To admit God’s sovereignty is easy. His universal control of everything is present on almost every page of the Bible. But, when confronted with some of the philosophical difficulties related to God’s universal control, believers respond in a variety of ways. In this post, I want to consider three possible responses to God’s sovereignty.
- Minimization. This response seeks to vindicate God with respect to the presence of evil. Essentially, such theodicean solutions accept John Stuart Mill’s false premises. He allowed for only two options: (1) God is either all good but not sovereign, which is why He cannot stop evil, or (2) God is sovereign but not all good, which is why He won’t stop evil. The effect of seeking to answer John Stuart Mill is that to do so, you must minimize God. Can He not be completely sovereign and completely good? Any attempt to diminish either of these attributes is akin to reducing God. For example, no believer is likely to say that God is not completely good. So, we often hear people try to give God a free pass on His sovereignty by elevating the sovereignty of Satan. Of course, we would never present it like that. Instead, we speak in terms of everything good is from God but everything bad is from Satan. That kind of theology minimizes God’s sovereignty to only good things. It is the very essence of the ancient Arameans who wanted to refrain from fighting Israel in the hill country because they viewed the God of Israel as a God of the hills while theirs were gods of the valleys (1 Kgs. 20:23-28). God is responsible for everything or He is not sovereign. Although it was Satan that touched Job’s family and his body, he never misunderstood who was sovereignly in control of it all. “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10). In the end, it is better to struggle with God as He truly exists than to be comfortable with a god of your own making. Minimization is not an acceptable response to God’s sovereignty.
- Arrogance. The arrogant response to God’s sovereignty usually results in atheism or agnosticism. Rather than accepting the biblical teaching about God’s sovereignty and goodness, the arrogant man simply denies that God exists or that one can know Him at all. It is arrogance on both counts. To say that one cannot know God is to conclude arrogantly that God’s self-revelation of Scripture is worthless. Think about it. Are we really okay telling the Creator and Sustainer of all things that He is a poor communicator? Even worse is the arrogance of atheism. To say that God does not exist is to claim omniscience. It assumes exhaustive simultaneous knowledge of what exists in every corner of the universe. Interestingly, the arrogant response to God’s sovereignty is little more than a coup whereby one places himself above God. Again, arrogance is an unacceptable response to God’s sovereignty.
- Acquiescence. In my view, this is the only acceptable response to our sovereign Lord. It avoids the problem of minimization by accepting that God is completely sovereign over all things. It also avoids arrogance by the admission that some things exceed the capabilities of human intellect (Ps. 131:1). It is a humble response that recognizes God’s authority and right that Paul would applaud, “On the contrary, who are you O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not to say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?” (Rom. 9:20-21).
God will accomplish the kind intention of His will. We can fight it or surrender to it. Before you make your choice, know this; no one has ever fought against God and won. With respect to God’s sovereignty, surrender is victory.