Attributes of God: Sovereignty

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, September 4, 2015 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

Many people love to talk about kind and fluffy attributes of God. We tend to love that God is love, that he is faithful, and that he is kind and good. But something we tend to not like as much is that God is sovereign. This means that God is in control and that he is the highest authority on all matters. There are a lot of aspects we can explore with this, but today I want to lay down what it is and how to be careful not to abuse this claim.

There is absolutely nothing that catches God off guard. He is all-knowing, which is another attribute I will address later. He knows the beginning from the end and the end from the beginning. Yet somehow God is not responsible for everything that goes on. Many question God, suggesting, “If God is all powerful, why doesn’t he stop this or that?” This argument is used to suggest God is either not all-powerful or he is a cruel God. But is this so?

The perfect case study for this argument is Job. Satan went to God just roaming around and God brought Job up to Satan’s attention. It was like a little gamble where God said Job would never curse him with his lips. It was a brutal week where Satan took away Job’s children, his wealth, and his health. His best friends insisted Job had sinned, and Job’s own wife told him it was all God’s fault. Job maintained his innocence but he often accused God of being unjust. He did not curse him, but he constantly asked God what his crime was. When God responded, he did not directly answer Job’s complaint, but simply asked him if he was in the proper place to make such a complaint. And Job responded by saying he was not worthy of charging God of wrongdoing and praised and worshiped him. We have to remember that we are not the standards of what constitutes good or bad, loving or cruel.

God is like an author or a movie director. He is putting all the characters and pieces together to create a masterpiece. And as an author, I can relate. When I create my characters, they really do take on their own personalities. If they don’t, I have not developed them enough. And as I have written my novels, I have had characters fight and re-direct me because I was trying to get them to do something they would not do. That problem arises because I do not know my characters as well as I should. God, however, knows us far better than we know ourselves. So he knows where to put us, what to put in our paths, and what situations we can or cannot handle. But he allows us to choose how we respond to those situations.

There are two extremes, two fallacies, that I have seen in how people respond to God’s sovereignty and I want to caution us against them. The first fallacy is that God is responsible for everything that happens. If God is in control, has the power and authority to address every situation, and is not cruel, then he must intentionally direct every decision made… right? This is the position taken by hyper-Calvinists in how they deal with salvation, that God already determines who will saved and who won’t be. But this is a false teaching, because God is not responsible for sin. Yes, he allowed us to rebel against him, but that is not the same as him causing it.

If God was responsible for every action, then what was the point of giving the law? What was the point of having the Israelites shout the blessings and curses for obedience and disobedience? What was the point of Joshua telling us, “Choose you this day whom will you serve”? What was the point of Jesus saying, “Unless you repent, you too will perish”? The point I can see is that even though God is in control, he allows us to have a choice in whether we respond to him to not. That does not mean we are able to thwart God’s plans. That does not mean if we don’t respond in the way we should that God has to panic and come up with Plan B. No, God’s sovereignty and his plan includes knowing what our decisions are. In the same way as an author, once I know my characters, I can write the plot based on how my characters will make their decisions. I don’t force the decision, but I direct the events based on those decisions, and I create situations where I know how my characters will respond. God does the same idea with us, only he does it perfectly and does not require second or third drafts. To get more of this idea read Nathan Buck’s post “Is God a Cosmic Puppet Master?

The other fallacy I often see is giving someone platitudes. Let me explain that. Many people will ask, “God, why did you let my relative die?” What about the loss of a loved one? Dealing with cancer or other diseases? Natural disasters? A mass shooter or terrorist attack? Nationwide starvation? What is the deal? If God is in control and he is all-powerful, why doesn’t he do something about it?

These are very real questions and the last thing I could do to help is to give a platitude. Don’t worry; God has it under control. How often do we give nothing more than “pat-on-the-back-answers” that does absolutely nothing to help out with the situation? That is a platitude, a cheap answer that doesn’t cost you anything but sounds doctrinally okay. Can we really answer these questions?

I am not going to try to answer them here, and the reason I should not is because I don’t have all the details. I have seen too many well-meaning platitudes that either do not help or make things worse. I heard of one well-meaning person tell a couple who lost their child, “If you had more faith, your child would not have died.” They intended well, but that was a bitter slap on the face to this couple. Sometimes there are no answers we can give and the best thing to do is to simply mourn with them, not saying anything.

But many times, God does not give us a direct answer. He will often simply ask, “Do you trust me?” Remember his other attributes: love, justice, holiness, mercy, grace. When he allows a tragic event to take place, all these other attributes are playing a role. We cannot see the whole picture and too often we think we could do a better job than God. But I am in the process of learning that God is still in control of every situation. He knows what is going on and he knows what situations we have coming up. And knowing that God is sovereign, knowing that nothing takes God by surprise, gives me peace in the situations I am in. I hope this helps you too in whatever you are facing.

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