God Is Sovereign!

Of all of the theological issues that have arisen in the last couple of decades, the matter of what God is like has to be one of the most crucial. As A. W. Tozer has written, “[T]he most portentous fact about any man is…what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God” (A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, 7).

Of course, all orthodox Christians agree that God is a Trinity, three persons in one essence. But just how powerful is this God? Does He control all things, even the details of life? Does He even know all things past, present, and future? Some evangelicals seem to be unsure.

Other evangelical theologians are passionately arguing the negative: God is neither in full control of the world, nor does He even know the details of the future. According to these Open Theists,

God knows a great deal about what will happen….he knows everything that could happen and what he can do in response to each eventuality. And he knows the ultimate outcome to which he is guiding the course of history. All that God does not know is the content of future free decisions, and this is because decisions are not there to know until they occur. (Richard Rice, The Grace of God and the Will of Man, ed. Clark Pinnock, 134)

“The content of future free decisions” is vast, however. Every person in the entire world makes probably thousands of decisions every day. But to Open Theists, God does not know for sure what these decisions will be. This is a tremendous amount of information for God not to know. And if God does not know what will happen, as Open Theists assert, He certainly is not in sovereign control of the universe. As one Open Theist argues, “God, for whatever reasons, designed the cosmos such that he does not necessarily always get his way” (Gregory Boyd, God at War, 20).

At Shepherds Theological Seminary, we believe and teach that God knows everything and is in sovereign control of the universe, down to the details of our own lives. The Bible tells us about God’s sovereignty in a number of ways.

God decreed

First, God decreed all of the aspects and events of the universe. God’s decree is His sovereign plan and purpose whereby on the basis of the counsel of His own will He foreordained whatever happens. This is what Paul writes in Ephesians 1:11: God, “according to His purpose …works all things after the counsel of His will.” God’s decree is a single, all-inclusive plan, freely made, eternal, and certain, made for God’s own glory.

God preserves

Second, God preserves the universe. Preservation is the work of the Triune God, accomplished particularly through the Son, whereby He upholds the entire universe. The writer of the book of Hebrews proclaims that Christ “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3). The Apostle Paul writes that Christ “is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). The stability of the universe, the processes of nature, animals’ and mankind’s existence are all preserved through this continuous work of God.

God’s providence

God is also providentially in control of the universe. Providence is that continuous action of God by which He makes all of the events of the universe fulfill His original design. God exercises providential control over the universe at large (Ps. 103:19), the realm of nature (Job 37:1-3), animals and birds (Matt. 10:29), the affairs of the nations (Ps. 22:28), the birth and career of men and women (Isa. 45:1-5), the successes and failures of human beings (Ps. 75:6), supplying the needs of the righteous (Phil. 4:19), answers to prayer (Matt. 6:32), the punishment of the wicked (Ps. 11:6), common grace on the good and wicked alike (Matt. 5:44-45), even trivial things (Matt. 10:30; Prov. 16:33).

The events in the book of Esther are a stunning example of God’s providence in operation. The name “God” is not event mentioned in the book, but behind the scenes God is working all things after the counsel of His own will. King Ahasuerus “just happened” to be wakeful (Esther 6), “just happened” to read the book of records, and “just happened” to understand how Mordecai the Jew had saved his life and that Mordecai hadn’t yet been rewarded. Haman, the enemy of the Jews, “just happened” to be in the outer court when the king sought someone to honor Mordecai. God providentially brought His will to pass without anything that we would call a miracle, but the story worked out just right for the benefit of the godly Jews and the glory of God.

And thus God sovereignly controls the universe. Perhaps even more extraordinary for us is the biblical truth that God sovereignly knows and controls the details of each of our lives. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). The sovereignty of God is thus a precious biblical doctrine all Christians should uphold and honor.


Dr. Larry Pettegrew taught at Pillsbury Baptist Bible College for over 10 years, serving as chairman of both the Christian Education and Bible departments. Following his time at Pillsbury, he served on the faculty of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary then taught at Central Baptist Theological Seminary for 14 years. After 12 years on the faculty at The Master’s Seminary, Dr. Pettegrew accepted the executive vice presidency of Shepherds Theological Seminary—a position he presently holds in addition to his role as Academic Dean.

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Bill Toothman's picture

Amen!

Jerry Shugart's picture

Larry Pettegrew wrote:
God is also providentially in control of the universe. Providence is that continuous action of God by which He makes all of the events of the universe fulfill His original design.

Let us look at the following verse which speak of God's original design:

"Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23).

The murderers of the Lord Jesus Christ acted in fulfillment of a divine decree but at the same time their act of killing the Lord Jesus cannot be attributed to anything but their own "free will"--"And by wicked hands have crucified and slain" the Lord of Glory.

If someone wants to attribute the actions of those hands as coming from God because "He makes all of the events of the universe fulfill His original design" then we must imagine that God can be the source of wicked acts.

