capable of creating volitional beings (that have a will and can make moral choices) that commit sin.

    If you believe in providential sovereignty to the extent that you think those moral beings can make choices somehow independently – even in the slightest – from God’s Will, then I think it’s because of a lack of understanding that God made their will in the first place, along with all other causal factors. So God is responsible for that sin happening – there’s no way it could have turned out any differently. Another way of saying it is that there’s no way that moral being would have chosen anything differently, because God made sure it all the causal factors would be such. This is why I think meticulous and providential sovereignty basically imply each other, although the dominant ultimate cause is God deciding specifically how everything and how every will shall be.

    So when something bad happens, even as a result of sin, it’s not because God allowed it but really didn’t want it to happen. It’s because God allowed it AND specifically wanted it to happen, and made sure it would happen – but for some good, true, and right purpose. And I don’t think we will really understand or experience how good, true and right it really is until we’re in Heaven. This doesn’t change the fact that it was still a horrible act of sin. It just means that God redeems it and glorifies Himself through it.

    And so I think understanding the specificity of God’s sovereignty over all things, including sin, gives us comfort & security and helps us trust Him in all things and all circumstances.

    For people who hold to providential oversight and influential oversight to the EXCLUSION of meticulous & providential sovereignty – I think they’re ignoring the fact that God created all the factors that they are saying are the cause of a particular effect. And they’re ignoring the fact that God decided exactly how the factors would interact to cause that effect. And so they’re ignoring the fact that God must have wanted that effect to happen and that there’s no way in Heaven nor Hell that that particular effect would not have happened. Even IF some of those factors included moral, volitional beings making a choice that they are responsible for.

  34. This short John Piper article might be interesting to y’all as well, btw:

  35. […]in terms of meticulous sovereignty? Those who are ‘out of His will’ are actually in His will because God willed that they be there. It’s the dilemma that Gomer was in; if she had been faithful to her husband, she wouldn’t have been doing what God wanted her to do.

    Your last sentence, I believe, contains a mistake that casts light on the situation. Gomer was not in a dilemma. She did not have “a situation requiring a choice between equally undesirable alternatives.” She desired to ignore God and desired to be unfaithful to her husband; thus, she ignored God and was unfaithful to her husband. What God wanted her to do was at best irrelevant to what she desired.

    If the Calvinists are correct, none of us are in a dilemma: we either want to please God, and thus rejoice in doing His will (which requires thinking about the consequences of our actions, of course); or we don’t care to please God, and thus don’t care about the fact that we’re carrying out His will.


  36. Perspective on sovereignty:

    There were four country churches and a synagogue in a small TEXAS town: The Presbyterian Church, the Baptist Church, the Methodist Church , the Catholic Church and the Jewish Synagogue. Each Church and Synagogue was overrun with pesky squirrels.

    One day, the Presbyterian Church called a meeting to decide what to do about the squirrels. After much prayer and consideration they determined that the squirrels were predestined to be there and the church shouldn’t interfere with God’s divine will.

    The Methodist Church got together and decided that they were not in a position to harm any of God’s creation. So, they humanely trapped the squirrels and set them free a few miles outside of town and let the squirrels freely choose where to live. Three days later, the squirrels were back.

    . . .

  37. The Baptist church held a meeting of their elders, who decided they should exercise their sovereignty over nature and immerse the squirrels in the baptistry until they expired. The squirrels escaped somehow, and the next week each squirrel family was seen accompanied by six baby squirrels.

    . . .

  38. Dr. Paul Foltz so very happy that you have all the answers. It must be comforting.

  39. Dr. Paul Foltz May 20, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    David; YES, IT IS. I need not worry about anything, nor get upset, God works all things for my good and His glory. HALLELUJAH…. WELL, GLORY……

  40. No “spite” intended here, but this kind of spiritual arrogance turns so many away from desiring a faith in Christ. I really dont recall that Jesus displayed it either. I am not upset either, just a curious mathematician with a love for the Lord of Hosts.

  41. Dr. Paul Foltz May 20, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    No man would be saved if he could help it. Unless the Holy Spirit regenerates, no one seeks after God, no one wants God read Romans 10.

  42. Speaking in general, without saying anything about anyone’s behavior here:

    The gospel itself will be a stumbling block without the Spirit’s work. That doesn’t give us license to add stumbling blocks to the gospel.

  43. Dr. Paul Foltz May 20, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    To sayn that GOD THE FATHER intended to save everybody, that Christ died for everybody, and the Spirit calls everyboody is to admit that;
    The Father is disappointed; Christ died in vain for some; the Spirit’s call is ineffectual.


  44. John CT,
    The rest of the story..what did the rabbi do?

  45. Please explain Kara, I am a pre-amateur novice theologian.

  46. Dr Foltz,

    Did you by any chance read the article Michael Patton recently wrote called “Calvinist’s, Please Calm Down”?

  47. The appeal of the Calvinist Doctrine is strong to many, perhaps it may be due to its use of deductive thought. Deductive thought is much “easier” and seemingly airtight when all premises are established. Inductive reasoning, moving frome the specific to the general requires observation of the big picture and courage to engage the God given rational intellect. To be honest, I do not know exactly “what” I am, but I am confident that I do not fall at either extreme, perhaps God being completely sovereign and Man having free will are not mutually exclusive.

  48. David,
    I was commenting that I wanted to hear the rest of the story started by John CT. It was good and I wanted to hear the rest. Is that ok with you?

    Do I need a permission slip or something?

  49. No, No, not at all Kara, I just did not understand your post and wanted to know. No sarcasm or elitism intended.

  50. David,
    Thank you. Now I suppose we have to wait until tomorrow to hear the rest of it. He starts off well and then leaves us hanging.

    But as a Pentecostal I would say either the preacher cast them out in Jesus name or made them ushers and deacons in an effort to get them saved….(the Pentecostal one at least)


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