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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Dictators and Governors.
God is sovereign right? Right.

No matter what sort of theology you like, you will at least pay lip service to the notion that God is sovereign. We may not all agree on what sovereignty entails, but we can all agree that whatever it is, God -is- it.

Which leads me to discuss two ways that God's sovereignty might be understood. There are (no doubt) many ways that God's sovereignty could be understood, but I am only going to consider two ways, and these but briefly.

he first way is to regard the sovereignty of God in this way - He is an omnipotent Dictator. If our understanding of God's sovereignty is thus, we regard God as making everything that happens, happen. He is sovereign in that everything that happens in all of creation does so because God directly and divinely wills it to happen in precisely the way it eventually happens. Every "action" that takes place throughout all of creation looks to God Almighty for its direct and immediate cause. Free will, in this system is an illusion, for every thought, motive, or action is actually controlled by the sovereignty of God. In other words, this understanding of sovereignty emphasizes God's control over creation.

Notwithstanding, should we understand God's sovereignty as being primarily a matter of His being in direct and constant control of all that happens in creation, we should have an easy answer for questions about predestination and election. Surely we reason, if God's sovereignty is defined according to an universal automatonic presumption - that is, if God's sovereignty can be described in terms of God determining every action in creation, such that every action is caused directly by God Himself - then we need understand the doctrines of election and predestination as being the natural result of God's sovereignty - since God causes everything.

The most significant problem with that model is perhaps philosophical.

If God causes me to follow Christ, can I (by any means) take credit for being drawn thus? If my drawing was not according to my own choice or merit, but according to God's sovereignty (as defined by his controlling all things) then my election is the result of God sovereign control over me, since I can in no way resist God's will.

But if we are going to premise our election on this kind of sovereignty, we ought to be consistent, because if the sovereignty of God means that God causes all things, then every time I disobey God, it is only because God has willed that I do so, and I cannot resist God's will.

That is where the philosophy comes in.

How can I be held guilty for obeying God's sovereign decree that I disobey Him? The best answer to this philosophical conundrum is that God can do whatever He wants, because He is God after all, and that no matter how unjust it appears on the surface, we ultimately lack a sufficient moral perspective to judge God for doing it this way. I consider that particular defense on par with the playground defense of "I say it works this way, nyah, nyah!"

he other take I want to mention understands God's sovereignty in this way: That while God was certainly the first, direct cause of everything in creation, He nevertheless gave authority to Adam over the earth and over created, and in so doing allowance was made in God's sovereignty for His will to be be done indirect through man - and through providential causality. God was still perfectly sovereign, nothing in all of creation could happen unless the Lord allowed it to happen - but God unlike the first six days, where God was dictating everything that happened in all of creation, on the seventh day God rested - His sovereign control over all of creation was no longer characterized primarily by direct intervention, but now was carried out through Adam, the primary mediator between God and creation.

Only Adam fell.

We want to be fair here too. In our first scenario we were basically saying that Adam sinned as a result of God determining beforehand to impose upon Adam's will in some way so as to directly cause Adam to perform a sinful deed which was by definition, quite contrary to the perfect nature God had created Adam with. In our second scenario, we are saying that God providentially ordained that Adam would sin and when Adam did, it God was not behind him pulling the strings.

The difference is not as simple as saying "directly" for one and "indirectly/providentially" for the other - though that might seem to be all we are doing. So in all fairness we ought to distinguish with greater clarity what we are saying.

In the second scenario, God designed Adam with a built in vulnerability - he was not impervious to temptation and sin. This was not a corruption, or a design flaw, it was by perfectly in accord with God's sovereign will and his express design. Adam would fall.

We pause at this point to remind the reader that even though God created Adam as being susceptible to sin - yet God did not force Adam to sin. We might argue that it was wrong for God to make Adam this way - but that is the argument of the pot makes with the potter, "Why have you made me thus?" Setting aside the image of the pot and the potter, we reason could just as easily word it this way, "How can God hold a man accountable for doing something that God could have prevented by designing Adam to be impervious to temptation and sin?"

I hope when we state it that way, it is a little more clear. God is not to be blamed for Adam's sin, even if God designed Adam in such a way that Adam would sin. Adam was given authority on earth by God, and he used that authority (freedom) to rebel against God, and God cannot be blamed for Adam's abuse of authority just because God gave Adam the authority.

God's sovereignty in the second model therefore, is primarily described by (but not limited to) direct intervention - that is, God was the cause of all things prior to giving Adam authority over creation, and from that time on, at least with respect to the visible creation, God's sovereignty was primarily providential and indirect - all things that happened were "allowed" to happen by God, but God was sovereign in his providential rule as opposed to by directly intervening on behalf of every action in the universe.