I cannot believe that this is true.

In His grace,
Jerry

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It all "comes from God" but He is not the one who does the deed. I'm not a very articulate defender on these points, but many others have wrestled with these things and done a good job of working them out.
In any case, however we explain it, we must not explain away any of what is revealed. So--to take the Joseph case as a prime example--"God meant it" is pretty clear. And "works all things according to..." is pretty clear, too.
What is equally clear is that people--sinners--are responsible for their choices and those choices, while decreed, are unforced (usually... I do think there is such a thing as direct hardening as a form of judgment... but even then, I suspect the hardening is more like an active push in the already chosen direction).

I do know that part of the answer lies in understanding "freedom of the will" in the context of human nature. We are only free to act in a manner consistent with our nature unless grace of some kind mitigates or liberates us from that. Common grace enables many to make noble choices though they are godless. Special grace... well, we need volumes to talk about what that does! But God never has to force a sinner to sin. We always want to unless He turns us--providentially or more directly--in some other direction. This is why "bondage of the will" is preferred terminology to many.

Jerry Shugart's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
I do know that part of the answer lies in understanding "freedom of the will" in the context of human nature. We are only free to act in a manner consistent with our nature unless grace of some kind mitigates or liberates us from that. Common grace enables many to make noble choices though they are godless. Special grace... well, we need volumes to talk about what that does! But God never has to force a sinner to sin. We always want to unless He turns us--providentially or more directly--in some other direction. This is why "bondage of the will" is preferred terminology to many.

What about the "free will" of Adam and Eve? According to Dr. Pettegrew it was God who was ultimately responsible for their act of sinning:
Quote:
Providence is that continuous action of God by which He makes all of the events of the universe fulfill His original design.

So we must believe that neither Adam nor Eve had free will because in the end they were destined to sin because of the "continuous action of God by which He makes all of the events of the universe fulfill His original design."

And what was the result of these sins of which God bears the responsibility? The Westminister Confession of Faith says, "They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed;and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions."

So if Dr. Pettegrew is right then in the end it is God who was responsible for the following "wickedness":

"Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23).

I do not think that Dr. Pettegrew's assertion is correct because I do not believe that God can be responsible for any wicked act.

JohnBrian's picture

Jerry Shugart wrote:
What about the "free will" of Adam and Eve?
http://www.reformed.org/documents/canons_of_dordt.html The Canons of Dordt

The Third and Fourth Main Points of Doctrine
Human Corruption, Conversion to God, and the Way It Occurs

Article 1: The Effect of the Fall on Human Nature wrote:
Man was originally created in the image of God and was furnished in his mind with a true and salutary knowledge of his Creator and things spiritual, in his will and heart with righteousness, and in all his emotions with purity; indeed, the whole man was holy. However, rebelling against God at the devil's instigation and by his own free will, he deprived himself of these outstanding gifts. Rather, in their place he brought upon himself blindness, terrible darkness, futility, and distortion of judgment in his mind; perversity, defiance, and hardness in his heart and will; and finally impurity in all his emotions.

http://www.founders.org/library/bcf/bcf-6.html 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith

Chapter 6 - The Fall of Man: Sin and its Punishment wrote:
MAN, as he came from the hand of God, his creator, was upright and perfect. The righteous law which God gave him spoke of life as conditional upon his obedience, and threatened death upon his disobedience. Adam's obedience was short-lived. Satan used the subtle serpent to draw Eve into sin. Thereupon she seduced Adam who, without any compulsion from without, willfully broke the law under which they had been created, and also God's command not to eat of the forbidden fruit. To fulfill His own wise and holy purposes God permitted this to happen, for He was directing all to His own glory.

Gen. 2:16,17; Gen. 3:12,13; 2 Cor.11:3.

There's Adam and Eve's free will!

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Jerry Shugart's picture

JohnBrian ][quote=Jerry Shugart wrote:
There's Adam and Eve's free will!

That does not change the fact that Dr. Pettegrew places the ultimate responsibility of Adam's sin and Eve's sin on God:
Quote:
Providence is that continuous action of God by which He makes all of the events of the universe fulfill His original design.

By what Dr. Pettegrew says we can only conclude that Adam's "rebelling against God at the devil's instigation and by his own free will" was a result of "that continuous action of God by which He makes all of the events of the universe fulfill His original design."

So it Dr. Pettegrew assertion is correct then it is God who is responsible for the following:

"They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed;and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions."

So if Dr. Pettegrew is right then in the end it is God who is responsible for the following "wickedness":

"Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23).

I do not think that Dr. Pettegrew's assertion is correct because I do not believe that God can be responsible for any wicked act.

