The Sovereignty Question

Recently someone asked me if I believed in sovereignty. I whispered back, “Of course.” That person then went on with their life assuming I believe the same things about sovereignty that they do. I let them go because it was not an appropriate time to chase the point, but I am pretty sure they did not understand my answer.

Many people have a one sided view of sovereignty. For some this is little more than name calling. If you do not accept their views then you are assigned to class or category somewhere in between dogs and Pelagius. For others it is simply a matter of not thinking through the possibilities of how sovereignty plays out.

I believe God is the Creator and Ruler of the universe. This is a statement of sovereignty, but it is a very broad statement. Working into the specifics I want to ask more questions. Does sovereignty mean merely authority over an area, or by necessity does it mean making every decision within that area? Does God have the right to delegate?

An earthly king is said to be sovereign. However somewhere in the kingdom there is someone doing something the king disapproves of, for this example let’s name a pickpocket. This fact does not detract from the king’s authority. He is still sovereign, despite the fact he doesn’t have control over every event in the kingdom. In fact, he doesn’t even know what all is happening in his kingdom. If he did he would stop it. This example does not carry well to Deity because God knows everything and can do anything. God is omniscient and omnipotent.

Many people get hung up when trying to imagine how omnipotence and omniscience working together, affect sovereignty. Some have supposed this means God ultimately makes every decision. This description is unpalatable because it makes God responsible for sin. I have no doubt God knows everything about sin, but I don’t believe He initiated sin.

So in God’s kingdom, which includes everything, there are pickpockets. We can agree He knows. We can agree He knew in advance there would be. But does that leave us with only two choices either God made the choice for the pickpocket to engage in this activity or God is not sovereign? No, I don’t believe either of these choices. I believe God is big enough to create moral agency. Moral agency means we make and bear responsibility for our own moral choices.

For many people moral agency is oxymoronic. They believe that since God made us, He is ultimately responsible for our choices. But this is a denial of the meaning of moral agency. Moral agency, once again, is our making and bearing responsibility for our own moral choices. Just because we have a hard time wrapping our head around a concept doesn’t mean God cannot do it.

Shortcutting the definition to make God responsible, is equivalent to claiming He is not big enough to make creations with true moral agency. I think He is capable of doing so, and did. This choice did not detract from His sovereignty, it came as His decision as to how to express His sovereignty.


Relational God

Perhaps the most basic point of theology is the question of whether or not God exists. For many people the concept of God is illogical. They would have expected the world to look different when a holy God was the source. This expectation leads them to count every evil on earth—every war, every disease, and every hungry child as evidence that God couldn’t exist.

But as far as I can see these things are perfectly consistent with God’s existence and His nature.

One often overlooked aspect of God’s character is, He is relational. He created everything for the purpose of being in relationship with humanity, the crown of His creation.

Do you remember having a Barbie or GI Joe as a kid? How good was the relationship? Did you find deep meaningful friendship with these toys?  Of course not. In order to have a real friendship, a meaningful relationship, the other party in the relationship must also be a being of free will. Love doesn’t mean a thing unless it is freely given.

I assert, from God’s perspective, giving His creation moral free agency is the righteous choice compared to withholding this highest gift from us. He knows we who have free moral agency will choose sin. Humanity will create horrific hurts on our planet, but that’s our free moral agency at work.

If we assume God is responsible for sin as Creator, we are ignoring what free moral agency is. If we blame Him for giving us the choice, we are pretending we would be better off as automatons, without free will.

Freedom does lead to bad choices and all the pitfalls of a fallen world, but we are responsible for those failures, not God. If God had not given us the opportunity to choose wrong, He would have also been withholding the opportunity to choose right.

Since the purpose of creation was to fulfill God’s relational nature; this world looks exactly like what I would expect.