This second model answers the question of election and predestination by saying that God calls His children to himself providentially, in exactly the same way God providentially allowed Adam to fall, that is, God ordained it before hand, and creation responded in exact accordance with that ordination, providentially. God in this model allows the authority given to Adam to run its course, but God's will is not thwarted by this corrupted authority, in fact God uses it as a potter uses clay, to bring about his will no matter what. All things, in this model, work together in bringing about God's will, in spite of the corruption. The grandest difference between the two models, I suppose is that the latter doesn't make God the direct cause of sin, but makes man and only man, responsible for sin.

The second model does not suggest that God doesn't or cannot directly intervene in a thing - but rather it doesn't require God to do so with regards to election, predestination, and sin.

The former method, I suppose, more closely resembles the doctrine known as double predestination. Double predestination simply means that God not only predestined some people to go to heaven, but he simultaneously predestines the rest to go to hell. The rational behind this, I believe boils down to a false dichotomy, but those who buy into it typically exalt God's sovereignty one notch too far.

The latter method, I suppose, would lead one to conclude that while God ordained Adam's fall (and by extension: the whole human race) yet it was not done in such a way as to make God culpable for Adam's sin, and consequently, Adam's damnation. We reason that if God created an innocent race, even if he created them prone to fall, that whatever condemnation they themselves earn is fitting - and that God would not be unjust even if created a billion universes, and in each such universe He allowed the whole of the human race therein to perish in its sin - yet God could not be held to blame for even one soul that finds itself condemned - because each one who rebels does so to the damning of their own free will, to the damning of their own soul. Given therefore that in this scenario God doesn't ordain men to hell, but rather allows men to sin, and by their sin purchase hell - in this model we have more of a single predestination - where by God saves some sinners from His own wrath which they themselves have earned by their own rebellion - yet in spite of their rebellion God elects beforehand to be merciful to some and draws them to Himself and saves them.

The former I suppose has God as more of a Dictator, directing every action, and being thereby culpable for all actions in all creation, while the latter paints God as more of a Governor who allows everything that happens to happen, and disallows everything that does not come to pass according to his own sovereign will - but has given freedom/authority to mankind over creation, such that God is no longer culpable for the decisions a man makes, although God (being sovereign) is not thwarted in achieving the purchase of the church - in spite of the fall, and in spite of sin, and rebellion, and corruption - God works in spite of all those things to save those whom He has determined to show mercy to.

Anyway, nothing terribly profound I suppose, but I was reading over at my friend Bryan's blog something about it, and thought I could comment on it here as well.

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posted by Daniel @ 11:29 AM  
  • At 5:21 PM, June 06, 2007, Blogger Bryan said…

    Like I said on my blog, it's not that you and I would differ on the end result, or on the vast majority of what the scriptures say on this topic, but how we work out the implications of what scripture says.

    Really, all you seem to be saying is that God sets up dominoes in a pattern that he wants/designs, knocks the first one over, and then the rest do this "providential will" (which they didn't really have choice in). In the other way God knocks each domino over individually.

    Besides that, and if I was to argue against your view which there is really not that lot of reason to, except that it's fun to do, I would ask how you can argue for secondary causes (as your view will need to have) when dealing with the creator and sustainer of the universe?

  • At 11:56 PM, June 06, 2007, Blogger Daniel said…

    The grand difference between the two apologies, is that in the first God does something that He Himself calls sin in the word of God - he causes someone else to sin. In the second apology, God is one step removed from sin by virtue of giving genuine authority to man. When Adam transgressed God's expressed will he did not transgress God's permissive will.

    Perhaps a better domino analogy would be that God creates a domino out a fragile crystal, with an uneven base such that unless He keeps his hand on it, it will fall over and shatter into splinters. God created the domino to shatter, and even set it up for the fall - but the fall itself is not God's fault, it falls because it was designed to fall, and not because God knocked it over. Had God knocked it over, he would be culpable, but since it fell over by itself, it has no one to blame but itself.

    And even that analogy falls short. ;-)

  • At 9:11 AM, June 07, 2007, Blogger Frank Martens said…

    That's funny...

    I just told someone this very concept of God's sovereignty the other day.


  • At 9:22 AM, June 07, 2007, Blogger Frank Martens said…

    Oh and now that I think of it... my blog URL changed... "holding-fast.blogspot.com"

  • At 10:22 AM, June 07, 2007, Blogger Jim said…

    Daniel, I would agree with your second assessment to a point, with the exception of your implied understandings of election, etc.

    I believe most non-calvinist's would hold that view of God's sovereignty. Yet sadly most of the Calvinist's I have read on the blogosphere tend to line up under model #1.

    It is impossible to deny that God did indeed create Adam with an ability to sin (disobey His command)and yet without understanding the ultimate purpose of this creative act we fail to fully comprehend the nature of God.

    Surely Adam would have never sinned had not Satan directly intervened and tempted Eve in the garden. Only in the Church as the bride of Christ can we see the fulfillment of God's ultimate desire.