In His grace,
Jerry

JohnBrian's picture

Jerry wrote:
That does not change the fact that Dr. Pettegrew places the ultimate responsibility of Adam's sin and Eve's sin on God:
Actually he doesn't, but this is a common charge against those who affirm the sovereignty of God.

http://www.gty.org/Resources/Articles/A189 ]John MacArthur - Is God Responsible for Evil?

If God is sovereign, is He responsible for evil? wrote:
God is certainly sovereign over evil. There's a sense in which it is proper even to say that evil is part of His eternal decree. He planned for it. It did not take Him by surprise. It is not an interruption of His eternal plan. He declared the end from the beginning, and He is still working all things for His good pleasure (Isaiah 46:9-10).

But God's role with regard to evil is never as its author. He simply permits evil agents to work, then overrules evil for His own wise and holy ends. Ultimately He is able to make all things-including all the fruits of all the evil of all time-work together for a greater good (Romans 8:28).

Would you prefer a God who is not sovereign over evil?

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Jerry Shugart's picture

Dr. Pettegrew wrote:

Quote:
Providence is that continuous action of God by which He makes all of the events of the universe fulfill His original design.

According to this it is a continuous action of God by which He "makes all of the events of the universe fulfill His original design." If that is true then the event of the crucifixion and killing of the Lord Jesus is of God's making, since "He makes all of the events of the universe fulfill His original design."

According to Dr. Pettegrew's assertion we must also believe that God was also responsible for the sin commited by Adam since according to him God "makes all of the events of the universe fulfill His original design."

Earlier I said: "That does not change the fact that Dr. Pettegrew places the ultimate responsibility of Adam's sin and Eve's sin on God:"

To this you said:

Quote:
Actually he doesn't, but this is a common charge against those who affirm the sovereignty of God.

Evidently we have a different understanding of Dr. Pettegrew's words. What do you not understand about the meaning of the words "He makes all of the events" in the following statement?:
Quote:
Providence is that continuous action of God by which He makes all of the events of the universe fulfill His original design.

JohnBrian's picture

Jerry Shugart wrote:
What do you not understand about the meaning of the words "He makes all of the events" in the following statement?:
Quote:
Providence is that continuous action of God by which He makes all of the events of the universe fulfill His original design.
He makes all events, both good events and bad events fulfill His original design, because God is sovereign. Isn't that exactly what Romans 8:28 states.

Question for you - How does God sovereignly making all events fulfill His design, make Him responsible for every one of those events?

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Alex Guggenheim's picture

Quote:
Providence is that continuous action of God by which He makes all of the events of the universe fulfill His original design.
This statement here seems to be constructed in a way that lends itself to misinterpretation. It is left up to the reader, at this point, to wonder too much what is meant by original design thus they could easily miscalculate what is in view or they could rightly suspect what is in view, but either way its definition by the author would help in determining a more precise meaning. I have seen this reference used before but each time with a less than consistent use when compared to each user.

The most immediate question I can imagine someone asking if they are not sure as to what exactly is in view with the use of the term, original design, would be:

What other design does the author have in mind that exists which would require him to use the qualifier, original, in speaking of God's design and what is its place, if it exists, in consideration of the issue?

Jerry Shugart's picture

JohnBrian wrote:
He makes all events, both good events and bad events fulfill His original design, because God is sovereign. Isn't that exactly what Romans 8:28 states.
Question for you - How does God sovereignly making all events fulfill His design, make Him responsible for every one of those events?

No, Romans 8:28 says nothing about God being the cause of wickedness.

Let us look at Dr. Pettegrew's words again:

Quote:
Providence is that continuous action of God by which He makes all of the events of the universe fulfill His original design.

By the context it would seem to me that the word "make" means "to cause, induce, or compel." With that in mind we can see that Dr. Pettegrew is saying that by the means of a continuous action God is causing all of the events of the universe to fulfill His original design. What is the "original design"?

I would be surprised if Dr. Pettegrew would not include the following as being a part of God's "original design":

"Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began" (2 Tim.1:9).

In order to cause this to happen it was necessary for the Lord Jesus to die at the hands of men, so we can understand that, if Dr. Pettegrew is correct, it was by the means of a continuous action that God caused all of the events that fulfilled the sufferings and death on the Cross. If Dr. Pettegrew is correct then it was God who caused this "wicked" act:

"Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23).

I cannot believe that God causes any wickedness.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Isaiah 53:4
Isaiah 53:10
Rev.13:8
Acts 2:23

RP, saying that God has decreed all that happens and works it together for His glory is not the same as saying He is responsible for everything that happens. That inference is not a necessary one. In any case, saying He has ordained it and works it for His glory is nothing more than what Paul says in Eph.1:11. If Dr. P is saying "God is responsible for Adam's sin" then so is Paul. The phrase you've referred to in the article only paraphrases Eph. 1.11.

Alex, I think I'm safe in asserting here that by "original" Dr.P means basically "in the beginning." It's clear from the article as a whole that he does not believe there is any non-original plan. It's probably roughly equivalent to the biblical "from the foundation of the earth."

