The Sovereignty of God and Douglas Wilson – Expanded Thoughts
Two plus two equals four. Why does 2+2=4? Because God is God. God created the universe ex nihilo. God did not consult any preexisting laws or rules before creating. God did not consult any preexisting law of mathematics in order to discover what kind of universe He could create. The only thing God consulted and had to conform to when creating was Himself (see John 1:3 and Hebrews 1:2). Therefore, 2+2=4 because the very nature of God demands that it does. Two plus two equals four because “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14).
Because God created ex nihilo, the universe is a reflection of His nature and character. There is nothing outside of God which influenced creation. Evil then, is either a reflection of God’s nature and character, or a deprivation of it. God’s word tells us that God is good (Psalm 25:8, 27:13, 31:19-20, 33:5, 34:8, 86:5, 100:5, 107:1, 8-9, 135:3, 145:5-9 — and that’s just some of the Psalms. There are many verses throughout the bible declaring God’s goodness.) Nowhere in the bible do we get a sense that God is evil or acts out in evil ways. Even a verse like Isaiah 45:7 is not saying God created evil as the devil would do evil, rather the evil (or calamity) there is a judgment from a good and just God against demonic and human evil.
In Doug Wilson’s video, he tries to reconcile God’s predestining of all humanity’s actions with human freedom. God has the sovereign power to predestine all a man’s choices while at the same time giving that man freedom to make uncoerced decisions. This is not a contradiction according to Wilson and the Westminster Confession because…. well just because. Wilson actually does not say anything to support this claim in the video. He simply declares it as truth. According to Wilson there is an infinite divide between Creator and creature, and as God is not a part of the universe, He is not displacing the freedom of man by imposing His will on man. Wilson does try to use Jeremiah 18:5-6 to support his idea, but as I show in my last article, that does not work.
It is true that the divide between Creator and creature is infinite, but it is not true that truth itself changes from one side of the divide to the other. Two plus two equals four, and that is true on the Creator side of the divide and the creature side. It is true on the creature side because it is first true on the Creator side. Evil is evil, good is good, on both sides of the divide. If a man freely chooses to rape a woman on the creature side of reality, it is evil. If God freely predestined the man to rape a woman from eternity past, it is still evil. To suggest that God is doing something good when He predestines the free and evil acts of men is to suggest that good is not the same thing on both sides of the Creator/creature divide.
Read the bible as a whole. What you see is God calling out to His people, to turn to Him, to repent of their evil, to trust in His salvation. Never do you get the sense that God has already predestined some to reprobation and others to salvation. Again, I am no Arminian. I agree with Wilson that we lost our moral freedom at the fall. No one is free-willing themselves into heaven. But the Calvinist understanding of God’s sovereignty is an equally false idea.
Read the first part of this subject here.
Related reading: Calvinism is Pantheism
God is sovereign. What does this mean? It means that God can do whatever He wants to do. No one can stand in His way and say, “No!” What it does not mean is that all that happens is what God wants to happen.
What God allows and what God wills are not always the same thing. Some would argue they are: “If God can stop an evil thing from happening, and then doesn’t stop it, it’s the same as wanting it to happen.” No, it is not. Do not turn God into a computer program.
Anyone with kids knows: What you want your kids to do, and what they choose to do are not always the same. You could stop them from doing the things you don’t want, but because you want them to have a certain amount of freedom, you do not stop them. What you will for them and what you allow them to do are not always the same thing.
God is sovereign, but He is not a robot. God is not a binary computer program which must do what it was programmed to do. God is alive. He does what He wants and He allows what He allows. He gives us the truth, and the truth gives us the freedom to follow Him, to know Him, and to live forever under His good and perfect sovereign rule.
The Fallacy of Theodicy
Theodicy: a defence of God’s goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil
We ought to reject all attempts at theodicy. God did not need sin, death, and evil to bring about His plan for creation. Sin, death, and evil did happen, but not at God’s command or decree. And, we take comfort in the fact that God hates sin, death, and evil, and He will redeem His creation from it all.
Excerpt from an article written by David B. Hart titled Tsunami and Theodicy….
“Christians often find it hard to adopt the spiritual idiom of the New Testament—to think in terms, that is, of a cosmic struggle between good and evil, of Christ’s triumph over the principalities of this world, of the overthrow of hell. All Christians know, of course, that it is through God’s self-outpouring upon the cross that we are saved, and that we are made able by grace to participate in Christ’s suffering; but this should not obscure that other truth revealed at Easter: that the incarnate God enters ‘this cosmos’ not simply to disclose its immanent rationality, but to break the boundaries of fallen nature asunder, and to refashion creation after its ancient beauty—wherein neither sin nor death had any place. Christian thought has traditionally, of necessity, defined evil as a privation of the good, possessing no essence or nature of its own, a purely parasitic corruption of reality; hence it can have no positive role to play in God’s determination of Himself or purpose for His creatures (even if by economy God can bring good from evil); it can in no way supply any imagined deficiency in God’s or creation’s goodness. Being infinitely sufficient in Himself, God had no need of a passage through sin and death to manifest His glory in His creatures or to join them perfectly to Himself. This is why it is misleading (however soothing it may be) to say that the drama of fall and redemption will make the final state of things more glorious than it might otherwise have been. No less metaphysically incoherent—though immeasurably more vile—is the suggestion that God requires suffering and death to reveal certain of his attributes (capricious cruelty, perhaps? morbid indifference? a twisted sense of humor?). It is precisely sin, suffering, and death that blind us to God’s true nature.”
