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

The Sovereignty of God and Douglas Wilson

I recently came across a certain video by Douglas Wilson. It is a video about the sovereignty of God. I like Douglas Wilson – I like his eschatology, and I like his politics (mostly). I’ve read several of his books. His writings on the family are excellent. Wilson is also a Calvinist, and that is where I disagree with him, along with his definition of God’s sovereignty.

Calvinists define sovereignty in a way which seems to be unique to Calvinists. The definition goes something like this: All that happens in this universe happens because God ordained for it to happen exactly as it happens. This can get confusing. If God knows the future of an uncreated universe to the smallest detail, and then creates that universe, He automatically ordains, or predestines, all those future events to happen simply by creating. He may not like any of those events, but still allows them to happen. This could be called a negative predestination through allowance. Some Calvinists would be satisfied with this definition.

With Wilson, however, God positively predestines all events in creation just as an author of a play writes out all the actions of his characters. You bought a cookie dough flavored ice cream cone on Saturday, and you were predestined to do that from before the creation of the worlds. However, according to Wilson, you still bought that ice cream cone freely. You were not coerced against your will to do so.

How can a man be free when all of his actions have been predestined by God before the man even existed? If God is forcing His will on the man, does that not displace the will of the man? Yes, but only if God Himself is confined to and a part of the created universe. When one resident of the universe forces his will on another resident, the freedom of the forced is displaced by the enforcer. But since God is not a part of the universe, and the divide between creation and the Creator is infinite, God can predestine the actions of a man while not displacing that man’s freedom in making those decisions. God, being God creating ex nihilo (not god creating while confined to preexisting conditions), does indeed have the power to ordain all of a man’s actions while also ordaining that same man’s freedom. Make sense? You can watch Wilson’s video to hear a more detailed explanation.

Wilson also distinguishes between man’s creaturely freedom (Should I have pasta for dinner, or steak?) and moral freedom (Should I do evil or not?) We all still have our creaturely freedom, but we lost our moral freedom at the fall.

Is Wilson’s explanation of God’s sovereignty correct? He quotes Jeremiah 18:5-6… Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! (NKJV) Just as the potter does with the clay, so does the author with the play. Wilson acknowledges that his analogy of the author and his play is insufficient when comparing God to mankind. He counters that by stating that God is not a part of creation as a human author and the characters in his play are part of the same creation, and that God is powerful and can predestine the actions of His characters while not violating their freedoms.

Wilson considers his author/play analogy to be the same as Jeremiah’s potter/clay analogy. But they are not the same. In Jeremiah God is very much acting as a character within His creation. Jeremiah’s verse has nothing to do with God predestining the actions of Israel from before time. Read verse seven and following. God is warning Israel: If a nation is evil, God will destroy it, and if that nation repents God will not destroy it. There is nothing there about God acting as a predestining playwright deciding the actions of His characters from the infinite divide of Creator/creature. God is in the “story”, sword in hand, giving His creatures a choice. Wilson states in his video (at 12:06) that the potter/clay analogy breaks down and cannot fully capture the Creator/creature divide, but since the Jeremiah passage is not about God predestining the supposed free actions of Israel, Wilson is eisegetically infusing his own philosophy into the passage. (As all Calvinists do with this passage. You can blame their misreading of Romans 9 for that.)

Wilson has little to say about the character of God and how that fits into his definition of God’s sovereignty. He only quotes the Westminster Confession of Faith, as though that is any kind of authority (well, it is for Calvinists). It says: God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. (WCF 3.1) Now, if God ordains by negative allowance (see second paragraph above), He is not the author of sin. But, if God ordains by positive predestination, He is the author of sin. If God positively predestines a rapist to freely rape, God authored that rape. The infinite divide between Creator and creature is not sufficient to refute this logical fact. Two plus two equals four on both sides of the divide after all. And, if God authored the rape, he authored the evil act. If God authors evil acts, He is evil, or at least He transcends evil (and subsequently also transcends goodness) which is no different than being evil. I feel as though I am blaspheming in even writing this. I can go along pretty far with Calvinism, but this is where I turn in disgust. God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).