Jerry Shugart's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
RP, saying that God has decreed all that happens and works it together for His glory is not the same as saying He is responsible for everything that happens. That inference is not a necessary one.

Then Dr. Pettregrew is in error when he says:
Quote:
God is also providentially in control of the universe. Providence is that continuous action of God by which He makes all of the events of the universe fulfill His original design. God exercises providential control over the universe at large (Ps. 103:19), the realm of nature (Job 37:1-3), animals and birds (Matt. 10:29), the affairs of the nations (Ps. 22:28), the birth and career of men and women (Isa. 45:1-5), the successes and failures of human beings (Ps. 75:6), supplying the needs of the righteous (Phil. 4:19), answers to prayer (Matt. 6:32), the punishment of the wicked (Ps. 11:6), common grace on the good and wicked alike (Matt. 5:44-45), even trivial things (Matt. 10:30; Prov. 16:33).

By the "context" we can understand that he is saying that the word "make" means "to cause, induce, or compel." For instance, consider the following verses which fall within the context of what he wrote:

"Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron" (Isa.45:1-2).

Certainly when the Lord tells Cyrus that He will "make the crooked places straight" He means He will "cause" the cooked places to become straight.

With that in mind we can see that Dr. Pettegrew is saying that by the means of a continuous action God is causing all of the events of the universe to fulfill His original design. Therefore if Dr. Pettegrew is right then we must believe that the Lord is the "cause" of the actions here which speak of wickedness:

"Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23).

Quote:
In any case, saying He has ordained it and works it for His glory is nothing more than what Paul says in Eph.1:11. If Dr. P is saying "God is responsible for Adam's sin" then so is Paul. The phrase you've referred to in the article only paraphrases Eph. 1.11.

No, at Ephesians 1:11 Paul is referring to the fact that it was predetermined that those who became members of the Body of Christ will receive an inheritance, and that inheritance is the new, glorious bodies which Christians will put on when they meet the Lord in the air. He speaks of that inheritance just three verses later:

"...in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory" (Eph.1:13-14).

The Christian will receive that inheritance on the day of redemption:

"And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption" (Eph.4:30).

The day of redemption is in regard to the "redemption of our body":

"And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body" (Ro.8:23).

So the word "predestinated" at Ephesians 1:11 is referring to the "adoption," the redemption of our body:

"Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will" (Eph.1:5).

That is exactly the same thing that Paul refers to when he uses the word "predestinate" in regard to the believer:

"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Ro.8:29).

BryanBice's picture

No time to comment, but just throw out this related quote from Calvin's Institutes:

In speaking of God's providence, "we make God the ruler and governor of all things, who in accordance with his wisdom has from the farthest limit of eternity decreed what he was going to do, and now by his might carries out what he has decreed. From this we declare that no only heaven and earth and the inanimate creatures, but also the plans and intentions of men, are so governed by his providence that they are borne by it straight to their appointed end." (vol. 1, 207)

Brian Jo's picture

Isaiah 53:4 wrote:
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

Isaiah 53:10 wrote:
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief;

Acts 2:23 wrote:
this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Acts 4:27-28 wrote:
for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place

I don't know how it could be any clearer– God had more than just a passive role in allowing the crucifixion, it was part of his definite plan.

It is not our job to try to absolve God of the responsibility for something he declares himself responsible for. We can only affirm that in all of His sovereign dealings with man, He works things in such a way that He himself does no evil. And that is part of the mystery of God.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Alex, I think I'm safe in asserting... It's probably roughly equivalent to the biblical "from the foundation of the earth."

I, too, suspected that, thanks for the affirmation.

A couple more observations I have.

Pettegrew states:

Larry Pettegrew wrote:
Of course, all orthodox Christians agree that God is a Trinity, three persons in one essence. But just how powerful is this God? Does He control all things, even the details of life? Does He even know all things past, present, and future? Some evangelicals seem to be unsure.
Other evangelical theologians are passionately arguing the negative: God is neither in full control of the world, nor does He even know the details of the future. According to these Open Theists…
Never minding the example he gives after this quote, my interest is if, aside from Open Theists, is Pettegrew taking the approach that unless one is affirming the view he states they are automatically arguing the negative, that God is not in control?

I, personally, do not take Pettegrew’s view but do agree with much of what he says while firmly rejecting Open Theism. So my hope is that he believes there are those who do reject Open Theism but do affirm God is in control of all things and knows all things past, present and future yet do not do so with the terms and approach offered in his case. I suspect he does. But among the rest of us I know there has been the habit of using binary code to reduce this to either/or issues without recognition of acceptable and orthodox alternatives (without including Open Theism at all).