Read DBH’s full article by clicking here.
Inspiration and Incarnation (Book Review)
When Israel was a child, I loved him,
And out of Egypt I called My son.
As they called them,
So they went from them;
They sacrificed to the Baals,
And burned incense to carved images.
I taught Ephraim to walk,
Taking them by their arms;
But they did not know that I healed them.
~Hosea 11:1-3 (NKJV)
Above is Hosea’s brief history of God’s loving call of Israel out of Egypt and their unfaithfulness to Him. The chapter goes on to say that though God continues to love Israel, and though they will not go back to Egypt, they will still be put under the Assyrians for their backsliding and refusal to repent.
Matthew, in his gospel, writes this:
Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”
When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
Matthew’s quote of Hosea 11:1, “Out of Egypt I called my Son,” is a complete misuse of scripture, taken out of context, and used by Matthew in a dishonest way. Or is it? Not if you understand that Matthew was writing to a specific audience (Jews), and he had a theme in mind when presenting the life of Jesus to that audience. Matthew wanted his readers to understand that Jesus is the true Israel and was acting as a new Moses.
The other three gospels are written by different authors to different audiences, and have different themes, and therefore present Jesus in different ways. This phenomenon is not only true for the four gospels. It is true for every book written in the bible. The bible is full of different authors writing at different time periods to different people with different worldviews, customs, and philosophies.
Therefore, when reading the bible, it is necessary to have some idea as to what the historical, grammatical, and hermeneutical context is for each book. When was it written? To what audience? What is the style of literature? What were the customs of the initial readers/hearers? What was the hermeneutical norm (the way scripture is interpreted) of the original audience? For example, what Matthew did with the Hosea passage might bother a modern Baptist preacher if done today, but apparently it was okay in Matthew’s day.
In 2018, we are as far from king David in the past as we are are from the year 5000 in the future. Think about that for a minute. Imagine if the canon of scripture was still open (it’s not), and that books written today will be a part of the bible in the year 5000. Would the readers in the future need to have some understanding of today’s world in order to fully understand what they were reading? Of course they would.
This reality of reading scripture leads to problems. What does it mean when we say that scripture is inspired? If some proverbs of Solomon are found similarly written in earlier Egyptian writings, are they still inspired? If the structure of law given to Moses in Exodus resembles the structure of law written by other near east cultures written earlier, is it inspired? How much should we take into account the existing culture that the books of the bible were written in?
Peter Enns attempts to address these issues in his book Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. I have read other work by Peter Enns before, and I would say he comes to a lot of wrong conclusions in his thinking. He seems to be a part of that crowd which is quick to condemn the O.T. actions of Israel based solely on modern day zeitgeist morals. Which is strange as it goes against his own teaching of biblical interpretation. Perhaps I am wrong about him.
This book, however, I liked more than I thought I would. Enns suggests that, just as we understand Jesus as being the incarnation of the Son of God — meaning He is both God and man at the same time — so should we view scripture. Scripture is both divinely inspired, but also written by flesh and blood (and imperfect) men. That, of course sounds controversial and dangerous, but in this book I found Enns to be a formidable defender of scripture. Here he doesn’t deny the truthfulness of any of the biblical stories (as he might in his other work), but rather he successfully explains that there were real worldly reasons for the authors of the bible to write what they wrote, and how they wrote it.
The basic theme of the book is: Yes the bible is inspired and from God. It is what God wants it to be, and we need to trust God. The bible is also written by real men who are products of their time and place and so is their writing. Don’t let your doctrine and hermeneutical method get in the way of letting God be who He presents Himself to be in Scripture.
One illustration by Enns to support the above:
And [God] said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” ~Gen. 22:12 (NKJV).
The story is of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. God told him to do it, and God stopped him at the last moment. Then God says, “Now I know that you fear God…” Did God not already know? He’s God isn’t He? He declares the end from the beginning, does He not? Some would say of course God knew, but the whole sacrifice test was for Abraham’s benefit. God knew, but Abraham wasn’t so sure of himself, so God pushed him to the edge to convince him. But, that’s not what the text says. The author of Genesis could have written that if it was true, but he didn’t. The text says God didn’t know, and the purpose of the test was for God’s benefit. And we need to read it as it is. This is what God wants us to see. It’s up to you to figure out why.
Even though I can’t recommend Enns’s other work, I’m giving this book a positive review — 3.5/5 stars. I recommend it to anyone who has questions about the difficult and seemingly contradictory or confusing passages of the bible.