I am no Arminianist. Arminianism seriously calls into question the power of God. I will probably write an article about that sometime in the future (I’ve kind of touched on it here). But just as Arminianism calls into question the power of God, Calvinism calls into question the goodness of God. I have written a couple of articles about Calvinism here and here.

This article might be part one on Wilson’s video. If I have more thoughts on it I might do a part two. And I encourage you to take the time to watch Doug Wilson’s video.

The truth transcends Calvinism and Arminianism. Let us look forward to the glorious day when we can leave behind our inadequate theologies.

Related reading: Sovereignty

When Does Creation Begin?

How free is God? I would say God is free to do anything which does not violate His own character. Therefore, if God wants to create a certain kind of universe, there is nothing to stop Him from doing so as long as it aligns with His own character, or nature. This, of course, creates problems when looking at the fall of man and the will of man.

True or False: If God did not want the fall of man to happen, and it was possible to give humans their own free will which would not necessarily lead to a fall, then there would never have been a fall since God could have, and would have, created that universe.

Does human free will necessarily lead to a fall? If you say no, then I have to ask: Then why did the fall happen? And if you answer: Because of free will, then I have to ask: Does human free will necessarily lead to a fall?

You can only say that human free will does not necessarily lead to a fall if you believe God does not know the future. However, if God knows the future, He knows if a fall will happen or not. If God does not want a fall, and He wants humans to have their own will, and He sees He can indeed create a universe where humans have free will and there is no fall, then He will create that universe. It’s the one He wants. But, we obviously do not live in that universe. Therefore, either (A) God positively wanted the fall to happen, or (B) He was forced negatively to allow the fall to happen as there was no other option since He wanted humans to have free will, and human free will would always lead to a fall.

Option A seriously calls God’s goodness into question. Why would a good God want a fall and all the evil which accompanies it? Option B calls into question God’s power and freedom. Who decided that God couldn’t create a universe in which humans had free will and never fall?

But wait, Christianity teaches that after the resurrection, after sin and death and the effects of the fall have been completely removed from existence, there will never be another fall, and humans will have free will. So, it turns out that God can indeed create a universe in which humans have free will and yet not fall.

When, exactly, does this creation begin?

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.

Calvinism is Pantheism

499198-John-Calvin-Quote-By-predestination-we-mean-the-eternal-decree-ofJesus was not created; He was begotten. He proceeds forth from the Father, and He does so eternally. There was never a time when Jesus did not exist. (The terms “time” and “exist” I use lightly when talking about God.)

The universe, however, was created by God, not begotten. The universe is wholly separate from God — the universe is not God, and God is not the universe. Nor is God the “prime-mover” of the universe, for to be the prime-mover of a system is to be a part of that system. God is not a part of the universe even if it’s the first part. He is the creator of the universe, not the begetter.

Deism teaches that God created the universe wholly separate from Himself and afterward had, and has, no interaction with the universe. Pantheism teaches that God is inseparable from the universe as He is the universe and the universe is Him. The proper teaching, in my opinion, is that God did create the universe wholly separate from Himself, but does indeed interact intimately with the universe, even to the point of entering His creation as the man Jesus and continuing with the Holy Spirit.

Calvinism teaches that God’s will is so intertwined with the universe, predestining every detail of what happens from before creation, being the first cause of every event, that God becomes inseparable from creation. How can creation be separate from God when God has already decided exactly what will happen before any event took place and then ensures from moment to moment that all plays out as He predestined?

Some Calvinists would argue with this assertion, “You’re taking things too far!” But these Calvinists aren’t thinking their theology through to its logical conclusions. If God predestines a few things, He predestines all things. If God is sovereign, as the Calvinist defines that term, nothing occurs which is opposite to His will.

What we end up with is a kind of Christian Pantheism where it becomes impossible to imagine any event happening without being directly caused by God. We end up with a universe where only God is real and everything else is illusion. A universe in which there is only God playing out a story of unreal characters in His mind.