But as to this entry by Larry Pettegrew, I believe he escapes the charge of placing upon God the origin of evil. The “continuous action” of God does not necessitate that we view this action to be in the mind of Pettegrew or anyone else (unless stated specifically as such) as direct cause. As was quoted earlier, John MacArthur does a good job in presenting the role of evil under the stewardship of God’s sovereignty (bold and italics mine):

Quote:
God is certainly sovereign over evil. There's a sense in which it is proper even to say that evil is part of His eternal decree. He planned for it. It did not take Him by surprise. It is not an interruption of His eternal plan. He declared the end from the beginning, and He is still working all things for His good pleasure

But God's role with regard to evil is never as its author. He simply permits evil agents to work, then overrules evil for His own wise and holy ends. Ultimately He is able to make all things-including all the fruits of all the evil of all time-work together for a greater good


And it is important to note this because what Jerry S. has been arguing is actually an issue that arises when this doctrine is discussed with certain students and theologians. There is a healthy minority that urges others to assign blame to God for sourcing evil. They are also quite outspoken so I do understand Jerry’s response with respect to this argument. But I am not convinced that, apart from interpreting or at best taking by implication, Pettegrew is in this camp. In fact, as I said I believe he tries to make it clear he isn’t.

But I do also want to add that there are those who will mouth the view that God is not the author of evil yet, when handling things on a case by case basis, often they can be found either implying or explicitly (sometimes on purpose sometimes in ignorance) charging God with authoring evil. They oversimplify the sovereign mechanism.

For example, a loved one is murdered. Suddenly someone who does not take the theological position that God author’s evil will ascribe, either directly or by implication, that God chose for this person to die this way. Well, that is incorrect because it is incomplete and sends the wrong message. It takes the view that this was the decree of God with respect to his sovereign direct will as opposed to his sovereign passive superintending which allows for humans to make choices while God takes those choices and executes a divine determination. Worse, some forward the idea that God actually did intend for this to happen directly making him guilty of desiring sin. So these are elements that do arise but I believe Pettegrew is substantially far away from this posture in this case.

Jerry Shugart's picture

Isaiah 53:4 wrote:
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

Isaiah 53:10 wrote:
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief;

Acts 2:23 wrote:
this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Neither Isaiah 53:4 nor 53:10 are referring to the crucifixion and the death of the Lord Jesus but instead to what was happening to the Lord Jesus on the eve of the crucixion:

"And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Lk.22:44)

"Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me" (Mt.26:36).

It was at this time that the following process began to be fulfilled:

"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor.5:21).

As for Acts 2:32 the Lord Jesus was "delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God." This refers to the Lord Jesus being delivered to the great multitude sent by the chief priests to arrest Him in the garden (despite the fact that He could have prayed to the Father and received more than twelve legions of angels). What happened after He was arrested can only be attributed to the actions of those who responsible for His arrest, as witnessed by His words:

"When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness" (Lk.22:53).

Quote:
I don't know how it could be any clearer– God had more than just a passive role in allowing the crucifixion, it was part of his definite plan.

The Lord Jesus was delivered up to those who wanted to kill Him, but God had nothing to do with His crucifixion and death. As the Lord Jesus said, the things which happened after He was delivered up was their hour and the power of darkness.
Quote:
It is not our job to try to absolve God of the responsibility for something he declares himself responsible for.

It is beyond me why anyone would attempt to make God responsible for the crucifixion andf death of the Lord Jesus despite the words of the Lord Jesus to the contrary:

"When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness" (Lk.22:53).

What do you think that the Lord Jesus would describe that time and what would follow as being as their "hour and the power of darkness" if God Himself was responsible for what followed?

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Jerry,

Do you believe that when discussing God's sovereignty and acknowledging that he permits or allows volitional creatures to act as they will, which in the case of evil the volition of an agent other than God was the source of its introduction to the plan of God, and God beforehand (in his infinite knowledge that is eternally before and after all things) decreed to allow it, is synonymous with blaming or assigning responsibility to God for evil?

It appears to me that so far no one has denied that under the superintendence of God's sovereign control he allows creatures with volitional capacity to act as they will. Now someone, after my saying this, might try to qualify what I just said in their agreement and if so I agree there might be an issue. But if my summary of the views expressed here is the case, so far the worst I have seen are references to theologians that in other parts of their work have directed students toward the erring view of an unintended overreach of divine sovereignty.

I do agree in some places some students and theologians err in their use of rationalism and philosophy (often strongly lead by Calvin's example but this is not meant to bring Calvin himself into the argument) and reason something like...(crudely put here) "Since God is sovereign and sovereignty means complete control, that is nothing escapes God's sovereignty, then ultimately God is responsible for both evil and good"....but I haven't seen this declared here and really not even implied.

Jerry Shugart's picture

Alex Guggenheim wrote:
Jerry,

Do you believe that when discussing God's sovereignty and acknowledging that he permits or allows volitional creatures to act as they will, which in the case of evil the volition of an agent other than God was the source of its introduction to the plan of God, and God beforehand (in his infinite knowledge that is eternally before and after all things) decreed to allow it, is synonymous with blaming or assigning responsibility to God for evil?