    I really enjoyed reading this post!

  • At 10:33 AM, June 07, 2007, Blogger Even So... said…

    God is sovereign...


  • At 11:20 AM, June 07, 2007, Blogger Marcian said…

    This was a good read today. I have something more to chew on now. I have a feeling all of this is to showcase His glory, and mercy, sort of a way to display all that He is, so even when I sin, I know that even the angels must be amazed at His mercy toward such a fallen creature. Such a wonderful thought, and very comforting, too.

  • At 12:44 PM, June 07, 2007, Blogger Bryan said…

    When you say that God, in the second situation is one step removed from causing Adam to sin, your hiding behind the secondary cause argument that really cannot work with God. God created the universe in a certain fashion knowing what the results of that would be. He created Adam with certain psychological dispensations. God really rigged the deck, he designed the game board the way he wanted it and the pieces as well. Adam's sin cannot be placed on a secondary cause, since God lined up all those secondary causes, which is why I think the other view is more consistent.

    Although I don't often recommend Vincent Cheung (as I don't agree with his approach on a lot of things), he does do a good job on this issue I think: http://www.vincentcheung.com/2005/05/31/the-author-of-sin/

  • At 2:12 PM, June 07, 2007, Blogger Daniel said…

    God created the universe in a certain fashion knowing what the results of that would be. He created Adam with certain psychological dispensations. God really rigged the deck, he designed the game board the way he wanted it and the pieces as well.

    I think we are both agreed on this.

    Where we seem to be at odds is that you suggest that Adam's sin cannot be Adam's unless it is first God's, and I say that that while that might be one way of looking at God's sovereignty, it isn't a necessary way, nor is it the conclusion I would jump to given the character of God as described in scripture. I question whether the God who has declared that He will not condemn the son for the sins of the father, would simultaneously condemn Adam because God's sovereignty makes Him the cause of Adam's sin.

    I find it much easier (and more consistent with the biblical record of God's character) to speculate that God designed Adam so that Adam could succeed or fail, even if God knew that Adam would eventually fail - and that creating Adam "thus" would not be equal to directly causing Adam to sin. Giving Adam the choice put the moral responsibility into Adam's hands - made Adam, and only Adam culpable for his own sin - even if God knew, as I say, that Adam would do so.

    The parent who allows his child to attend skating lessons is not morally responsible for the child's bruised rump, just because the parent understood beforehand that in learning to skate the child would likely, and even eventually, fall. The child, and only the child is to blame for their own fall - even if the parent knew it was coming. Likewise, the parent is not evil for allowing it to happen.

    There is room, I think, to understand God's sovereignty as being sovereign in effect, but without making God morally responsible for sin.

    I am reminded of the villain in the animated movie "The Incredibles" - recall that he manufactured a hero slaying robot, which he himself controlled, so that after it had defeated any and all comers, he could come in and save the day. I am reminded specifically of the seen where Mr. Incredible marvels at the idea of creating a foe expressly for the purpose of showing up to defeat it - marvels that such an empty glory could be pursued by any living person.

    In the first scenario, we have something similar to that: God forcing all of humanity to sin in order that He might condemn all of humanity, for the expressed purpose of showing "mercy" to some of those victims of His former malice. That kind of "mercy" doesn't sit right with most people, not just because it is contrary to everything we know about God's character from scripture - but also because it is plainly a false mercy. I think that is why most people reject the first scenario.

    That being said, the second scenario just one alternative to the first - I like it because it explains everything the first scenario explains, without turning God into a tryant to do so.

  • At 2:13 PM, June 07, 2007, Blogger Daniel said…

    Jim - very, very few Calvinists hold to the first scenario. Most Calvinists are closer to the second view.

    Frank - I updated your blog link

    JD - amen.

    Marcian - excellent!

  • At 12:28 AM, June 11, 2007, Blogger MaLady said…

    In reading this post, twice now, I thought about the importance of relationship in the balance of the idea. I read a book once (A God to Call Father) in which the author had an interesting take on the fall - he pointed out that Adam and Eve hadn't come to God to admit they'd screwed up once they realized the truth of it. They chose to hide; they chose fear over love in their relationship to Him (on top of the pride they'd already committed). They didn't respond honestly to God's first and kind communication after the sin had committed. His desire for loving, free will relationship was denied at that point. I know that this is true in my relationships with my kids - it is an entirely different scene when they don't come to me with a problem they caused. Coming to me tells me that they've already swallowed their pride and are willing to submit and cooperate with the solution. Hiding is a form of a hard heart - more dangerous than the mistake itself because the choice to operate independently is reinforced and brings in suspicion about future choices.

    This element I am describing is what helps me see how the human burden of sin that God set up can be so great - Hell, literally, for billions of souls.

    I hope I am decipherable? Maybe you were implying this anyway, but I didn't catch it.

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