Alex, it is definite that the Lord allows evil acts but that is not the same thing as being responsible for those evil acts.
Quote:
It appears to me that so far no one has denied that under the superintendence of God's sovereign control he allows creatures with volitional capacity to act as they will. Now someone, after my saying this, might try to qualify what I just said in their agreement and if so I agree there might be an issue. But if my summary of the views expressed here is the case, so far the worst I have seen are references to theologians that in other parts of their work have directed students toward the erring view of an unintended overreach of divine sovereignty.

Perhaps Dr. Pettegrew's words which I quoted is an example of an "erring view of an unintended overreach of divine sovereignty." Perhaps he really doesn't believe that God bears a responsibilty in regard to evil acts but at the same time he should be more careful in the way which he expresses his opinion.
Quote:
I do agree in some places some students and theologians err in their use of rationalism and philosophy (often strongly lead by Calvin's example but this is not meant to bring Calvin himself into the argument) and reason something like...(crudely put here) "Since God is sovereign and sovereignty means complete control, that is nothing escapes God's sovereignty, then ultimately God is responsible for both evil and good"....but I haven't seen this declared here and really not even implied.

Then we disagree about the meaning of the words of Dr. Pettegrew which I quoted.

JohnBrian's picture

Alex Guggenheim wrote:
...under the superintendence of God's sovereign control he allows creatures with volitional capacity to act as they will.
And since God is sovereign, their action ultimately redounds to the glory of God!

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Jerry S. wrote:

Pettegrew wrote:
God is also providentially in control of the universe. Providence is that continuous action of God by which He makes all of the events of the universe fulfill His original design....

By the "context" we can understand that he is saying that the word "make" means "to cause, induce, or compel."

Jerry, what you're overlooking there is the object of God's causing, inducing and compelling. What does God compel? He compels all things to fulfill. That is, He takes what people do and causes them to work together for His design. He works all things according to the counsel of His will. It really is that simple.
It's like saying "I cause, induce or compel the weeds in my garden to become compost." I am not saying I made them grow in the first place, but that I make them become what I want them to become. The analogy is imperfect because God is more actively involved in men's sins than I am in the weeds in my garden. He has decreed that all these things will certainly come to pass. But He does not usurp agency.

As for Is.53 and the crucifixion, it most certainly does describe the crucifixion. He was not
"wounded for our transgressions" and "bruised for our iniquities" in the garden, but on the cross!
(Isaiah 53.5).

Why is it so abhorrent to you that God planned to crucify His son before the foundation of the world, then saw to it that it would come to pass at the appointed time? This does not make Him the one who did the crucifying or mean that He forced the Jews and Romans involved to commit this act. Rather it means that He caused what these men chose to do to serve His purposes... just like Joseph's brothers again ("You meant it for evil but God meant it for good"). This does not make God the author of evil. It makes Him the victor over evil because He turns even evil to His glory. In the act of pouring His wrath out on sin, His holiness is magnified.

Romans 9 wrote:
18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory...

Alex Guggenheim's picture

JohnBrian wrote:
Alex Guggenheim wrote:
...under the superintendence of God's sovereign control he allows creatures with volitional capacity to act as they will.
And since God is sovereign, their action ultimately redounds to the glory of God!
I would be careful to avoid the temptation to oversimplify the matter and prescribe this potentially injurious formula here. That is to say if all one has in view is (1) God being sovereign and (2) within his sovereignty he allows volitional acts thus the product of the two, God's sovereignty and volitional action is always to God's glory, then it is vitally missing other variables for a proper formula. I would have to disqualify this statement if it were meant to stand without amplification and clarification.

A good reference here to use in recognizing the necessity that the two being added together are not meant to be a formula for claiming something has been done to the glory of God (divine sovereignty + human volition) is found in 1 Corinthians 10. I will post with selected verses and the culminating reference to doing "all to the glory of God" (bold and italics mine):

Quote:
7Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

8Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.

9Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.

10Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer...

...17For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.

18Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?

19What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing?

20But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.

21Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils.

22Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?

23All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.

24Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth.

25Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake:

26For the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof.

27If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.

28But if any man say unto you, this is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof:

29Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience?

30For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?

31Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.


If Paul held to the formula as you have expressed he certainly did not employ it here. Because here Paul fills the passage before the final charge, "whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" with a long list of things that clearly do not redound to the glory of God even though, if anyone did them, both God's sovereignty and volition would be active which was the formula offered earlier.

So, as I said, while not disagreeing with the general theme of what was said it needs to be qualified with amplification and clarity.

Jerry Shugart's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
As for Is.53 and the crucifixion, it most certainly does describe the crucifixion. He was not"wounded for our transgressions" and "bruised for our iniquities" in the garden, but on the cross! (Isaiah 53.5).

Aaron, some of the things mentioned in Isaiah 53 speak of things which happened before the Cross (Isa.53:5--"with His stripes we are healed") and others which happened at the Cross. Matthew Henry, speaking of the Lord Jesus' experience in the garden, wrote:

"He was now bearing the iniquities which the Father laid upon him, and, by his sorrow and amazement, he accommodated himself to his undertaking. The sufferings he was entering upon were for our sins, and they were all to meet upon him and he knew it." (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Matthew to John, [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991 ], 320).

Charles Spurgeon, who also says that it was in the garden when the Lord Jesus began to bear the iniquities which the Father had laid upon Him, applied Isaiah 53:6 to the events that happened in the garden:

"Another deep fountain of grief was found in the fact that Christ now assumed more fully his official position with regard to sin. He was now made sin. Hear the word! he, who knew no sin, was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. In that night the words of Isaiah were fulfilled—'The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.' Now he stood as the sin-bearer, the substitute accepted by Divine justice to bear that we might never bear the whole of wrath divine. At that hour heaven looked on him as standing in the sinner's stead, and treated as sinful man had richly deserved to be treated. Oh! dear friends, when the immaculate Lamb of God found himself in the place of the guilty, when he could not repudiate that place because he had voluntarily accepted it in order to save his chosen, what must his soul have felt, how must his perfect nature have been shocked at such close association with iniquity?" (Charles Spurgeon, Gethsemane, A Sermon (No. 493) Delivered on Sunday Morning, February 8th, 1863, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, England).

Quote:
Why is it so abhorrent to you that God planned to crucify His son before the foundation of the world, then saw to it that it would come to pass at the appointed time? This does not make Him the one who did the crucifying or mean that He forced the Jews and Romans involved to commit this act. Rather it means that He caused what these men chose to do to serve His purposes...

According to what you write here God "caused what these men chose to do to serve His purposes." I could agree with that but that is not what Dr. Pettegrew said. Instead he said:
Quote:
Providence is that continuous action of God by which He makes all of the events of the universe fulfill His original design.

According to this it is a continuous action of God by which He "makes all of the events of the universe fulfill His original design." That is not about causing what these men chose to do to serve His purposes, as if He had nothing to do with what the men chose to do and He only used what they chose to do after the fact to serve His purposes.

If what Dr. Pettegrew said is true then the event of the crucifixion and killing of the Lord Jesus is of God's making, since "He makes all of the events of the universe fulfill His original design" through a continuous action.

Romans 9 wrote:
18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory...

Please tell me how you think that these verses support your position. Also, if Dr. Pettegrew is correct, why would the Lord Jesus attribute the events that transpired after He was arrested to the actions of those who were responsible for His arrest?:

"When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness" (Lk.22:53).

Are we supposed to believe that God was in some way responsible for the the events of the crucifixion and His death even though the Lord Jesus Himself declared that the responsibilty belonged to those who were responsible for His arrest and described this time as "the power of darkness"?

MShep2's picture

First, I do not see the difference between what some are saying here about God's sovereignty and what Dr. Pettegrew said. I think the problem here is a misunderstanding of what he actually said. Notice that in saying,

Quote:
Providence is that continuous action of God by which He makes all of the events of the universe fulfill His original design.
he does not say God "makes" or caused/causes the events to take place. He says that God makes these events (which could either be caused by God or by others) "fulfill his original design."

Second, Isa 57:15 says God is, "the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity." Any theology that makes God subject to time - which He created - will end up with these contradictions and problems. God does not "look back" to the past or "look forward" to the future as we do. He lives outside of time, which he created and thus is able to see our past, present and future from the same viewpoint - a viewpoint which is outside of time. Our inability to properly describe God's relationship to time comes directly from the fact that we are creatures of time and cannot think any other way.

MS
--------------------------------
Luke 17:10

Jerry Shugart's picture

MShep2 wrote:
First, I do not see the difference between what some are saying here about God's sovereignty and what Dr. Pettegrew said. I think the problem here is a misunderstanding of what he actually said.

Yes, there are several on this thread who misunderstand what he is saying, including you. You said:
Quote:
he does not say God "makes" or caused/causes the events to take place. He says that God makes these events (which could either be caused by God or by others) "fulfill his original design."

Let us look at what he said again:

Quote:
Providence is that continuous action of God by which He makes all of the events of the universe fulfill His original design.

The word "makes" means "causes." So if words have any meaning he is saying that "God causes ALL of the events of the universe fulfill His original design by a continious act.

It does not say that God or others causes all of the events of the universe fulfill His original design by a continious act.

Quote:
Second, Isa 57:15 says God is, "the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity." Any theology that makes God subject to time - which He created - will end up with these contradictions and problems. God does not "look back" to the past or "look forward" to the future as we do. He lives outside of time, which he created and thus is able to see our past, present and future from the same viewpoint - a viewpoint which is outside of time. Our inability to properly describe God's relationship to time comes directly from the fact that we are creatures of time and cannot think any other way.

I agree with you completely. The Lord God lives in the ever present "now." And verses which speek of Him doing something in time is purely figurative. Let us look at the following verse:

"According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love" (Eph.1:4).

Again, this can only be understood in a figurative sense because God lives in the ever present "now" so to Him there is no "before." The Apostles understood this and that is what Paul meant here:

"But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thess.2:13-14).

Notice that here Paul says that God hath "from the beginning" chosen the Christian to salvation through belief in the truth. How can this be since before the foundation of the world there was no one believing the gospel?

Actually, the answer is quite simple. In the eternal state the same "moment" when the sinner believes the gospel can be said to be the same "moment" that existed before the world began. After all, since God lives in the ever present "now" then the moment when a sinner believes belongs to the same "now" as does a moment that existed before the world began. Obviously the above quoted verses in regard to when the Christian is saved can only be understood in a figurative sense. It is a mistake to take verses that place God in time and use those verses to make doctrine.

In reality God chooses a sinner for salvation at the moment he believes and not before.

Jerry Shugart's picture

Let us look what a well known Calvinist says of the same subject. A.W. Pink writes the following:

" 'In Him we live, and move, and have our being' (Acts 17:28). What a sweeping assertion is this! These words, be it noted, were addressed, not to one of the churches of God, not to a company of saints who had reached an exalted plane of spirituality, but to a heathen audience, to those who worshipped "the unknown God" and who "mocked" when they heard of the resurrection of the dead. And yet, to the Athenian philosophers, to the Epicureans and Stoics, the apostle Paul did not hesitate to affirm that they lived and moved and had their being in God, which signified not only that they owed their existence and preservation to the One who made the world and all things therein, but also that their very actions were encompassed and therefore controlled by the Lord of heaven and earth." [emphasis mine ] (A.W. Pink, THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD, Chapter 3).

Let us look at the "very actions" which are supposedly controlled by God in these verses:

"Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God" (Ro.3:13-19).

If these actions are controlled by God then how could it possibly be said that those who act in this way are "guilty before God"?

"Guilt" before God neccessarily denotes having committed an offense or crime before God. But if God controls those actions how could it be said that they were committing an offense against God? That weould make no sense at all.

This idea portrays the Lord God as one who would declare the lame guilty for limping and the blind guilty for not being able to see!

Jerry Shugart's picture

Daniel wrote:
Jerry, had you read his book before I sent you the note?

Daniel, I have been familiar with Pink's writings for many years and it was many years ago when I read the book you mention. Your letter did in fact awaken my thoughts about what he wrote on this subject and therefore I decided to quote his words and examine his ideas. Do you have any thoughts about what I said?

Daniel's picture

The reason I sent it in an email was that I don't think one can just quote a paragraph here and there of Pink's works without distorting his views and setting up straw men. One cannot quote from chapter three without reading the rest of the chapters to further develop what he means when he says that. You have to take into account, specifically 7 and 8 that deal primarily with the will and responsibility.

Regardless, I don't want to hear you quote other authors trying to repudiate them in order to make your beliefs seem correct. If you do not believe what DP said, then tell me why from scripture you believe it to be wrong. (and I am not going to rehash the few verses you have quoted as I believe others have done a good job explaining them) Don't just keep quoting his one line and say I don't get it. Don't tell me about other author's views that you believe to be wrong and by implication your's correct. Why is DP wrong? (From scripture)

Is your hangup (not in a bad sense) based in the belief that one must have a free will in order to be responsible for actions committed?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Jerry,
I'll concede that Jesus' sufferings for sin may have begun before the cross. (per #23)
But this doesn't really solve the perceived problem, and I should have recognized that before. God decreed the before-cross suffering just as much as He did the on-cross suffering and providentially ensured they would occur on schedule just as He did the cross.

As for what Dr. P. means by "continuous action of God by which He makes all of the events of the universe fulfill His original design." I've done all I can to explain that I think... as have others.
One last shot I suppose: I've read and heard enough of Dr.P to know that he is not of the opinion that God causes people to do things contrary to their own will. He ordains and they choose. Sovereignty and providence speak to the certainty that they will choose and to God's activity in determining that they will choose, but these principles do not involve compelling people to act against their will. Saying "He makes these things happen" is simply not the same as saying "He forces them to choose what they do not want to choose."

It may help to say a bit more about providence... I was just reading Fred Morritz's Contending for the Faith last night and was reminded that providence is generally understood to mean what God brings about by the use of secondary causes as opposed to what He does directly (I believe he quoted recent writers like Millard Erickson and Roland McCune on that point, but it goes way back). That understanding of providence is important background. So you could argue that he should have said "indirectly" before "makes" but when you're aiming to be brief you have to assume some things.

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